Electronic newspapers and books

Imagine a display so thin and pliable that it can be folded like paper but with text and picture generated electronically, not printed with ink. If data communications functions are combined with media that can be handled like paper, the result would be electronic newspapers and books that can be downloaded and carried around to be read anywhere. Two recent prototypes , one developed by a research team at Chiba University and the other by Toshiba Corp., demonstrate how engineers are grappling with the challenge to develop electronic paper or "e-paper".

The former display is built from a pair of transparent electrode sheet sandwiching a powdered mixture of white-coloured carbon fluoride granules and black coloured granules of the toner used in copying machines. The whole display is only 0.1 mm thick. When the front of this display is given a negative charge, the positively charged black granules migrate toward the front, turning the display black. When the reverse polarity is applied , the black granules migrate toward the rear and the display turns white. The prototype cannot display very much detail, but the graphics on the electronic paper can be switched in a fraction of a second, and the particles maintain their position when the power is cut. That means the e paper can retain its information without power, which is something the liquid crystal displays cannot do. The device would also be less expensive to manufacture than an LCD. The goal now is to improve the graphics resolution and increase the durability of the device so that it can be folded up and conveniently carried around like paper.

Toshiba has taken a different track in its approach in developing e-paper. Its display is designed from a series of white panels spaced 0.3 mm apart that folds upward at the tips to look like a Venetian blind. At the base of each white panel is a small black plastic flake that can be moved forward and backward using electrostatic force. When the flake sticks out from the panel, the section looks white. The black flakes can be moved back and forth at a speed of 30 times per second, which company official said, is fast enough to display television grade motion graphics.

The device can be made in any size, including large signboards. Unlike an LCD, it can display pure white and can be viewed clearly from any angle. Since there is no need for a back, it would also consume far less power than an LCD. Toshiba's prototype displays images with the same resolution as an LCD. Although the prototype is a monochrome display, it should be possible to design a colour display by substituting tinted films for the black plastic flakes, producing colours as brilliant as any seen on a printed page.

— Science & Technology in Japan, April 2000, p. 17-18

Translating the sign language

A system that translates a sign language into a written form and displays the result on the computer screen has been designed by Hitachi. The users wear special sensory gloves when signing, and the computer analyses the information from the sensors to determine what is being signed. It then compares the words and phrases being signed with a database to translate them into the written language. In addition to obvious benefits to signers who need to convey information to those who don't understand sign language , the new system can also be used as a teaching aid for people learning how to sign.

Each glove is equipped with 32 censors; some of these measure the position of the hand and others measure the extent to which the fingers are bent. The position and shape of each hand is monitored 30 times every second, and the computer selects candidate sign words based on the information from the gloves regarding the direction and speed of hand movements and repetitive motions. The candidate words are compared with a database of actual sign words, and when a word is recognised it is displayed on the screen. Signed words can be displayed in written forms on the screen, and conversely, spoken or written words can be entered into the computer and transformed into sign language with the use of computer graphics.
In its experimental operation such a system is facilitating people to search for information using sign language at the government office at Nagasaki Prefecture. Through such trials Hitachi aims to improve the system and boost its recognition accuracy. Hitachi has also developed an animated female character that signs on screen, giving students of sign language the opportunity to practice their signing skills with a "teacher". The new system permits the learners of sign language to interact with the animated figure on screen and get feedback on their progress. Since the system recognises properly signed words, it can be used to score student's performance and evaluate how much they have learnt.

— Science & Technology in Japan, April 2000, p. 18-19

Overseas optical communications

With the rapid spread of Internet and the accompanying explosion in the volume of data transmission worldwide, there is a growing demand for technologies that can send data faster and faster. NEC, Sumitomo and Oki have addressed this by developing an optical communication technology for ultrafast long distance communication. Using improved repeats and wavelength multiplexing to send 160 signals on a single optical fibre , they have succeeded in transmitting information at an extremely fast rate of 3.2 terabits per second over a distance of 1,500 km. For the experiments, the team simultaneously transmitted 160 signals at different wave lengths each at 20 Gbit/sec along a single optical fibre. The strength of optical signal weakens as it travels long distances, so repeats are placed in the line every 40-50 km for amplifying the signal. However, as light wavelengths can distort over long distances, it has been considered extremely difficult to send multiple signals very far down a single optic fibre. The practical distance limit has been so far about 40km for a data transmission rate of 3 terabits.

This development has succeeded in extending the distance limit to 1,500 km by developing an improved kind of repeater that corrects distortion in the signal wavelengths. Signal errors occurred at a rate of less than one bit per billion during the transmission tests, which is reliable enough for practical applications. The submarine optical cable that now links Japan with the USA can handle two wavelengths, each sending signals at a rate of 5 Gbits per second. An optical communications system spanning the 12,000 km between the USA and Chiba will soon start transmitting eight wavelengths, each at 2.5 Gbits per second. The research team intends to develop the technology to extend this practical distance to 3,000 km. Realization of this technology would accommodate almost 80% of the world's existing and planned submarine cables.

— Science & Technology in Japan, April 2000, p. 22-23

INFLIBNET to launch electronic document delivery service

This service mooted in 1998 by INFLIBNET/UGC is now going to be launched simultaneously by the following six university libraries, identified as Document Delivery Centres (DDCs): (1) Banaras Hindu University, (2) University of Hyderabad, (3) Indian Institute of Science, (4) Jawaharlal Nehru University, (5) Panjab University, and (6) Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, each having fairly large collections of serials. Under this service the DDCs will provide the copies of research papers appeared in learned journals, conference proceedings, etc. from their collection to academic and research community at an affordable cost. The service is preferably going to be provided via Internet to the academic and research communities in the country who currently have very limited access to the information available in very few select libraries. The minimum grant and required infrastructure, viz. computer connected to Internet, scanner, printer, fax, etc. are being provided to each centre. The end-users and libraries using e-mails can request for the research papers. It is hoped that the service would optimise the resource collection available within the country and benefit both the academic and research communities needing current information. The librarians of all the six universities discussed on 10 April 2000 at INFLIBNET Centre, Ahmedabad the modalities of launching this service. [Adapted]

— Communicated by Dr T S Kumbar, INFLIBNET, 2 May 2000

INFLIBNET initiates retro-conversion of five major library catalogues

The project involves the catalogues of the libraries of Banaras Hindu University; Indian Institute of Science; Jawaharlal Nehru University; University of Madras; and the University of Mumbai; and aims to minimise the effort and cost involved in the process and create a qualitative database in a span of two years. The database, once created, will be provided to all other university libraries on CD-ROM for direct downloading of the records.

Necessary funds and standards for the creation of bibliographic records have been provided by INFLIBNET for the implementation of the giant project. The database will be hosted on INFLIBNET servers for online access by other libraries. The data will help all other member libraries and numerous college libraries in their retro-conversion, and thus, reduce duplication of efforts and cost.

The action plan to implement this complex and laborious project and create quality records has been finalised in a two-day brain storming session at the INFLIBNET Centre, Ahmedabad during 11-12 April 2000. A 10-day intensive workshop on `Bibliographic Standards and Formats for Retro-conversion: Tools and Techniques' for the library staff of the aforesaid libraries slated to be held from 15 May 2000 is meant for equipping them sufficiently for the ambitious project. [Adapted]

— Communicated by Dr T S Kumbar, INFLIBNET, 2 May 2000

A dotcom that is different

The recently launched personal financial services portal,, founded by Chennai-based P M Austin _ a savvy in the field, is representative of a second generation dotcom, combining information plus service.

The speciality of the portal is that it generates a choice matrix that is unique to each consumer. Hereafter, service requests can be submitted online which are then transferred for delivery offline using ground infrastructure. For example, a consumer wanting a car purchase loan can specify the conditions he has in mind i.e. make and model of the car, amount of loan needed, repayment amount, the periodicity he can afford, etc.

The specifications will be matched by the portal with the offers made by the loan companies and the ones that are closest to the customer requirements will be asked to follow through by personal contacts of their representatives. This `click and mortar' system saves considerable botheration and time for both the borrower and the loan company. The borrower is also assigned a unique tracking number that enables him to track his application online.

According to the founder, the revenue model that has been developed for the business also represents a first of sorts in the dotcom business in India. Though advertising will contribute to revenue streams, more significant inflows will be represented by the fees that vendors pay for each transaction that is enabled on the site. The focus of the portal is on expanding the service scope rather than on maximising eyeballs. The portal offers a comprehensive range of loans for various personal needs and will evolve to include the entire gamut of financial services like multiple product finders, investments, banking, insurance and credit cards. [Adapted]

— The Hindu, 5 May 2000, p. 14

Futuretalk, India's first technology portal has launched Futuretalk, a regular chat event. It will focus on the future and prospects of information technology globally. The users can interact with those who take interests in global industry by logging on to

— The Statesman, 10 May 2000, p. 9


Film debut

The first feature film Quantum Project made exclusively for the Internet debuted on 5 May 2000. The appearance of the film on the computer screen rather than in the theatre is seen as one of the strangest indications of the runaway growth of the Web. Eugenio Zanetti directs the film starring John Cleese, best known among television viewers for his madcap role as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers. The movie is about the efforts of a brilliant physicist to use science to find God. The producers of the $3 million venture spent months researching digital technology as a result of which the movie was not shot on film at all. Further, they have made viewers download it rather than provide streaming video that causes jerky and unclear visuals. The movie is available at Viewers are to take note of the fact that downloading of the 32-minute film on a 56K modem will take about six hours.

The Statesman, 17 May 2000, p.7


ICSTI Web site

At present the information (in Russian and English) on International Centre for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI) Web site ( is arranged in the following categories:

Further evolution of ICSTI Web site entails design improvements; development, in cooperation with partners, of new information and Internet technologies prompted by the emergence of new software products (Windows 2000 and others).

ICSTI and The Scientific Landscape of Russia.

Cooperation with the leading information organizations and major industries in Russia allows ICSTI to create files and databases thematically unified as "The Scientific Landscape of Russia". The files contain 14,000 detailed records (both in Russian and English) with profiles and performance descriptions of scientists and specialists from over 1,000 Russian research and educational institutions as well as leading medical centres. The files are designed in a format that allows answering users' queries upon request.

In 1998 most ICSTI member-countries subscribed to the ESPRIT project _ Electronic Information Services in Eastern and Central Europe, CIS, and the Baltics (EIS-CCE/NIS). The project aims to create an integrated information system containing information about national scientific, technical and economic databases of participating countries, with detailed description of the local information structure, legal support and markets of electronic information services. All information will be translated into English and made available to all participants via Internet as well as other information channels. All works on the project will be finalised in 2001.

ICSTI is responsible for providing and inputting data about Russia's information sources. ICSTI subcontracts the Science and Technology Centre _ Informregistr to carry out this task. Moreover, ICSTI coordinates input from a number of CIS countries and is responsible for the development of the projects system materials.

Address: International Centre for Scientific and Technical Information, 21-b Kuusinen Street, Moscow _ 125252, Russia. Tel: 095 1987241; Fax: 095 943 0089, E mail:

[Vide p. 17 of ITT June 2000 for further information on ICSTI].

— Science & Technology in Russia, June 2000, p. 10

E-mail directories released

Delhi-based Paulson Press (P) Ltd. has launched e-mail directories. Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Union Minister of Human Resource Development, released the All India E-mail Directory, American E-mail Directory and International Importers E-mail Directory. The directory is targeted at exporters, media persons, consultants, industrialists and entrepreneurs to assist them in their business development efforts in the national and the international markets.[Adapted] .

— The Business Standard, 6 June 2000, p 6

How far away is the farthest village from the rest of the world? Just one click!

The Development Alternatives Group is making a colossal effort to bring the entire bazaar or market within the reach of the people of the rural India. Unveiling the vision of a digital village, Dr Ashok Khosla , says that TARAhaat would open up a whole new haat or village market, via the Internet, for the 5,70,000 villages of the sub-continent. To begin with, a Pilot phase would concentrate on the villages of Madhya Pradesh and a portion of the rural belt of Uttar Pradesh.

TARAhaat Information and Marketing Services Pvt. Ltd. (TARAhaat) is a social enterprise registered in India under the Companies Act. It aims to cover all the three major components of an effective e-commerce site - namely, access, content and fulfilment. Besides, the mother portal will comprise franchised networks of local enterprises for connectivity and delivery of information, goods and services. For instance, TARAdhaba is the access point, or the village cyber cafe that would enable villagers to connect to the new market place i.e. TARAhaat for a small fee. TARAbazaar is the outlet that will provide information and access to products and services needed by rural households, farmers and local industry. TARAvendor is the supplier that stocks products available on TARAbazaar. TARAvan is the vehicle service which will move/deliver the ordered goods. TARAcard is the credit /personal identity card which would enable villagers to order goods and services online. TARAdak is the e-mail system which will reach out to loved ones on long distance. TARAscouts/TARAreporter is the research and information team which would collect on the spot, on-the-pulse information for constant updating of the resource. TARAguru is a decentralized university that will provide mentoring and business consultancy to small village enterprises. In other words, TARAhaat is expected to emerge as a gateway to the world of information, a supermarket for goods, services and ideas, hyper-linking web sites on issues of relevance to the rural people all over the world.

For the villager, TARAhaat would provide access to a variety of information resources and to a wide range of market-based opportunities. Initially, these information resources will be of the prime concerns of village folk. For instance,

In order to make the system sustainable, TARAhaat would support rural businesses by providing market information, business mentoring, consultancy services, product information and sales negotiations. is primarily a horizontal portal, but it would also support medical services, commodity trade and distance education. The central core is built around B2C links (business to consumers), but it is expected quickly to generate growing B2B and C2C traffic. For example, the subsidiary portal will provide urban and overseas consumers with direct access to village crafts people, opening opportunities for direct marketing by millions of individual workers in the rural areas. Large food processing companies such as Lever, Pepsi Co and Dabur will be able to negotiate and monitor direct agreements with individual farmers for the purchase of tomatoes, peanuts or sugar cane. Value addition from timely delivery and savings from dis-intermediation can generate large revenues for seller, buyer and TARAhaat (which in effect becomes a new, more efficient intermediary).

The look-and-feel of TARAhaat would be designed to attract and retain users of all kinds: farmers, traders, housewives, senior citizens, youth and children. The primary interface will be both graphic and voice-based. While input would be mostly by the click of a mouse with an option to use the keyboard, a simple voice recognition software will also be utilized in due course.

Use of headphones will be made to enable users to receive voice mail messages or other information with privacy never before available in village life. In the pilot phase, to be carried out in MP and UP, the text can be made available in Hindi and English. During the roll out, other languages will be added, according to the needs of each region.

In all its efforts at providing access, content creation and need fulfilment, TARAhaat would work in collaboration with the premier institutions in each field within the country. For example, the Health/Medical sites result from a close cooperation with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences; Development Alternatives would be responsible for the Environment section; and TARA and for the Marketing modules. Hughes Escorts have committed to provide five (VSAT) dishes to be set up at selected locations in the test area. TARAhaat is also working out arrangements with the Indira Gandhi National Open University and other education institutions to use Internet-based communications for teaching, testing and certifying students in remote areas.

TARAhaat is being launched as a social enterprise with limited financial capital from its promoters TARA and Development Alternatives. As it grows, the promoters hope to raise additional funds from public financial sources and private investors. Overall, 50% of the equity capital of is expected to belong to a not-for-profit foundation, the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation. The objectives of the Foundation are to support science, policy advocacy and action through citizen groups to accelerate the processes of sustainable national development. The remaining equity will be used for raising the cash resources needed to expand operations and to provide incentives to staff and franchises (ESOP) necessary to build a global enterprise of this magnitude.

Revenues to TARAhaat would be from payments received for services, commissions on sales, fees for advertising and entertainment, royalties and other sources. All these will be structured to maximize the incentives for each participant in the TARAhaat network: the user, TARAdhaba, TARAvan, TARAscout, and of course and its shareholders. Overseas franchises and consultancy in other developing countries will provide revenues in the future.

Dr Khosla says that the revenue streams described above are sufficient to generate income for TARAhaat at a rate to enable it to grow rapidly and in due course to deliver shareholder returns. Rapid growth of the TARAhaat network will also contribute to fundamental and structural changes in the rural economy, an outcome that can only be good for business in particular and for the nation a whole. [Adapted by Mr B G Sunder Singh,]

Reproduced with modification from Development Alternatives 2000, 10(6) ; 1, 3-4


What looks like good news primarily for large and busy special and research libraries, comes from the Mumbai-based Tata Infotech Limited, one of the largest Indian IT companies. Tata Infotech has come up with a new technology called Telelib, which links the library databases like catalogue, journal lists, membership etc. with telephone lines, to generate and execute voice responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) from users. It is claimed that Telelib is an easy to use technology where, telephone, the basic communication enabler, is used as the medium to disseminate information, picking it directly from the databases. Basically, what it does is when readers telephone the library, they are greeted and the available options are played out by recorded voice mail e.g. dial 1 for circulation status, dial 2 for new arrivals, dial 3 for periodicals and so on. The enquirers then press the appropriate key to proceed further. Facilities are available for customization, depending upon the requirements of the individual libraries.

Contact: The Librarian, Tata Infotech Limited, SEEP2,Andheri-E, Mumbai 400 096 for further details Tel:022-8291261, e-mail: dhanashree-date@tatain

— MALA Newsletter 2000, July, p.3


Good news for NGOs. The Raja Rammohun Roy Library Foundation, Calcutta is keen to support libraries run by NGOs in the country. Those who wish to avail of the opportunity may please contact their respective State Directorate of Public Libraries.

— MALA Newsletter 2000, July, p.3

Robo-librarian books late returners

Next time your book is overdue, watch out, a robo-librarian could be on your trail. An automated system has been developed by Talking Technologies, New Zealand, which telephones offenders to remind them of their misdemeanour. The first message is a polite reminder ( a softcop), but if the book is not returned, a "more aggressive" ( a hardcore) message is dispatched. It would be possible for the calls to be made at unsociable times. The system is claimed to be cheaper than posting letters and does not just chase overdue books, but can inform library users of reservations that have come in. It can also take messages from borrowers wanting to renew books. The system is certainly persistent _ it can talk to people, answer phones, fax messages, and e-mail addresses and redial engaged numbers until it gets through (friendly cop). If a number is wrong, it tells the administrator so.

— MALA Newsletter 2000, July, p.3

Electronic Technologies

A Chinese company has developed computer-aided translation (CAT) software which can significantly free translators from time consuming works such as consulting dictionaries. Described as a new electronic solution to translating work, the English-Chinese and Chinese-English CAT software, a product of the Beijing Yaxincheng Software Technology Co. Ltd., has been recommended by the Translators Association under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. [Xinhua 7 July 2000]

— Communicated by Mr Nirvikar Singh, Embassy of India, Beijing

Easy PC photography - digital camera

Digital cameras are becoming increasingly popular for storing images at home and work. Though the quality among different models varies considerably, the new models tend to be judged on the pixel count. Pixels are the tiny dots of light into which an image is reduced by the camera.

Digital camera: It captures images on light sensitive memory chips in the form of millions of tiny pixels. Instead of a film, the picture is stored on a memory card. Therefore, there is no need for prints to be developed at a processing lab. Digital photographs can be transferred to a PC to be displayed on a screen or printed instantly using a simple software and a printer. The quality of the photographs depends on:

(i) pixel counts - greater the number of pixels the camera can capture on its chips, the better it is,

(ii) picture resolution depends on the quality of the lens,

(iii) software compression is used to store the photograph in memory; and

(iv) battery life. Even if the pixel count is high, the picture quality may suffer if other factors are weak.

The liquid-crystal viewing screen is the new camera technology. It can be used instead of a viewfinder to select the shot and to check that the photograph one takes is what is intended. These screens take the guesswork out of photography and have proved so successful that Kodak is expected to include one in a standard 35 mm camera later this year.

Output medium: The output quality of the photograph depends not only on the best camera used but also on the output medium used for printing. A large number of digital snaps are used on Web sites or e-mail, where top line resolution and clarity are less important than compact file size. Low-cost inkjet computers from companies such as Epson, Lexmark and Hewlett-Packard, will output perfectly respectable pictures at near- photographic resolution, but they tend to be slow and expensive to run in terms of ink consumption. Dedicated photo printers such as the NX-70 from Fujifilm or the Olympus p-33ONE offer higher-quality results, but smaller paper sizes. [Adapted]

— The Sunday Review, 9 July, 2000, p. 6

The electronic edition

The electronic edition of books is available on CD-ROMs and on the Internet. With the help of a eBook reader (a small handheld electronic reading device weighing less than a kilogram ) electronic editions of books, magazines or any other document can be read and downloaded without carrying the printed books. A e-book has an adjustable back light that emits a white glow creating a contrast between text and background. The forward and backward button positioned below the thumb helps turning the pages like a real book. The batteries last for 20 hours and take one hour for recharging. Text and graphics can be downloaded directly from the Internet on to the reader. The soft book reader can also download through phone line and thereby eliminate the need for a computer.

Many manufacturers are converting the titles of various books into electronic format specifically for the purpose of downloading. The soft book has created its own virtual library which is available either free to subscriber or at fraction of an original price. Microsoft has collaborated with to offer the wide selection. An India literacy site known as has been publishing stories, poems and novels on the site from anyone who wishes to share creative work. The is exploring opportunities to find work for independent writers so that they can sale their work.

The following companies are manufacturing the e-book reader.

The rocket eBook reader: With this users can access thousands of bestsellers. They can make notes in the margins; find specific passages instantly; set bookmarks; underline text; change font size and orientation; can annotate texts, search for words or phrases, look up words in the built-in dictionary and bookmark pages. It also supports audio content.

Softbook reader: It displays a full page with text and graphics; can search, annotate and hyperlink; does not use page scrolling that disrupts the reading experience; has a large back-lit display with touch-sensitive control. It is lightweight, portable and can be read in comfort anywhere; has built-in modem to access materials from any standard phone line and an expandable storage capacity. The cost of implementation is low.

Microsoft (Released by mid-2000): It is a powerful tool for bookmarking, highlighting, and annotation; provides a clean display with ample margins; has a built-in dictionary and the ability to create instant large-print editions.

The older version of eBook reader can hold up to 400 pages with 4 MB of memory. The latest version holds nearly 16,000 pages or equivalent to 40 books at 16 MB.

Price of eBook reader is around $200 to $300 depending on the features available in the reader . In India, its prices is Rs.10,000/- only.

Glass work reader: It is a free piece of software that allows users to use personal computers as eBook reading device. Users can create personal eBook libraries on their computers.

With the availability of electronic edition of books the printed version or paperback number will be reduced.

— The Sunday Review, 9 July 2000, p 6

Informatics India enters into an MoU with Algorhythms

Informatics India Limited, Bangalore has entered into an MoU with Algorhythms, a Pune -based software development company, for nation-wide marketing and technical support to Algorhythm's popular library automation software - SLIM ++ (System for Library and Information Management ). SLIM is one of the earliest made-in _India software product that compares with any international product in its features and performance. SLIM ++ is web-enabled. The package is a well-integrated library automation software for complete online operations and management of a library with online public access catalog (OPAC). The software package comes in various modules like cataloging, serials control, circulation, acquisition, OPAC etc. to automate complete library activities of any organization. The most powerful feature of the software is its capability of providing its holdings on Web using Web Aware OPAC system. SLIM has more than 125 installations in India.

Informatics is a two-decade old pioneer and a leader in marketing and distribution of global databases in India in the areas of science, technology and business addressed to the academic, research and corporate markets. Algorhythms is a software development firm committed to making SLIM ++ a world-quality software product [19 July 2000]

— Communicated by Mr N V Sathyanarayana, Chairman and MD, Informatics India Ltd.

Keyboard spies

While dot com giants are fighting for privacy, your PC is still not safe from spies. Lurking somewhere deep in the PC could be the software that captures every key stroke, every message, every word you type and every Web site you visit. The site has unveiled two programmes - spector and eblaster - meant for parents to keep track of their children's online activity and for employers to keep tabs on employees. Now suspicious spouses are installing the programme to know if their partners are cheating. Spector, that can be downloaded from the Web site for under $50,is a stealthy worker that captures screen shots from every second to every few minutes like a camcorder. Eblaster costs $10 more and will e-mail the activity it records. If anyone wants to see whether someone can watch your monitor screen, click on this site:

— The Statesman, 1 August 2000

Health check

There was a time when information on medical services could not be advertised. The Internet has changed all that. Everything is available and everyone is reaching out. There is now an interesting site put up by some Calcuttans which helps one locate doctors, hospitals and allied services in the four metropolitan cities, plus Bangalore and Hyderabad. There are self-checks for depression and heart condition besides articles and discussion forums. See

— The Statesman, 1 August 2000

SAARC Social Sciences and Humanities Database

A database covering all types of documents such as books, periodicals, electronic sources (CD-ROMs, Web sites, audio/video cassettes, etc,) published from SAARC countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) in the fields of social sciences and humanities is being compiled by the National Information Services Corporation. The database would serve as a major selection and reference tool for the academic community, research scholars and librarians.

All types of publishers such as commercial, institutional, governmental, professional and associations are invited to send information on their new as well as forthcoming publications. Individual authors can also send bibliographic details of their publications (books, articles, etc.) along with an abstract not exceeding 250 words for incorporation into the database.

Inclusion of publications in the database offers several advantages to the publishers for which they are not to pay anything. Publications would get publicity at the global level and thereby contribute towards increased sales; and attract the notice of the scholars worldwide easily and quickly. Moreover, it will ensure a good bibliographical control of the literature generating in the region.

Contact: National Information Services Corporation, 3rd Floor, Ballard Estates, St. Ann's Road, Tarnaka, Hyderabad 500 017 at for further information. [24 August 2000]

— Communicated by Mr Sarath Mudali, MD, Nexus Information Services Co. Pvt. Ltd.

CD Writer Draw New Growth Chart

CD writers are combination of CD drive and a writer, which can write as well as re-write on CDs. It allows users to store 650 MB data e.g. video clips, data, games on CDs and favorite MP3s. A writable blank CD can be purchased for Rs.40.00 while a re-writable blank CD which can be written over and over again cost between Rs.300.00 and Rs. 400.00.

The major player in the low end CD writer market is Kodak, HP, Samsung, LG, COMPRO and TEAC. While HP's lowest price writer sells for Rs. 9999, Samsung sells its at Rs. 9400 and Kodak at Rs. 9800. TEAC's low-end CD writers sell for Rs.10,290.

Due to the mp3 boom home PC users tend to download a large number of files and these lead to demand for CD writers. Only 4 or 5 home PC users go for a CD-writer out of 100 CD-ROM users. At present users do not have lot of data to download, but with time demand for this product will increase. India is the world's largest consumer for VHS tapes. In Mumbai, many home PC users are buying CD writers for transferring content from the old VHS tapes to VCDs. The conversion of VHS contents to VCD requires the special card.

— Communication from Mr Prasenjit Bhatacharya, dated 31 August, 2000

BCL on Web

The British Council Library (BCL) , Mumbai took the initiative of putting the All-India British Council Library Catalogue on the Internet. The site very aptly named will be updated every month. .

Members can check the availability of any document (books, videos, children's books or CDs) in all or any one of the thirteen libraries in India. The search is very flexible, as it allows user to enter one or more fields such as author, title, keyword, etc. The site also provides general information about the library network in India, its activities and services in its present from. The Web site is just a beginning to "go beyond the library walls to reach a wider audience and have maximum impact". A number of new services like free email IDs, renewal requests through the site, bulletin boards for announcements, a discussion forum and many other facilities will be incorporated in the near future. To celebrate the launch of the new Web site, BCL, Mumbai organised a seminar on `Knowledge Management' along with an exhibition of select titles on `Knowledge and Society'. The Web site was launched by Anand Mahindra, MD, Mahindra & Mahindra and the keynote address on `Global knowledge management initiatives' was delivered by Edmund Marsden, Director, The British Council, India. The daylong event comprised talks by prominent speakers representing Mumbai's business world.

— MLAI News, Aug./Sept. 2000

Boost HDD memory

An ultra-small processing technology capable of boosting the storage capacity of a hard disc drive to more than 1,000 times that of existing units is being perfected at Toshiba. HDD is widely used in PCs and other information processing equipment as storage device and the rapid progress in information technology is spurring demand for ever-smaller electronic devices with increasing memory capacities.

The new technology that is being considered as key to meet such a demand is based on self organizing phenomenon inherent to high polymer materials. Its processing creates numerous nanometer size holes on a substrate. Initially a liquid mixture of short and long high polymers is applied on a silicon or glass substrate to make a thin film. When the film is heated, shorter polymers naturally gathers, producing a lot of particulates within the film. When highly reactive gas is sputtered over the film on the top of the substrate, a portion of the particulates is removed from the film, along with the corresponding portion of the substrate. Using such an ultra-small structure could lead to the development of HDDs with extremely large memory capacity. If the numerous nano-scale holes on the substrate are filled with magnetic materials, it would enhance the memory capacity of HDD by about 1,000 times. Instead of using expensive chip making equipment such as steppers for making 150 nm structures, the technology could be applied for making superdense microchips.

— Science and Technology in Japan, September 2000, p. 17-18

Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 19, No. 4, December 2000, p.20-p.28