The revolution of electronic miniaturization began during World War II and is continuing to change the world till now. Miniaturization of computer technology has been the source of a seemingly endless battle between technology giants over the world. The market has become so competitive that the companies that develop microprocessors are constantly working towards erecting a smaller microchip than that of their competitor, and as a result, computers become obsolete almost as soon as they are put out on the market. The concept that underlies technological miniaturization is “the smaller the better”; smaller is faster, smaller is cheaper, smaller is more profitable. It is not just companies that profit from miniaturization advances, but entire nations reap rewards through the capitalization of new developments. Devices such as personal computers, cellular telephones, portable radios, and camcorders have created massive markets through miniaturization, and brought billions of dollars to the countries where they were designed and built. In the 21st century, almost every electronic device has a computer chip inside. The goal of miniaturization is to make these devices smaller and more powerful, and thus made available everywhere. It has been said, however, that the time for continued miniaturization is limited – the smaller the computer chip gets, the more difficult it becomes to shrink the components that fit on the chip.
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Devices made of semiconductors, notably silicon, are essential components of most electronic circuits. A process of lithography is used to create circuitry layered over a silicon substrate. A transistor is a semiconductor device with three connections capable of amplification in addition to rectification. Miniaturization entails increasing the number of transistors that can hold on a single chip, while shrinking the size of the chip. As the surface area of a chip decreases, the task of designing newer and faster circuit designs becomes more difficult, as there is less room left for the components that make the computer run faster and store more data.
Gordon E. Moore introduced the concept known as “Moore’s law” in 1965, and it has been used in the semiconductor industry to guide long-term planning and development. The law predicts a long-term trend in which the number of transistors inexpensively places on an integrated circuit would double approximately every two years. His original statement appeared in his publication ‘Cramming more components onto integrated circuits”, Electronics Magazine 19th April 1965:
“The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per yearâ€¦Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for a minimum cost will be 65,000. I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer” (Appendix 1)
The original statement made reference to one year, but was later altered to two years. Moore’s law describes a driving force of technological change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The development and capabilities of several digital devices are linked to Moore’s law. Some of these include processing speed, memory capacity, and sensors. These devises are still improving at an exponential rate and have dramatically increased the usefulness of digital electronics in every segment of the world economy.
One such segment is that of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s). This type of technology allows users to participate in a rapidly changing world in which work and other activities are increasingly transformed by access to varied and developing technologies. ICT’s impact on several areas of the economy, including productivity and innovation, as well as advances in science and technology. They are the leading factor in improving innovation and creativity, and as such, a great portion of the productivity gains in the economy are due to the impact of ICT’s on products and services. In science and technology, they transform the way researchers conduct their research. Owing to increasing economic and social demands, technology must be brought closer to people and organizational needs. This entails making technology functional and simple to use, affordable and available, as well as meeting new preferences and needs. This demand calls for the proliferation of miniaturization which results in the emergence of a new wave of technologies.
The Benefits and Challenges of Miniaturization
Miniaturization is one of the fastest changing megatrends. Although it can be a great benefit for society, it also has its downsides. The challenges include cost-expensive, data inaccuracy, software unreliability, information overload and may result in:
Invasion of Privacy and Identity Theft
On the side of problems, one of the biggest growing crimes in America is caused by the affects of miniaturization. Invasion of personal privacy and identity theft are two very dangerous crimes that can not only embarrass you, but can also cause financial problems as well. A report composed by the news organization PRWeb states that 10 million consumers in the US become identity theft victims every year and those people spend a countless amount of time and money to correct these attacks. Not all 10 million are caused by miniaturization related electronics, but with the advancement in technology, miniaturization has greatly helped to increase the number of identity theft victims. Miniaturization plays a role in this crime because it has created the technology of miniature spy cams which aid voyeurism. Voyeurism is a practice in which an individual derives sexual pleasure from observing other people  . Some forms of voyeurism are legal, but if the person being viewed is unaware of the action, then it is illegal and considered an invasion of privacy.
Loss of Electronic Devices
Another problem with the trend of miniaturization, due to computerized electronics to become extremely more portable, is the increased ability to lose your electronic devices or have them stolen. As stated in the Apple patent,
Current portable electronic devices such as laptop computers, hand-held devices such as cellular telephones and personal media devices, such as the Ipod from Apple Computer, and even devices such as compact disc players, are sufficiently compact and lightweight as to make them easily movable. Unfortunately, such ease of transport also implies ease of theft. While the rightful owner of a portable electronic device may conveniently transport it almost anywhere, so can a thief. (MacNN.com: Apple Patent,2007)
A third problem with miniaturization is the growth in use of portable MP3 players. These players have caused physiological damage because of the extended use of the ear buds and playing the player’s music extremely loud  . Noise-induced hearing loss involves individuals losing the ability to hear higher frequencies, evidenced at times by mild ear-ringing or trouble following conversations in noisy situations  . This hearing loss is directly related to the use of the MP3 players.
What are some of the devices that have been impacted by miniaturization?
There are multiple examples that reflect miniaturization, but perhaps the most well known miniaturized device is the cellular phone. The theory of mobile telephones was born in the early 1900’s in the United Kingdom and the United States. They were born out of research on mobile car phones, and calculated out that by limiting the range of transmitters, they could recycle the same radio frequencies. This allowed them to theorize the possibility that with this technology, many users would be able to share the same network. They were unable to put a production system together to prove this theory, due to the limit of available technology. In the early 1970’s, AT&T and Bell Labs proposed the first commercial cellular, mobile phone network. The proposal was for a cellular network, which was to consist of many small broadcast towers, covering a small area (termed a ‘cell’), a few miles in radius. As the mobile phone moved across this network, the call would be passed on from tower to tower. The first fully automatic, first generation cellular network (1G), was developed by Nordic Mobile Telephone in 1981. 1G was still based on analog radio signals. The advent of Second generation (2G) was in 1991. High speed, third generation (3G) cellular networks became a reality when the Japanese company NTT DoCoMo rolled out its commercial WCDMA network. In 1986 cost between $2,500 to $3,500 and weighed just under 3 pounds (Appendix 2). Today, they are razor thin, weighing between 4 and 6 ounces and can cost from JMD$1,000 to JMD$60,000. Some of the most prominent include Nokia and Motorola.
Other examples are the iPod Nano, Motorola Razor V3 and Dell Inspirion 700m.
The Ipod Nano, manufactured by Apple Computer, Incorporated, is a digital compression music player that delivers up to 1,000 songs. It features a very slim and compact design with dimensions of only 3.5 x 1.6 x 0.27 inches and 1.5 ounces and supports a colour LCD screen, the Apple Click Wheel, plays continuously for 14 hours, and holds other information besides music files. It also contains 2 gigabytes of memory that holds 500 songs. The Ipod Nano is able to be used for many purposes when you are unable to use a CD player or even for replacing a CD player. A few examples are exercising, going on vacations, among others. Also in recent news, Apple released a new form of miniaturization with the Ipod Video. This device will replace the older Ipods and will be able to support not only playing songs, but also displaying video on a two and a half inch screen (Appendix 2.1).
Moto Razr V3
The next example of miniaturization is the Moto Razr V3, which is made by the Motorola Corporation. The features of the Razr V3 include ring tone downloads, calculator and currency converter, date and clock, alarm clock, calendar, instant messaging, text messaging, video games, photo camera, and video clip downloads. The Moto Razr V3 supports all this while still only weighing 3.35 ounces and having dimensions of 3.86 x 2.08 x 0.54 inches. The applications of this phone basically compare to those of a palm pilot. By having a phone with this power, anyone will be able to keep a strict control on their life (Appendix 2.2)
Dell Inspiron 700m
The final example is the Dell Inspiron 700m notebook, made by Dell Incorporated. It is the slimmest and lightest of all of Dell’s laptops being 4.1 pounds and 1.5 inches thick. Other features on this laptop include an Intel Pentium M Processor, Windows XP, a minimum of 256 megabytes of RAM, 12.1 inch screen, a hard drive with 40, 60, or 80 gigabytes, and an ethernet card for internet access. This laptop’s applications are very broad and diverse and can be used for meeting other people through the internet, doing business, recreational purposes like watching DVDs, burning DVDs, listening to music, playing computer games, or by applying this computer to almost any aspect of a person’s life (Appendix 2.3)
Traditionally, communications media were separate and their services were distinct. Broadcasting, voice telephony and on-line computer services were different and operated on different platforms: television and radio machines, telephones and computers. Convergence is the combination of all these into one operating platform. It is the merger of telecom, data processing and imaging technologies. This convergence is incubating a new era of multimedia, in which voice, data and images are combined to provide services to the users.
Traditional convergence is noted in the combination of the personal computer and the internet technology. This combination provides a convergence of data processing, images and audio services.
Convergence makes it possible for one element to provide multi-service. An illustrated example of this is in the mobile phone, which was initially designed for voice communications. These days cell phones offer more functions: They offer print and text media as in the Short Message Service (SMS); they provide reception links to radio stations and access to broadcast information, they provide links to access the web, they capture, send and receive pictures and so forth. New generation of mobile phones are designed to capture video images.This had led to the death of many traditional devices like the Personal Digital Assistant and the proliferation of miniaturized devices.
Miniaturization and the Digital Divide
In the early 1990’s, when someone referred to the ‘digital divide’ they were really making reference to gaps in society between individuals who owned and had access to computers and those who had not. As the term evolved it adopted new meanings, it came to refer to the “gaps between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all”  as well as refer to the inequalities between groups of people in their ability to use information technology fully. It also speaks to the imbalances in resources and skills needed to manipulate information on the internet. Therefore, the term digital divide is really two folds, it relates to the imbalances created by the inability to physically access technology and the unequal acquisition of skill attained with the constant use of said technology. Due to this the term is often interchangeably used with the knowledge divide, as it is proposed that if there is little to no access to the vast amount of information provided via the internet and technology individuals will be deficient in the attainment of knowledge supplied via this source.
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The four major components that contribute to the digital divide, as discussed by Bharat Mehra (2004, Digital Divide, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) are “socio economic status, income, educational level, and racing among other factors associated with technological attainment.” These are all major issues that affect society on a whole on a social level. The ‘global divide’ on the other hand, refers to the same concept but in relation to countries as oppose to individuals. It really refers to differences to technology accessibility between
Countries or the whole world. Miniaturization of technology in its truest form, if utilized properly will make an attempt to drastically reduce the gap in society that has significantly helped to perpetuate this problem.
The continuous miniaturization of technology will among other things make technology more accessible to everyone. This is due to the fact that as technology gets smaller, it uses less resource to manufacture them and hence cause a reduction in the production cost. This in turn, causes a reduction in the selling cost, making it cheaper and more accessible to everyone. Technology is no longer only for the wealthy or the wealthiest countries, nor is it a means by which the rich can showcase their wealth. Now that miniaturization has made it accessible to almost everyone, the digital divide as it pertains to access to technology is noticeably dwindling. Projects like One Laptop per Child offer a partial solution to the global digital divide; these projects tend to rely heavily upon open standards and free open source software. The OLPC XO-1 is an inexpensive laptop computer designed and intended to be distributed to children in developing countries around the world, to provide them with access to knowledge (Appendix 3).
Organizations such as Geekcorps, EduVision and Inveneo also help to overcome the digital divide with the use of now miniaturized technology. They often do so through the use of education systems that draws on information technology. The technology they employ
often includes low-cost laptops, subnotebooks, handhelds (eg Simputer, E-slate), tablet PCs, Mini-ITX PCs, and low-cost WiFi-extending technology as cantennas and WokFis. In addition, other information technology material usable in the classroom can also be made diy to lower expenses, including projectors. Surely one can see, by these examples, where the continuous miniaturization of technology is playing some part in diminishing the global digital divide.
These and other continuous efforts are reducing the digital global divide in developing countries owing mainly to miniaturization. As time progresses individuals will find new and innovative ways to make technology smaller and smaller and hence making them more accessible to the general public and more importantly, to developing nations.
The Future of Miniaturization
The future of miniaturization is uncertain as there have been many different projections as to where designer and creators want it to go. Some believe that the idea is to get more transistors on a single chip. Increasing the number of transistors ultimately leads to more power in the computer, cell phone, handheld PDA and other electronic devices that have a computer chip inside. In our times just about every electronic device has a computer chip inside. The pursuit to make these devices more powerful, and thus effectively independent of a constant power source, is the focus for miniaturization in computer technology. Ultimately the goal is to have computers everywhere by making components smaller and more powerful. However, what we do know is that technology will get smaller and smaller until they are almost microscopic. Technology created in the future will all have a few similar characteristics, they will be smaller, lightweight, durable, reliable, tamper-proof, and consume very little power. However with these advances comes a certain level of concern. One of the biggest and most common concerns in making computer technology smaller is the availability of the Internet. As computers are miniaturized down to the subatomic level, computers could literally be floating around in the air. By building computers on the subatomic level, the laws of physics do not apply as we know them. This allows for greater flexibility in computer connectivity, and may eventually make wiring computers together obsolete. While this and other concerns are valid, with the continuous creation and evolution of technology, they will soon no longer be relevant concerns.
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