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Captain Kirk: What's going on?

In the wrap-up presentation many attendees considered the highlight of last week's Intel Developer Forum, CTO Pat Gelsinger's rode to the stage on a Segway ''human transporter,'' and then undertook some snappy banter with actor William Shatner, best know for his role as Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek. The theme of the presentation was the future of technology, which Gelsinger underscored by carrying-and wearing-a host of electronic devices, including a baseball cap with a monocle eye monitor, a PDA with a camera, a Bluetooth headset, a universal remote control, a mobile phone, a personal video player and an electronic vest ''infrastructure/data center'' with a server sewn in the back.

''Today,'' he said, ''I am the most technologically advanced person walking the face of the earth.''

As Gelsinger took off his gear, Shatner elicited chuckles from the crowded hall when he said, ''It's refreshing to be at a conference where all the technology isn't made of paper mache.''

During a post keynote Q&A, Shatner said his favorite Star Trek episode is ''City on the Edge of Forever,'' gave his thoughts on the possibility of silicon-based life forms (he said that Gelsinger was the closest he'd seen to such a creature), and promoted his new book about his attempt to understand technology and science.

And Shatner admitted that he was mystified by the content of the keynote. ''You guys speak a different language,'' he said. ''I don't understand what you're talking about.''

Other Intel announcements at the conference included: 
* Optical networking: Intel will be improving optical networking technology, according to Sean Maloney, executive VP of Intel's Communications Group, circumventing the current limitations of copper wire connections.
* Tunable lasers: The company plans to build its own tunable lasers, which can be adjusted to send different frequencies of light over optical fibers. The lasers will be based on technology from start-up New Focus, which it recently acquired, Maloney said.
* Dual processor chips: Intel's new dual-processor Xeon chips for servers are now available. The new models run at 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz.
* 1.6GHz Xeon processor: Designed for small systems, such as blade servers, this version runs at a lower voltage and consumes less power, an average of 30 watts, Maloney said.
* The Plumas chipset: The company's new E7500 chipset, code-named Plumas, is expected in the fourth quarter, according to the company. Plumas is a collection of supporting chips that connects a computer's main processors to the rest of the system. The current data-transfer rate of a Plumas system is around 400MHz, but the company expects future models to achieve 533MHz.
* Multiple-gate transistor: Called the Tri-Gate transistor, it increases the amount of electricity flowing through transistors and microprocessors, boosting their performance.
* Nanotech: The company announced that it is working with Harvard and other universities on silicon nanowires and carbon nanotubes. Nanowires are made up of self-assembling silicon; the nanotube consist of self-assembling carbon atoms. One of these two experimental technologies could eventually replace standard transistors and over time become the building block of chips, according to Sunlin Chou, Intel's senior VP of technology and manufacturing.
* Wireless modems: The company is putting the finishing touches on a PC-card modem, code-named Calexico, that will contain the first 802.11b and 802.11a chips made by the company. The company expects to see the modems in notebooks and desktops as early as next year.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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