The Nano-promise?

Matthew Gaylor (
Thu, 7 Oct 1999 11:51:22 -0400

                              The Nano-promise?

"Wish, And It WILL BE So!" That could conceivably be an end-game of
today's nascent nanotechnology research, if Mitre's James Ellenbogen's vision comes to pass. Working on Mitre's nanotechnology program, Ellenbogen believes that within 20 years we may have "desktop manufacturing" devices that will let us download descriptions and instructions for physical devices -- and the
"nanobox" will then "make it so."

According to Ellenbogen in the Aug. 30 BusinessWeek ( - choose Item #4, "Nanotech," on the left-hand menu), brought to our attention by RCFoC reader Ken Berntsen,

       "...the grand slam in the matter-is-software ballpark will be
       the nanobox. This is a sort of futuristic copy machine that
       combines nanotech fabrication with today's so-called
       desktop-manufacturing methods, used mainly to knock out quick
       prototypes of new products. If you want a new cell phone, you'll
       purchase a recipe on the Net. It will tell you to insert a sheet
       of plastic and squirt electrically conductive molecules into the
       ''toner'' cartridge. The nanobox will pass the plastic back and
       forth, laying down patterns of molecules, then electrically
       direct them to assemble themselves into circuits and an antenna.
       Next, using different ''toners,'' the nanobox will add a keypad,
       speaker, and microphone and finally build up a housing."

OK, I know this sounds like the best of science fiction, but Congress thinks enough of the concept to want to double the current $232 million appropriation for nanotech research. And the White House considers nanotechnology research to be in its top 11 critical research areas.

Now just imagine -- IF -- this were to come to pass, what it would do to our traditional physical goods economy. And while I'm not saying, at this point, that each of us will soon be able to print our own cell phones and other goodies, remember how "impossible" 650 MHz PCs, and $250 photo-realistic inkjet printers, and the expensive stereolithography devices which DO create prototype physical parts out of "nothing" today, seemed twenty years ago.

It's seems that it's only "the impossible," that's impossible...


                   The Rapidly Changing Face of Computing

                                 Oct. 4, 1999

                        Death Is No Longer An Excuse!

                             by Jeffrey R. Harrow
                          Senior Consulting Engineer
                     Technology & Corporate Development,
                         Compaq Computer Corporation

       Insight, analysis and commentary on the innovations and trends
     of contemporary computing, and on the technologies that drive them
         (not necessarily the views of Compaq Computer Corporation).

                               ISSN: 1520-8117

                 Copyright (c)1999, Compaq Computer Corporation

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