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Give me the CD thing, and forget the radiation

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
 

Simple gray rule


Give me the CD thing, and forget the radiation
 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1992, The Syracuse Newspapers

In previous years, I have chosen this time—around the first of April—to report on the activities of the International Substandards Organization. My columns on the ISO have sometimes engendered disbelief, and I have even been accused of making up the accounts in order to play an April Fool's joke on gullible readers.

Such allegations are well founded, and would only be confirmed by a truthful response. But this year's report on the ISO will have to wait. I have something even more unbelievable to tell you.

In fact, I have a couple of unbelievable things to tell you.

Ready?

Somebody found a way to solve all the world's energy problems. Cheaply. Very cheaply.

Somebody else is selling a do-it-yourself compact disc recorder.

Naturally, one of those two items is a lot more important than the other.

You're right—the CD recorder is the really big story of the year.

Am I joking? No, not at all. Yesterday was April Fool's Day only by coincidence, and somebody has, indeed, come up with a way to solve all our energy needs, and do it at almost no expense.

At least that's what they say.

They might be right.

And that means they might be wrong. And that's why the other development is more exciting. It's a sure thing.

The CD recorder isn't a surprise, although it's come along a lot sooner than most of us expected. It's being sold by Meridian Data, a company in Capitola, Calif.

Meridian's CD recorder allows you to make your own compact discs. It's not clear whether you can just plug in a microphone and cut your own CD or whether you need to make a digital tape recording first, like the studios do.

What makes the Meridian CD recorder different from other CD-type recording devices already on the market is its compatibility. The other recorders (which are generally referred by the unfortunate term CD-WORM, for Write Once Read Many) create discs that can't be played on regular CD players, but the Meridian recorder's discs work perfectly on ordinary players.

But put that checkbook down. Each blank disc that you pop into the recorder costs $100. And the discs can't be erased, so you'll need to stock up on quite a few blanks.

Actually, the cost of each blank CD shouldn't be a problem—not to anyone who can afford the recorder. The list price is $98,000, and discounts are, as they say, generally unavailable.

Obviously, only recording studios and a couple of rich-kid audiophiles will be able to afford the Meridian CD recorder. But breakthrough technology is always more expensive than the everyday products that follow. By this time next year, the first moderately priced CD recorders could be on the market, and in perhaps another year to two we should be able to buy compact disc recorders at about the same price as fancy VCRs.

As for the matter of rescuing the world from its energy crisis, scientists announced in Utah that they had found a way to generate fusion energy at room temperature.

Fusion is the type of energy conversion that takes place on the sun. Everyone had figured that fusion was only possible at very high temperatures and equally high costs.

If the scientists are right—and that's not a sure thing, to say the least—cheap fusion energy could replace coal, natural gas, oil, gasoline and nuclear power throughout the world. There would be no pollution from cars, trucks and buses that used fusion instead of gasoline and diesel fuel, and the Greenhouse Effect—which is caused largely by the carbon dioxide spewed out by vehicles—could be brought under control.

That is, all this could happen if what the scientists say is true. And further, it could happen if nothing gets in the way. That means that if this notion of table-top fusion really works, it can't be expensive, it can't be dangerous and it can't upset the balance of trade.

And it can't make apples unsafe to eat or make grapes poisonous.

Heck, I'll take a CD recorder any time.


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