By Chris Keenan

Back in 1998, I was invited to consult for a fantastic, young company based in Cambridge (UK).  As you probably know, Cambridge is famous for some extraordinary scientists, such as Isaac Newton and the late Stephen Hawking.  This young company was no exception to the fantastic scientific achievements that had gone before it.  The company’s invention was so leading edge, that we first got a glimpse of the Tech in the James Bond movie ‘Die Another Day’ as the invisible car.  We also saw the technology appearing as a futuristic monitor in the sci-fi movie Minority Report.

If you’ve not guessed it already, the invention is called ‘light emitting polymer’ and the company is called Cambridge Display Technology (CDT). So, what’s the big deal?  Well apart from invisible cars, you can have wall paper that changes its pattern on request, to anything.  It can even make wallpaper into a TV set.  That’s not all, the invention doesn’t just make excellent monitors, it also makes excellent computers.  In essence it means your computer and monitor can become the same thing (a bit like an iPad or computer tablet), with one big difference: your computer and monitor can be as thin, as a sheet of paper!

Lord Young of Graffham, first bought into the company for a rumored $100K, then helped to raise a £6.6m investment to help get the Tech patented.  CDT was originally a spin-off company from Cambridge University, so that kind of money seemed amazing, however that was just the tip of the chocolate bar.  Today the company is on the NASDAQ and worth $100’s of millions. LG display (shown in the above video) have invested heavily into CDT and so have a multitude of other big names.  Sounds amazing so far, right?

At this point you should have two questions on your mind: 1. If this company has been about since the 1990’s, then why don’t we already have paper-thin all-in-one computers already?  2. How would you power such a thing? I mean it’s a great idea but we’ve all seen the batteries needed for an iPad, wouldn’t this invention be restricted by its need for electricity?  Let me answer the second question first, it turns out those mad boffins in Cambridge have also developed energy harvesting and storage systems that make the technical schematics for the latest smartphone look like cave paintings.  Ok, so where are our flat computers?  Good question! It turns out that technology this advanced usually takes about 40 years before it’s perfected enough to hit the civilian population.  That puts us in the 2030’s before we can expect TV wallpaper. Better not start a line just yet.

One thing is for sure, when CDT’s inspired new hardware hits the streets, it will destroy the computer e-waste problem overnight!  That said, by the time we see flat computers, we’ll probably have a new e-waste industry recycling electric cars.  The bottom line is, whether it’s today or some time in the future, we’ve got some great stuff to look forward too.