Cherish Each Step in the Process


"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is oftenmore important than the outcome."
– Arthur Ashe

Frequently, I find myself lost in a good mystery novel or biography. The best ones make you empathize with the main characters, and you end up winding through the twists and turns in the plot together. It is the journey the story takes, more than where it ends, that captures my interest. Other times I'm attracted to a narrative when I feel the author is being very candid or when I can really appreciate the situation on a personal level.

Unfortunately, in the technical world, most of what is written is meant to explain how a new discovery works or describe some technical concept as carefully as possible. The emphasis is placed on the destination, not the journey — despite the wise words above of tennis great and humanitarian Arthur Ashe. That is why one of this month's articles, "Developing the First Commercial Product to Use Multi-Touch Technology" by Guillaume Largillier from Stantum, S.A.S., is particularly exciting to me. While not quite the same as a murder mystery, this story, which details Stantum's efforts to develop a multi-finger touch screen for their JazzMutant products, describes with similar narrative style the problems faced by the team of developers in trying to improve on existing touch-screen technology to suit their vision. As you read this article, you realize that you are getting a very candid glimpse into their thought processes, covering both the accomplishments and disappointments. If you are curious about the analytical and creative process that engineers follow as they create new technology, you will learn a lot here. If you already are well versed in the field, you should still enjoy the various problems they needed to solve and the approach they adopted. This is certainly one of those stories where the journey is as interesting as the destination.

In a similar vein, I was very pleased to receive the column "Re-Focusing Micro-vision" from David Lashmet for this month's Business of Displays feature. Here again is a very candid and rarely revealed glimpse into what was, and what is now, going on inside the walls of the Microvision business. Having recently re-invented themselves from the self-proclaimed (and somewhat understated) "doldrums," he describes their path to success involving some tough decision-making, creative thinking, and risk-taking that all too often is hidden behind the press releases and marketing speak. Kudos to David and his management team for being candid enough to give us another journey story this month.

The rest of this month's feature articles are similarly very interesting and describe numerous recent advances in touch-screen technology, a field of technology that has really come back to life the past few years. For a while, the advances in touch were mostly evolutionary with only nominal changes to the understood field. However, in the past few years, the combination of new applications, greater electronic integration, and further advances in display technology have created an almost perfect storm of new concepts in touch technology. We have been covering touch technology through-out 2007 and our Guest Editor for this issue, Geoff Walker, did a great job sorting through the field and finding the most significant advances from 2007 to the present. He did a much better job than I could have done in introducing them, so look for his guest editorial on page 4 and then sit back and enjoy the fruit of his efforts. We'll continue to focus on touch throughout 2008 and keep you up to date through the next year as well.

The final thing I want to talk about this month, as the snow begins falling outside my window here in Massachusetts, U.S.A., is the upcoming holidays for all of us. It inspires me to realize that in almost every organized religion around the world, the period of time from early December to mid-January is the most important time for celebration of faith and renewal of spirit. While as engineers and scientists, we tend to be a pretty skeptical and objective bunch, even the most cynical among us cannot help but be amazed by the incredible beauty of our physical world, the amazing things we have already accomplished with our understanding of it, and just how many more secrets have yet to reveal themselves to us. We really do live in a limitless universe and so much of it is beyond our comprehension. Display technology itself is amazing. It touches everyone's lives and envelops countless scientific disciplines. However, maybe the most magical part is that the displays we build serve as windows back into the world from whence they came and help everyone to see the world in ways they may not have imagined before. From the first entertainment displays to today's most advanced displays used in applications such as medical research, geological and geographical studies, and space exploration, display technology has always given back to us much more than we have ever put into it. So, for the next few weeks, it's OK to have a little bit of "awe" in your work attitude — look at things less analytically and more emotionally. Let yourself be taken on a journey and don't worry about the destination. Just be inspired by the scenery along the way, brought to you no doubt by a really cool display.

– Stephen P. Atwood