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--Links T r u i s m s s m s i u r T

"Is this a "Blog" Daddy? Huh, huh, is it Daddy?".

  Are We having Fun yet?
The secret to learning is known to every child below the age of five. All too soon the public schools rob them of that knowledge. _Bummer!

That Secret is so simple that when we hear it we say, "yea, of course," and quickly forget it and move on. 

When I first joined the faculty of the ECE Department I was warned to never use the words, "Fun" or "Play" when talking with the other faculty members about teaching techniques. All too soon I found out the truth of that warning, also to never ever mention "Hobbies," in the same vein.

By now you've figured out that the ‘great’ secret to learning, it is to "Enjoy" learning, to have Fun learning, and, yes, even Play. _Especially Play!

Curiosity, genuine Curiosity, about the subject is a powerful motivator to learning. I believe if one can determine what a person is the most curious about, that is the subject they will have the least trouble learning.

It has been my experience that learning by way of a Hobby is the easiest and the most 'Fun' way to learn, it adds the important ingredients of curiosity and enthusiasm, without which, learning can be "a tough row to hoe." Of course, IQ doesn't hurt, but curiosity and enthusiasm act as very large multipliers.

All of this is by way of saying, in order to make it through a tough course, turn it into a Hobby! And, begin before you start the course...  


-Peace of Mind
-A Father's Instructions for Life
-The Perfect Design
-The Use of Words (stories)
-As A Man Thinketh by James Allen
-What's Truly Important  (read warning)
What Goes Up, Must Come Down
Don't let Your Fingers Do the Walking
The 5% Solution
Time Please
An old Broom still Sweeps Best
Kiss me you Fool
TV Repair, the Right Way
Sounds like a Broken Washing Machine to me
A Woman Troubled with Break-ins
KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)
Thomas Alva Edison and the Light Bulb
Damn, the Smokies are Everywhere
The Pen is Mightier than the...
Those Can't be Real
No Sweat
My Way is Best or Bust 
To Use or Not to Use a Microprocessor
Hardwired: Soft-headed
If You Don't Think Too Good 
Boy, am I Satisfied with that Design!
That's Too Hard 
Being the Best isn't Always the Best 
Hey! That's My Idea, I Thought of That
It is All Things to All
The Heartbeat of America
Famous Last Words
Last and Least
First Lieutenant Syndrome
Answer the following questions
The Emperor Has No Cloths
Dimensions of Steps
Mind Blowers
Soliton Pulses
& Dispersion-Shifted Optical Fiber
Short Pulse

-"Engineering is the Art of Doing, with what's Available"-
..What Goes Up, Must Come Down
Henry Ford had a simple, but BRILLIANT idea on how to keep Industry "Honest" and prevent them from Polluting the Nation's Waterways.

His Idea was to Require that Industry discharge waste water upstream from their freshwater intake. 

..Don't let Your Fingers do the Walking
How about the Architect who built a high-rise office building complex and did not install  sidewalks?

He only planted grass--and he was roundly criticized: "What could he have been thinking?" 

Six weeks later he returned and installed sidewalks--right where the tenants had worn  pathways: taking their route, not the architect's. 

..The 5% Solution
Or, how about ARCO? Los Angeles needed to further reduce auto pollution, over and above the California standard, and do it cheaply. To reduce emissions just one or two percent more--if possible --would create an enormous financial burden, not to mention technical difficulty. 

ARCO's solution: instead of trying to "ring-out" that last one or two percent from all of the newer modern automobiles; they bought up and destroyed  3000, Old model, polluting automobiles. 

Since one old car put out 30 times the pollution of a modern auto, it was the same as removing 90 thousand modern autos from the streets. Or, it is like reducing every modern auto's pollution--in the city of LA--by roughly five additional percent. It only cost between 3 and 4 million dollars. Want to guess how much it would cost--us all--to further reduce modern automobile's pollution by 5%?

Time Please
A factory owner in a small town in the mid 1950s was retiring. 

That day he picked up the phone and spoke to the operator, as he had done every weekday for the past twenty years. She recognized him as, “that nice polite voice” that called a little before noon for the time. He told her that he was retiring and that he wanted to thank her for all the years she had given him the correct time without once complaining. She said that she was glad to do it, although she wondered sometimes, why he didn't do as she did, just set the clock when the factory whistle blew at noon.

The Perfect Design
The only perfect design was chronicled in Oliver Wendell Holmes poem "one-hoss shay," about the Deacon's indestructible one horse shay. 

This is about something so near perfection in design and implementation, that nothing ever broke or wore out. Until on its 100th birthday it all fell to dust. No single part or material was weaker or stronger than any other: thus when any part failed they all failed. 

Try topping that! 

This one deserves a Category all its Own!
  In an Oregon middle school a number of girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom, where they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints. 

   The Principal decided that something had to be done, so she called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the custodian. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it was to clean the mirrors, she asked the custodian to clean one of the mirrors. He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it into the toilet and then cleaned the mirror.  Since then there have been no lip prints on the mirrors.

  --There are teachers and then there are Teachers...

This one Also deserves a Category all its Own!
Engineering Solutions in the Darndest Places
(An old Broom still Sweeps Best)
A friend, who is a Physical Therapist, visited a new patient who lived out in the country; an elderly lady with limited mobility who used an old broom for support in getting around. The old broom was bowed from years of use. To replace the old broom, my friend set about finding the right "appliance" among her arsenal of canes, walkers, etc. As she would try what seemed appropriate, things were steadily going down hill; everything she tried seemed to only make things worst.

Ultimately my friend, who is very good at her job, decided that the patient really knew best what "Worked," so she returned the old bent broom to her.

This is a Great example of the definition of Engineering: Finding the BEST Solution for the Problem! And most importantly, being open to all possibilities in finding that solution!


TV Repair, The Easier Way: 
In my younger days, I use to repair television sets for a living. But I gave it up after a short time because of the stress of dealing with my customers. Years later, a friend and I were comparing notes about our days as TV repairmen. I related how it really bothered me, when returning a set to the customer's house, usually in the daytime, and how the "lady of the house" would say how the picture had been so much better before the set broke and before I worked on it --no matter what the problem had been. 

  My friend said that had also been his experience. but that he had found a surefire cure that worked every time. He described how he would get behind the set, and while turning the Vertical Hold control--rolling the picture first one way and then the other--he would ask the Lady of the House to look at the "pictures" and tell him which picture looked the best. At this point she would get real serious and tell him: "no ... no ... go back one; one more... That's it ... No ...back one more. Oh ... yes... that's it ... that's it ... a perfect picture!" 


Sounds like a Broken Washing Machine to Me
On kwajalein, Island--somewhere in the pacific ocean--an engineer friend of mine, who was married and living in dependent housing, had a problem with his washing machine. It made a strange noise, and he couldn't diagnose it. Since he lived in the middle-of-nowhere, he mailed a tape recording of the strange sound to the manufacturer. After a couple of weeks, in the return mail, he received the correct part with instructions. 


A Woman Troubled with Break-ins 
A young woman, living alone in New York City, was continually having her apartment broken into. Each time there was a break-in she would add one more door lock, but to no avail. At seven locks, she got the bright idea of only locking some of the locks and leaving the others unlocked. It worked! No more break-ins: The burglar would unlock the locked locks, but would lock the unlocked locks.

In 1836, Congress wanted to close the Patent Office;  it said, "everything that could be invented, had been invented; there was nothing else left to invent."

K I S S  (Keep It Simple Stupid) 
Any "Yo Yo" can make it complicated. More than likely, the simpler the solution: the smarter the designer. Simple is Beautiful. 


Thomas Edison and the Light Bulb: 
Once upon a time in the East, Thomas Alva Edison had a, newly hired, young engineer determine the volume of one of his light bulbs. The young engineer went off with calipers and notepad in hand to do the task. Three days later he returned with the answer--carried to the 3nd decimal place.

Edison took the bulb, broke the neck off, filled it with water, then emptied it into an empty beaker. And, comparing the results, he held up the beaker alongside the answer written on the engineer's notepad, and asked, "Aren't the answers about the same?" They were nearly the same. He told the young engineer that sometimes the simple way is more than ample, and other times it isn't, and the trick was knowing which was which. 


Damn, the Smokies are Everywhere
In fighter competition between the services, because their--million-dollar--Hostile Warning Systems in their multi- million-dollar airplanes, were less than reliable: some F-4 pilots went out and bought $100 "Fuzz-Busters" to detect "enemy" lock-on. 


The Pen is Mightier than the...
During the Apollo program, NASA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars developing an ink pen that would write reliably in zero-g.  The Russians, facing with the same problem, used pencils.
-From: Larry Boyers


Those Can't be Real
Some sophisticated aircraft simulators use a $10 million dollar Cray computer to generate real-time graphic images for the pilots. However, there are some simulators that use a remote controlled TV camera that dollies on X & Y overhead rails in a diorama. These images are as realistic (sometimes, more so) than the $10 million system--at a fraction of the cost. 


No Sweat What looks easy, may be easy, ... or Not! 
Underestimating a project or design can be disastrous, not only to the project, but to you, your reputation as a designer, and the horse you road in on. I keep on learning the same lesson: if it looks like "Duck Soup," it is more often NOT! 



My Way is Best or Bust! 
Most problems can be solved in more than one way. And, every way has some advantages and some disadvantages. Optical solution is great, except it may have a problem with ambient light; magnetics are also great, except unexpected stray magnetic fields can cause you grief. Use thermistors, "yea, that's the ticket," except ambient temperature is a problem, and on it goes... 

Remember the old saying: 
  "When all you have is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail."


To Use or Not to Use a Microprocessor 
Use the technology or scheme that is appropriate for the problem at hand. Be careful that you're not guilty of having an idea looking for a home. 

Now having said that: if you do find real justification for using a computer in your design, and if there is spare computing power left over: there is a phenomenon of force multiplication--a step function of efficiency, if you will--whereby all new functions to be added to the "system" are virtually free. This is a very powerful concept! 


Hardwired: Softheaded 
Look at your design from several view points: think of the design in terms of its expected lifetime; future costs of production; revisions of present and future functions, etc. Ask yourself: "Self, am I designing a million dollar dead end?" Often I can "do a job" faster, using hardwired "stuff," and avoid the time consuming design of a microprocessor based system with its necessary lines of code; and, it may be absolutely the right approach. However, I may pay a fatal penalty for that "speed to market." I can--and have--ended up with a "house-of-cards," that will come tumbling down around my neck--and other body parts. Dedicated or hardwired is not flexible, if it were, one would call it softwired. Ten pounds of shit in a one pound bag is sometimes possible, but where do you put that eleventh pound that invariably shows up? 


If You Don't Think Too Good, You Shouldn't Think Too Much 
When you have a design problem: The first thing you don't do is read how others did it. The first thing you should do is several preliminary designs, using only yourself as a resource. This approach--while seeming counter intuitive--will pay off big time! You will get insights into the problem that using "cookbook" solutions prevent. Einstein said, to him, reading stifled original thought. Though most of us are below Mr. Einstein's level of competence--in his field, or pasture--he did have a point. Once you have an idea you like, it is very difficult to think of other ways to do the same thing. But the trick is to think of all the ways of accomplishing the task, before you pick a favorite. 



Boy, am I Satisfied with That Design! 
At the design stage: when you have a design that you are satisfied with, you stop thinking about it in a critical or adversarial way. In fact, you become blind to its faults, and defensive if anyone scrutinizes it with a critical eye. Hence: Design Reviews. You have to have them, to find the land mines that the designer invariably overlooks--before he steps on it. 


That's Too Hard 
Sometimes we don't change or improve a design for some pretty dumb reasons: something as simple as not having the part, and being too Damn lazy to order it; or "Gee, that's too much trouble, I'll have to re-draw that whole thing..." I'm not suggesting that These are conscious articulated decisions, they are more like underlying motives. You must guard against listening to that still small voice coming from your left shoulder (Satan), but must, instead, listen to the little guy on the right shoulder (Angel). 



Being Best Isn't Always Good Enough 
It is not always the best technical idea that is chosen: either by management or the buying public. As a kid I believed that if you built the better mouse trap, the world would beat a path to your door. Say, I better remember that, I might have just coined a phrase. In this life the idea chosen from the several out there, are usually chosen based more on political considerations than on technology--or common sense for that matter.



Hey! That's My Idea, I Thought of That 
A lot of people think of the same idea, but usually only one person takes it to the "Market Place." Don't get caught up in the "What If," syndrome. You can bet: of those ideas you say, "Gee I thought of that...," You can pretty-well bet, there are several other people out there who probably had the same idea, and, like you (and me) they too--just stood there. However, you should be proud of the fact that YOU--independently--had an "original idea." This is good! 



And, the next time you come up with a "good" idea, don't just stand there--do something! As I look back over my fifty-mumble years, there are few things that I regret having done; but, I can tell you: there are a bunch of things I regret having not done! But, it's like when the eager young reporter was interviewing an elderly farmer--in northern Maine--asked, "Have you lived here all your life?" The old man replied: "Not yet!" 


It is All Things to All... 
Behind DOOR # 2, is the trap of designing your "widget" to do or be everything to everybody. Or you make eighteen different models for all those customers--you know who I mean, those customers that live mostly between your ears. The point is, know your market, and one model, aimed at the largest demographic first. Don't just imagine who's out there, know who's out there and what they want, and will buy. Don't give them what you want them to have: give them what they want. 



The Heartbeat of America 
The path to the poorhouse is littered with thousand-dollar electronic stethoscopes (>250 at last count), that doctors didn't want. They learned all their sounds in medical school on old run-of-the-mill acoustic stethoscopes, these Hi-Fi sounds meant nothing to them. Gee, did anybody ask the doctors -- other than Dermatologists--if they really wanted, or needed, or would ever use these things? 


Famous Last Words 
"All my friends think its a great idea." "I think I'll go borrow lots of money, setup a production line, hire lots of people, manufacture it and sell it--to all my friends--both of them." 



First Lieutenant Syndrome 
In the military, when one becomes a Second lieutenant, they are recovering from OCS, and have mixed emotions about their self image and what it means, being an officer. But, by the time they become a "First lieutenant," they think they have all the answers, and become a real Shit! Their main problem is they have no idea what there is to know, and how very little of it they know. If they are real lucky, by the time they make Captain or Major, they will have had enough encounters with the sharp edges of the "Real World," that they will be worth, not shooting

Gee...Does anybody see an analogy here? Could he be talking about recent graduates? Who made him say that? ... Satan? 


Answer the following multiple choice questions:

57.. Succeeding in technology will depend most, on your: 
  A ____ Communications skills 
  B ____ Technical competence 
  C ____ Making like a 110 ohm resistor (Br Br Br) 
  D ____ High GPA & Graduate degrees 
  E ____ All of the above 
  F ____ Twelve 



The-Emperor-has No-Cloths
Good, understandable writing, is more important to personal advancement, than knowledge in your field... What a Bummer! But it's true. No matter how Brilliant you are, or think you are; Or how big a "Bull Shit Artist" you are--or think you are--you will be judged first by your writing. Perception is everything: if you sound intelligent; therefore, it follows: you must be intelligent. Somewhere your fifth-grade english teacher is laughing out loud! 

All you require to succeed in life is your sheep-skin, a word processor/speller, and a laser printer. 


Dimensions of Steps 
People who design steps seem somehow to do a poor job. The stride of the average user is rarely taken into account: the height of the step, or its depth, or both dimensions, seems--more often than not--to be wrong. A classic example are the steps on the campus of NCSU leading to Haroldson Hall--in front of the library. These steps were designed to look esthetically pleasing, but they were a disaster. They were dimensioned such that you ended up stepping up or stepping down with the same foot. Eventually someone got smart, and "mashed" the steps down into an incline.

      Another old saying:
                         "If it wont Run, Chrome It"    (for you marketing guys)


Right now, there is a technology revolution going on in bandwidth and data storage. When I first read the numbers, I thought I had picked up an April-first issue of the magazine. Up until several years ago, 1.5 Gbits/s was about the maximum data rate. That was over a fiber link that had to be repeated every 20 kilometers. The repeaters were buildings with large bays of equipment to convert the received light waves into electrical pulses: demultiplex, check for and correct errors; reformat and re-multiplex the data; and again modulate as light onto the next 20 km span, and so on... until it reached its destination(s).


Soliton pulses & Dispersion-Shifted Optical Fiber 
A Soliton pulse is a very short and intense burst of light, lasting less than 80 psec, at a wavelength of ~1330 nm. When a Soliton pulse is applied to Dispersion-Shifted optical fiber, there is a nonlinear response by this special optical fiber to this intense light. The equation defining this nonlinear response has two dominant factors: one that intuitively says the 80psec pulse will get longer or stretch over time and distance (reducing the data rate); the other factor predicts the spreading of the bandwidth of the signal (increasing the data rate). As long as the Soliton pulses' level stays above some minimum level, both arguments of the equation remain valid, and cancel out. The Bell Lab researchers state that a Soliton pulse has not reached its ideal form until it has traveled at least 6000 km. 


What Light Through Yond Window Breaks, it is the...
Now along comes Soliton pulses, Dispersion-Shifted fiber, and Erbium-doped optical-fiber amplifiers. And, the world will never be the same again! AT&T/Bell labs has not only demonstrated, but is delivering: optical fiber systems with data rates exceeding 25 Gbits/sec at over 19,000 km, with error rates <10 -10 errors (pseudo random sequence, with no error detection or correction coding). Think about it: that's 25 9 bits/sec, or 3.1 billion bytes per second, or about 780 bibles (old and new testament) per second, or five music CDs per second, or a full-length movie every 21 seconds--you name it: its "Gang Busters." 

Instead of massive and expensive repeaters spaced every 20 km, Eribium-doped optical amplifiers are used to amplifier or boost the light signal (regardless of encoding or protocol being used) about every 30 km to 100 km. The Erbium-doped optical-fiber amplifiers are 30 meters of coiled optical fiber, a 10 - 15mW IR LASER diode (~1330nm) and a few assorted optical filters and beam splitters--and fits in a container smaller than a lunch box. And, if that wasn't enough: these optical amplifiers have Bandwidths of > 40THz. 



Short is Good 
Also, recently a LASER diode pumped Fiber Optic LASER has been demonstrated yielding pulses as short as 17 femtoseconds. Boys and Girls, that's fast! 1 fsec is to one second, as 1 second is to ~32 million years. Another way to view a femtosecond: light travels around the Earth ~7.5 times in one second; take one sheet of paper, divide its thickness into 170 parts: that is the distance light travels in 1 femtosecond.

More-Mind Blowers!
Data Storage CD ROM about to increase in density from ~600Mbytes to >18 Gbytes by  using shorter wavelength LASER diodes (visible red, green, and soon blue; and eventually, ultraviolet). 

In 1994, Bell Labs has demonstrated a 3.5 inch hard drive with 50,000 Mbytes of storage. That is equal to a box of DD/DS 3.5 inch floppies, nearly 8 feet on a side (an average room). More recently, they have demonstrated density ~ 45Gbits/in 2

50 Gbits/sec data rates, on optical fiber, operating at distances up to 19,000 km @ error rates < 10 -10,  No Errors!  --using Soliton pulses on Dispersion-shifted optical fiber with Erbium-doped-fiber optical amplifiers every 30km to 100km. --More recently: No repeaters were required!

Optical Amplification, yielding Bandwidths > 40-THz, using Erbium-doped fiber pumped by 1330nm a 15mW diode LASER. 

Optical fiber LASERs yielding pulses of 17 fsec pulses. 17 fsec = 60 Tbits/sec = 1.8 million bibles/sec = 12,500 CD/sec = 115 movies/sec ... 

ASICs: > 1 million transistors that can be developed on PCs, by an individual in his "garage." 

CCD imagers with dynamic ranges: > 90db at room temperature; and quantum efficiencies: > 90% when chilled. Film used by astronomers has a quantum efficiency ~ 0.001%

PIEZO material operating at acoustic frequencies > 1000 MHz 

A >1000 MIPS desktop computer for about $3500 (RISC, SUN SPARK Station, etc.). 

Windows machines (WinTel) operating with  similar power, at a quarter the price. 

Digital HDTV 

Digital Consumer Camcorders 

Consumer GPS Receivers < $100

Wireless computing 

Digital, DBS Cellular telephones  --GOD Help US!

Did you hear the one about the Antenna Engineer?
Future Subjects: 
1) Samuel Morse, a painter, invented the Morse Code; Printer's Devil; Entopy Coding / Huffman Coding; Morse Code:  E = "dot"

2) MATS Pilots & Omni Range Nav instrument's Donut needle
3) Remember OHM's Law, USAF


   Bad Designs


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