The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California on May 20, 1989 · 32
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The San Francisco Examiner from San Francisco, California · 32

San Francisco, California
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 20, 1989
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' V T -rrrr s D-2 .WUv. NW20. I9 tn : : t 3 LAWRENCE MAG1D &' RICHARD O'REILLY FILE Faster than ever CPU means new breed of PC ANEW generation of per-koimI computet will be in the stores by the end of the ydar. The new PCs will be twice as fast as today's top-of-the-line models yet will be compatible with the millions of IBM PCs already on the market. What's behind this big improvement in computing? The central processing unit that will run the machines, Intel's i486, CQ, which was introduced last month. r. A CPU, sometimes called the "brains" of the computer, is the chip that performs the computer's actual calculations. It also helps manage the computer's memory and coordinates the activities of all the other chips and circuits. "The faster the CPU, the more quickly a spreadsheet will recalculate a formula and the less time it will take to scroll from page to page in a word-processing program. Fast CPUs enable sophisticated programs, such as those handling computer-aided design, to perform millions of calculations and to produce C( mplex drawings on screen. Fast CPUs also make it easier to run more than one program at a time. IBM's new Operating System2, which is designed to do that, won't even run on the original IBM I Cs because the CPU is not powerful enough to handle its demands. WHEN IBM introduced its PC in 1981, it used the Intel 8088 CPU. Although IBM stuck w ith that chip for several years, it didnt take long for clone companies to discover another Intel chip, the 8086, that operated about 50 percent faster. Today, the majority of IBM PC clones have Intel CPUs. .In 1984, IBM was the first to use an even faster Intel chip, the 80286. IBM used the chip in its now-discontinued AT machines and still qses it in some models of its Personal System2 line. The next PC CPU to come along was the Intel 386, first used by Gmpaq in 1986. Speedy 386 chips an? found in today's state-of-the-art PCs. The i486, Intel's newest CPU, is 5Q times faster than the chip that powered IBM's original PC and twice as fast as the fastest Intel 386 CPUs. One gauge of a CPU's power is the number of transistors that it replaces. The 8088 replaces the equivalent of 28,000 transistors. The 286 does the work of 130,000. The 386 weighs in at 275,000 transistors, while the new i486 makes the quantum leap to about 1.2 mil-fibh transistors. THE I486 is faster in two ways. Along with processing information more rapidly, it can process more information in a given amount of time. Think of an i486 as' a racehorse and a slower CPU, like the 8088, as a turtle. A race horse can move its legs faster and, because its legs are longer, can cover more ground with each stride. On the other hand, there are some programs for the 386 that cannot run on machines with earlier Intel CPUs. That's because the S86 has some unique features that simply were not available in earlier chips. The chip can, for example, manage up to 4 gigabytes, or 4 bil-lioii characters, of memory. That enables it to run programs such as IBM Interleaf, a high-end page Composition program, that require substantially more memory than the older-style machines can provide, pushing them toward obsolescence. Intel says things won't work that way with the i486 because the new chip has the same memory management capabilities as its predecessor. It's very unlikely, says Bill Hash, Intel's 32-bit microprocessor marketing manager, that software companies will write programs specifically for the i486. Still, because of the i486'8 speed, it might be pos: sible to come up with a program for it that would run too slow on a 386 to be practical. Intel stresses the compatibility issue to assure computer buyers t hat their current investment in 386 technology is safe. By Lawrence J. Magid 19 89, Los Angeles Times. Distributed by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate COMPUTER BOOK REVIEW America American Genesis: A Century of Invention and Technological Enthusiasm 1870-1970 Hy Thomas '. Hughes (Viking, $2195, 3-19 pages) By Lee Dembart SPECIAL TO THE EXAMINER THE CENTRAL thesis of Thomas P. Hughes' "American Genesis" is simple and compelling. The most distinctive, impressive and important achievement in American history is not our political system, he says, but our technology. We are a nation of builders. We have created modern technology and the culture that supports it "Inventors, industrial scientists, ' engineers, and system builders have been the makers of modern America," Hughes writes. 'The values of order, system, and control that they embedded in machines, devices, processes, and systems have become the values of modern technological culture." Hughes argues that the modern world is the product of a hundred years of invent ion from 1870 to 1970. It was started by a stellar group of independent inventors Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Lee de Forest and Orville and Wilbur Wright, among others w ho inexplicably emerged in the CARTECH from D-l Corner car, with a view office machines are twice that fast. Additionally, the majority of fax machines use thermally sensitive paper; the shiny sheets work just fine in a climate-controlled office, but they can simply go black when the sun heats up a car's interior. Finally, transmitting or receiving a good, clear document with these machines can sometimes be a bit tricky. Fax on a smooth stretch of road "If you hit a hilly area while your fax is in operation, you can lose the signal," says Herb Johnson, a spokesman for NEC Electronics, which is currently working on its first car fax prototype "We recommend finding a smooth stretch of road for the period the machine is operating. It's a little inconvenient, but we don't think that's too big a bug to iron out." And, adds Jack Gelman, a Cobra vice president, there is one more concern that has absolutely nothing to do with the technology of the new gadgets. "I do worry about people trying to operate the machines while driving," he says. "That would be downright dangerous." While the fax struggles to establish its credibility, the most proven piece of car-office technology the laptop computer is enjoying unprecedented popularity. The 4-to 19-pound units have been on the market since 1983 and have shown themselves to be nearly as versatile as any desktop model. They are packed with as much as 10 mega- DR. CRYPTON'S CHALLENGE WHEN Josephine Fore-brain entered the kitchen, she was not treated to a pretty sight. Isaac, her three-year-old tyke, was seated at the counter, with six open beer bottles in front of him. He had a huge smile on his bright pink face. "What are you doing?" Josephine shouted. "You know you're not allowed in the alcohol." "I'm doing some science experiments." "Science?! I'm not as naive as I look." "A beer, mother dear, is 12 fluid ounces of science, a dramatic interplay of liquid, gas, and temperature." Isaac picked up a salt shaker and shook some into one of the open beer bottles. Bubbles immediately shot to the surface as salt-grain tracers rushed toward the bottom. "Just as I thought: the grains acted as bubble nucleation sites." "Smarty pants," she said. "You think I'll forgive your behavior because you use million-dollar words SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER seesi as a same place and at the same moment in history. In short order, these rugged individuals gave way to scientists at research laboratories sponsored by General Electric, AT&T and other industrial giants. It was a subtle but important change. Big companies tend to favor conformity over originality, improvements in existing products over boldly innovative new ones. The next stage saw the develop-, ment of system builders, people like Henry Ford and Frederick W. Taylor, the creator of scientific management, who organized technologies into units of control. Electric power grids resulted, Hughes notes, ' and so, ultimately, did the Manhattan Project, which created the atomic bomb. "America's creating, building, and systematizing genius reached its zenith in a nuclear enterprise, or technological system, that was a culmination of almost a century of ever-expanding invention, industrial research, and system building that extended from Pearl Street (Edison's first lighting station in New York) to . . . Los Alamos." No one can gainsay the material benefits that the century of inven-tion has bestowed on us. But there was a less-obvious Faustian bargain in the process. . The early shift from independent inventor to industrial scientist f-il l For business folk protective of their bytes of memory, run nearly any software package, and can be tossed into a briefcase and taken. like nucleation?" "I want to show you something really neat," Isaac said, fetching an unopened bottle from the fridge. "When I open this, the temperature in the neck of the bottle will drop to 30 degrees below." Josephine yanked the bottle out of his hands. "I've heard quite enough. You must be really inebriated to make such a chilling claim." Was Isaac drunk? The answer is on the next page. Until next week, this is Dr. Crypton. Yours in pursuit of truth. . Win a Dr. Crypton T-shirt if you 're the first to send me the answer to this bonus challenge: Name a one-word anagram of "berry-bush." Send your answer to Dr. Crypton, do The Examiner, P.O. Box 7260, San Francisco, CA 94120. A T-shirt goes to Phoebe Claw-son of Tacoma, Washington, for -seeing "slithered" in "slid there." e 1989, United Feature Syndicate 1 , ' vfv.SYV ! I Hv- v)r J nation of presaged the loss of individuality that order, organization and control would eventually impose on everyone. Most of us today are cogs in the great economic machine. Hughes doesn't say it, but he might have noted that Japan's ability to beat us at our own game stems in large measure from the greater willingness of Japanese people to be those cogs. In the 1960s, writers like Lewis' Mumford and Jacques Ellul began to call attention to the downside of progress. "Instead of seeing and sentimentalizing the United States as essentially a nation of democratic politics and free-enterprise eco- nomics, the writers and philosophers of a counterculture probed the depth and extent of the mechanization and systematization of America," Hughes writes. "They asked what problems arose from the man-made characteristics of built America, from as Frederick W. Taylor said no longer putting man first, but putting the system first" Hughes, a historian of science at the University of Pennsylvania, writes with sweep and detail He links diverse phenomena like the . military-industrial complex and modern art and architecture with his overall vision that order and control were the inevitable result of technological progress. His is an c J "- k It competitive edge, the car is now one part almost anywhere. Laptop computers, priced as low as $995 and as high as $10,000, are now selling at a rate of 700,000 a year. "Over the past few years, people have become so dependent on their PCs they almost can't do business without them," says Tom Martin of NEC. "This means that if all you've got is a big computer nailed to your desk, you're out of touch as soon as you're out of the office. Laptops let you leave your desk and carry computing power with you." For some manufacturers the next step is to reduce the size of the units even further, taking them from the lap to the palm of the hand. Two small firms, MSI Data in California and Telxon in Ohio, are marketing hand-held computers with the look and heft of a large pocket calculator. Equipped with 1 between 32K and 4 megabytes of memory and an alphabetical-order key-pad, these tiny machines have numerous applications but also numerous limitations. "First of all, you have to finger-peck to input data," says Curtis Stokes of Telxon. "And we don't have the processing speed or power of a 256 machine. But nobody is proposing that these little computers take the place of the laptop; their applications are much more specialized." Tiny hand-held computers Stokes explains that hand-held computers are best used for running what are known as "turnkey packages," which are essentially fill-in-the-blanks data-recording programs. For example, a salesman r' v , - XT!'- ' V j'L:. r; ri ... l ' V Mites epic tale told with a rhythm and cadence that match it The subtheme of the individual versus the world recurs throughout the story. Though it was individuals who kicked off the century of invention, they were quickly supplanted by company men, who , have remained in the driver's seat ever since. Particularly poignant is I lughcs' retelling of the life of Edwin Armstrong, the visionary engineer who invented FM radio, only to be fought by RCA and other entrenched interests, who did not want their substantial investment in AM radio disturbed. After years of legal battles, Armstrong died a suicide in 1954. Hughes takes his story as symbolic of the era. But in the end, he does not abandon hope for a change of direction that will bring new values to the fore while retaining the benefits that mass technology has bestowed. Hughes recognizes that the current system and the forces behind it have tremendous momentum going for them. But, he insists, "Technology can be created and can be deployed that would heighten the quality of life, not simply the quantity of goods." Maybe so. But Hughes' haunting book makes a better case for the problem than it does for the solution. 1 '.FT Jk 'J Z.s .'i . V i vehicle and one part branch office. tXAMIMtH ULEPHOIO might use such a system for checking or tallying inventory; an insurance agent might keep a record of rates and terms. "What we do," Stokes says, "is custom-make software to perform specialized tasks for specialized companies." Although nobody in the industry is certain where all these new technologies will lead, few doubt that the car office will grow more and more sophisticated. Prototype units are already being designed with faxes, phones and computers built together in a single, compact box. The whole system could then be built directly into the dashboard, taking it completely out of the driver's way. Faxes themselves could improve so much in speed and clarity that they'd double as computer printers or copiers. Innovations further down the road will undoubtedly take into consideration the difficulty of driving and working at the same time. Some companies are looking at the idea of doing away with keyboards altogether and developing voice-activated systems. Also on the drawing board are miniaturized video monitors with large touch icons. Deft programming could allow the same screens to be used for teleconferencing and even navigating. "This industry is wide open," concludes David Bergevin of Toshiba. "And how far it will go depends on how bad urban traffic becomes; anywhere you find gridlock you'll be finding car offices." e 1989, Discover Publications, Inc. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate News of the week from the science world The following are new developments in the scientific and medicil worlds, as reported in leading technical journals and compiled by Examiner science writer Keay Davia- son: Institute of Human Origins Newsletter, Spring 1989 " Everyone has heard of using CT (computerized tomography) scanners on medical patients,- but on fossils? Institute scientists are using CT to study the fossilized Ixmes of OH 62, the Homo habills partial skeleton found at Olduvjji Gorge in 1986. The scan will help scientists make a "biomechanical analysis of limb bone strength. This can determine what kinds of stresses the bones were equipped to handle, and thus provide insight into (the creature's) style of walk-ing." ' "For a nation as technologically advanced as the United States, it's mind-boggling that more than 50 percent of Americans don't accept evolution as the expla nation for the diversity of life on this planet," complains an editorial by institute director Donald C. Jo-hanson. 'j it-Science for the , ' People, 289 h A special issue updates the old dispute over environmental causes of cancer. In recent years, the magazine notes, scientists such as UC-Berkeley's Bruce Ames "have contended that environmental pollu1-tion and occupational exposure de not contribute significantly to this country's cancer burden." So the journal presents eight detailed articles on the science and politics of the issue. The magazine concludes: "We should be less concerned with overall cancer rates than with clusters of excess cancer that seem tp be related to environmental or ocr cupational exposure." , "Californians Make Environmental History," says the headline of an article. Its topic; Proposition G5, which voters overwhelmingly approved in 1986. "Even at this early stage of implementation, Prop. 65 has had a profound ihv pact on how toxics are regulated in California," writes Diane Fishes Among other things, the proposition "has created incentives for industry to cooperate in the regulatory process, and to bring itself ino compliance with the law in advance of regulatory action." Science & Government , Report, 51589 Despite evidence to the contrary, sexism persists in American society and at the Mount Olympus of science. "Election of women to the self-perpetuating National Academy of Sciences continues at a dismal trickle," the Washingt&ri, D.C.-based journal says. "The latest intake consists of 56 men and four women, bringing the total membership to 1,573, of whom 5,7 are women." ! Has the government responded sluggishly to allegations -of fraudulent scientific research? In an interview with James Wyngaar-den, the outgoing National IngUr tutes of Health director, he acknowledges that "it's fair to say wp haven't been suspicious enough and aggressive enough in moving jp and perhaps getting the real charges laid out more promptly ... I think we're much more alert tojall these possibilities (of fraud) npw . . , (Recent congressional hearings by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.), as painful as they have been, have nudged us along that course." Proceedings of the National Academy ' of Sciences, 589 ' The United States and Soviet Union have been developing seismic techniques for monitoring each other's nuclear bomb tests. Sucli monitoring is essential to verify compliance with arms-control treaties, but some critics question whether seismic monitoring is reliable. Now Columbia University geologists report that their analysis 6F seismic data indicates the technique is highly reliable and tha't "there is no evidence the USSR has failed to comply" with the Threshold Test Ban Treaty of 1976. m .i , i' V.

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