Here’s an invention Caesar would have found familiar: a scroll that displays the news and then rolls up for easy storage. However, it is made not of parchment but of plastic, and it renders images at 150 pixels per inch. Because its pixels consist of tiny capsules that toggle between reflecting and nonreflecting modes each time they get a jolt of electricity, the screen consumes power only when updating the image.

The company behind the invention, Plastic Logic, in Cambridge, England, is a Cambridge University spin-off. The company has backing from Intel, Motorola, and Philips, and its screen is being tested by newspaper publishers in Belgium, France, and the United States.

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The Ultimate Transistor Timeline

The transistor’s amazing evolution from point contacts to quantum tunnels

1 min read
A chart showing the timeline of when a transistor was invented and when it was commercialized.

Even as the initial sales receipts for the first transistors to hit the market were being tallied up in 1948, the next generation of transistors had already been invented (see “The First Transistor and How it Worked.”) Since then, engineers have reinvented the transistor over and over again, raiding condensed-matter physics for anything that might offer even the possibility of turning a small signal into a larger one.

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