On 1 December 2000, I met Koji Hase of Toshiba, who was over in London on a meet-and-greet to promote Toshiba’s newest and smartest technologies.
Wow, really? I’ll be able to download news clips to my watch?
Note the other bit of technology he mentioned – the one that might be enough to hold a film.
Guess where that showed up 10 months later.
This article originally appeared in The Independent – or at least was slated to – on December 2 2000.
BY CHARLES ARTHUR
In a few years’ time you’ll be able to download news clips and look at them on your watch. You’ll also be able to buy entire films stored on computer discs no bigger than a credit card and watch them on your PC. And well before that you’ll be able to buy a DVD player which will also record – just like your video can.
Says who? Says Koji Hase, vice-president of strategic alliances at the giant Japanese corporation Toshiba. And if you think he might be wrong, consider this: this is the man who gave the world the CD-ROM and the DVD disc, and who one evening over dinner with Apple Computer’s former chief dreamed up the phrase “personal digital assistant” for machines which you could carry around with you to take notes.
Mr Hase thus has a better, and longer, technological track record than many people in the computing industry. Yet he remains optimistic and excited about what the future is going to bring – especially the thumbnail-sized cards that Toshiba is developing which will be able to store up to 1,000 megabytes (1 gigabyte) without needing a power source.
“This technology is called flash memory, and at present we can only make chips which store up to 64 Mb,” said Mr Hase. “They are used mostly in digital cameras and MP3 players. But by 2002 we will be able to produce commercial amounts of 1 gigabyte flash chips.”
That, he suggests, will let you download video and sound clips from the Internet, via a telephone line or perhaps a satellite link, and look and listen to them on a digital gadget you carry around. A watch is ideal: “one gigabyte sounds a lot but it’s not enough for very much data. You need five gigabytes to squeeze a film onto a DVD. But we think that one gigabyte will be enough for news clips. After all, you don’t need to see much detail in news.”
Toshiba is also working with other Japanese, European and American companies to develop miniature hard discs which are just 1in (2.5cm) across. That compares with 3.5in (8.9cm) for the hard discs now standard in computers.
“We have already started selling a 2Gb version of this disc in the US,” said Mr Hase. “We think that by February next year we will get it up to 5Gb, which is enough to hold a film.”
By making it impossible to copy or change the disc’s contents, it could then become a medium for selling films for viewing on PC – which would remove the need for big, power-hungry drives now needed to watch a DVD on a laptop or PC.
But before that format is widely accepted – or priced anywhere near DVDs – he is sure that we will have recordable DVDs in the home, and that their price will fall below the psychologically important $1,000 in the US within three years. After that, “DVD-Read/Write” (as it is known) will take over the world, he believes.
And the personal digital assistant? It was a close thing. He was having a sushi dinner with John Sculley, the former head of Apple Computer, in the late 1980s, when the two got to talking about what they would like from a portable computer. They agreed that it should be able to take notes and have a personal database of data. “He said, it’s a personal secretary that’s digital,” said Mr Hase. “We almost called it the personal digital secretary.”