May / June 2004


The Web that changed the world

Scientific Computing World and the World Wide Web both celebrate their 10th birthdays as commercial ventures this year. At the same time as the editors were plotting the first issues of SCW, a group of young computer researchers were setting up Mosaic Communications Corp., which went on to become Netscape. Also in 1994, CERN, 'The world's largest particle physics laboratory ... where the web was born!' as they modestly put it, held the first international conference on the World Wide Web (WWW).


The future of virtual instrumentation

Some 17 years have passed since the concept of virtual instrumentation was pioneered, changing the way engineers and scientists measure and automate the world around them. Today, virtual instrumentation is coming of age, with engineers and scientists using 'virtual instruments' in hundreds of thousand of applications around the world, resulting in shorter lead times, higher-quality products, and lower costs.


A return to innovation

Any reader who surveyed the business landscape before the bubble burst might be forgiven for thinking the technology industry was all about venture capitalists rather than technology or innovation. Unthinkable volumes of venture capital were dumped into businesses that sounded good, but were not sound.


Bringing together knowledge and maths

Maths is the reason why computers were invented - ballistic simulation and cryptography were two of the initial applications that launched the digital era in the 20th century. Of course, today's generation of maths software would astound those digital pioneers. Systems like Maple can not only crunch numbers but can also represent the thinking and the concepts symbolically. For many of us in the industry, it still seems a bit like magic!


Redefining disease

The shortage of good new drugs in the pipeline; the imminent expiry of the patents on numerous blockbusters; intense competition; a more demanding market that has begun to specify the sort of innovations it wants, and what it is willing to pay for them - all these challenges are making life hard for the pharmaceutical industry.


Meeting in the middle?

It is difficult, if not impossible, for any person to give an objective view of a 10-year period in anything. It is not only things that change - people change too. Ten years ago, I was a 20-something working as a materials science support scientist for a company called Molecular Simulations Inc. (MSI) in Cambridge, UK. Now I am a 30-something director of scientific services for Chemical Computing Group (CCG), ironically based in the same building in Cambridge where MSI was located when I first joined them in 1993!


Moving ahead with advancing technology

Much of today's amazing progress in search technology stems from the economics of IT, and those economics favour further advances. According to Gartner Inc., between now and 2008, hardware performance will increase 25 per cent annually, while its cost will decrease 10 per cent annually. The implications of this cost/benefit windfall are all around us. Mobile phones can do many things a PDA can do, in addition to searching the web, and taking pictures and transmitting them. And, oh, yes - you can use them to make phone calls, too.


Trends in instrument-to-LIMS interfacing

As someone who has been involved in the field of laboratory-instrument interfacing for almost 20 years, I have seen a tremendous change in the sophistication and complexity of instrument-to-LIMS interfaces.

Right now, new technologies and new requirements are combining to redefine many of our concepts about what an instrument-to-LIMS interface is, what it does, and how it works. These advances in interfacing technology are helping us to create interfacing solutions that provide advanced functionality in a package that is both easier to implement and easier to use.


ChemAnalytics offers access to chemical structures and analytic data

For almost two decades, chemical and pharmaceutical organisations have had access to software systems that enable them to manipulate and manage their chemical structure collections. All chemical matter, whether real or theoretical, can be represented at a molecular level of detail via a chemical structure, which is typically the first step to occur before any chemical matter is actually made. However, merely drawing a chemical structure is not proof of its existence, and instrumental analysis techniques are invaluable for confirming the presence or identity of chemical matter.