Inside Out!!

Inside Out!!Quirky stories, bon mots, jokes and funny things that happened on the way to the Web… Cedric Brown (remember him? – the original ‘Fat Cat’ of British Gas) was an amateur. The boss of IBM, Louis Gerstner, has just had a pay rise from $4.77m to $6m and has been granted a five year extension to his contract to March 2002 followed by a ten year consulting contract until 2012.
Under the consulting contract, Gerstner gets a per-day fee equal to the daily salary he would have got in that year plus expenses and use of all corporate facilities such as jets and cars. He will also be able to work for any non-competing organisation at the same time. Eat your heart out Cedric. Digital TV, digital telephone, digital shopping etc etc, everything’s going digital these days and the best way to sell a new product or service is to include the word digital in the sales literature.
So how about ‘Digital Death’? Sprucing up the burial business with a bit of high-techery has proved an elusive undertaking for the British burial profession, but the Americans have not been so tardy.
In the Belle Rive Cemetery in St Louis, Missouri the deceased can record a video clip which visitors to their tomb can activate to receive a living, talking image of their loved one – as though from beyond the grave. How do the generals come up with code-names for operations such as Desert Storm? In future they may not be required to use their imaginations as the Ministry of Defence is looking at the possibility of using a computer to generate code-names on a random basis.
This would be one way of avoiding the embarrassment caused when it was discovered that the code-name for the most recent potential military strike on Iraq was “Bolton”. It seems the computer-generated alternatives included Jonathan and obloquy. Gordon Brown missed a trick in last week’s budget. Other European governments – wanting to create computer-literate workforces in double quick time – have promoted special deals between computer companies and workers’ unions under which members can buy computer equipment at low prices and with the high European value added taxes waived.
When Hewlett-Packard did such a deal with the Lands Organisationen union in Sweden under the auspices of the Swedish Government, HP shipped an amazing 58,000 PCs (yes fifty eight thousand) under the deal.
Other Swedish companies with similar schemes are Volvo, ABB, and the Svenska Handelsbanken bank. In Holland the Dutch bank ING Baring has had 20,000 applications from its employees under a similar scheme. Denmark is following suit. So come on Gordon – do your stuff. Roald Dahl’s fictional grammarizer, a machine that writes best-selling novels putting human authors out of work, no longer seems such a daft idea after Computer Weekly reported that an American student has produced software capable of writing a 400 word story. This modest advance was made after a four year research project costing $300,000. But the software, code-named Brutus, has its drawbacks. Story-lines are limited to the theme of “betrayal”. There must be plenty of mileage in that. The time machine… 1978: Semiconductor tide against Europe Britain’s Dr Ian Mackintosh convincingly argued in his keynote address at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco, that much of America’s dominance in semiconductor technology has resulted from the market pull of the highly innovative military, aerospace and computer sectors. But he believes as circumstances change many of the special advantages enjoyed by the US IC industry will gradually disappear.
From now on he believes the industry will demand much greater investment, with fewer opportunities for the spin-offs which have characteristically fostered US advances.
Mackintosh also believes that the Japanese will act in concert to produce a percussive effect of immense significance. In Europe, on the other hand, the growth of a pan-European market will be retarded while each government selectively supports its own IC capability.
It goes without saying that in such a volatile business as semiconductors, quick action is essential. If Europe is to grasp its opportunity, it must realise that time is not on its side.
Electronics Weekly, March 22 1978 Remember those old video games such as Pong? They don’t compare with today’s 64-bit based video games but yet they still amused million of people. They are heading for a comeback with toy firm Hasbro purchasing the rights to Pong and 74 other Atari video games from the early 80s for $5m. It expects to reissue them in a variety of hardware formats, hoping to attract nostalgic baby boomers. It’s nice to know that should you ever get blown up, your notebook computer will live after you. Packard Bell NEC claims that after a police bomb squad blew up a suspicious package in a parking lot, its computer, which was inside the package, continued to work despite being seriously damaged. Steve Bush’s invention of the week The Inductor Motor was first thought of in 1885 when Galileo Ferraris, a 38-year old Sardinian physicist, realised that a rotating magnetic field could be made by sequentially energising a ring of coils, and that this arrangement could spin a rotor. Doing this he laid down the basis of the polyphase electric induction motor that is the workhorse of modern industry. He is not the only claimant for this invention. In 1888, Nikola Tesla p atented the induction motor in the UK. Both men were prolific inventors and went on to work in the transmission and transformation of electricity. Ferraris’ original experimental models were destroyed in a fire in 1899, two years after his death, but were remade by the original artisan.

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