TechMan: Tech future of classic sci-fi is here


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  • Futuristic sci-fi movies of the 1970s and early '80s, such as "Star Wars" and "Blade Runner," always fascinated me with the number of computers lying around, some in disrepair, as if they were ubiquitous cheap consumer products.

    It seemed strange because back then almost no one owned a computer.

    But things have changed, and I wondered if we'd reached that point. So I asked a middle-class, tech-oriented friend to count the number of computers in his household.

    Tech Talk: Technology goes to the movies

    On this week's "Tech Talk," the PG's Ced Kurtz and Laura Malt Schneiderman talk about technology-themed movies. (Video by Andrew Rush; 2/10/2014)

    Here's the result: full function computers (desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) -- 10; special purpose computers (e-readers, TV streamers, cable boxes, car voice command systems) -- 7; embedded computers (sewing machines, audio streamers, digital appliances) -- 9. That's 26 computers in an average household. I think we're there.

    Go and print me a coffee cup: Another device that may be common soon is the 3-D printer. Manufacturer MakerBot has announced the establishment of Innovation Centers at colleges and businesses. These centers will have 30 or more MakerBot desktop 3-D printers and scanners, and are meant as training centers and to provide 3-D printing services to business and academic departments. The first center is at SUNY New Paltz in New York.

    California kill switch? Legislation introduced for consideration Friday in California would require smartphones and other mobile devices to have a "kill switch" to render them inoperable if lost or stolen -- a move that, if taken, could result in such switches in all cell phones, according to The Associated Press.

    The cell phone industry opposes the idea because of the risk that hackers could disable mobile devices and lock out not only individuals' phones, but also phones used by the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and law enforcement, according to The Associated Press.

    Go, go graphene: Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have produced nanoribbons of graphene -- carbon that is one atom thick -- that conduct electrons better than even theory predicted. The finding could help graphene outperform traditional materials such as silicon in electronics, Nature.com reports.

    Swipe and sign off: Swipe and sign credit card systems will give way to systems with chip-implanted cards that require a PIN number, much like the rest of the world. MasterCard and Visa have set October 2015, as an important deadline in the switch, The Wall Street Journal reports.

    Keep it to yourself: A Pew Internet & American Life Project survey shows that more than half of Facebook users dislike people sharing too much information about themselves on the social network and the same proportion strongly dislikes when others post pictures or other things about them without asking for permission, The Washington Post reports.

    Bots conquer the Web: Humans now account for less than 40 percent of Web traffic, according to a study by Incapsula, reported on blog.usabilla.com. Incapsula helps websites manage their traffic and security.

    The increase in traffic from "good bots" like Bingbot and Googlebot that help the search engines find new sites shows that they are working harder than ever to make sure that they're indexing new websites, according to Usabilla.

    Tip of the week: If you are irritated that your iOS 7 iPad or iPhone requires you to enter a passcode, you can turn it off. Go to Settings, General; and choose Turn Passcode Off. Of course, your device will be less secure, particularly if it is lost or stolen.


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