Inside Out!!

Inside Out!!Quirky stories, bon mots, jokes and funny things that happened on the way to the Web … In toon with May 5, 1986 “Well, somebody ought to know what it does.” We’re not the only ones with an engineering shoratge problem. Figures suggest that, whereas 16,000 students started mechanical engineering classes in Germany in 1990, the equivalemt figure for 1996 was 8,000. For Germany it looks like a case of Vorsprung less Technik. Efforts to crack the language barrier produce some surprising insights. At Hitachi, which is working on automatic English-Japanese, Japanese-English translation systems, executive managing director Dr Tsugio Makimoto, says: “We find English to Japanese is much easier than Japanese to English because the Japanese language tends to be rather vague while English is very precise. So translating from Japanese to English requires a lot of interpretation.” This is particularly true of high literary works. Of one famous Japanese Nobel prize-winning novelist, Makimoto says: “I find it easier to read him in the English translation than in the original Japanese!” Semicon Europa , the semiconductor manufacturing equipment show, has had its last event in Geneva. From March 1999 onwards it will be held in Munich. SEMI had a poll of its attendees and exhibitors and found that Munich is nearer to more of them than Geneva. Off-the-record, delegates told EW that the Munich beer is better, the bars stay open longer, and the locals very definitely more genial. The Daily Telegraph recently toyed with the idea of using computer technology instead of human brain power to help generate the crosswords it runs every day. After a short but heated discussion with the paper’s wordsmiths the plan was scrapped. In spite of the cost advantages the computer was rejected for having “a fatal lack of soul”. With a string of earnings warnings from major and minor electronics companies alike, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) is worried about a strange coincidence: senior executives appear to be dumping shares in their companies suspiciously close to earnings shortfalls. This can be a sign of illegal insider share dealing and although the SEC has not yet announced any investigations, it is looking closely at this growing trend. The time machine… 1967: Government’s plan for microelectronics The reiteration by the Minister of Technology last week of the Government’s determination to establish Britain’s position in microelectronics on a firm basis is welcomed, but will inevitably cause heart-searching in many quarters. There are two Government proposals. Finance will be made available to support projects aimed at improving microelectronic technology. The Minister sees the need for a concentration of interests, probably resulting in two or three industrial groupings. Is it realistic to call for structural change in an industry whose structure is still in the process of formation? Electronics has always tended to develop on a free-for-all basis, two of the most recent examples being transistors and computers. In retrospect both these fields are seen to have been a tangle of blind alleys and blighted hopes. Most people concerned with microelectronics readily recognise that there will be casualties before long. But few would be prepared to try and choose the contenders and losers at this stage.
Electronics Weekly, March 29, 1967 Britain’s universities have been literally frozen out of the world’s league table of research funding levels. Government funded research in our universities is so woeful that the UK slipped to 15th position in the R&D spending table. That puts us below Iceland. Sun Microsystems is making a major attempt to stamp out rampant acronym abuse in the computer industry, starting with banning the use of acronyms within the company. Sun scientists, engineers and marketing personnel worldwide will be asked to use real words when describing technologies, including “as soon as possible” and “for your information”. In a memo sent to staff, Sun recommends gradual withdrawal from the use of acronyms, such as practicing using words at lunch with colleagues and if the desire to say an acronym is too strong, staff are advised to “step outside, say it, and then return to your office”. Sun is offering group support sessions and a 24-hour-help hotline. Sun instituted its radical policy on April 1. Flower power … At SEMI’s announcement of its programme to address the skills shortage programme at the Geneva Semicon Europa show, EW asked SEMI boss Stan Myers why he thought that so many engineers gave up engineering to go into other occupations – for instance – journalism. “Journalism,” opined Myers, “is more flowery.” Well at least he didn’t say it’s for pansies. Steve Bush’s invention of the week
After Admiralty requests to the University of Birmingham to produce a high power microwave source, Sir John Randall and Dr. H. A. Boot developed the cavity magnetron. This not only contributed to wartime aircraft location, but led to the development of the microwave oven. There are at least two claims to this wonder, both in 1946. Dr. Percy Spencer at Raytheon found a liquid chocolate bar in his pocket after testing a magnetron, guessing the cause, he ‘popped’ a bag of popcorn then tried an egg and unwittingly became the first person to ma ke a real mess with a microwave. The other claim is from TRE, now DERA, at Malvern. Dr Ernest Putley worked there at the time. He said: “The first time I saw it was in ’46 or ’47 when TRE roasted potatoes at an open day. It was first shown at an Admiralty demonstration at Imperial College in 1946.”

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