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One digital day :how the microchip is changing our worldby Rick Smolan
Synopses & Reviews
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.
At just over twenty-five years old, the microprocessor has changed the world so profoundly that daily life without it has become unimaginable. To document the tiny chip's influence on human civilization, 100 of the world's most talented photojournalists traveled around the globe on one day to capture the remarkable impact of microchip technology on entertainment, business, health. sports, education, science, religion, and countless other fields. Together, their pictures show us how today's dreams are fast becoming reality.
About the Author
In 1991, photojournalist Rick Smolan and his partner Jennifer Erwitt founded Against All Odds Productions, a multimedia publisher specializing in large-scale photographic projects that combine compelling storytelling with state-of-the-art technology. A former Time, Life, and National Geographic photographer, Smolan had previously created the bestselling Day in the Life photography series. More than three million copies of his Day in the Life books are in print, and one of them, A Day in the Life of America, spent more than a year on the New York Times Bestseller List.
The first interactive project released by Against All Odds was From Alice to Ocean: Alone Across the Outback. It gained international recognition as the first illustrated book ever to include an interactive CD-ROM disc, and has since become one of the most recognized multimedia titles in the world of interactive publishing. The San Francisco Chronicle called From Alice to Ocean "a stunning, addictive and mesmerizing experience that may well change the course of publishing forever."
Against All Odds then produced Passage to Vietnam, which caught a rare glimpse of a nation caught in the midst of dramatic change. First released as a large-format illustrated book in the Fall of 1994, Passage to Vietnam was featured on "Good Morning America" and CNN, and in an eight-page photo excerpt in Newsweek. The CD-ROM version of Passage to Vietnam, co-published with Interval Research and distributed by Broderbund Software, was released in June 1994. The Wall Street Journal called it "a thing of beauty on a PC screen," and the CD won numerous industry awards including the prestigious Codie Award for Best Overall Multimedia Production of 1996 and the NewMedia INVISION Award for Best of Show, 1995.
In February 1996, Against All Odds orchestrated 24 Hours in Cyberspace — the largest online event ever to take place in a single day. The goal of the project was to tell compelling human interest stories about how Cyberspace is changing people's lives — to create a global portrait of the human face of the on-line revolution. The project resulted in an illustrated book published in November 1996; it was featured on ABC-TV's "Nightline" and appeared as a cover story in US News & World Report. A photographic exhibition of 24 Hours in Cyberspace opened at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in January 1997, and at that time the project's Web site was inducted into the Museum's permanent archives.
Against All Odds Productions is located in Sausalito, California.
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