Mon, 09 Oct 2000

Newspapers contain high-tech dotted images

By Lim Tri Santosa

BANDUNG (JP): In the newspaper business, we make billions of them every day -- the tiny dots of ink that form the images in your daily papers. We long ago mastered dots; our problem is with the dot-coms. How do we maintain a market for printed papers when customers can get the same news from free on the Internet?

Really, newspapers are a pretty good medium. They're light and portable and cheap. They're familiar and easy to use. They're highly interactive. It's easy to find stories you want while ignoring those you don't. That's one reason Internet news hasn't killed newspapers. The computers needed to view Internet news aren't cheap. Even the best laptops aren't light enough. And to many, the Internet isn't familiar or easy to use.

Next time you're sitting at home reading your favorite newspaper, why not download a couple of video clips from its thin, crinkly pages? What if you could download an MP3 file, photo, or video game demo from a simple bar code printed in the newspaper? Sound and animation popping out of a newspaper page, the new technology of printing electronic data onto paper called Intacta Code will make a grand entry in our newspaper. Any type of electronic data is printable. A "paper floppy" is born, in other words, by bridging multimedia and print that is cheap and capable of mass distribution.

Getting confused? Atlanta-based Intacta Technologies Inc. ( is pushing one possible answer, a way to make the dots of ink on a newspaper page vastly more powerful than they've ever been before. Today they carry sports scores and comic strips; tomorrow they might bring readers a piece of music or a snippet of video. It's just a matter of connecting the dots.

The Intacta Code is indeed a dream-come-true system that extracts a wide variety of electronic data from a newspaper page. Such electronic data as related to a given article can be taken out from the same newspaper. Conventionally you can enjoy electronic data of images or sounds only from a floppy disk, CD- ROM or a connection with a network such as the Internet.

The software that makes Intacta work was dreamed up by engineers working for the Israeli military. They wanted a highly secure, highly compressed way to get critical intelligence data to commanders in the field. They came up with an answer that's distantly related to a gadget most of us see at least once a week. The shop assistant at the supermarket checkout line rarely looks at the price tag. Instead, she slides your carton of detergent over a scanner that can read data from a patch of black lines printed on the box; a bar code. There's a small amount of information: brand name, package size, price-embedded in those lines.

Unlike a conventional bar code that contains a simple key to a database, Intacta's SmartBar can contain virtually any kind of data: a document, a song, a photo or a video. Using encoding, compression and error correction algorithms developed by the Israeli military, Intacta engineers have come up with software that can convert an audio clip, for example, into a tiny pattern of dots called a SmartBar, which can then be printed in a newspaper or magazine. Once you scan this bit-mapped image into your computer, Intacta's reader software (a free download) reconstitutes the pattern of dots into the original audio clip.

Intacta's software reduces any digital file or files to a binary code of tiny black dots on a white paper background. The dots and blank spaces represent the zeros and ones of computer data and they can be arrayed in any kind of shape. Any scanner capable of reading at least 300 dots per inch can capture an Intacta-encoded file, which can then be returned to its original file (either image file, video clip, MP3, spreadsheet, Word, etc.) with Intacta software.

What's so special about the Intacta dotted image? First, its easily printable. IntactaCode images can be printed on newspapers, magazines, in books or on any printable media using standard printing technology, even using facsimile.

Second, highly durable media on which IntactaCode is printed can be bent or distorted, usually with no impact on readability, making it an ideal technology for real-world applications, such as newspapers that are sold or home delivered folded, or enterprise documents to industrial forms that must withstand repeated handling and abuse. Third, The Intacta Express software needed to read these snippets of Intacta code is available free at the company's Web site.

By the way, do you have a BCA Tahapan saving book? Look at the dotted sticker that contains your signature on the reverse front cover. Basically, it uses the same technology of dotted code.

The Jakarta Post readers can today take part in an experiment that borders on the worlds of science fiction and James Bond: Using a computer file printed on an ordinary newspaper page. The mass of dots is encoded digital information for the computer file. Any home or office computer with a scanner attached can translate the code in seconds. This is a technology that many believe could radically change the newspaper industry. (