Finally, my biography of Richard Feynman, Genius, is available as an e-book. It can be read in all formats, without prejudice: for example, here (Kindle), here (Nook)here (Apple), and here (Sony). It is created by the innovative (and suspiciously good-looking) people at Open Road.

Feynman, of course, did not live to see e-books. But he was way ahead, as usual. In 1959 he was already imagining, famously, “the Encyclopedia Britannica on the head of a pin,” followed by “all the books in the world” in your pocket. “Don’t tell me about microfilm!” he said.

What would our librarian at Caltech say, as she runs all over from one building to another, if I tell her that, ten years from now, all of the information that she is struggling to keep track of—120,000 volumes, stacked from the floor to the ceiling, drawers full of cards, storage rooms full of the older books—can be kept on just one library card! When the University of Brazil, for example, finds that their library is burned, we can send them a copy of every book in our library by striking off a copy from the master plate in a few hours and mailing it in an envelope no bigger or heavier than any other ordinary air mail letter.

He was talking about what we would now call nanotechnology—not about computers, in 1959. “Computing machines are very large,” he pointed out. “They fill rooms.” Still, he added:

There is plenty of room to make them smaller. There is nothing that I can see in the physical laws that says the computer elements cannot be made enormously smaller than they are now. In fact, there may be certain advantages.


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