TCExperts examine information highwayThe road that begins...


November 29, 1993|By STEVE AUERWECK | STEVE AUERWECK,Staff Writer


Experts examine information highway

The road that begins with data, passes through information and knowledge, and finally arrives at wisdom is a twisty one, filled with dead ends, yet it's increasingly important to the economy and to society at large.

The Institute for Information Studies, based at the Aspen Institute in Queenstown on the Eastern Shore, asked experts from academia and business to examine the nature of that road, both now and in the future. The result is a compact volume released last week, "The Knowledge Economy: The Nature of Information in the 21st Century," that's a worthy navigation guide for those who purvey information.

As former Federal Communications Commissioner Nichola Johnson points out in his introduction, information is like the elephant to the blind men: Those with different points of view -- education, economics, sociology, technology, business and world affairs -- see different animals.

Not surprisingly, though, all of the essays deal with the computing revolution and the ability it's given us to move increasingly large amounts of data, if not information, in increasingly small periods of time.

Titles include "The Role of Technology in an Information Age," "The Economics of Information: A User's Guide," "Competing with Information: Empowering Knowledge Networks with Information Technology," "The Promise of a New World Information Order," "Technology, Information and Social Behavior," and "Network Literacy in an Electronic Society: An Educational Disconnect?"

The Institute for Information Studies, which was established in 1987 by Northern Telecom Inc. and the Aspen Institute, sells the book, postpaid, for $7.95; orders may be called in to (410) 820-5376.

Johns Hopkins names speech processing chief

The Johns Hopkins University said Wednesday that it has hired Frederick Jelinek, formerly senior manager of Continuous Speech Recognition at IBM Corp.'s Watson Research Center in New York State, as the director of its recently established Center for Speech Processing.

Dr. Jelinek, who had been with the Watson Center for 21 years, is a native of Czechoslovakia who holds three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including a doctorate in electrical engineering specializing in information theory.

"The fields of speech recognition and synthesis and of dialogue with data bases are at the threshold of an explosion," he says.

He sees the day when many people will use voice input alone for tasks such as word processing or querying data bases, but he expects that professionals will continue to use keyboards.

The speech center has been funded by a $2.8 million federal grant; it's expected to become a focal point for speech and language now under way in several of the university's divisions.

Software patent's validity is questioned

The Annapolis-based Interactive Multimedia Association is questioning the process by which a large publisher has patented concepts that are basic to most multimedia reference software.

Two weeks ago, Compton's NewMedia announced that it had won the patent on a "multimedia search system" with access through "multiple graphical and textual entry paths." The result has been an uproar in the multimedia industry, since such programs usually depend on multiple links among chunks of information.

Last week, the IMA questioned the validity of the patent.

"The Patent Office is issuing extremely sweeping patents that are for basic computer and multimedia processes that have been used for many years which are obvious and not novel," said Executive Director Philip Dodds.

He also noted, "I expect that the IMA will support legal efforts to limit or overturn this patent."

In the same announcement, the IMA's president, Tom Lopez, who is also co-chair of Mammoth Micro Productions, suggested that the Patent Office should form an industry commission to review patents pending, "to ensure that the patents hold up to close examination from those that understand the industry and technologies the best: those in the multimedia industry."

While Compton's, a unit of media giant Tribune Co., is eagerly licensing the technology to multimedia publishers for a percentage of the profits, there's talk in Silicon Valley that it wants even more to increase its share of the CD-ROM distribution business, now estimated at 40 percent.

RemotePC allows multiple dial-in users

Cray Communications Inc. of Annapolis Junction last week unveiled an "access server" that lets up to 24 simultaneous users dial in and use the resources on an Ethernet-based local area network.

The product, called RemotePC, is priced at $2,595 for a base unit plus $1,395 for each group of six ports. The remote users run client software under DOS, Microsoft Windows or OS/2.

Cray says RemotePC is designed for users such as salespeople, telecommuters or those in branch offices. Unlike many other dial-in packages, it lets the remote users access resources such as printers, electronic mail systems or other networks.

Cray Communications is a division of Cray Electronics Holdings PLC, a publicly held British company. The unit's U.S. headquarters are in Annapolis Junction.

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