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image European Research News Centre > Information Society > The 'all-communicating' world
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image image image Date published: 07/11/02
  image The 'all-communicating' world
RTD info special FP6
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  In less than 20 years, the phenomenal progress in information technologies and telecommunications has immersed us in an all-communicating world. Computers, telephones, televisions, domestic appliances and cars are packed full of electronics for the exchange of data and information and providing 'intelligent' services designed for maximum efficiency and user comfort. Work, business, administration, health, culture, education... the 'e' prefix has been appended to just about every area of human activity. The information and knowledge society is changing our lifestyles and even our psychological and social behaviour.
   
   

Nevertheless, it remains difficult to predict where this spectacular progress in electronics and data processing is going to take us next. A little over a century ago, the Western Union saw no future for such an 'unreliable' invention as the telephone. Just 25 years ago, the head of Digital Equipment saw no valid reason to want to own a personal computer. In the late 1980s, few prospective studies predicted the imminent arrival of such a revolutionary and all-pervasive device as the Internet would prove to be by the mid-1990s.

On the other hand, the bright future awaiting high-definition satellite TV has failed to materialise. More recently, the premature enthusiasm for the wireless Internet and the 'bubble' which grew up around the concept of the 'new economy' show that even when developments do come, the path is not always smooth.

In a sector which cultivates the immaterial, there is sometimes a cruel gap between the potential promised by technological progress, the valuation of the innovation and the marketing of new products and applications.

Miniaturisation, convergence and power

However, one law has proved pertinent: that of the visionary Gordon Moore, drawn up in 1965, who prophesised that the performance of electronic components (memory and processors) would double every 18-24 months, at a fixed cost. Between 1970 and 2002, for example, the number of transistors per cm2 on an electronic chip increased from 2 300 to 24 million, with transistors measuring 0.1µ square. Although the race for miniaturisation and power is certainly not over yet, the experts do believe that, within the next 15 years, the increase in microprocessor density is likely to come up against a physical limit: the size of atoms. We will then enter the true age of nanoelectronics.

This increased capacity to process and store information is of course at the heart of the digital revolution. It is thanks to this – coupled with the Internet as a data transfer support – that data, sounds, pictures and text can be converted into the same binary language. This 'homogeneity' opens the door to a convergence of previously isolated applications, such as the telephone, radio, publishing, television and computing. The creation of transmitting infrastructures, offering increased capacities for sending these considerable information packages, is currently the crucial development which will enable us to benefit to the full from this new potential.

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93% of Europe's schools are connected to the Internet. But the computer can also become a learning tool in itself. That is the case for a new kind of education based on 'twinned objects' (Brevie project) in which students learn to bridge the real and the virtual.

93% of Europe's schools are connected to the Internet. But the computer can also become a learning tool in itself. That is the case for a new kind of education based on 'twinned objects' (Brevie project) in which students learn to bridge the real and the virtual.


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