Issue No. 09 - September (2006 vol. 39)
DOI Bookmark: http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MC.2006.289
IFIP KEYNOTE (p. 8). "Beneath the specialized technical concerns of information processing lie a host of ethical problems, Mrs. Alva Myrdal told an audience of 4000 at IFIP Conference '74 in Stockholm. Mrs. Myrdal, the former Swedish Cabinet Minister in Charge of Disarmament, gave the keynote address at the opening session of the triennial international conference ….
"Speaking on the topic of 'Science, Secrecy, and Power,' she called for greater awareness of the social impact of computer science and technology.
"First of all, she asked, how far should science be permitted to go in its quest for technological perfection? Does it risk turning into 'technology for its own sake?' she wondered.
"Mrs. Myrdal went on to observe that, inasmuch as scientific knowledge—and, implicitly, information—is power, the question immediately arises as to who shall wield that power."
"'So I arrive at my third point—the difficult one as to when to apply secrecy and when openness in the circulation of computer-stored information. A key to this delicate choice may in general terms be found in a distinction of whether it is social or human relationships that are involved.'"
MULTISTABLE CIRCUITS (p. 59). "Radices higher than binary are now achievable with present-day technology. For example, multistable circuits can readily be built from unipolar and bipolar semiconductor negative resistance building blocks. The complementary features of voltage-controlled and current-controlled negative resistance devices allow versatility in the design of multistable circuits. Examples include the serial connection of voltage-controlled or the parallel connection of current-controlled negative resistances which can result in composite characteristics with one more state than the number of negative resistances involved."
96-COLUMN CARDS (p. 74). "The Process Controls Division of Cincinnati Milacron is now offering a system that includes a 96-column data recorder interfaced to and under the control of a CIP/2200 minicomputer which is packaged, together with a disk drive, in a 30" or 60" cabinet. The Model 9619 Data Decision unit, linked to the mini configuration, makes possible the preparation, verification, reproduction, interpretation, gangpunching, interfiling, reading, and posting of data on 96-column punched paper cards.
"Complete software support for the data recorder comes with the hardware package. The Cincinnati Milacron Operating System, CiMOS-22, permits the user to read or punch cards, read and update cards, skip a specified number of cards, and select the stacker to receive cards."
ENERGY MANAGEMENT (p. 80). "TRW's Equipment Group in Cleveland, Ohio, is using a small IBM computer to save over $100,000 a year on its electric bill.
"TRW engineers say their energy management system, if used widely, could help ease the nation's spiraling demand for electricity. It could also reduce power companies' mounting needs for fuel oil and coal to run their generators.
"Using leased telephone lines, TRW has linked an IBM System/7 to four high-energy consuming types of equipment serving its corporate offices and the Equipment Group's plant here: (1) air conditioners; (2) air compressors; (3) an 8,000 ton metal press and furnace; and (4) a 12,000 ton metal press and furnace.
"When the computer predicts that power demand will exceed a pre-determined level, it begins shutting down this equipment in sequential steps.
"'Just as with homeowners, we are billed each month for the electricity we actually consume …. In addition we pay a premium for the highest volume of electricity we used in any half-hour during the previous month.'"
A TERNARY COMPUTER (p. 28). "… A computer named TERNAC was implemented in 1973 at SUNY, Buffalo.
"In TERNAC both fixed-point and floating-point capability were provided. The fixed-point words were 24 trits in length and the floating-point words had 42 trits for mantissa and 6 trits for exponent. …
"The TERNAC computer implementation was intended primarily to discover if the implementation of a nonbinary structure on a binary computer is feasible, and to discover the cost in memory storage and time for such an implementation. … As a feasibility test, this effort was successful, and the first version of this implementation has proved that both the speed and price are on the order of the speed and price of binary computers."
CLIMATE MODELING (pp. 81–82). "Two IBM scientists are creating mathematical simulations of the atmosphere with a computer to investigate a climatic process that may be contributing to the global cooling trend of the past three decades.
"The mean annual temperature near the surface of the earth has decreased by about one-half of one degree Fahrenheit since the 1940s, according to observations by the world network of weather stations."
"The project is an outcome of IBM's research into numerical prediction techniques involving global weather circulation and the effect of air pollution on climate."
"Clouds are now being introduced into the model, which makes the computer simulation more realistic but vastly complicates the calculations. Much of the work of Dr. Braslau and Dr. Dave involves adapting mathematical techniques to simplify the computations without sacrificing accuracy."
FORMAL METHODS (p. 8). "Formal methods used in developing computer systems are mathematically based techniques for describing system properties. Such formal methods provide frameworks within which people can specify, develop, and verify systems in a systematic, rather than ad hoc, manner.
"A method is formal if it has a sound mathematical basis, typically given by a formal specification language. This basis provides the means of precisely defining notions like consistency and completeness and, more relevantly, specification, implementation, and correctness. It provides the means of proving that a specification is realizable, proving that a system has been implemented correctly, and proving properties of a system without necessarily running it to determine its behavior.
"A formal method also addresses a number of pragmatic considerations: who uses it, what it is used for, when it is used, and how it is used. Most commonly, system designers use formal methods to specify a system's desired behavioral and structural properties."
IDEAL AND REAL WORLDS (pp. 19–20). "Formal methods are based on mathematics but are not entirely mathematical. Formal-method users must acknowledge the two important boundaries between the mathematical world and the real world.
"Users cross the first boundary in codifying the customer's informally stated requirements. …"
"The second boundary is crossed in the mapping from the real world to some abstract representation of it. …"
"Another kind of boundary is often neglected, even by experienced specifiers. It's the boundary between a real system and its environment. A system does not run in isolation; its behavior is affected by input from the external world, which in turn consumes the system's output."
MIT'S PROJECT ATHENA (p. 40). "The Athena system is one of the largest centrally managed educational workstation networks. It presently serves about 10,000 active user accounts, which generate about 4,000 logins and 9,000 mail messages per day. The average student uses the system eight hours per week. In aggregate, users generate 12,000 questions per semester for the on-line consulting system, and print 3 million pages per year. About 90 percent of undergraduate students and 50 percent of graduate students use the system. Usage is increasing about 15 percent per year, as more students use the system and use it for more hours per day.
"A major benefit of Athena is that students need learn only one system for educational computing. Athena presents a coherent model of computing in which all applications can run on all supported workstations, independent of architecture. Because of the strong level of coherence, the human interface to the system is independent of the type of workstation being used. Thus, only one training program and one set of documentation are needed."
RESEARCH NETWORK (p. 88). "The partners in the National Science Foundation Network, which links more than 1,500 university, industry, and government research networks, have begun implementing a coast-to-coast research and education computer network designed to transmit data 28 times faster than any other public access network.
"Scheduled to be operating by the end of this year, the T3 network will send information at 45 megabits per second, enabling researchers across the United States to perform high-speed computing applications such as distributed computing and interactive remote graphics that require faster transmission technologies than are currently available."
SOUND BLASTER (p. 110). "As the line between PCs and Macs blurs even more with the release of Windows 3.0, one glaring difference remains between the two: sound capabilities. While Macintoshes were designed with an emphasis on powerful internal sound, the PC world (with some exceptions, such as Tandy) largely ignored audio. Yet more and more users, from game players and MIDI users to large software developers, are becoming aware of the dramatic difference speech and music can make in a well-integrated application. Creative Labs has introduced a board to provide superior digitized sound for an AT bus machine: the Sound Blaster."
ENGLISH LANGUAGE INTERFACE (p. 114). "Occam Research Corp. claims that Muse, its English language-driven data-analysis software, is suited to Macintosh users who must develop, evaluate, connect, and review large amounts of data to arrive at recommendations or decisions."
"When users ask questions in English, using either the keyboard or mouse, Muse accesses relevant data from Databooks and puts the answer in a Workbook. Muse responds to one-dimensional questions with simple one-line responses, and to multi-dimensional questions with fully labeled, fully functional Workbooks containing numbers or text. Muse reputedly lets users simultaneously reference, manipulate, reformat, calculate, and visualize large data sets."
PDFs of the articles and departments from Computer's September 1990 issue are available at www.computer.org/computer.