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The future of the PC revealed

How advanced technologies will shape tomorrow's PCs

The ability to watch your HDTV anywhere without worrying about where the cable jack is and 5TB drives are just some of the developments the computing world can expect in the future. PC Advisor investigates.

Put your TV anywhere

Despite the wireless revolution happening all around the home, your high-definition television remains shamefully hard-wired in place. Wouldn't it be great if you could put your TV anywhere you wanted, without worrying about where the cable jack was, and still get top-notch video quality? Soon you'll be able to do just that.

Wireless high-definition interface (WHDI) is a cable-free replacement for high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI). It uses a 5GHz radio transmitter to send an uncompressed 1080p, 30 frames per second (fps) high-definition video signal from a WHDI-equipped games console or set-top box, for example, to a WHDI-equipped TV across a distance of up to 100ft. Because the signal is compatible with HDMI, you'll be able to buy HDMI wireless modems for your existing hardware, which means you can finally rearrange the furniture the way you'd like it, without running cables through your walls.

Amimon, which makes the WHDI chipset, released the technology to electronics manufacturers at the end of August 2007. Now the race is on to bring WHDI to market. TV makers have already begun demonstrating new wireless-equipped HDTV models at trade shows, and bleeding-edge buyers should be able to get their hands on hardware in the next few months.

WHDI is expected to add at least £100 to the overall cost of a new TV, so expect to pay a premium for the technology in 2008. WHDI modems for your existing hardware will probably cost around £150 to £200 for a pair of adaptors (you need at least two to get started). In a few years, according to Amimon vice-president of marketing Noam Geri, costs should drop to about £5 for inclusion in a TV and £30 or so for the adaptors.

Five terabytes per drive

1TB drives are already being produced by Hitachi but you could soon be looking at drives that offer 5TB of storage

You may not realise it, but you probably cram a massive amount of data on to your hard drive - digital photos, movies, music and overflowing email folders can pile on the gigabytes. But don't worry. Much bigger hard drives are on the horizon.

Heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) and a nearly identical technology called thermally assisted magnetic recording use lasers to heat the surface of a drive's platters. This makes it possible to pack a terabyte (TB) of data on to a square inch of surface, offering twice the current capacity.

As the drive's read/write head goes about its business, it briefly fires its laser at the surface, destabilising the iron platinum particles for reading and writing. With the platter heated, the read/write head can manipulate the surface on a very fine scale (just tens of nanometres) letting it cram enormous amounts of information into a small space. A few nanoseconds after the work is done, the surface cools for stability.

The way data is organised on a disc will change as well. Rather than having arbitrarily arranged disk sectors, HAMR drives will work with the natural grain of the disk surface, organising data into self-arranging magnetic arrays that allow the creation of a single bit of data on every grain of the platter's surface.

HAMR is still very much a research project, but it's coming to market in the next few years. Seagate expects to introduce 5TB HAMR hard drives by 2011, with capacities of up to 37.5TB arriving a few years after that.

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