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 8
B B I T S B B Y T E S 8/30/93
BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS
"There has been an alarming increase in the number of things you know
absolutely nothing about." -Anon.
Falling Through The Cracks
"This is a perfect example of how some things can fall through the
cracks during a conversion."
- Arthur Gillis, bank consultant and president of Computer Based
Solutions, Inc. of New Orleans - commenting on an error in the
conversion of Manufacturer's Hanover Trust's ATM machines to Chemical
Bank's ATM system (MHT merged with Chemical). This error allowed
customers withdrawing money from Chemical's ATM machines in May to
withdraw a total of $357,000 without any money being debited from
accounts. (SOURCE: Information Week, 8/23/93 pg. 14)
Big Business and Virtual Reality - Not Ready For Prime Time?
[from an interview with Rich Gold, a researcher at Xerox Parc, in
Information Week, 7/26/93, p. 46]
Q: Why aren't they [big business] interested in virtual reality?
A: The feeling at Parc is that tomorrow's secretary is not going to
be wearing some sort of head-mounted display to type a letter.
Q: You've been involved in virtual reality for a few years now. How
would you characterize the state of the industry?
A: Virtual reality is in about the same place today that artificial
intelligence was, say, in the early 1970s. There was an initial
burst of enthusiasm now it's becoming clear just how complex the
whole area is, how complex our brains are. The world is so
complex - a virtual cup, for example, is nothing like a real cup.
People thought the challenge would be to render objects
graphically, to make them look real, but it's not. The real
challenge is to get them to act real.
Q: Technological limitations aside, will people feel comfortable in
a virtual world?
A: It will happen over time, although it is a challenge. I've been
at major companies involved in virtual reality and seen the
engineers take off the goggles to look at the computer monitor in
2-D. That's partly because the virtual world isn't rich enough
yet, partly due to a need to get one's bearings.
Q: What separates virtual reality and ubiquitous computing?
A: In a sense they're opposites. The core of ubiquitous computing is
that you don't have to leave your normal world to compute. You
build very small computers into many things - your desk, your
phone, the devices you carry. You're still entering a computer
world when you use them, but it's very transparent. The concept
of ubiquitous computing is very hot here. One thing we're working
on here is called the Tab, a very small pen-based computer that
would replace Post-It notes. You could carry it and jot things on
it, and it could use wireless technology to communicate with
Q: Speaking of large corporations, when can we expect virtual
reality to play a large role in that market?
A: Corporations are where the money is, and if virtual reality can
find a killer application, it will take off. But I don't see it
happening soon. Molecular modeling, wind-flow simulations - these
won't find a huge audience. But there are a lot of people working
in this area, so who knows what will happen five years from now?
The Free Form Law of Information
Information can exist in multiple forms (voice, video, text, images,
etc.). Everyone assimilates information differently. End systems need
to be able to adapt to every individual in order to maximize the
information retained. (Frank J. Ricotta Jr., "The Six Immutable Laws
of Information," Information Week, 7/19/93, p. 63)
Are You A Target?
The revolution in telecommunications and computer database technology
has dramatically improved the ability of business to access and sell
personal information, but the move toward "audience targeting" has
spurred a debate about how much consumer data should be available to
direct mail companies. The direct mail industry favors the status quo,
privacy advocates are pressing for restrictions, and the government is
moving on the issue. (Lambeth Hochwald," The Privacy Keepers," Folio,
7/1/93, p. 62.)
Sales of new computer products will expand from $800 million this year
to about $3.5 billion by 1998, according to a study by International
Data Corp. The report predicted that 10 million organizers, personal
digital assistants and electronic notepads would be sold over the next
five years. (source: Tampa Tribune 7/25/93 B&F10, Newsbytes)
According to a report from Market Vision, a market research group,
less than 1% of the total market for multimedia has been tapped. They
project that by 1997 multimedia will generate $9 billion in revenue
for the computer industry and $15 billion in consumer-related
products. The top applications will be video games, movies on demand,
interactive movies, electronic photo albums, home shopping, personal
data management and e-mail. Quality consumer titles will be priced
below $50, making them attractive entertainment values.
(SOURCE: Newsbytes 8/13/93)
A study called "Online Services: 1993 Review, Trends & Forecast,"
says that although business and professional on-line services still
represent 95 percent of the business (worth $4.5 billion), consumer
services like Compuserve, Delphi, and America Online are showing the
fastest growth, and are on there way to becoming billion dollar
industries. North American is where the online action is, accounting
for 56% of the world's total sales volume. (SOURCE: Newsbytes 8/11/93)
NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES:
+LOW COST LASER PRINTER. The Okidata OL400e laser printer, expected to
have a street price of $499, represents a new low price point for
laser printers. The 300 dot-per-inch, 4 page-per-minute output, is
upgradeable via memory add-ons and a built-in PCMCIA peripheral slot.
(CONTACT: Okidata: 609/235-2600, fax 609/778-4184)
+PC MODEMS: 28,800 BPS, ANYONE? Practical Peripherals announced it
would begin shipping 28,800 bps modems under the emerging V. Fax
standard in the fourth quarter of 1993. The V. Fax standard is not due
to be ratified until mid-1994. In the meantime, prices continue to
drop on 9600 and 14.4K modems, with Hayes and Boca Raton announcing
price cuts. (SOURCE: Newsbytes 8/25/93)
+THE UNCOPIER. Ricoh Co. has developed a technique for erasing photo-
copied documents by lifting the toner off. The process reverses what
happens when an image is photocopied -- it applies a chemical "peel-
off" solution to the paper, then melts the toner and peels it off the
page with a heated roller. The resulting page can then be used again
to make more copies. Production should begin within two years.
(SOURCE: Wall Street Journal 8/20/93 p. B2, Edupage)
Yet another high density storage device was announced by a consortium
of 8 Japanese firms and researchers at Tohuku University. The
prototype, capable of storing 100X more data than conventional disks,
uses clean room technology and a layerered pure cobalt-nickel-chrome
hard disk to increase magnetic retention ability by 60%. The device
will cost less than conventional drives to mass produce. According to
Newsbytes, the private firms that participated in this project include
"Nikko-Kyoseki, Nichiden-Anelba, Asahi Glass, Alps Electric, Kobe
Seikosho, Hitachi Kinzoku, Fuji Electric, General Research Institute
and HOYA." Just wanted to get those cool Japanese names in.
(SOURCE: Newsbytes, 8/23/93)
"The use of desktop videoconferencing is going to be a one-on-one kind
of thing - just one or two people at [different] sites working
together on a document." (Nick Odowick, videoconferencing specialist,
Northrup Corp., quoted in BYTE, September 1993, p. 80)
= = = = = = = = = = = = =
Fox News is using digital technology to rescue 55 million feet of
decaying newsreel film archives, the equivalent of 5,000 feature-
length movies. A lens scans the film and converts it to digital form
for storage on recorders from Kodak and Sony.
(SOURCE: New York Times 8/25/93 C2, Edupage)
Media Wars I
Round and round it goes... and who gets to deliver the multimedia-
flavored snack food to a waiting populace, nobody seems to know.
Hi-tech bread and circuses, fun for the entire post-nuclear family.
Here are some of the latest doings as a variety of of business
interests jockey for position:
Bell Atlantic got the judicial go-ahead to try and tap into a multi-
million dollar market providing interactive services such as video
games, home shopping and movies-on-demand. The court found
unconstitutional a law barring telephone companies (telcos) from
providing content, as opposed to merely acting as the plumbing the
information comes through. Telephone companies say this provides them
with the financial incentive to upgrade their systems to full fiber
optic connectivity, while opponents say this will stifle innovation
and slow the development of the third-party content providers on
which the success of this new medium depends.
Continental Cablevision Inc., the third-largest cable TV company in
the US, will offer Internet access via a PC/Modem hookup directly into
their cable lines, bypassing local phone hookups while providing
download speeds of up to 10 million bits per second. That'll do - for
starters. Other multimedia services are planned, including TV quality
video and hi-fi digital music feed. Internet hookup will be courtesy
of Performance Systems International Inc. (PSI). Continental's
networks are being expanded to supported LAN standards like Ethernet
and emerging standards like FDDI (fiber distributed data interface).
A special modem will be required for access, marketed by both PSI and
local cable operators. Part of the agreement provides several cable
channels dedicated to PSI's Internet customers in areas served by
Continental. Upgrades to emerging standards are planned, and PSI hopes
to sign on at least 50 other cable operators during 1994. The system
will debut later this year in the Boston area.
The telcos have the upper hand financially, having easy access to vast
pools of investment-grade money, while cable companies need to invest
$20 billion to $40 billion on infrastructure upgrades for planned
hi-tech offerings like telepresence and virtual dry cleaning.
Following in AMD's footsteps, IBM plans to create their own clone of
Intel's microprocessor chips in an effort to regain their dominance of
the personal-computer business. IBM is currently one of Intel's best
customers. An added twist is that IBM's new product will be in direct
competition with the PowerPC chip, a collaborative effort between IBM,
Motorola and Apple.
IBM and Blockbuster Video Would like to sell you made while you wait
CDs. Using satellites and computer technology, your selections would
be downloaded from a database, and put on a CD for you. Color artwork
and credits would be mailed to you separately. Every store would
theoretically have access to the entire record catalog. You could be
buying a movie, a music or audio video, or some computer software, the
delivery method would be the same.
Of course the big financial news in this area is the recent $12.6
billion merger of AT&T and McCaw Cellular Communications. The nation's
biggest long-distance network and biggest cellular carrier will soon
be as one, in a strong position to provide seamless service to the
mobile computing and wireless communications markets. This is a major
shakeup for the telecom industry. The deal will take about a year to
consummate and to receive regulatory approval. PDAs are expected to
play a major part in this new entity's bid for success. AT&T owns
controlling interest in the EO line of Personal Communicators.
Round and round it goes... and where it stops let's have a word from
(SOURCES: Edupage, Newsbytes, Wall Street Journal, Philadelphia
Inquirer, Atlanta Constitution, and my own feverish imagination)
"The technological battlefield of the future will be adding layers
between the user and the raw machine to make the interface as
invisible as possible," said Pierluigi Zappacosta, president and
founder of mouse pioneer Logitech, Inc.
In Japan, he said, research under way aims at enabling computers to
distinguish between "yes" and "no" from human brainwaves.
... "It's not so strange to think computers will allow us to make our
next evolutionary step by expanding our brain power - we will become
part of it and it part of us."
A number of developers, Logitech included, remain convinced that
virtual reality represents the next evolutionary step for the
interface. While also limited to entertainment use so far, virtual
reality is causing a great deal of enthusiasm as an interface,
Zappacostas said. "Virtual reality has raised the interface to the
level of superstar." (Stephen P. Klett, Jr., "Innovative input,"
ComputerWorld 8/23/93, p.28)
A recent report from Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research, Inc.
predicts a new computing architecture, called "social computing,"
which will emerge as new interactive technologies such as hand held
computers, intelligent telephones and interactive TVs begin to collide
with unmet needs in American society. This will bring about new
relationships between producers and consumers as they are brought into
direct contact each other electronically. The report states that this
alone "reshuffles the competitive deck," and that suppliers failing to
embrace the new architecture will be abandoned by "cable-ready"
customers increasingly impatient with the frustrations of modern life,
with counterintuitive interfaces and clumsy controllers. Consumers
just want the goods delivered in a timely and entertaining manner -
the time being NOW of course - and at a reasonable cost.
The report acknowledges that activity in the marketplace resembled a
"frenzied mating dance," but also foresees that some trends will
emerge from the chaos:
Within five years a new generation of TVs, telephones and hand held
electronic devices, derivatives of PC hardware, will support two way
communication. A variety of PDAs and specialized information devices
will be manufactured for specific tasks (such as notetaking for
classes, research work, reading, or letter writing). One device may
perform a variety of functions previously done by several others.
Wireless and traditional networks will offer "anywhere, anytime"
communications. Commercial Information services and BBS systems will
explode in number and move towards mainstream use as user friendly
interfaces are developed.
"The Market is driven by, 'Make my job easier, make me smarter faster
and make me have more fun in the limited time that I have,'" said
Carl Lehmann, director consumer media and electronics at BIS Strategic
Decisions in Norwell, Mass. Lehman also said that a true mass market -
defined as being in use in over 30% of US homes - is at least a decade
away. (SOURCE: Gary H. Anthea, "New devices to propel technology into
social fabric," ComputerWorld 8/23/93, p. 78)
Bits and Bytes Bookshelf
Virtual Light by William Gibson [Bantam Spectra, 1993. 325 pp. $21.95
- William Gibson is kind of the guy who defined the cyberpunk genre
with his award winning novel Neuromancer (1984). In that novel and
the two that followed, Gibson created the Sprawl - an urban
battlefield where "the street finds it's own use for things." A
world of corporate intrigue and Japanese Biotech, a world where
virtual reality, the worldnet and more are givens, a film noir world
that Raymond Chandler would've felt at home in, yet strangely
familiar. Since this was Gibson's first work (not counting his 1992
collaborative effort with Bruce Sterling called The Difference
Engine) to be set outside the world he had so painstakingly
imagineered, I wondered how he would escape the shadow of his
well known 'trilogy'.
I needn't have worried - Bill Gibson is a master craftsman, and
Virtual Light is his best written novel yet. If this issue seems
like it was thrown together at the last minute - it was, and you
can thank William Gibson for that! I spent a good portion of my free
time immersed in his book this week. Now I'm a fast reader, but some
texts are designed to be savored.
Mr. Gibson is a poet in cyberpunk's clothing. In a style that can
be described as future-gothic, he spins a tale, hard-boiled and
luminous, and it cuts closer to the bone than previous efforts since
the future described is *almost* familiar - too close for comfort in
some cases, which makes it harder to just laugh it off as "mere"
science fiction. Set in the year 2005, life goes on pretty much like
it does now, except that earthquakes have leveled Tokyo and San
Francisco, and California is divided into two states. The coming
world depression occurs more or less on schedule, and virtual
reality and teleprescence are givens. The proliferation of cable TV
has made possible a surge in strange new religious cults using
televison as their pulpit, and offering hope in strange and twisted
It's hard to describe in a few paragraphs what this book is a about.
There is a plot here, about stolen virtual-reality glasses, and
plenty of action, but Gibson's prose is the driving force here,
immersing you in a universe at once familiar and disorienting,
making you think about the present in new ways. This novel has some
points to make, a moral agenda and quite a tale to tell. It looks as
if William Gibson has found a new world to explore.
Mobile Robots: Inspiration to Implementation by Anita Flynn and
Joseph Jones [A.K. Peters, 1993. 349 pp. $39.95]
- Based on research from the Mobot Lab at MIT, this appears to be a
very good beginner's manual for the aspiring robot maker. It covers
the design and construction of mobile robots, sensors, power
supplies and intelligence systems. Construction techniques for two
simple robots, TubeBot and Rug Warrior, are shown, and techniques
are outlined for building more sophisticated devices. Appendixes
contain schematics and interface electronics, a program of
behaviors, and lists of parts suppliers, magazines, journals and
BBSs devoted to robotics.
On The Newsstand
BYTE magazine is always a good read for us techno-weenies, but the
September issue is especially useful. The cover story on video
computing showcases new machines from Apple and Silicon Graphics with
extensive multimedia capabilities. The Silicon Graphics Indy has a
direct-to-digital camera with microphone built in on top of the
monitor! (Sony has something similar in the works) Other articles
include a test drive of three of the new personal digital assistants
(PDAs) now hitting the market, several articles on electronic
publishing, and a roundup of the best buys in high-speed drives.
Byte's coverage is always comprehensive without being exhaustive;
their new layout and contents page make it easy to take in as much or
as little as you need on a given subject. Look for George Jetson on
Ren and Stimpy on the Information Explosion
REN: Stimpy, your wealth of ignorance astounds me!
STIMPY: They don't call me stupid for nothing!
(Ren and Stimpy can be seen on Nickleodeon Cable Channel Sundays at
11 AM. Not for the weak-hearted)
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(Steven Wright) Thanks to Elizabeth Lane Lawley(via alt.quotations),
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(whose name I misplaced) for sending in the section titled Falling
Through the Cracks.
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