Inside Out!!

Inside Out!!Quirky stories, bon mots, jokes and funny things that happened on the way to the Web … Could the fact that the UK is now out of mainstream participation in the four industries which make up world IT manufacturing – computers, communications, consumer and components (the ‘4Cs’) – have some connection with a remark, quoted in Stephen Aris’ recent biography of Lord Weinstock, who for some 30 years was head of GEC: “Why do I need engineers?” The government’s new Millennium bug watchdog Don Cruickshank has made one of his last public speeches as the government’s telecoms watchdog, a post he steps down from in the very near future. Surprisingly, he called for a complete overhaul of the licensing system he has been “watchdoging” for the past few years. I hope Tony Blair is still confident about his 2000 Timebomb programme? Have the Japanese lost their love of electronic gadgetry? One wonders because, according to Semiconductor Industry Association figures, Japan continues to lead the chip market downwards – its Q1 chip market declined by nearly 13 per cent compared to Q1 ’97 while Europe’s rose nearly 11 per cent and markets in America and Asia/Pac rose seven per cent.How to get things moving again in the Japanese consumer industry? EW has a solution: Where’s the guy who thought up dancing flowers? Where’s the lady who thought up Tamagotchi? Maybe Sony or Matsushita should make them vice-presidents for new product development.. Thanks to Michael Bolt of Portsmouth for his humble Mr Gates suggestion – “Maybe he should take a job in British industry, with his age and experience he could easily earn ?25,000.” Intel seems a mite upset with Cadence Design Systems these days. It might have something to do with the fact that Cadence managed to recruit more than a dozen chip designers from Digital Equipment’s StrongARM design team. Intel has an agreement to assume manufacturing of StrongARM after a patent dispute settlement signed last year. Cadence CEO Jack Harding was scheduled to make a presentation at Intel’s recent event covering workstations but was mysteriously bumped at the last minute. Sources close to Intel say that it was angry at Cadence’s staff poaching. But Intel is not blameless since its strong commitment to StrongARM is a relatively recent development, after it started losing major contracts for set-top TV platforms. The time machine… 1978: Route guidance system to cost ?500m The UK Traffic and Road Research Laboratory estimates that a nationwide route guidance system for this country would cost around ?500m to set up, but it still remains enthusiastic about the project despite the high price tag. The government agency justifies the cost through potential savings on wasted journey times. Inevitably the equipment suppliers are even keener. McMichael Ltd, part of the GEC group, is developing a system and is expected to quote for full installation of a nationwide system. The simplest and cheapest proposal is to provide motorists with traffic information through existing broadcast channels like the BBC radio. But unless local traffic channels are set up the motorist broadcasts would be heard by all BBC radio listeners, whether driving or not. This would be clearly unacceptable, says the BBC, which estimates that only ten per cent of its radio listeners may be driving at any given time. A more ambitious proposal is a vehicle position location system based on inertial navigation techniques, but requiring an expensive in-car computer and extensive basestation network.
Electronics Weekly, March 8 1978 We are reassured that a favourite anecdote of Dr David Potter, Psion’s founder and chairman, is the one about the war of words between Bill Gates and General Motors.“If General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 3,000 miles per gallon,” said Gates, but General Motors was quick to respond: “Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day? If Microsoft built cars, every time the lines on the road were repainted you would have to buy a new car. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on.” Steve Bush’s invention of the week The London to Adelaide telegraph (21st October 1872). Since the 1850s there had been various proposals to bring Australia into the worldwide telegraph network. Work finally began on the project in 1870, when the British-Australia Telegraph Company started building the Overland Telegraph Line, between Port Augusta, near Adelaide, and Darwin, where it connected to an underwater cable landed from Singapore. The 3178km line, consisting of a single-stranded iron wire supported by 36,000 timber poles, was completed in August 1872, costing the lives of six men. Weeks later, on October 21 1872, the first direct telegraphic communication travelled between London and Adelaide. Because electrical currents could only travel a maximum 300km along the iron wire before fading out, repeater stations (like the Alice Springs station pictured here) were needed. At first, operators would have to listen to signals before re-transmitting them, until huge wet-cell batteries were used to boost them..

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