April 8, 2005 — -- In this week's "Cybershake," we take a quick look at the highlights of an innovative -- and low-tech -- tool that has stuck around for as long as the office PC itself. Plus, we note that America's largest online service provider is offering a new feature that is literally off the hook.
It is an office tool that has risen in the ranks of popularity right alongside the desktop computer. And like that high-tech device, it helps millions of busy workers communicate with each other, organize information, and keep track of important dates and reminders. More importantly, it never needs to be plugged in to work.
Twenty-five years ago this week, 3M began selling its Post-it Notes, a simple yet innovative creation that still offers tons of utility in a now-digital world. Take a look around any home or office and these removable, self-sticking notes are most likely highlighting important documents or even festooned around computer monitors to remind people of online passwords or other important bits of PC info.
Erin Brennan, a spokeswoman for 3M, says while digital devices like computers, cell phones, and handheld personal digital organizers offer powerful ways to manage and share information, the simplicity and accessibility of Post-its are still big draws for many people.
"Even if I leave my PDA behind, I can put the Post-it Note exactly where I need it and I know what I need to do," said Brennan. "No batteries required."
Still, non-powered doesn't mean powerless. According to 3M, some of the more memorable Post-its particulars of the last 25 years:
"[It] was intended [as a reminder] for the [Las Vegas] ground crew," says Brennan. "Essentially it lasted speeds of 500 miles per hour and temperatures of minus 56 degrees."
The secret to Post-its' lasting success is the unique glue discovered by 3M scientist Spence Silver in 1968. Silver's colleague, Art Fry, then put the residue-free adhesive to good use: as sticky bookmarks for his church hymnals. From that small practical application, Post-its were born and 3M has stuck with them ever since.
-- Larry Jacbos, ABC News
Digital technology is bringing broad changes to the world of communications. The largest revolution, many industry watchers say, will be Voice over IP -- or VoIP, the techie term for telephone service over the Internet.
VoIP service, offered by small start-ups such as Vonage, Packet8, SunRocket and others, use a small device that attaches ordinary telephones to cable TV modems and other high-speed Internet connections. Phone conversations are translated into digital data and carried over the Internet, allowing VoIP users to save money by bypassing the heavily regulated and government taxed phone network.
On Thursday, Internet service provider America Online announced it will begin offering VoIP in 40 U.S. cities. AOL members who sign up for the phone service will pay from $14 per month for local calling or up to $30 per month for unlimited calling throughout North America.
James Tobin, vice president of voice strategy at America Online, said the AOL Internet Phone Service will be "pretty simple" to set up. "Making it simple is why AOL is doing it," he said. "Because we can bring that to the market."
Tobin said subscribers will get their own digital device to connect their phones to the Net and the entire setup process is even guaranteed to take less than 15 minutes.
"Otherwise it's just like your normal phone service. "You get dial tone, you pick up the phone and start dialing people," said Tobin. "It'll also save you about half your monthly phone bills."
Tobin said AOL will also differentiate its service from smaller, rival VoIP providers by offering 24-hour technical support. And unlike other VoIP setups, AOL's system comes with Enhanced 911 service that automatically provides a caller's address and location informatione.
So far many consumers have been reluctant to use the Internet for phone service. Industry analysts say the hesitancy has been over such issues as reliability and ease of use. However, as AOL and other companies -- including cable TV companies and traditional local telephone service providers -- enter the fray, the number of VoIP subscribers is expected to rise.
According to a recent market report by IDC, there will be about 3 million VoIP subscribers in the United States by the end of this year. By 2009, that figure will jump to nearly 27 million.
-- Richard Davies, ABC News
Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.