+quot;But soon, soon, soon. the world will be a better place, with meadows and bunnies and
"But soon, soon, soon... the world will be a better place, with
meadows and bunnies and fiber optics in every home..."
-- Tom Dowdy, Apple Computer
BBB III TTT SSS BBB Y Y TTT EEE SSS ONLINE EDITION:
B B I T S B B Y Y T E S =THE ELECTRONIC
BBB I T SSS AND BBB YYY T EEE SSS =NEWSLETTER FOR
B B I T S B B Y T E S =HIGH-TECH
BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS =DUMPSTER DIVERS
Volume 1, Number 11 (October 1, 1993)
Statement of Purpose ----|---- Corporate Wisdom =
High-Tech in the Courtroom ----|---- Fatal Distraction =
Paranoia on the Internet ----|---- Voyeur's Delight =
NT SQL Server Ships ----|---- Holodeck Update =
Newton PDA Reviews Are In ----|---- The Virtual Office =
Telecommuting and the Law ----|---- Simplicity Vs. Complexity =
Statement of Purpose
I was surprised when the Internet Business Journal included me in a
listing of business resources, furthermore implying that B&B "reviews
developments in the computer industry." Wait a minute! I said, but
then I reread everything and realized I was doing that to some degree.
But it's not the only thing, and it's not the *main* thing. Certainly
it's important, since government and commerce and industry are major
factors the modern landscape.
But I felt an explanation of what the "purpose" of B&B was in order
to clear up any misconceptions that might arise when I venture into
more, er... abstract topics. When I was putting together the first
Bits and Bytes Online Edition I wrote a brief statement of purpose
I emailed out as a prospectus. I have revised and expanded it, as much
for your information as mine.
BITS AND BYTES ONLINE EDITION explores the interaction between
emerging technologies and the people and cultures that use them.
The tone is informal, the emphasis is on the future, and the goal is
to raise awareness of the effects of technology on our lives.
If it seems like B&B is a trendy publication, covering as it does
computers and multimedia and interactivity, it just so happens that
right now these interactive multimedia technologies have caught the
media's (and hence the public's) fancy, and we're at a point,
techologically speaking, where glimmerings of some of the cooler
things the future has in store for us can be seen. The money machine
is in full motion, and the spin doctors are whirling dervishly: Time-
Warner, AT&T, Microsoft, and a host of other companies are preparing
to rake in huge profits from an emerging industry that is more promise
than reality right now.
One article I read likens it to the early pioneer days of the American
West -- the colonization of a new world. And that's exactly what's
going on. There is a certain amount of gold fever here, especially
since the technology has yet to catch up the vision (for the most
part). The Holodeck is still a few light years off. :-( We won't be
plugging our brains directly into computer networks or downloading
our consciousness into robotic constructs anytime soon. But think of
the possibilities -- both for good and for evil. Our track record with
new technologies is not entirely reassuring. We have managed to stink
up our planet pretty well since we discovered fossil fuels and mass
production. Most of our new technologies (including AI and VR) emerge
from the bowels of the war machine. Is it just a coincidence that as
the influence of mass media grows our SAT scores and common sense seem
to be going down the tubes? In the words of the esteemed Mr. T, "I
So I do worry about where all this is leading us. But once you let
the genie out of the bottle, it's pretty hard to get it back in
there. What is needed is some degree of planning and public debate
that has been seriously lacking when new technologies start to leave
the lab and hit the streets. What effects will these new technologies
have on the fabric of society, on the way we live our lives? It can
be argued, for instance that the automobile is responsible for many of
the problems currently afflicting American society: the collapse of
our inner cities and the end (for the most part) of the sense of
community that people used to have when they lived in neighborhoods.
Perhaps the new communities now forming in cyberspace will replace
some of these lost values. But (for the foreseeable future) we will be
in a physical body, and that body has to live somewhere. You should
know where that place is, and know your neighbors, and make sure that
place is a safe and agreeable place to live. Suburbs, as they
currently configured, are not conducive to these purposes: you get
home exhausted after battling rush hour traffic and collapse in front
of your TV set. It all started with the automobile.
But when cars first started rolling off the assembly lines, no one
envisioned the changes they would bring to our landscape. We've had
a little more practice now at rolling out new technologies; we are
living with the consequences of not examining several of them closely
enough. Hopefully this time things will be different, although I'm not
sure why I should think so. Hope springs eternal I guess.
I concentrate on digital technologies because our communicative and
tool making abilities are the ones that separate us from the other
species, and today the computer is our main toolmaking and
communicating device. Plus I'm in the computer profession myself (I'm
a programmer). Plus I think computers are cool - heh heh heh. (Beavis
and Butthead/ Bits and Bytes - coincidence?) So I am not a
technophobe -- if used properly, there are more than enough resources
to solve the world's problems. All we need to do is think things
through a little bit better than we have to date.
So that's one of my purposes here: to promote just a little bit of
thinking about where we are going with all these newfangled gadgets.
Also, I hope Bits and Bytes Online entertains you just a tiny bit --
it certainly amuses me to produce it. The last point I'd like to make
is that B&B is an experiment in process. The content and format are
not set in stone. Anything is possible here in the future, which is
already in progress. Thank you all for being my unsuspecting guinea
I'd also like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to
participate actively in this ongoing experiment. There's only me on
this end, and a lot of things fall through the cracks. I need feedback
to know if I am providing a useful service, and if you know of any-
thing I should be looking at please point it out to me. I am seeking
ways to make B&B a tad more 'interactive', to start some sort of
online community of our own here (there?) in cyberspace.
A novice asked the master: "In the east there is a great tree-
structure that men call 'Corporate Headquarters'. It is bloated out of
shape with vice presidents and accountants. It issues a multitude of
memos, each saying 'Go Hence!' or 'Go Hither!' and nobody knows what
is meant. Every year new names are put onto the branches, but all to
no avail. How can such an unnatural entity continue to exist?"
The master replied: "You perceive this immense structure and are
disturbed that it has no rational purpose. Can you not take amusement
from its endless gyrations? Do you not enjoy the untroubled ease of
programming beneath its sheltering branches? Why then are you bothered
by its uselessness?"
(from The Tao of Programming by Geoffrey James [Info Books, 1987.
$9.95. (tel) 310-394-4102)
Newton Feels Gravity's Pull
Newton, Apple's $700 personal digital assistant Newton was touted as
the next big thing, but it's prospects are sinking fast. The PDA, the
first of many such devices to be introduced (Sharp's ExpertPad, Tandy/
Casio's Zoomer, and AT&T's EO Personal Communicator are already on the
market) suffers from many bugs and offers few benefits to corporate
users. The biggest problem facing the Newton is its inability to
translate handwriting into text. (A popular Newton trick is taking it
to parties and offering fellow partygoers a chance to try out Newton's
handwriting recognition capabilities for themselves: Newton's guesses
are... creative, to say the least.) Apple engineers claim that much of
the problem had to do with faulty power supplies in early versions,
but these have been fixed and the problems persist. Also lacking are
true "wireless" communications capabilities and must-have applications
for the devices. Both these problems are being addressed for future
versions. AT&T's 2 EO models on the other hand, come with 14.4 Kbps
cellular modems and 9.6 Kbps fax capability, connections for voice
communications, and a FREE subscription to AT&T Mail. Both EO's are
much larger and heavier (3 pounds) than the other PDA's, and prices
start at about $2800, putting them in another category altogether, the
category of things I can't afford anytime soon. All this being said,
the devices hold great promise as forerunners of a new breed of
handheld computing devices. (SOURCES: Getting To Know Newton, Rory J.
O'Connor. San Jose Mercury News, August 30, p. lC, BYTE Magazine,
October '93, p.66-94)
A recent Information Week survey concludes that computer games are
commonplace in the offices of corporate America. 90% of the fax poll
respondents had access to games in the office, and 60% report that the
games are played at least several times a week. Half the respondents
agree that computer games are hindering productivity. SBT Corp., a
California software maker, estimates that office PC's are used for
non-work-related purposes an average of 5 hours a week, costing U.S.
businesses about $100 billion a year in lost productivity. That's
about 2% of the gross national product. Most of the games are either
bundled with the operating system or brought in from home or other
This Modern World: The Virtual Office
Check to see if your local "alternative" newspaper carries the comic
strip "This Modern World" by Tom Tomorrow. Tom's strip offers keen
insights into the political news of the day, and his observations are
often right on the mark. A book of his strips is available at
bookstores. I will describe and reprint the text of the fourth (and
last) panel of a recent strip about the almost inevitable (I believe)
and permanent loss of jobs (already under way) due to technological
advances. The panel shows three people wearing 'virtual reality'
TEXT: "Basically, there may just not be enough jobs to around
anymore... but we feel confident that technology will provide some
kind of solution...
PERSON #1: "Hey -- this is GREAT! I'm sitting at a desk in an OFFICE!"
PERSON #2: "I'm chatting with my co-workers by the WATER COOLER!"
PERSON #3: "I'm opening my VIRTUAL PAYCHECK!"
How many of us will be opening our virtual paychecks in years to come?
One early impression of the Internet is that it's the promised land
for amateur anthropologists. Never has there been a way to observe
people and groups so accurately and unobtrusively. As a place to
eavesdrop, cyberspace is without peer in all of human history.
(Robert Wright, "Voice Of America," The New Republic, Sept.13, p. 20,
quoted in Information Week, 9/13/93)
#!%*& You For Stopping At McDonald's
A disgruntled employee at a Scottsdale, Arizona McDonald's apparently
reprogrammed the store's cash register to print out receipts offering
obscene suggestions rather than the usual "Thank You." Wait, it gets
better. A customer receiving one of the obscene receipts attempted to
extort $1000 out of the store owner, threatening to tell the press
about the receipt if he was not paid. The owner contacted the police,
and the man was arrested, tried, and found guilty.
(SOURCE: Newsbytes 9/30/93)
Paranoia On The Internet
The Wall Street Journal (9/16/93) reports that longtime Internet users
are more than a little nervous about all the attention being paid to
it by the media and the business community. Increasing commercializa-
tion of the Internet is viewed by net "dwellers" as the beginning of
the end of an era for the internet, akin to the settling of the
American West by families after the scouts and explorers paved the way
by mapping the outlines of the new territories. Old hands view these
"newbies" as unskilled in the art of using the net effectively, and
fear that increasing commercialization will turn the Internet into a
"giant electronic shopping mall." No doubt parts of the net become
exactly that, but that doesn't mean you have to go there. It's a big
web we're weaving here; there will be more than enough room for all
persuasions to coexist (or at least stay out of each other's way with
a modicum of grace). Certainly, new users (and some old hands too, I
imagine) will need to be educated in matters of netiquette. Every
effort should be made to make to make the basic texts and scriptures
readily available, and no one can deny that a touch of 'user-
friendliness' would not be unwelcome on front-ends to some common
I-net tools (as long as access to more complex features for the
technically inclined 'power users' was not compromised).
+HOME PC SALES UP. An article in Business Week (9/6/93, p. 80) reports
that in 1992 27% of all PC's sold were for home use, and that by 1996
that figure could be as high as 42%
+SMART CHIPS TO OUTWIT SPEEDERS? A computer chip installed in every
automobile, along with periodic sensors on the highways, could put an
end to radar detectors and speed traps. Each car's chip would register
as it passed each sensor, allowing a computer to calculate speed and
record vehicle I.D. If a transgression were noted, the vehicle owner
would receive a citation in the mail. A similar system is already
operational during peak traffic periods in Hong Kong.
(SOURCE: Telecommunications Policy Review 9/26/93 p.7, EDUPAGE)
+FCC THREATENS TO TOUGHEN CABLE RULES. The FCC has vowed to strengthen
cable rate regulation in the wake of recent price hikes as cable
companies respond to Congress's new cable law. The law was intended to
lower consumer's bills by an average of 10 percent, but many viewers
have been hit with price increases instead. (SOURCE: Wall Street
Journal 9/29/93 A13, EDUPAGE)
+INTERNET FEES TO RISE. The average university can expect to see its
network fees rise by $1,000 a year over the next four years as the
government reduces its involvement in the Internet, according to NSF
Division Director Stephen Wolff.
(Chronicle of Higher Education 9/1/93, EDUPAGE)
+BOUTIQUE NETWORKS ON THE RISE. The number of small on-line service
companies is increasing, as networkers try to corner a specific
market niche. Telescan Inc. of Houston is building a publishing house
of on-line networks, providing information on everything from sports
stats to building codes. This is one area of the growing online world
where there is money to be made, providing and pulling together infor-
mation from various sources to interested users.
(Investor's Business Daily 9/10/93 p.3, EDUPAGE)
NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES:
+NT SHIPS SQL SERVER. NT's star seems to be on the rise. Microsoft
recently shipped SQL (Structured Query Language) Server for Windows
NT, not even two months after NT's mid-August release date. NT users
say the software is stable and performs well when run on a dedicated
NT server. Four out of Five Analysts agree that shipping a major piece
of relational database software so quickly and having it work so well
bodes well for NT's robustness and suitability as a cross-platform
standard. Bill Gates will not be running low on lunch money anytime
soon. Microsoft has plans for releasing versions of both the Windows
NT operating system and SQL Server on various platforms starting with
DEC's Alpha AXP chip set, and is in discussion with Sun Microsystems,
IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola (who will be porting NT to their
poular PowerPC line). (SOURCE: Infoworld 9/20/93, p.1, p.3)
+AT&T COURTS CABLE. AT&T wants to link all cable customers in the US
into one big happy interactive multimedia network. It has presented
the nation's largest cable companies with plans for tying cable
systems into a national network of common switching and transmission
functions. This setup would allow customers throughout the US to phone
each other, send e-mail or play games together from remote locations,
all through their cable TV lines. This effectively closes the door on
lucrative new markets for the local telephone companies, the so-
called Baby Bells. (Wall Street Journal 8/27/93 A3, EDUPAGE)
+AMERICA ONLINE PLANS TO EXPAND INTERNET ACCESS. AOL currently has a
mail gateway to the Internet, but will soon extend subscriber access
to include Internet services like Usenet news groups, Gopher and WAIS.
AOL's rate is $9.95 per month for up to 5 hours of access.
(ACCESS: AOL 800-627-6364)
+GOVT INFO ON THE INTERNET. The experimental "Electronic Government
Information Service" run by Syracuse University features electronic
copies of government reports. It's accessible through Gopher at
eryx.syr.edu or via telnet at hafnhaf.micro.umn.edu. Once in Gopher,
the information is filed under Other Gopher and Information Services/
North America/USA/ General/EGIS. (Source: EDUPAGE)
+JUST CLOWNING AROUND. Juggle-Pro software, created by a college
student in Gainesville, Fla., uses mathematical models to generate
juggling combinations and lets jugglers know if a trick is feasible.
(Wall Street Journal 9/9/93 B1, EDUPAPAGE 9/14/93)
Telecommuting and the Law
Thanks to new technologies and workplace innovations, telecommuting is
becoming more popular than ever. Surveys show that 24.3 million self-
employed people now work out of their homes, while another 7.6 million
"telecommute" for outside employers. But as in so many other cases,
local ordinances have yet to catch up. In fact, many cities and towns
still have laws on the books that restrict or prohibit home businesses.
(David Elsner, "Towns Trying To Cope With Home-Business Boom," Chicago
Tribune, Sept. 7, p. 1, quoted in Information Week 9/13/93)
Lawyers Use High-Tech In The Courtroom
Lawyers are finding that computer-supported presentations are not only
eye-catching in the courtroom -- the real strength is the computer's
information management capability in cases with thousands of documents
to keep track of. "All an attorney has to do is come into the
courtroom ready for trial with a CD-ROM," says Litigation Sciences'
division director. Using courtroom technology will become cheaper in
the near future, too, as new courtrooms are being prewired to
accommodate television monitors and computers. (SOURCES: Wall Street
Journal 8/20/93 B1, EDUPAGE) Perhaps in the future such document
repositories, combined with rule-based expert systems will be a sort
of legal assistant during the trial.
3-D animations are another tool being used increasingly in trials. As
the cost of such technologies drop, these techniques will become
increasingly common. Accidents can be (and have been) 'recreated' from
eyewitness reports. In complicated trials, a number of experts can be
called on to testify on small technical details; it is often difficult
for members of the jury to visualize all these facts and put them
together in any meaningful way. A well produced animation can make
facts clear to everyone, perhaps by showing the same scene from
several different perspectives and at various playback speeds. On the
downside of all this, perhaps the side with the slickest presentation
and the best lawyers will win the case regardless of the facts. Not
that that would be anything new. (SOURCE: INFO WORLD 9/13/93, p. 1)
Architectures of Simplicity
There's a world of difference between viewing computers as a medium to
create simplicity and viewing them as the best way to soak up more
complexity. Keeping things simple poses a radically different design
challenge than trying to manage complexity. Simplicity architectures
just don't look like complexity architectures. Think of it as the
difference between designing RISC and CISC processors.
This design trade-off between simplicity/complexity is at the core
of the systems challenge facing technology professionals today. Does
"working smarter" in the 1990s mean making tasks inherently simpler
and easier? Or does it mean giving individuals and enterprises the
computational tools to better manage increased complexity?
There's an awful lot of hoopla today about "re-engineering"
corporations and their systems. That would be encouraging if removing
excess complexity were part of what's driving the movement. It isn't,
though. Re-engineering is all about cutting costs. We're just so
conditioned to the idea that value comes from additional
functionality, that most organizations honestly believe they can't
afford to stay simple in an increasingly complex world.
The sad truth is that most CIOs have gotten into the fixes they're
in by promising to tame complexity. Perhaps they'd be better off if
they ... used technology as a bridge to The New Simplicity. (Michael
Schrage, "No Frills, Fewer Tangles," Computerworld, 9/27/93, p. 37)
Back in B&Bv1#3, I reported on Edison Brothers Entertainment's plans
to develop "fully immersive virtual reality games" based on Star
Trek: The Next Generation. I have some more detail now on what this
will consist of. EBE's Horizon Entertainment division has joined
forces with Paramount Pictures and Spectrum HoloByte to create
facilities that will be much more than simple games: Portions of the
Starship Enterprise will be recreated, including the bridge,
transporter room, shuttlecraft and more. Players will take place in
interactive group adventures set in the Star Trek universe; they will
man stations on the bridge, fly the shuttlecraft, and beam down as
part of an "away team." Paramount (the maker of ST:TNG) will be
instrumental in developing plot scenarios. Head mounted displays and
state of the art VR technology will be used to complete the illusion,
as well as Hollywood-style special effects. Also planned is a gift
shop that will sell Romulan ale and Klingon delicacies. Heavy
resources are being channeled towards the completion of this project,
but the date and location of the first facility has not yet been
announced. Beam me up, Scotty! (SOURCE: Pix-Elation, v2 #3, p. e-5)
On The Newsstand
Another informative BYTE for October: this one features in-depth looks
at various PDA's, with shorter pieces on related topics, like the
PDA's CPU (Central Processing Units, the 'brain' of the computer) and
the wireless factor. Also featured is a section on pen and voice
input, a piece on optical computing, and a piece on how fractal image
compression works. Most libraries subscribe to BYTE.
The October PC Computing has a special section on Multimedia PC's,
explaining what they are and what to look for when you buy one.
Complete systems, CD ROM drives, sound cards, speakers, and one-stop
upgrade kits are evaluated, and specific recommendations are made.
The best CD ROM titles and Fax modems are also reviewed.
The October issue of Online Access is guest edited by Michael
Strangelove, editor of the Internet Business Journal, and it is a
great resource for people interested in getting on the information
highway, or people who are already out there and don't quite know
their way around yet (I count myself in this group, having been on
the net for about 2 years now). The National Research and Education
Network Program (NREN) is explained, BIX's BIXnav graphical front end
for Internet services is previewed, and access information for
essential net guides, manuals, information files, list servers and
Internet-related organizations is given. A useful feature for those
seeking access is a listing of over 60 access providers. Recommended.
Hobbes: Don't you worry that all this [TV] violence is desensitizing?
Calvin: Naah. I'd like to shoot the idiots who think this stuff
affects me. (The last panel of the "Calvin and Hobbes" Sunday cartoon,
8/29/93. Calvin is a little kid, and Hobbes is his stuffed tiger and
### ADMINISTRIVIA ###
IN THE FUTURE...Please note the new release schedule. The next issue
is due out 10/10/93. Upcoming focuses may or may not include Internet
basics, the commercialization of the Internet, Democracy Online,
convergence technologies, and the BBS scene. Comments, requests and
contributions are always welcome. A print version of B&B is in the
works. Keep watching the skies!
EDUPAGE AND ME. Astute readers will notice a lot of material from
EDUPAGE this issue. Let me explain. EP is a major source of news for
me, but I usually go to the library and flesh out their brief reports.
Lately I have been putting in long hours at work trying to make some
deadlines, so this issue I have been forced to rely more directly on
their news feed. This is also why there is no analysis of the NII
Agenda paper I had promised for this issue.
EDUPAGE is a twice-a-week summary of recent news items on information
technology. It is provided as a service by EDUCOM -- a consortium of
leading colleges and universities seeking to transform education
through the use of information technology. To subscribe to Edupage,
send e-mail to email@example.com containing the text:
SUB EDUPAGE firstname lastname. To unsubscribe, send e-mail
containing the text: UNSUB EDUPAGE. To send comments about Edupage,
send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Back issues of Edupage are
available by WAIS, Gopher, and anonymous ftp from educom.edu.
ACCESS. B&B is available for downloading on America Online in their
telecom files area, and in Compuserve's telecom forum library. Delphi
access is forthright, and forthcoming. Could be here for all I know..
INTERNET ANONYMOUS FTP SITES:
ftp.dana.edu in /periodic directory
INTERNET GOPHER ACCESS.
- gopher.law.cornell.edu in the Discussions and Listserv archives/
- gopher.dana.edu in the Electronic Journals directory
If anyone else is archiving B&B, I would appreciate knowing about it.
Include specifics and I will add you to this list. If B&B is being
distributed via mailing lists, I would appreciate being informed about
it so I can estimate how many people are reading B&B. Thanks!
BITS AND BYTES ONLINE, an electronic newsletter for text-based life-
forms, is published three dozen times a year, on the 1st, 10th, and
20th of each month. E-mail Subscriptions are available at no cost from
email@example.com. Put "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject header and your
email address in the body of the message. To unsubscribe, send a
message with "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject header and your email
address in the body. Send correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This newsletter is printed on 100% recycled electrons*
Jay Machado = (Copyright 1993 Jay Machado) *unaltered* =
1529 Dogwood Drive = ELECTRONIC distribution of this file for =
Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 = non-profit purposes is encouraged. =
ph (eve) 609/795-0998 = The editor is solely responsible for the =
======================== editorial content, but makes no claims or =
=========DO NOT========= assurances implicit or otherwhise as to =
==== REMOVE THIS TAG==== the validity or approriateness of opinions =
==UNDER PENALTY OF LAW== expressed herein. Your individual rights =
======5=8=2=2=7=Y=0===== may vary from state to state. =
=============== End of Bits and Bytes Online V1, #11 =================
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank