pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Tue Dec 24 11:01:00 EST 2002

Subject:   Followups

Reader comments about, and addenda to, recent EAS-INFO mailings. I'm
always happy to get feedback from readers, try to respond to them,
and mostly succeed. But for once I thought I'd make it more
official. My thanks to all who contributed. --PJK

[Let me mention a bug in the URLs within the archived copies I refer
to below. Because of an idiosyncratic interaction between my mailer
and that of the archiving computer, any "=" sign in a URL has a "3D"
added after it. I will try to fix this in the near future, but for
now I can only suggest the rather clumsy workaround that if e.g. 
doesn't work, you need to edit out the "3D" after the "=" and use 
If you are reading this in the presently archived form, you'll have
double trouble with the above. Just get rid of the "3D"s. --PJK] -------------------------------------------------------------------


I imagine you have seen this already.  The full-text of Gerry
Sussman's and Hal Abelson's "wizard book" for intro CS:
This site does not appear to be in Google, and I haven't found out
what other books have been released in full-text.  Perhaps they list
them somewhere in the open course ware web sites. (John Frank)

[This site is a nice example of not just a full free text book, but
of the whole idea of a Web site supporting a text with additional
dimensions, increasingly the case even with not-for-free text books. 


I thought this might be supplementally amusing

[This rather personal 11/29/02 EAS-INFO mailing provoked a number of
responses, but didn't make it into the archives because it had an
attachment which the archiving computer appeared to dislike. I can
send you a copy. Let me know.  --PJK]

Heard this on monday and thought you would appreciate it.
The monologue discusses how much or our technology today exists as
black boxes and the problems associated with this reality.  The last
paragraph really says it all for me ...

"How do we teach our students that the boxes around them aren't
Pandora's  boxes -- that they can be opened? How do we teach them
that what one fool  can do, another fool can also do -- that they're
smart enough to open  anyone else's black box? Students have to know
that invention inevitably  means working inside black boxes."
(Robert Grober)
p.s.  make sure you scroll down to the end of the page and ponder the 
picture and its caption.

Your note immediately makes me think of the article by Freeman Dyson
in  a recent issue of the New York Review of Books.
Dyson's take is that the pendulum swings back to the amateurs,
possibly  with profound consequences. (Richard Lethin)

[Cheap computers, digital cameras, etc., all extraordinarily
powerful by the standards of just a few years ago, are unique
enablements for the dedicated amateur. It is fascinating to
speculate about the future prospects, not just in meteorology, the
subject of the book Dyson is reviewing, but in biology and other
fields.  --PJK]

Really enjoyed the Heathkit article. My kids are probably more
enthralled by games than anything else I can think of. Even the
graphing calculator (TI-83) they got for high school math class
accomodates a subculture of down-loadable games, alternative OSs,
compression tools, etc. 
Perhaps there's a niche for a Heathkit-like video game construction
kit? There would actually be much more room for innovation than in
Heathkits: fill in your own icon here, design a new color scheme,
tweak this font, etc. (Andy Bliven)

[As an extension of Andy's comments, let me point to the open source
toy movement, with numerous facets revealed again by google, e.g.
<http://www.robots.net/article/81.html>, <http://www.aibohack.com/>,
though not all is sunshine in open toy land, e.g.
<http://censored.firehead.org:1984/aibo_hack/letter2.htm>.  --PJK]

This email and accompanying article brought back memories.  As
recent  immigrants to the US, my husband and I were frugal and he
believed it  would be cheaper (and more fun) to build our own TV
from a kit. We lived here for over a year without TV - unthinkable
these days. In late 1969 we ordered the kit and I well remember
sorting resistors and all kinds of other little parts with my 6
month old son on my lap. Fortunately he was of a philosophical
nature and not at all interested in electronics so he didn't try to
eat the little pieces. 
We (mainly my scientist husband) and I were able to put the thing
together and it worked well for many, many years. Intriguing that
one could build a color TV by following the well written
instructions. (Gloria Hardman)

We too had Heathkits. My brother assembled a stereo amplifier, which
we used for many years. However, those days are not completely
passed. My 10 year old son, and some of his friends, are assembling
a robot, whose parts arrive in fortnightly installments at the
newsagent. Details are at www.realrobots.com. (Tony Eyers)

[To which I would add that there are other kitbuilding opportunities
'afoot' these days, with varying degrees of specialization, e.g.
<http://www.ramseyelectronics.com/hk/> and <http://www.paia.com/>.
A google search will reward you with further finds.  --PJK]


That is really funny, especially the last item.  it reminded me of
my trip to Tunis this spring.  No matter what you wanted to buy
(candy, milk, taxi ride, shirt, etc.), it involved a negotiation in
which the "optimum" price for both vendor and customer was
determined ... sometimes converging to a sale and other times not.
(Robert Grober)

And another Business 2.0 article about this was here:
(Steve Portigal)
[this about the new field of behavioral economics, which skakes up
the classical economic assumption about consumers acting in their
own best interest.  --PJK]


Hmmm.  If the government "restates" the recession numbers,
do we get to put THEM in jail?
I've known that the numbers are science fiction for months.
Here's my numbers:

1.  Year-to-year 2001 vs 2000, the electronic industry
    dollar revenue is down 33%.

2.  Month-to-month January 2002 vs January 2001, also down 33%.

3.  Caltrans says traffic in San Jose was down 32%.

4.  <Company X> says that sales of their chip design tool
    (which involves a monthly license charge) are down 33%.

5.  Unemployment in Silicon Valley went to 20% last July,
    and stayed at 20% until January 1, 2002.

6.  The reason unemployment didn't go to 33% is that 13% of 
    the population of San Jose went back to Boston.

7.  Things have been getting better since January, at the rate 
    of 1% per month.

8.  The current unemployment rate is 12%.

9.  Those other guy's numbers are WAY wrong.

(Dave Chapman)


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