Issue No. 10 - October (2005 vol. 38)
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MC.2005.318
TECHNOLOGY FORECASTING (p. 11). "The IEEE has initiated a Technology Forecasting and Assessment Project aimed at developing, over a three-year period, a comprehensive forecast of electrotechnology and an assessment of the impact of that technology. Dr. William C. Morsch, a former consultant with the Federal Government, has been appointed manager of the project.
"Designed so that the forecasts and assessments will be made through the Institute's Groups and Societies, the project will give IEEE a role in the development and evaluation of public policies which involve electrotechnology. In addition, it will provide the Institute's membership with information for career planning."
MODULAR COMPUTERS (p. 13). "This is an important time in the history of modular computer systems. The first generation has been developed and its products are in daily use; now the developers of modular computer systems are taking the first steps toward the second generation. The first generation systems started with the fixed-plus-variable computer system proposed by Estrin in 1960, progressed through the developments of macromodules and Register Transfer Modules, and have reached a point of proliferation with the development of systems at MIT, the University of Delaware, and the University of Washington. … It seems that the second generation systems will be characterized by an attempt to incorporate the developments of large scale integrated circuits and the 'computer-on-a-chip' into modular systems."
SEMICONDUCTOR TECHNOLOGY (p. 20). "The complexity of practical semiconductor components is doubling every one to two years. The industry's current limits in MOS manufacturing ability are chips that contain 4K-bit random access memories or 8-bits/word microprocessors."
"A semiconductor chip that has the potential sales volume of the current minicomputer market, i.e., about 30,000 units/year, would not be economically feasible to produce. The major consequence of this is that microprocessors in the foreseeable future will be designed for such mass markets as personal calculators and intelligent terminals."
REGISTER TRANSFER MODULES (p. 26). "If one looks at the modules that were sold, along with the reactions of engineers and sales people within DEC to the modules, some very interesting observations can be made about register transfer level modules as a product.
"To begin with, much to our surprise, there has always been an air of mystery about RTMs at DEC (including its sales force) and to users. How could this be so, when the concept of RTMs is so simple?"
"There appear to be two main reasons why this is so. First, many current generation logic designers do not prepare behavioral flowcharts when they design. They regard the preparation of flowcharts as programming, and since they are not software engineers, they don't do it—nor in many cases do they know how to do it. Hence the very first (and only, in the case of RTMs) step which generates a formal specification is foreign to them. Second, the thought of working with a set of modules at the register transfer level is also unfamiliar because it is 'top-down'-oriented. Since they are accustomed to working with gates and flip-flops and voltages and pulses, the idea of the algorithm with data transfers, control flow, branches, and merges seems unreal and abstract."
USER MICROPROGRAMMING (p. 36). "Users of Varian 73 computers can write their own specialized microprograms using Writable Control Store (WCS), an enhancement module announced by Varian Data Machines."
"WCS is a high-speed, random access, bipolar, semiconductor memory with a capacity for either 256 or 512 64-bit microinstructions."
"Functionally, WCS is an extension of the processor's read-only memory (ROM), which contains the standard set of microinstructions. A special code in the standard machine instruction set directs the processor to user-written microinstructions, which can be loaded and changed at any time using standard I/O instructions."
DISK MEMORY (p. 36). "A plug-compatible disk memory add-on for the PDP-11 minicomputer has been announced by Engineered Data Peripherals Corp. Storage capacities range from 65K words to 2 million words. Access times of 8.5 or 17 milliseconds are available.
"The memory system consists of a disk drive, formatter, and I/O controller. The disk drive is a fixed head per track disk memory. The functions provided by the formatter are disk addressing, error detection, and data formatting (parallel to serial and serial to parallel). Individual selection and operation of up to four disk drives is provided in the formatter. The controller presents a transparent interface to the PDP-11 and serves as the interpreter between the formatter and the I/O bus."
PALM READING (p. 41). "An automatic palm reader, controlled by a Nova computer made by Data General Corporation, has increased plant security and made time records easier to keep for a New York toy manufacturer.
"The system uses a Nova 1200 minicomputer with 16,384 words of memory and an electro-optical sensor that is part of an automated payroll system made by Identimation Corporation of Northvale, N.J.
"My Toy Corporation, a large toy manufacturer, has mounted one of the palm readers at each of seven employee entrances at their Brooklyn plant. An employee who wants to enter the plant inserts a previously encoded plastic identification card into the unit, then lays his palm on it. The unit scans the size and shape of the palm, and checks with the Nova to verify that the person has access to the department where the unit is located. If the check is positive, the computer records the time the person entered the department in a file that contains payroll information."
STANDARDS (p. 5). "To many engineers and corporate planners who buy and use computers as tools for their businesses, the benefits of standardization are obvious. To engineers and executives in companies on the supply side of the equation, however, standards are counter-intuitive and are often treated as an undesirable necessity for doing business rather than as an opportunity to build a bigger pie for everyone's benefit, including their own. Many traditional computer companies have been slow to grasp the immense attractiveness of standards to users. Instead, they've tried to enforce customer loyalty to their products by creating incompatibility barriers. Recently, start-up computer and workstation manufacturers offering a wide range of products based on open standards—building Ferraris with off-the-shelf parts—have risen with breathtaking speed. The message to the industry is clear: Give the users what they want; tear down the tower of Babel."
VISUAL TECHNOLOGY (p. 21). "In the nearly twenty years since the development of Interlisp, the virtues of a visual, highly integrated language environment have become well accepted. In this article we have looked specifically at the influence of visual technology on three elements of language environments: user interfaces, editors, and programming languages. For each element, we have seen the transition from a strictly textual representation … toward new investigations into more naturally visual uses of visual technology. … Perhaps most significantly, visual technology seems to be moving to a convergence between the language itself and the language environment, a convergence that goes beyond the visualization of existing textual approaches, a convergence that is naturally visual."
STANDARDS (p. 67). "The enormous investment in electronic databases motivates organizations to seek ways to preserve their investments in data and applications software when systems are replaced. Where circumstances preclude co-location of related data collections, remote access to distributed, possibly dissimilar, databases is often required. These are just a couple of examples of the forces that have created today's high levels of interest in information technology standards."
VOICE RECOGNITION (p. 74). "Just about everyone talks to their computer. I've been muttering to computers since the first time I sat down in front of a TTY. Before that, I muttered to card punches. Lately, however, it seems my PC is beginning to understand me.
"The ability to enter commands by voice has tremendous possibilities for people with restricted hand or finger movement. It also allows use of the PC in applications where the user's hands are busy doing other things or in environments that could damage the keyboard. Even in the typical workplace voice input has the potential for increasing productivity. Touch typists can keep their hands over the standard portion of their keyboards and enter commands requiring any of the special keys by voice. They also will not have to remember the arbitrary keystrokes that make up most of those commands. People using graphical interfaces with a mouse will not have to let go of the mouse to use the keyboard or move the mouse from a work area to a command menu area."
VIRUS PROTECTION (p. 82). "Enigma Logic's Safeword Virus-Safe software lets users choose between Data Encryption Standard and ISO 8731-2 algorithms to protect their IBM PCs and compatibles against computer virus programs. The software incorporates ANSI Standard X9.9 Message Authentication Code technology, according to the company.
"Safeword Virus-Safe uses encryption-based authenticators, which calculate digital signatures for those data files and programs selected for protection. Any modification of these programs reportedly triggers a change in the signature. Such a change is detectable by Safeword Virus-Safe's Integrity Shell, Bootstrap Examination, or Sterile Kernel modules."
DISK CACHE (p. 83). "Micro 1 has begun shipping a 33-MHz 80386-based computer with an intelligent 32-bit disk cache controller. The Power 386-33 features a 128-Kbyte RAM cache and operates at 7.5 MIPS, according to the company. The intelligent cache controller uses an Intel AT/32-bit bus and a SCSI peripheral bus. An onboard 80376 microprocessor controls direct memory access and up to 4 Mbytes of RAM cache memory."
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (p. 109). "AI … has been equated with the development of a theoretical basis for business systems. Business systems were formerly regarded as unstructured, disparate, poorly defined, and so on. AI, flourishing such terms as 'expert systems' and 'knowledge-based systems,' now legitimizes such systems as being part of a consistent body of knowledge. AI has taken over the field from information systems. What was useful and cost-effective before AI's acceptance is still useful and cost-effective, but AI now provides a handle that explains everything, is semantically easy to grasp, and promises a well-directed plan for the future."