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Satellites, Silicon, a Startup

January 1, 2000

Journalists are often slammed for forgetting stories after the initial news cools. There’s some truth in that charge, so we’ve decided to revisit selected stories. Call it “Chapter Two” in the life of news. We’ll bring these offerings to you from time to time in Benchmarks.

• Our March/April cover story reported the impending commercial availability of spy-quality satellite images of the earth. Surviving a failed satellite launch in April, Thornton, Colo.-based Space Imaging became the first to offer images with 1-meter resolution, capturing views of Washington, D.C., in late September.

• European Global Positioning System users have long been aware that, since GPS is a U.S. military monopoly, the signal they rely on could be jammed at American discretion. The European Space Agency has approved the first appropriation-$42 million-toward a European equivalent of GPS called Galileo. The new system could further complicate things for American GPS firms, whose struggles were described in the July/August issue.

• An Intel researcher has warned that the industry’s long-standing ability to shrink silicon devices, increasing their speed and power, is set to fail in the next few years. In the journal Science, Paul Packan wrote that rapidly approaching limits of scale are “the most difficult challenge the semiconductor industry has ever faced,” echoing concerns voiced by Hewlett-Packard’s Stan Williams in TR’s September/October issue.

• GNOME ground zero is moving from Mexico City to the Boston area. The project coordinator for Linux’s graphical user interface, Miguel de Icaza, (whose work we described a year ago) has been funded by the Linux Fund to start a company to develop open-source applications. De Icaza checked out office space in November, when he was honored at MIT as a member of the TR100 and TR’s Innovator of the Year for 1999.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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