part III – piecing something together

“I don’t get no respect” … was that Rodney Dangerfield or technology?

While this was of course Rodney Dangerfield’s classic tag line, it could have easily been technology’s.  With so much of today’s world somehow touched by technology it is sad it does in fact get so little respect.  There is a very historical approach to technology insights with the writing containing portions of entertainment and fairy dust.  We all remember the mythical under the covers Popular Science article about flying cars.  Coverage of the development in polarized optical converters at which we have looked draws on some of the same inspiration, with the entertainment bits detailing Superman’s memory crystal taking up plenty of words of the various articles.  Unfortunately these entertainment bits have the longest retention of all the presented information.  It does not have to be this way.  Technology can be approached with interest and excitement, while keeping it in context and giving it a little respect.

So how do you give technology respect? The key is presenting no more and no less.  Discuss the development, accurately and with honesty.  The interest should come with the understanding of how the subject technology advances a long standing problem or overcomes a hurdle in its field.  To this end it is important to put the technology in context.  Once contextualized it can be appreciated in the broader field where it finds itself.  The technology can stand on its own with the knowledge of how it fits in the world, without the need for an entertaining angle or extrapolation to support it.

Now, what about polarized optical converters?  Interest in this development is at least in part because of the storage medium.  Glass would seem pretty high up there in terms of the hierarchy of media.  It is physically and chemical stable, it is simple, and assuming no funky additives or coatings, it is environmentally benign.  These very characteristics do however make glass difficult to manipulate. There has been previous work on the storage of information within glass, including work with holograms in Japan around 2005.   Beyond the basic storage mechanism there is for sure much engineering work ahead.  The targeted data archiving applications are probably reachable first, and any extrapolation to consumer markets further down the road.  Yes, there is a long ways to go, but you have to start somewhere.  The simple notion that two states can be written into glass on a scale suitable for data storage warrants our attention and  respect.