50 & 25 Years Ago

Erich Neuhold

Pages: 12–13

Abstract—A summary of articles published in Computer 50 and 25 years ago.

Keywords—50 & 25 Years Ago; history of computing

January 1968

State of the Art in Aerospace Computers (p. 1) “Studies of computer system organization have as their goal increased computing capability, increased reliability, and greater ease in programming and maintenance. Present space-borne systems are primarily centralized machines with a single central processor to receive a multitude of inputs, perform a processing function on a single stream of data with a single instruction stream, and provide a multitude of outputs. … Of course, counters and shift registers lend themselves well to LSI techniques, but for general use of off-the-shelf LSI circuits, techniques must be developed for designing combinatorial circuits using basic building blocks more complex than individual gates. … Presently anticipated bulk memory capacity requirements could be satisfied using tape recorders. Furthermore, increased research on plated-wire memories, which would greatly reduce power requirements, and research on mass storage media, which would greatly reduce volume and weight requirements. … Displays and input devices have not been discussed in this survey because they are generally designed for a specific task. They are mentioned here because of the increased sophistication that will be required of displays and input devices on manned missions of long duration.” [Editor’s note: The article gives an excellent overview of the state of computing not only for aerospace applications but in general, showing the tremendous progress we’ve made in the last 50 years.]

The Right to Privacy in the Computer Age (p. 13) “By the year 2000, Americans could have computers and robots in the home and virtually no privacy. This prediction is part of the discussions of the Commission ‘On The Year 2000,’ which were published in the summer issue of Daedalus, The Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. … Unfortunately, the formal body of law is not so readily adaptable to some new legal concepts. It is a fair statement that the law has been reluctant to grant privacy the same status as other protected rights, such as freedom of the press, speech, or religion.” [Editor’s note: This interesting article discusses many aspects of privacy and related laws from a historical perspective. Unfortunately, 50 years later, many of the issues remain unresolved, alhtough the conflicting interests of the many players have become more apparent.]

Parallel Data Processing via Cryoelectronics (p. 25) “Thin films of certain materials that display superconductive behavior form the basis for the so-called cryoelectric technology. … The relative simplicity of manufacture, coupled with an independence of impurity concentrations for operation, have permitted a demonstration of operational cryotron arrays of 20,000-gate complexity in an associative processor application. … One notes further the omission of complementary supportive statements from the problem solver and software specialist. The latter are certainly key to the successful wooing of sponsors for the expensive development and engineering of a minimally useful cryoelectric prototype system. It is generally conceded that today’s data processors are sophisticated but evolutionary forms of the von Neumann machine. … The alternative is then clearly the replication and/or redistribution of coordinated arithmetic and logic functions in accordance with the dimensionality of the data sets to be prepared and the nature of the processing itself. … Semiconductor and superconductor device arrays are the most probable candidates for economical implementation. MOS and cryotron arrays appear most imminent where clock speeds of less than 20 MHz are acceptable. Bipolar and STD (superconductive tunneling devices based on Josephson effects) will compete for higher speed requirements.”

January 1993


Guest Editors’ Introduction (p. 12) “Concurrent Engineering (CE) is a systematic approach to integrated product development that emphasizes response to customer expectations and embodies team values of cooperation, trust, and sharing. Decision-making in CE proceeds with extended periods of parallel effort synchronized with comparatively brief exchanges between participants to produce consensus. … Advances in database and networking technology, groupware, multimedia, and graphical user interfaces, and a precipitous drop in the cost of computing, all point the way to creating a truly collaborative environment to transcend the barriers of distance, time, and heterogeneity in computer equipment. … One can visualize future support for concurrent engineering through a proposed artifact we call the CE phone. … This electronically networked artifact would combine the capabilities of an ordinary phone, a TV, a VCR, a videoconferencing facility, and a computer.”

Toward Computer-Supported Concurrent Software Engineering (p. 17) “We have developed a new experimental software engineering environment we call Flecse, for Flexible Environment for Collaborative Software Engineering, to support concurrent software engineering. In this article, we explain and illustrate the main components of Flecse, thus providing an initial answer to the fundamental question: How must a traditional software engineering environment be extended to allow software engineering tasks to be carried out more concurrently?”

Palo Alto Collaborative Testbed (PACT) (p. 28) “Several research groups are jointly developing the [PACT], a concurrent engineering infrastructure that encompasses multiple sites, subsystems, and disciplines. Through PACT, we are examining the technological and sociological issues of building large-scale, distributed concurrent-engineering systems. Our approach has been to integrate existing multi-tool systems. … We take as a given that individual engineering groups prefer to use their own tool suites and integration environments. … PACT serves as a testbed for knowledge-sharing research emerging from the AI community, as well as for emerging data-exchange standards such as PDES/Step (Product Data Exchange Using Step/Standard for the Ex-change of Product Model Data).”

Capturing Design Rationale in Concurrent Engineering Teams (p. 39) “Output from the design of an artifact typically includes blueprints, CAD files, manufacturing planes, and other documents that describe the result of a long series of deliberations and tradeoffs by the members of [CE] teams. The underlying intent and logical support (that is, the rationale) for the decisions captured in these documents is usually lost …An explicitly represented rationale can help individual designers clarify their thinking, and let all team members critique and augment the reasoning behind decisions. … Underlying the Design Reasoning Capture System rationale language is a model of how designers think. Rationale is essentially a record of the reasoning process an individual used to reach certain conclusions.”

Functional Representation as Design Rationale (p. 48) “Although a design rationale cannot be completely represented, Functional Representation [FR] is a good framework for describing causal components because it embodies a theory of how causal stories are understood. … We consider the use of … [FR] for describing how the device works (or is intended to work). Specifically, we wish to show how FR can be used to capture the causal component of DR (design rationale). By that we mean the designer’s (or the design team’s) account of the causal interaction sequence between device components that leads to achieving device functions.”

The Open Channel: CE May Hold the Key to Care of the Environment (p. 136) “Proponents of [CE] have thus far assumed that its greatest benefit will stem from addressing manufacturability concerns while a product is being designed. But it would now appear, if we are to believe the order-of-magnitude estimates of the examples above (establishing a disposal process for weapons would cost about 10 times what it cost to produce them) that the most significant cost for some products will actually be that of disposal. Therefore, this perspective must prevail during the design stage.” [Editor’s note: Despite today’s “throw away and replace” mentality, disposal and replacement processes haven’t been incorporated into business or environmental models.]

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