Archive for November, 2007


The accuracy of X-ray analysis

One of the major problems with any legislation concerning the purity or otherwise of electronic assemblies - whether it be for determining compliance with the RoHS Directive or for categorising waste in line with the WEEE Directive - is in finding a suitable assay method that is easily accessible to the average manufacturer, importer or sales organisation. (more…)


Can European unity stand the WEEE test?

A report just compiled by the United Nations University for the European Union paints a pretty poor picture of the implementation of the WEEE Directive. The report, which was researched between September 2006 and August 2007 was commissioned to evaluate options for refinement of the Directive.

Somewhat alarmingly, the researchers found that only about a quarter of Europe’s medium sized household appliances and 40% of larger appliances are collected for salvage and recycling. Worse, small appliances, which should be the easiest to recycle, are close to zero percent collection, with a few exceptions.

The key recommendation of the report is the need to prioritise collection of certain categories of WEEE, with refrigerators at the top of the list thanks to their potential for ozone depletion. It also recommends removing the confusing split between business to business and business to consumer products.

Inevitably, the report finds glaring differences between the level of implementation across the EU’s 27 member states. The directive’s target figure of recycling 4kg per capita is acknowledged as being a little stiff for some of the newer members to implement in the short term.

However, the whole subject of variable enforcement across the continent has always been a problem within the EU. It was bad enough 20 years ago with perceived uneven enforcement of agricultural and fisheries policies – and that was within a much smaller union.

Can we honestly expect directives such as WEEE and RoHS, to say nothing of EMC and the LVD, to be enforced uniformly across 27 nations?


Colossus comes close

It may have disappointed those of a romantic bent, but the “defeat” of the rebuilt Colossus - claimed as the world’s first programmable computer - by a run of the mill PC has to go down as a massive mismatch. (more…)


The sums of storage

It’s always interesting to note the way the market reacts to the potential of technology. It wasn’t too long ago that the likes of Toshiba were heralding advances in 1.8in hard disk drive technology as a revolution in the handheld device market, from media players to cellphones.

However, while manufacturers certainly have not been slow to release “super-sized” devices, the consumer reaction has been less than enthusiastic. And I must confess that when I recently bought my wife a new mp3 player, I honestly couldn’t see the need for any more than 8Gbyte of storage, and so there really was no point in making the leap from reliable solid-state technology into the electromechanical world of the HDD.

But this is not to say that there is not a market for HDD-based portable equipment. Indeed, that doyen of consumer trends analysis Parks Associates reckons that its day will come – but not just yet. And while this may be sweet music to the ears of Flash memory manufacturers, you have to wonder whether the HDD manufacturers have got their sums wrong.


Fiction to fact by the long route

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of science fiction and fantasy – and I’d wager there are very few in our business that aren’t. So it’s always interesting to note when science fiction becomes science fact.

The latest example of this phenomenon is actually a device over which I’ve been musing recently (along the lines “if somebody doesn’t do it soon, so help me I’ll do it myself”). But, finally, it seems is going to launch a portable e-book reader.

Lest we forget, this the device that in countless future fictitious worlds has made paper based books, newspapers and magazines redundant – and saved hectare upon hectare of CO2-sinking forest in the process. So why on earth has it taken so long? And why does Amazon think it can get away with charging US $399?

No doubt we will all find out the answers to those two questions on Monday, when the device is launched. And I give it no more than a month before half-price clones start to appear.

Or is US $399 a fair price for web-enabled handheld with a modicum of solid-state memory and a half-decent display?


IP-enabled appliances have video taped

There is little doubt that video over IP will prove to be one of the biggest phenomena in the consumer electronics industry this decade. In theory, there is no limit to which traditional appliances could potentially receive such services – so long as they can be connected to the Internet and have some form of audiovisual output.

Some devices are obvious contenders, and items such as games consoles are already appearing in IP-enabled form. But where will it all end?

Market analyst IMS Research reckons that in 2012 more than 200 million IP-enabled devices other than set-top boxes and TV receivers will be shipped worldwide. And while we may well all have chuckled at the sight of early attempts to integrate a TV within a domestic refrigerator, it seems likely that there will be many such appliances that will fall within that 200 million figure.

So what would be your killer video over IP application? Any suggestions that allow me to make a fortune will be rewarded with a bottle of wine.


Supercomputers alive and well

Around five years ago in this very column I had the temerity to suggest that the days of the supercomputer were probably numbered on the very reasonable grounds that more computing power could be garnered by networking large numbers of PCs. But while certain research projects do still use that form of distributed computing, it seems the supercomputer market is still alive and well. And it is still populated by the usual suspects - which is perhaps the biggest surprise of all. (more…)


The technology of business competitiveness

The UK Government’s announcement of a further GBP 100 million to fund research via its Technology Strategy Board is certainly a step in the right direction. But with the money to be spread across eight areas of “technology”, the question is whether this is trying to do too much with too little.

No fewer than 76 different research and development projects will share the funds, in areas ranging from healthcare to green energy and business competitiveness. And while nobody can complain about a body such as the Technology Strategy Board funding R and D in the first two of these, the funding of research into business competitiveness is sure to raise eyebrows.

Nobody would question the notion that technology entrepreneurs need a business edge to succeed. But to divert funds away from fundamental research smacks of short-trm profit at the expense of long-term sustainable success.


Blessed are the geeks

Try to explain to most schoolchildren the importance of mathematics, and chances are you will be met with a majority of blank stares. For therein lies the problem with education systems the world over: maths is not perceived as a “sexy” subject, and without the maths, you have no foundations for any form of engineering. (more…)

About the Author

Electronicstalk and this Editor's Blog are edited by Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini

Laurence Marchini began his career in the electronics press with the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1980, cutting his teeth on a variety of learned and member publications, ranging from IEE Proceedings to Electronics and Power. He moved on to join the launch team of the innovative weekly Electronics Express in 1986, and became Editor just 18 months later. Sadly, Electronics Express lasted just four and a half years, wound up by the infamous Robert Maxwell. However, Laurence had already jumped ship and joined the world of electronics PR with the agency of the 1990s, Smith and Jones Communications. It seemed Laurence was lost to the world of journalism. But after 11 years we managed to lure him back as launch editor of Electronicstalk. Laurence is married to Sally and has a young son, Alexander.

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