Please read the administrivia section at end for important subscription and access informa

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

Please read the administrivia section at end for important subscription and access information. Thanks! ====================================================================== BBB III TTT SSS BBB Y Y TTT EEE SSS B B I T S B B Y Y T E S ONLINE EDITION BBB I T SSS AND BBB YYY T EEE SSS VOL 1, NUMBER 4 B B I T S B B Y T E S 8/3/93 BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS ====================================================================== "The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys." - Sir William Preece, chief engineer of the British Post Office, 1876 ====================================================================== Peter Drucker I: The Future of Labor and Industry International economic theory is obsolete. The traditional factors of production - land, labor, and capital - are becoming restraints rather than driving forces. Knowledge is becoming the one critical factor of production. ... Knowledge has become the central, key resource that knows no geography. It underlies the most significant and unprecedented social phenomena of this century. No class in history has ever risen as fast as the blue-collar worker and no class has ever fallen as fast. All within less than a century. ... Now we have a Secretary of Labor [Robert Reich, see B&B v1 #1] who openly declared, in "The Work of Nations," that the blue collar worker doesn't matter. And the unions accepted him. ... Abandoning people and products is the necessary handmaiden of organizational survival. In the early 70's, the last round of military cuts in the California bay area caused massive unemployment; but that became the fertile ground in which Silicon Valley blossomed. makes more sense for you to make obsolete your own products rather than wait for your competitor to do it. ... I've always believed that success is the worst enemy of change, and failure its best friend. [Just look at IBM - JM] **** [Peter Drucker is considered the father of modern management. In the 1950's, Drucker realized that success in business would be determined by how well managed an organization was, not how large or well financed it was. He coined the term "knowledge worker" long before the information age became a cliche. To this day Drucker's writings and opinions are avidly sought by readers of The Wall Street Journal and the well-informed CEOS of corporations around the world. The previous comments were excerpted from an interview with Drucker by Peter Schwartz in WIRED Magazine 1.3, the July/August 1993 issue, still on your newsstand and highly recommended. Peter Drucker is 82 years old, and his most recent book is "Post Capitalist Society"] ========================================================================== Brazil, Where The Worker Is King Semco, a Brazilian manufacturer of pumps and industrial equipment, lets most employees decide their own working hours and salaries. (Some workers earn more than their bosses.) Employees set productivity and sales targets, and they decide how to share out bonuses. They also have unlimited access to the company's books. There are no manuals or written procedures, and no controls over travel and business expenses. Peer pressure prevents abuse of freedoms. "All we're doing is treating people like adults." The company has 300 employees and has helped start another 200 in independent businesses. As owner, Ricardo Semler demands healthy dividends. His book, "Maverick!" (Century, Warner Books, 272 pages, $22.95) is just coming out, but the Portuguese version has been on Brazil's bestseller list for 199 weeks and has sold 460K copies. (Source: The Economist, 6/26/93, p. 66) ====================================================================== The Advantage Law of Information Getting information to the people who need it when they need it will provide the two key components for an organization's success in a chaotic world: speed and flexibility. The organization that can predict customer needs, respond to customer desires, and react to customer problems the fastest will come out on top. The ultimate goal is to reduce overall cycle time for informed action. (Source: Frank J. Ricotta Jr., "The Six Immutable Laws of Information," Information Week, 7/19/93, p. 63) ====================================================================== The Aurora Tests: Taking a Test Drive On The Information Highway Participants in the Aurora research network tests report that they have successfully begun transmitting data and video signals across the high speed network backbone. The first transmission, on May 7, 1993: a brief series of numbers and fragments of alphabet. Nothing more inspiring than "012345....". Still, what mattered wasn't the meat of the message, but the motion. Those digits moved at record-setting speed: 2.6 gigabits-per-second. And how fast is that? Fast enough to send the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica from Philadelphia to Boston in a quarter of a second, University of Pennsylvania researchers said. That's *fast*. Trying the same thing with a home computer and modem would take 3 days. These tests are one of 5 other high speed test networks being tested under the auspices of the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency under a 1990, $15.8 million contract to university supercomputer centers. Participating phone companies and switching manufacturers are providing equipment and switching services out of their own pockets at a cost far beyond the level of government funding. "The goals of these test beds are to figure out how to build these networks and what to use them for," said Dave Sincoskie, executive director of computer networking research at Bell Communications Research Inc. Video signals are now being sent over these connections. I personally know someone affiliated with the U of P and can report that he used the video hookup to watch the PC lab being cleaned at night from the privacy of his home. Science marches on! Hey, you missed a spot... Seriously though, these test beds may be the first pieces of the National Information Highway, with uses in medicine, telecommuting, business teleconferencing, new forms of entertainment, and uses far beyond what anyone can imagine right now. (Sources: Computerworld 4/12/93, 7/5/93, Communications Week 7/5/93, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, date unknown) ====================================================================== Chaos Theory In almost every organization, the information from which all business decisions spring resembles less an orderly strand of genetic material than a chaotic, unsolved jigsaw puzzle. To a technologist, perhaps, the percentage of business information that is safely, rationally computerized is frighteningly small. Instead, the stuff from which strategies are built floats more or less freely through the corporate air and waits for a leader to recognize it. (Source: Thomas Kiely, "Key Pieces Of Information," CIO magazine, 6/1/93, p. 49) ====================================================================== United States In The Grip of Technophobia A study released Monday by Dell Computer found that more than half of all Americans are still resistant to taking advantage of technology in their everyday lives. The survey showed that one-fourth of all US adults have never used a computer, set a VCR to record a television show or even programmed their favorite stations on a car radio. 32% of adults are intimidated by computers and worry about damaging one if they use it without assistance; 25% of the adults "miss the days when we just had typewriters," and more than one-fourth would not use a computer unless forced to. The study is part of an ongoing effort by Dell to "techno-type" users into one of several broad categories that will help people understand what computers can do for them and how they can go about finding their perfect PC match. This fear of technology is seen as an obstacle that must be overcome to achieve broad consumer acceptance for computers and computer-enabled devices in the US. The study shows that teenagers are more technically aware than adults, with 92 percent of all teens surveyed saying they are comfortable using technical gadgets such as answering machines, VCR's, CD players, and computers. Both adults and teens agree on two key points: First, that using computers can save them time, and second, that computer terminology is too confusing and hard to understand. (Dell: 314/982-9111) (Sources: St. Petersburg Times 7/27/93, p. E1, Newsbytes 7/26/93, and Informaion Week 8/2/93, p. 46) ====================================================================== Inside The Programmer's Mind Last among the essential personality traits for programming, we might add a sense of humor. The computer "Doth make fools of us all," so that any fool without the ability to share a laugh on himself will be unable to tolerate programming for long. It has been said with great perspicacity that the programmer's national anthem is "AAAAHHHH!" Then we finally see the light, we see how once again we have fallen into some foolish assumption, some oafish practice, or some witless blunder. Only by singing the second stanza "Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha," can we long endure the role of clown. (from The Psychology of Computer Programming by Gerard M. Weinberg) ====================================================================== Mind Over Matter Will computers soon be able to read your mind? At Fujitsu Ltd., that's exactly what researchers are trying to get their machines to do, as they continue to develop a computer that reads and obeys signals associated with thoughts and body motions. Thus far, they have created a computer-assisted robot hand that can mimic the motions of a human hand by analyzing the tiny nerve pulses sent from the brain to the finger muscles. They hope in a few years to have marketable brain- controlled artificial limbs that would be much less cumbersome than what's currently available. Meanwhile, N.Y. State Department of Health researchers have developed a system that enables users to move the cursor by mental action alone. Psychologists with the University of Illinois have created a way of allowing people to type simply by spelling the word out in their mind. None of this is parapsychology; it's pure science. (Sources: Tampa Tribune 7/27/93, New York Times, 2/9/93) ====================================================================== NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: Schizophrenic PC To Debut The DUET personal computer, just announced by NuTek U.S.A. Corp., is essentially two computers in one. It is a 2 chip machine, based on the Intel 486DX and the Motorola 68030, both running at 33 MHz. In a nutshell, this machine can run Macintosh and IBM PC software simultaneously! The standard configuration includes a keyboard, monitor, 8 MEG of RAM, 160 MEG of storage on 2 hard disks. 2 expansion slots for each system are provided. This system may provide the answer for users torn between the 2 systems, both of which have their strengths and weaknesses. I have not seen any reviews of this machine, which has a base price of $2,995. The concept is intriguing though. (NuTek USA: 408/973-8799) (Source: Datamation, 7/15/93, p. 68) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Apple to Release Talking Macs! Apple Computer plans to announce a new line of mid-priced Macs today that talk, recognize voice commands and read text back to the user. The computers will be available next month. (Miami Herald 7/29/93 C3) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Time Magazine To Go On-line Using America Online, Time magazine will be the first general-interest magazine to provide an electronic forum allowing readers to hold discussions with the magazine's reporters and editors and to read the text of entire issues of Time electronically before the magazine is available on newsstands. (Source: New York Times 7/26/93, p. C6) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Prodigy To Offer Internet Connection Prodigy is alpha-testing a gateway to the Internet, but few users are authorized to use it yet. The charge is $.15 per 3K characters received, with a 60KB limit per message (or 250KB for internal binary transfers). (Source:, 7/26/93) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-= A short-wavelength laser from IBM will allow optical disks to hold five times as much data. (Source: New York Times, 6/2/93) =-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Faster 486 Outpaces Pentium The Pentium chip is taking a backseat at Intel in favor of DX3, a revved-up version of the i486 microprocessor. The chip, which runs internally at 100 MHz is expected to give near-Pentium performance at a much lower cost. In effect, the DX3 - not Pentium - will be Intel's high-volume, high-performance chip through the first half of 1994. (Source: Michael Fitzgerald, "Faster 486 Could Overlap Pentium," Computerworld, 7/19/93, p. 1. ) =================================================================== = Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum = = tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only = = 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1 1/2 tons. = = Popular Mechanics, March 1949. = =================================================================== Mainframe On A Chip Last week B&B reported on a luggable mid-range AS/400 computer developed by IBM, hailing it as a marvel of miniaturization. Well, never mind - IBM has outdone *themselves* this time. It seems they have been showing off a mainframe add-in card for its Intel-based model 195 and 295 multi-processor servers. The card includes a shrunk down (and much cooler) IBM 390-class CPU and 16 megabytes of mainframe memory. It can run anything IBM's low- and midrange System 390 machines can run without modification. That includes all your favorites: the Customer Information Control System (CICS), the DB2 relational database and the Time Sharing Option (TSO), as well as the MVS and VM operating systems. Running under the multitasking OS/2 2.x, the card handles all I/O and can, for example, control your mainframe system tape drive if you need to download any of your existing software. When can you buy this truly downsized mainframe? IBM won't say, but the engineers working on the product say they expect it to be ready for purchase by year's end. (Source: Datamation, 7/15/93, p. 16) ====================================================================== Bits and Bytes Bookshelf: Summertime Science Fiction Suggestions Man does not life by technical non-fiction alone. It's summertime, and maybe you want to relax by the pool with a good science fiction novel. These are all books I have read and enjoyed, but they were also chosen with an eye to giving you a glimpse of some of the possible futures that the information age may bring upon us. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson [Bantam Books, 1992. $5.99] -In the near future, Americans excel at only a few things: music, movies, microcode (software), and delivering a pizza in under 30 minutes... Things are run by the franchises and Burbclaves, the latter having their own citizens, constitutions, laws, and cops. Much of the action takes place in the Metaverse, a virtual reality universe in which the coolest have the best rendered avatars. A founding programmer of The Black Sun, an exclusive Metaverse club, the book's protagonist Hiro is down on his luck and lives in a spacious 20-by-30-foot U-Stor-lt near the Los Angeles Airport. Snow Crash is a computer virus that is striking down hackers everywhere! Thrills aplenty, and some interesting thoughts about where we *may* be headed. "Snow Crash is a fantastic, slam-bang-overdrive, supersurrealistic, cosmic-spooky whirl through a tomorrow that is already happening." (Timothy Leary) Earth by David Brin [Bantam Books, 1991. $5.99] -A microscopic black hole has accidentally fallen into the earth's core, threatening to destroy the planet within 2 years. "Earth" is an edge of the seat thriller, a kaleidoscopic novel peopled with extra- ordinary characters and challenging new visions of an incredibly real future: global computer networks that put limitless information at everyone's fingertips, an environment ravaged by the greenhouse effect, a quiet revolution by the politically powerful elderly. (From the back cover) Islands In The Net by Bruce Sterling [Ace books, 1988. $4.99] -Bruce Sterling, who has been quoted in B&B, is a great sci-fi writer. Read anything by him and you will not be disappointed. I choose this one in particular because it has much to say about some very likely aspects of the future. The book, set in the not too distant future, imagines a world where the power is in the hands of mega-national corporations (not a major stretch here), with a worldwide computer (and human) network (hence the title) at their commands. The protagonist and her husband both work for one of these corporations, and their lives become swept up in a power struggle that will change their lives and their relationships with each other in ways they can't begin to imagine. Neuromancer by William Gibson [Ace Books, 1984] - The novel that launched the cyberpunk movement. A great read if you don't take the science too seriously. An engrossing mix of film noir darkness and "high-tech electric poetry... an enthralling adventure story, as brilliant and coherent as a laser. This is why science fiction was invented." (Bruce Sterling) Virtual reality is represented via the Matrix, a worldwide computer net that people log onto by plugging their brains into it. Corporate databases are represented as bright geometric structures; artificial intelligences roam the dataverse, and maybe, just maybe, *something else* is lurking in the matrix, something new, yet ancient as the cosmos. Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology edited by Bruce Sterling [Ace Books, 1988) - The place to start for an overview of the talents of the various authors of the cyberpunk movement. "...filled with surreal visionary intensity. They are often sexy, occasionally lewd, always frightening, are filled with with black humor, obsessed with the interface of high-tech and pop underground, and always fascinating." (Fantasy Review) ====================================================================== Does Dick Tracy Know About This? Japan's major calculator maker, Casio, has come up with a wrist watch that has a built-in remote control unit. This unique device will be released on August 17 at a cost of 9,500 yen ($85). Like the new breed of universal remote controls, the wrist watch controller can control most audio visual devices such as TV sets, stereos and video players. It uses infrared technology just the same as regular remote control devices. The remote controller can control multiple audio devices and supports a TV's power on/off, channel selection, and volume control. Regarding VCR operation, it supports power on/off, fast forward/ rewind, play, stop, and channel selection. The controller is the size of an ordinary wrist watch. No more playing hide and seek with your remote controls! Besides these advanced functions, the wrist watch also has the standard features you'd expect, such as a stopwatch, an alarm clock and a calendar. The removable battery lasts for about a year and half. Casio expects this remote controller to be a big hit in Japan. The firm is planning to ship 100,000 units per month. (Newsbytes News Service, 7/7/93) ====================================================================== ADMINISTRIVIA ************DON'T FORGET TO INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS!!!************* Bits and Bytes Online is a weekly electronic newsletter. Email Subscriptions are available at no cost from or Put "SUBSCRIBE in the subject header and your email address in the body of the message. If you work for "the rail" (and you know who you are) send a similar message to my emailbox. To unsubscribe, send a message with "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject header and your email address in the body. B&B is also available for downloading on America Online in their telecom files area, and in Compuserve's telecom forum library. If you decide to receive B&B that way, please don't forget to unsubscribe! On the Internet, B&B will be available from various servers and mailing lists. Details next issue. (I said that last week, but this time I mean it! Questions and comments are welcome at any address. If you come across anything you think should be included here, please pass it on! Send long postings to the pacs address. If you need to reach me on paper, my snailmail address follows: =============================================== = (Copyleft 1993 Jay Machado) Unaltered = Jay Machado = *electronic* distribution of this file for = 1529 Dogwood Drive = non-profit purposes is encouraged. = Cherry Hill, NJ, 08003 = The opinions expressed herein are pretty = ph (eve) 609/795-0998 = darn kooky when you get right down to it. = = Caveat Lector! = =============== end of Bits and Bytes Online V1, #4.==================


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank