… let’s hot wire the chip


My dad worked at IBM in Essex Junction, Vermont in the late sixties/early 70s. He was developing a dynamic RAM chip which was a new technology. He says that university researchers weren’t working on a dynamic RAM chip at the time so it was cutting edge hardware. The chip that he designed had a whopping 32kbits of memory–32,768 bits. His patent is US Patent 3,811,076.

The process they were using was originally called SAMOS for self-aligned metal oxide semiconductor, but I understand that later the acronym had a different meaning.

I just learned a new story about the project that I think is pretty astounding.

The first silicon that they were testing had a power trace that didn’t go to everywhere that it was needed. My dad had left out a power connection in the layout. Rather than go back to the drawing board and make a new wafer, they simply put a jumper connecting the two sides of the power network together with a couple of probes. It was good enough for them to complete the testing.

That is so clever to me. I’m sure there are very few stories of a chip design flaw that was worked around by hot wiring the chip.

It was possible because the dimensions of circuit components were much, much bigger than they are now. Also, the chip layout didn’t have as many layers as current circuits.

What an awesome engineering stunt!

Original image: 64-bit Chip. By Steve Jurvetson [Image license]

Review: Collins Dictionary online

A green thought bubbleThere are many online dictionary sites. Some that come up near the top of search results include Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com, The Free Dictionary http://www.thefreedictionary.com, Wiktionary http://en.wiktionary.com, Your Dictionary http://www.yourdictionary.com,
Definitions.net http://www.definitions.net.

One that is not so easy to find is Collins http://www.collinsdictionary.com.

The popular dictionaries are really wannabe encyclopedias. They have detailed explanations of each word. Rather than defining the term in succinct form, they attempt to be general and all-inclusive. For example, searching the noun form of the word “blog”, these dictionaries can use 20 – 40 or more words to define blog. In addition” their definitions have lengthy “or” and “and” clauses so that they cover all the bases and then some.

Although most have a sample sentence, the ones they offer don’t have any context. For example, Merriam Webster uses the sentences “She writes a blog about travel. I enjoy reading her blog.” From this I know “you can read a blog” and “a blog has a subject.” Collins dictionary gives “When Barbieux started his blog, his aspirations were small; he simply hoped to communicate with a few people.” This lets me understand it better, it gives me an example of the why and who that Merriam-Webster’s example doesn’t reveal.

Collins Dictionary has many other useful features such as definitions in both British English and American English. Along with the conventional definitions, parts of speech and derived forms of word, this dictionary has audio pronunciations of the different forms of English. For the language nerd, it provides a graph of word-use frequency over time.

There are full dictionaries of Portuguese, German, Italian, and Chinese. It appears to be missing a dictionary of French, Arabic, Hebrew and other world languages.

One unique feature that it has is a Learner’s English section that include each definition with a less complicated sentence using the word.

Frequently, when I search for words in a search engine, I add “site:collinsdictionary.com” to limit my search to this source.

Check http://www.collinsdictionary.com out. I believe you will be appreciate it as much as I do.

The reasonable person assumption principle

Thought bubbleHow would I respond when my sister is really grumpy and snaps at me for dropping the silverware? Am I going to tell myself that she’s a horrible sister and it would be better to stay away? Or would  I guess that she  had had a tough day at work and a horrible headache?

Naturally I would take the charitable route and realize that there was probably a good explanation when she seemed a little unreasonable.

If a friend at work was gruff and short with me I might try to find it what’s up…  it was not his normal self.

The same attitude is deserved by a stranger. What is different between someone you don’t know and that friend at work? They may just be the neighbor you haven’t met yet.

The Reasonable Person Assumption Principle asserts that people are in general reasonable. Seemingly unreasonable behavior reasonably could have an explanation that isn’t evident but understandable.

The distracted call with the insurance company might have reached someone in the process of adopting two children in a very difficult situation. Another driver was rude because they were on the way to a wedding in an unfamiliar town.

“It isn’t personal.” “How would you like to be treated.” “You’ll have your turn.”

I don’t know what the next person is facing. When I am having a rough time, I hope my failures will not lead to scorn from those who are looking in without seeing my better days.

A civil discourse with people of a different faith, political side, race or national origin can begin when I realize that they are reasonable in the the same way that my sister and co-worker are.

I believe people in general are reasonable. Howevern it’s hard for me to see that when I am sick or angry,  tired or hungry. If I want to help things build up instead off fall apart I need to look beyond my own weaknesses to look for the strength and hope, whenever it may sit.

Zip code ciphers: I Love You

I was talking to a friend. I noticed that his zip code is really close to 32K (32768). I wondered what powers of two have a zipcode.

I found 3:

  • 02048 – Mansfield, MA
  • 04096 – Yarmouth, ME
  • 65536 – Lebanon, MO

It’s amusing that all three are in states that begin with “M”

Next, my mind wandered to representing ASCII strings as zip codes. There aren’t enough zip codes to make this easy. However, I came up with this code for “I love you”

Wilkes Barre, PA; Womelsdorf, PA; Sharpsburg, GA; Deerfield St., Bridgeton, NJ; Cherry Point, NC.

In hex that is 49 0D 4C 4F 76 45 20 79 6F 75.

Heart © THOR (image license)

After hitting bottom

Thought bubbleThere are two ways to look at hitting rock bottom.

One is that you can’t lose any more. “You’re bottom is where you stop digging.” You’ve lost your family, home, career, money, self-respect. What more can you lose?

The other is to treasure anything that you get after the point of crisis. You’ve lost your home, but you’re grateful there’s a shelter that you can stay at. Your family is gone, but you’ve met someone who is willing to pray with you.

The former is a natural attitude toward a bottom. Is the latter grateful attitude more likely to lead to recovery?

Toastmasters

A green thought bubbleToday I went to Club #521’s meeting. I was scheduled to speak but didn’t realize it. They had plenty of things for people to do so it was ok. The vice president education emailed me and encouraged me to come even if I didn’t have a speech.

One of the long time members is leaving to N. California on a mission trip for two years. We’re going to miss him. I believe he belongs to several Fort Wayne clubs.

In a few weeks my club is going to celebrate it’s 70th anniversary. We’re having a dinner to celebrate. I haven’t found anyone to join me at the celebration.

I was on speech team in high school, so toastmaster’s not really much of a stretch for me…. as far as the part about getting in front of a group of people. Doing ok with vocal variety and my level of voice are big challenges for me. I’ve very soft spoken and quiet.

I also struggle with getting presentations done in time to adequately practice them. I wait until the last moment usually.

I turned in my Competent Communicator manual today so I’ll get my first CC award. Last time I was there I didn’t realize that I’d been a member for two years. I’m going to get the two advanced manuals Speaking to Inform and Technical Presentations.

Go to http://www.toastmasters.org to find a club in your area to join!