Nobel Prize Thinker

Thursday, December 19 2002

Several years ago I became pretty obsessed with figuring out a way of making a cheap, low power display that could be printed onto paper, then wrapped around Snapple bottles or similar items so their lables could be animated, or make use of Flash or HTML, or whatever the prevailing multimedia content vehicle was at the time. Anything that could carry a label could be turned into a computer display.

A pretty ambitious feat. I did research on Cuttlefish and Octopii, envisioned cheap microchips that could carry graphical data to display on the paper, conjured sketches of microscopic switches.

A few years later, companies like Dow and 3M we’re telling the press they’d be the leaders in this kind of cheap display technology. I’m sure that while I was deep in my research, scientists in labs of competing companies were testing prototypes of this kind of thing.

Knowing that I never had a chance when it came to patenting the idea or coming up with a prototype better than one made by chemists, the notion that someone is soon going to become filthy rich from the invention doesn’t bug me much. I’m excited that people like Alan Heeger

, a Noble Prize winner for chemistry, is on the project, and has big plans for it.

I think it’s a few years off, but the promise of paper thin, disposable displays of impressive sizes is there. A company in Israel is making paper batteries, printing the battery with cheap technology. OLED Displays (using technology developed by Alan Heeger) are showing up in consumer electronics (like this Linux based wristwatch).

I can’t wait until the wall paper in my house is made up of this stuff. I don’t care if I need a cluster of super computers in my closet to drive all the pixels, imagine the very real possibility that you could have DVD playing on the entire living room wall. My mind reels with the possibilities.

If you had the ability to slap a display on anything, what would you use it for?