It’s Berlin, Circa 1989, and the Media Industries Are East Germany

Allow me to add my voice to the chorus of those applauding the fall of the Berlin wall twenty years ago this month. It was this event that taught me firsthand why revolution is simultaneously impossible as well as inevitable. In 1986 I sat with other students from around the globe just blocks from the wall and debated whether it would ever come down. The naïve among us insisted freedom was imperative: It was inevitable. The others asked if we had stopped to think about the massive relocation of people, economic resources, and government structures that such a revolution would require: It was impossible.

Until it happened, just three years later.


Brandenburg tor eastside

The author, pictured left, photographed in front of the Brandenburg
Gate from what was then the East German side


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Marvell + E Ink: Chip Integration Means Faster eReaders, Animation

You may have seen the news about Marvell Technology Group, a chip-maker, integrating its chips into E Ink's display modules. This sounds very tech-y, but it has real consequences for the consumer experience of eReaders. Namely:

  • It speeds up the refresh rate of the E Ink screen...One of the first things consumers notice when trying out an E Ink-based eReader is the noticeably long delay when flipping a page or taking another action like changing the text size. This is especially annoying on touch devices like the Sony Touch Edition. Consumers are used to the iPhone touch experience, and the experience they have on the Web clicking on links--if they don't get immediate feedback, they assume it's not working. Currently, the microprocessing chip operates outside the display module, which is one reason why it's so slow. Integrating the chip into the E Ink display module will speed up the refresh rate of the screen by as much as half, according to Marvell, in addition to driving down manufacturing costs.
  • ...Which creates a better user experience, and enables animation and other cool stuff. In addition to being generally less annoying for consumers, integrating the chip into the display will enable animated content--not full-on video, but black-and-white animation that will be useful especially for ads. Marvell has announced that they're working with FirstPaper (the secretive company backed by Hearst) as one of their partners, and having seen their device I can attest that they put the technology to good use. Marvell has said they'll announce more partners at CES in January, including companies working on dual-screen devices that need the faster processing capability for video and Web browsing