Bunhill: Dial a movie on video

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YOU MAY be able to dial a movie on video sooner than you had expected. Those clever Americans have found an exceedingly low-technology answer to the basic problem of storing thousands of movie-tapes in a computer system: skateboards.

Before the magic solution was found, experts were reckoning that the central computer would need the memory of 500 PCs just to store 10 movies for a single customer.

But through the greatest technological challenges come the simplest solutions. TCI, the biggest operator in the United States, appears to have cracked the problem. Its video-on-demand centre in Denver consists of 2,000 home video recorders and a bunch of skateboarders who whizz around as the orders come in.

This could save British Telecom, which is dead keen on video-on-demand, a fortune in number-crunching (or rather video-crunching) power. BT has just started trials in Suffolk, and - thanks to the skateboarders - we could all be dialling a film in very short order.