Category Archives: Fun

What If? Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if we always listened to the experts?

You walk down the front walk of your summer home and approach the moving truck parked in the driveway. It is a normal thing in today’s advanced society to work for the same company, but roam from place to place. You think to yourself, “How did they ever live without these portable computers all those years ago?” The ability to take a computer on the road with you wasn’t even a dream in the beginning, but now it’s a reality.

You open the rear door of the moving truck and step up through the narrow opening. The area is very crowded, but there is just enough room for your office chair and a few spare square feet of desk space. “Ahhh… advancements in technology,” you say to the bare walls of the truck. “Now then, let’s kick start this baby.”

After a long day of work in these tight quarters, you step out of the twenty-six foot moving truck and walk back into the house.

You are probably thinking, “C’mon, Tom. What are you talking about? There are no portable computers that require a moving truck to haul them.” Right you are, but this is – WHAT IF?

Here is what was reported in 1949:

Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weigh 1 1/2 tons.
-Popular Mechanics, March 1949

Didn’t know someone said that? Just hold on because there is much more to follow.

The truth of it all is that we’ve all been deceived. They have tried to convince us that these computers are worth something. The things we’re doing with them aren’t really productive, they are worthless. You don’t agree? Why not? A couple of really important people did:

Worthless.
-Sir George Bidell Airy (Astronomer Royal of Great Britain), in reference to the potential value of Charles Babbage’s analytical engine. Charles is considered to the the inventor of the computer today.

“What the ____ is it good for?”
-Robert Lloyd (an engineer at IBM) in response to colleagues who insisted that the microprocessor was the future of the computer industry in 1968.

Do you agree? Neither do I, but what if we had listened to them?

How many new computers are shipped every year? Not too many, as a matter of fact it has averaged .09 computers every year for the last forty-five years. Wow! How did we ever do it? Since 1943 we have developed and marketed five whole computers.

I realize that this sounds a little far-fetched, but I can prove it:

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.”
-Thomas Watson, Chairman of the Board of IBM, 1943

In reality, however, we have produced and marketed, not only millions of systems, but literally hundreds of different kinds of computer systems as well. He said five computers, but look at this list of computer types over the last thirty to forty years:

  • ATARI 800
  • IBM
  • Apple II
  • Apple IIe
  • Apple IIgs
  • Apple Macintosh
  • Commodore VIC-20 (I loved this one.)
  • Commodore 64 (Another personal favorite.)
  • Commodore 128
  • Commodore Amiga
  • TRS-80
  • Tandy 1000
  • Adam

I could go on, but I believe that my point is made – but what if?

We don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.
-HP Executive, 1976

Get your feet off my desk, get out of here, you stink, and we’re not going to buy your product.
-Joe Keenan, President of Atari, 1976

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.
-Ken Olson, President of DEC, 1977

It is a really good thing that we didn’t listen to these wise people. If we had, we would have undoubtedly been greatly delayed in the development of the personal computer system. The first one, the HP executive, was responding to Steve Jobs when he offered HP his Apple II computer design. The second quote was Atari’s response to Steve, and the third quote is just a bit of wisdom from the era.

Steve ignored these people, and financed the development of the Apple II himself. This act launched the personal computer revolution as we know it today – for the most part anyway. But – what if?

Well, we could go on talking about people like Bill Gates and others. But I’ll be nice and simply end by saying I am really glad I have over 8 GB of RAM in all of my computers. Aren’t you, Bill? Or maybe he still has 640k.

Aren’t you glad that you have never said anything that turned out to be wrong in your life? I know I am!

Oh yeah… now for my prediction of the future. I predict that we will all evolve into computers and then the computers will rule the world. It will be like a matrix kind of thing. I wonder if anyone else has ever thought of anything like that?

The reality is that experts can often get caught up in their knowledge of the present and lose sight of the possible.

The point of it all is this: as we enter the new year of 2017, dream. Dream and don’t let those around you say your dreams are impossible. Just dream, plan and act and see what your future may hold.

Happy holidays!

Foods We Shouldn’t Eat?

Now, I’m the first to suspect anything that is created by a company that has a product to sell; however, after a year and a half of nutrition study while recovering from cancer treatment, I have to say that I feel there is far more “truth in advertising” in this advertising than in most. Make up your own mind (and, yes, I know this is not related to technology [smile]):

banned-foods-infographic

How the Past is Still in the Present

Many of the elements that we use every day in modern versions of Windows have their beginnings in the early days of computer. First, the Command Prompt, which is still very useful in Windows 7, is based on the functionality of the command interpreter that was part of MS-DOS – command.com. You can still use many of the same commands today that were used in the 1980s.

Second, the use of icons has been with is since the Xerox and Apple computers first introduced them and they are still the primary way that we launch files and applications. This is true for desktop and laptop computers as well as most handheld devices.

From Windows 3.1, we still have the concept of the Control Panel in Windows 7. The Windows 3.1 Control Panel had a whopping 11 applets in it right after installing Windows. Needless to say, Windows 7 has many more applets in its Control Panel, but the Control Panel remains just the same.

To see an interesting video demonstrating the history of the Windows operating system through sequential upgrades from one to the next, search for Chain of Fools: Upgrading Through Every Version of Windows at YouTube.com.

Random Screening and Security

So, I just passed through security at the Columbus, Ohio airport for the sixth or seventh time this year. Of my journeys through the TSA stalls in Columbus, I recall one time this year that I was not selected for a little extra patting, rubbing or travel bag exploration. In my opinion, this is where the problem with random screening rests.

If the TSA would only scan boarding passes as the passengers go through security, they could determine which passengers have been selected for "random" screening many times in the past and ensure that they are not wasting their time on the same person again and again. For example, I have a friend who flies frequently (3-4 times each month like me) and he said he has not been "randomly" selected once this year.

The biggest problem is that we're depending on extremely biased machines to randomize the passengers. These biased machines are also known as humans. Maybe one TSA agent always selects the person they feel will be most cooperative. Maybe they select every fifth person through to attempt pure randomization. Through observation tests, I can assure you that no such pattern is used even if they are told to use such a pattern. In one sixty minute period I observed 53 passengers going through security. No humanly trackable pattern appeared in the selection process.

However, one interesting pattern did appear. Of the 53 people passing through, 7 were selected for additional screening. Of the 53 passengers, 4 helped other people with an item that fell or some other needed assistance. Not one of these four people were selected.

This made me so curious that I had to do an experiment. While sitting at the Atlanta airport, where hundreds trudge through security each hour, I was able to observe a security lane where the "random selector" agent could clearly see everyone as they were preparing to come through. In just over two hours, I observed 27 people helping someone else through the line. Again, they were not selected for additional screening.

Now, clearly, further research is required to verify this bias, but the preliminary counts seem to indicate that you can greatly increase your odds of avoiding "random" selection by helping someone on the way through the line. And this is just one example of the bias within the human machine.

So, how do we fix this. Simple, an alternating pattern must be used to select the "random" passengers. Each TSA agent can be assigned a pattern (one could be the 3, 5, 2, 1, 7, 3, 5, 2, etc and another be 4, 5, 2, 5, 3, 2, 1, 4, 5, 2, 5, etc) and the "random selector" agent can be replaced with another agent after 3-4 iterations of the pattern making it difficult for pattern watchers to discover the pattern.

Additionally, to add variety to the pattern, if a passenger has been screened more than 3 of the last 5 times they've flown within the last sixty days, the agent is notified through a vibration signal with a hip mounted device. The agent simply passes over this passenger and continues his pattern with the next passenger. Of course, this would require boarding pass scanning outside of security, but maybe this would provide some real value at the point of entry in opposition to what we have now.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "Tom, this sounds too confusing." I say that the TSA agents are paid very well and we should not hesitate to require this ability and skill from them. Those who can't cut it, simply find themselves in lower paid positions, such as the non-observing guard at the exit of security.

In the end, random just ain't random when humans are involved and it can actually make for weakened security. Just a thought.

An Interesting Side Note

I noticed, today, that CNBC.com was listing the 10 unhappiest states. A few days ago, I noticed they listed the most religious states. Interestingly, when I compared these, 3 of the unhappiest states were in the list of the top 10 least religious states. None of the top ten most religious states were in the list of the 10 unhappiest states. Is there a connection? Don't know, but I sure found it interesting. Particularly since the 10 most religious states that are not among the 10 unhappiest states have similar unemployment rates (with the obvious exceptions of Michigan and California) and much lower median income rates with matching sales tax rates. It doesn't appear that wealth has much to do with happiness, but religion just may. Curious.