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One Digital Day: How the Microchip is Changing Our World


Publisher:Crown Business



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About the book:

No invention in history has spread so quickly throughout the world, or revolutionized so many aspects of human existence, as the microchip. Little more than a quarter century since its invention, there are now nearly 15 billion microchips in use worldwide -- the equivalent of two powerful computers for every man, woman, and child on the planet.  The microprocessor is not only changing the products we use, but also the way we live, and, ultimately, the way we perceive reality.

ONE DIGITAL DAY is the result of a unique project designed to make people aware of the thousands of microprocessors we unknowingly encounter every day. Rick Smolan, creator of the award-winning Day in the Life photography books and the bestseller 24 Hours in Cyberspace, sent 100 of the world's most talented photojournalists around the globe on July 11, 1997. Their mission: to depict intimate and emotional stories of how this tiny chip -- a square of silicon the size of a fingernail, weighing less than a postage stamp -- has transformed our human culture forever.

The book features more than 200 compelling photographs, taken on that single day, revealing a world that only science-fiction writers once dared envision. Thanks to microchips, it is a world where science, entertainment, business, health, sports, education, and countless other fields are progressing faster than we can imagine.

How pervasive is the microchip?  If you took the microchips out of every application in which they are now used, the results would be stunning and frightening. Microwave ovens, dishwashers, and many other kitchen appliances would stop working. Televisions and VCRs would fade to black; stereos would grow mute; and most clocks would stop. Cars wouldn't start, and airplanes would be unable to leave the ground. The phone system would go dead, as would most streetlights, thermostats, and, of course, a half-billion computers. And these are only the most obvious applications. Every factory in the industrial world would also shut down, as would the electrical grid, stock exchanges, and the global banking system. Pacemakers would stop, too, as would surgical equipment and fetal monitoring systems in obstetrics wards.

This infinite variety of applications is vividly illustrated by the images captured in ONE DIGITAL DAY.  A brief sample of what the hundred photographers came back with:

Johannesburg, South Africa -- Once on the verge of extinction, cheetahs at the DeWildt Center are implanted with microchips that contain genetic information. This information, read by a scanner, is crucial to the center's efforts to build up the world population, because in-breeding is a big threat to the genetic strength of the cats.

Hollywood, California -- The Jurassic Park River Adventure roller coaster is a completely automated ride which was designed with the help of paleontologists and robotics engineers, at a cost of $100 million. This completely automated ride includes "animatronic" dinosaurs which roar, lunge and even spit at riders in passing boats.

Bury, England -- Ida Schofield, a 69-year-old grandmother, had never touched a computer or thought she had any need for one until she volunteered as a "guinea pig" for a state-of-the-art desktop system, with video-conferencing. She now uses it to communicate with family members around the world.

Lacey, Washington -- Sprinter Tony Volpentest, born with no hands or feet and only partially formed arms and legs, uses ultra-light artificial feet designed with the help of sophisticated computer modeling programs.  He now runs the 100-meter dash only 1.5 seconds slower than the world record holder.

Singapore -- The foul-smelling but delicious tropical fruit known as durian is adored throughout Asia, but devotees dread carrying it home in their cars or keeping it around the house. Now connoisseurs of the odoriferous delicacy can order it online from 717 Trading Company and have it delivered just when they're ready to eat it. Since 717 launced its Web site in early 1996, about 20 percent of its sales have come from customers shopping online.

Fort Bragg, NC and Sarajevo, Bosnia -- U.S. Army Lieutenant Frank Holmes, stationed 5,000 miles from home in Bosnia, gets his first look at his six-week-old daughter, Morgan, by using a pc-based videoconferencing system.  The smooth images that reunited Frank, Morgan, and mom Andrea ran over normal phone lines between computers running ProShare Technology.  Frank's commanding officer notes that videoconferencing is "the single greatest morale boost for my troops in a long time." (Photos: Lori Grinker and Cindy Burnham)

As Andrew S. Grove, Chairman of Intel Corporation, writes in his foreword, "As you turn these pages, you'll see a world being reshaped by technology in ways previously unthinkable." ONE DIGITAL DAY makes it fascinatingly clear that there is no place on, above, or below the earth, that the microprocessor hasn't touched.

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