The Fire Is Still Burning
I greatly enjoyed the subject of the editorial column "Does The Fire Burn And The Wonder Still Exist?" \[May 15, p. 52\]. I believe the reason you do your job well (as it appears to me) is that you have the passion you referred to, and the wonder at new technologies is still quick to surface.
I believe that passion and excellence are nearly inseparable. I do not know of an example of someone who has excelled in a field who is not also passionate about it, and the converse is true. I am not quite sure which comes first, but probably it is a piece of the passion (curiosity? interest?) which drives one to learn, apply, and excel, which in turn seems to pique the interest and thus the passion.
I do not hold myself as an example of excellence, but I do know that to whatever degree I have progressed in my field, it has been due to my passion for both electronics engineering and teaching. I certainly do not do it for the financial reward; there are many more lucrative things one can do. But financial reward does not bring deep personal satisfaction. Studies on this fact are replete. Excelling (or at least doing one's very best) in a field DOES bring deep satisfaction. That's why I continue in the field.
And yes, the wonder is still profound. The more I know about a field, the more wonder I feel each time I read about a new development. This is truly an exciting time to be here!
Barry M. Lunt, PhD
Brigham Young University
With so many of the people I know lusting after getting their IPO millions, I have been wondering if I am the only weirdo left who is interested in getting out beneficial products. Your words make me more hopeful that people like me aren't an endangered species.
Yes, I'm an engineer because I found that what I like most is making things that do something useful. (I started out with a degree in physics.) Sure, I like making an engineer's salary. And, I wouldn't mind at all if I became rich because of one of my designs. But if I became independently wealthy tomorrow, I feel confident in saying that I would still want to be making useful things the day after. (Okay, maybe a few months after. A good vacation would be nice too.)
I am looking forward to finding out how many responses you get like mine—not percentage, but actual numbers. I doubt you will get very many people writing in just to admit they are doing what they are just for the bucks, no matter how true it may be.
The fire is still there for me, though it has been burning rather low lately. You have fanned the flames a bit and helped remind me why I'm doing this stuff.
The Computer As An Appliance
Your editorial "Can Computers Be Made As Easy To Use As Appliances?" \[May 29, p. 46\] brought my 1980 Atari computer to mind. It booted up as quickly as my television set and had just about as many features. I don't believe it's "the industry" to blame, only Microsoft.com. I only use about 5% of the features of any of Microsoft's Windows applications. All of the applications I use during a typical computer session could fit in a ROM pack or Flash card, if their features were limited to the ones I normally use. If the Atari's 6502-based board was replaced by a modern one running, say, 400 MHz, it would probably boot in the time it takes the CRT to warm up. I know I must sound like Bob Pease here, but it's my honest opinion.
Joel G. Altman
You mention the two-minute boot-up time for your PC. The problem, as I see it, is misapplication of technology. The Commodore 64 must have had the slowest disc drive interface ever devised, yet my son's C64 can boot up and load the Geos GUI from floppies and get into something useful faster than my Pentium can load Windows and get into an application!
I still use DOS-based applications for most of my work, and keep them on a separate computer to keep them safe from Windows and from Internet viruses and hackers. The programmers' text editor I use most has a point-and-click interface, as does my PC-board CAD, EPROM programmer, and others. But, they are DOS-based. They load and run much, much faster than my Windows applications, they're easier to use, they don't crash, and I have more control with them.
The computers you dream about exist already. They are called MacIntosh computers! They have been using USB as their exclusive low-speed I/O bus for about two years now, in case you haven't noticed. They have had PCI exclusively for some time now and have IEEE-1394 (Firewire) on most of their recent machines—a step forward in higher speed communications. And they have "instant on," something of a more friendly user interface, etc., etc.
Your magazine equates PC to "Wintel Computer," a rather myopic view and one, as a reader, I find somewhat annoying. If you and your magazine would equate PC to "personal computer," you would greatly expand your horizons. Many of the "breakthroughs" you announce have existed on personal computers for some time, just not on Wintel machines.
So, unless you would like to remain in Microsoft's pocket, unconsciously I hope, many of your readers would appreciate a broader view of the personal computer industry.
Nicholas Pisarro, Jr.
Aperture Technologies Inc.