Using light instead of electrons for communications inside computers could vastly increase systems speed. Daunting technical challenges mean that true optical computers are years away. But here are acronyms for recent breakthroughs:

VCSEL: Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers. These semiconductor lasers, which display light at frequencies greater than 5 GHz, are said to improve the performance of data communication links and simplify engineering design.

FSOIA: Free Space Optical Interconnect Accelerator. A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program to use VCSELs and detectors to build computers operating in the 10-terabit-per-second speed range.

SP: Smart Pixel devices. High-density, high-information-capacity parallel optical interconnections to electronic systems.

SLMs: Spatial Light Modulators. Devices such as liquid crystal and acousto-optical components for putting information on light beams.

'Wilson P. Dizard III

Editorial Cartoon

Don't aid Microsoft monopoly

Your story, 'Defense throws the book at its software buyers' [GCN, March 4, Page 9], shows what may be short-term gains for the federal sector. But the long-term effects will be less competition and inferior competition. Take a look at Lotus Development Corp. and WordPerfect.

If one part of the government uses Microsoft, it does not mean everyone must use it. The key is keeping the ability to exchange documents in soft copy and be able to edit or make comments. The Lotus and WordPerfect word processors can read and save de facto standard .DOC files.

There is a misunderstanding by agencies on what to do when their parent departments go with a certain software suite. The gains of the Defense Department detailed in your story will be short-term. We will all pay for killing Microsoft's competition.



Defense Logistics Agency

Fort Belvoir, Va.

Internet feasibility is a myth

As a 23-year IT professional who is retired from the Army, I continue to be astounded that government agencies rely so heavily on the vulnerable civilian Internet for communications that support our warfighters.

Given the almost-weekly proliferation of computer viruses and our devotion to the war on cyberterrorism, one would think the honest truth is self-evident. Government communications must not be tied to the increasingly vulnerable Internet. The old arguments'that this medium already exists and is cost effective'proved false as of Sept. 11, 2001. We must plug this electronic pathway to sensitive government communications.

Am I the only one preaching this message to the choir? Someone in government leadership must summon the moral courage to admit that investment'or trust'placed in the feasibility of the so-called secure Internet was na've.

Our warfighters deserve far more sure and certain support than that offered by dubious civilian technology cobbled together and dubbed the Internet.



Waynesboro, Pa.

Laptops: Make 'em bigger

Regarding your notebook PC review 'Notebooks stake claim to desktop real estate' [GCN, Feb. 18, Page 58], I have been waiting for years to see a product designed for men'or women'with large hands, fussy vision requirements and the ability to carry 10 or 12 pounds. Admittedly the dominant market seems to be women and smaller-handed men who can tolerate the small laptop PC keyboards.

But the manufacturers are all addressing that market and ignoring what I believe is a substantial potential. My acquaintances and I just don't know whom to write on this subject, so I hope that you will indulge my plea.

I would like a portable computer with a 17-inch display and nearly full-sized keyboard. It should fold like a narrow briefcase. It should fit nicely on the lap, even better than a typical laptop, which won't rest on legs the least bit parted. I know that others want this. What is wrong with these product planners?

GCN gave the Gateway Solo 9550 a negative for its size. If that means a negotiable keyboard I would give it a big plus.

On another note, I think that the term notebook is ill-conceived, probably a marketing thing. A notebook is just a place to jot notes, such as a spiral paper notebook. I notice that laptop is still used by most users, who aren't buying the word notebook. The word 'laptop' couldn't be a better or less ambiguous term for a portable computer.

But my main point is I am desperate for a full-size portable.


Senior consultant

Synetics for Management Decisions Inc.

Arlington, Va.

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