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Thomas Edison's Kindle 98

harrymcc writes "In 1911, Thomas Edison bragged that he could make a 40,000-page book by printing the pages on thin pieces of metal. In the mid-1930s, newspapers experimented with transmitting special editions into homes via early fax machines. In 1956, Chrysler tried to sell Americans on buying 7-inch records that could only be played on a tiny turntable built into its cars' dashboards. Over at Technologizer, I rounded up these and a dozen other fascinating, forgotten gadget ideas that didn't work out — but which foreshadowed products and technologies that eventually became a big deal."
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Thomas Edison's Kindle

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  • hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nomadic ( 141991 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (dlrowcidamon)> on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:40PM (#30898610) Homepage
    Pages 1/20,000th of an inch thick? What exactly keeps you from lopping off your fingers?
  • by dlenmn ( 145080 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:04PM (#30898854)

    He wasn't talking about having a small device that could 'download' content remotely.

    Where did the author say that he was? I think the author's comparison to the kindle is just because they can store a lot of words in a little space. Whether that is a valid comparison is another issue.

  • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:37PM (#30899908)

    That's not the real problem. Nickel pages 1.27 microns thick simply don't have enough stiffness for you to be able to pick up a page without crinkling it, never mind any risk to the skin on your fingers, which is quite resilient by comparison. What Mr. Edison wasn't thinking about -- I assume he was speaking off the cuff to the interviewer, as he certainly had the technical knowledge -- was the tensile strength of nickel. If you think it's hard to handle a sheet of aluminum foil without getting it crinkled, good luck with nickel leaf.

    The other problem is that layers of printing ink have thickness. It doesn't matter a whole lot with paper (for most inks, anyway) because paper is so thick relative to the ink, but relative to 1.27 micron metal leaf, it's another matter altogether. Bear in mind that most of the ink sits on or near the surface of the paper -- if it soaked in too much it would cause the outlines of the letters to blur. And with paper, there is actually lots of empty space in the fibers for the pigment particles (mostly carbon) and the binder to settle in. Nickel leaf, on the other hand, is not fibrous, and while I suppose it might eventually be possible to cheaply mass produce sheets of nanoscale nickel fibers, it's not possible now and sure as heck wasn't in Edison's day.

    The idea of using nickel isn't an entirely bad one, though printing isn't the way to go. The Long Now Foundation [] -- the current project of Stewart Brand, the guy who gave us the classic hippie Whole Earth Catalog -- is working on using an excimer laser to etch 350,000 pages onto 2.8-inch nickel discs. This will be actual, unencoded, human-readable text -- if the human in question has a student-grade microscope capable of 650x magnification. The required technology already exists; the main problem, aside from the sheer expense of the equipment, is that it takes a day and a half to etch a single disc this way. I can't help but think that Brand would be better off using a chip fab to crank out more or less the same thing using the same technology we use for making tiny circuits.

  • In dash records (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @01:36AM (#30900660)

    I listened to a lot of tunes in a friend's car way back when, that had an in dash record player. It was in a 64 (IIRC) Buick "deuce and a quarter" or 225. Worked OK, did skip on really nasty bumps, but less then what you might think.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.