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The BBC's Angela Garvey in Hanover
"If you love gadgets, this show's for you"
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Saturday, 26 February, 2000, 10:36 GMT
Ever faster and smaller
Hand-held devices
Computers and mobile phones are merging fast
By Toby Murcott of BBC Science

Around 8,000 exhibitors have gathered to display their wares at the world's largest computer fair, CeBIT, which is underway in the German town of Hanover.

This year, the emphasis is on the internet and mobile phones.

Victor Basta of technology investment bank Broadview has a vision of the very near future, where the line between computers and mobile phones ceases to exist.

"The mobile phone is going to change entirely to a point where you might not call it a mobile phone anymore," he says.

"You saw an agreement between Nokia and Amazon where people might be able to shop on their mobile phone. There are other agreements being struck where you can buy and sell shares on your phone rather than just getting share prices."

New protocol

The major mobile phone companies Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson have all launched new handsets equipped to run Wireless Application Protocol or Wap.

CeBit display
At CeBIT, people can see the future
This is a simplified version of the internet, specifically designed to run on the mobile phones, condensing the information to fit onto a mobile handset's small screen.

As well as shopping and selling shares on a mobile, many companies are now devising new ways of using the new technology.

One firm, the German company Linguatec, won an award with its automatic translation facility.

This allows you to receive an e-mail on your phone in a foreign language, send it off to their internet site which will automatically translate it and send it back.

Wap is currently restricted by the slow rate at which data can be sent over a mobile phone network. However, new types of mobile phone networks are being developed that will send data much faster than over an ordinary phone line.

Chip advance

Another restriction is the need to cram large amounts of computing power into a small space.

Silicon chips are getting steadily smaller and more powerful. Away from the CeBIT trade fair, researcher Dr Russell Cowburn and his group at Cambridge University, UK, has developed a chip that works on magnetism.

It is much, much smaller than a conventional chip. "We estimate that you could fit about 40,000 times more processing power into the same space than you have in today's conventional computers," says Dr Cowburn.
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