Wetmachine Blog: Hardware

Stories about hardware, electronics, and nanotech

A Bridge to Somewhere

Here’s a four-minute video that chronicles — in a not strictly chronological order — the building of the new San Francisco-Oakland bridge.

Yes, I know the bridge is 24 years late and billions over budget, that many parts of it were made in China, that the story of its building includes lots of venal politics and outright corruption.

But damn, it’s a beautiful accomplishment! Just imagine if we had done projects like this all over the country since the Big Motherfucking Ratfucker-Bankster Implosion (BMRBI) began in 2008! Imagine if we were ruled by decent people instead of “austerity is the answer for everything” knaves & eunuchs (a phrase I borrow from Ezra Pound, btw). Imagine if we put as much love and passion into building our country as we put into blowing up other peoples’ countries!

Ah, well, I’ll get back to gloom and doom in a little bit. For now just dig the video and marvel at what human people can accomplish when we work together.

Also posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Comments closed

Remembering Tom West, the Original Geek Rock Star

I was saddened to learn of the passing last week of Tom West, the engineer/hacker who was the main focus of Tracy Kidder’s 1981 book The Soul of a New Machine. Tom was 71. Boston.com published a nice obituary; there were also notices in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other places.

From the Boston.com article:

 

Thirty years ago, Tom West was thrust into a category of one, a famous computer engineer, with the publication of “The Soul of a New Machine.’’

Tracy Kidder’s book, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and is taught in business classes and journalism schools, chronicled Mr. West’s role leading a team that built a refined version of a 32-bit minicomputer at a key juncture for the computer industry and his employer, Data General of Westborough.

The book’s success turned a quirky, brilliant, private, and largely self-taught man into a somewhat reluctant guru.

 

I call Tom by his first name because I knew him, and that’s what I called him. In fact for a short while early in my career I worked quite closely with him — at the tail end of my four year stint at Data General.

As Soul of a New Machine amply demonstrates, West was a compelling figure. Everybody agrees he was quirky and brilliant; some people have mentioned his  being difficult or “prickly”. I have to say that I don’t remember a prickly side to the man. He could be abrupt, sure. Direct. Economical of speech. But if he had a temper or was harsh or unfair, I either never saw it or have since forgotten about it. I just remember that I really liked him.

Although I can’t claim to have been great friends with the man — I don’t know if he would even have remembered my name — he made a deep impression on me. When I wrote the novella Cheap Complex Devices in 2003 — about twenty years since I had worked with Tom West at Data General — a quirky, brilliant and (I think) extremely funny character named Tom Best showed up all through it. I can’t take much credit for Tom Best’s funny lines, however, since I stole most of them from Tom W. Read More »

Also posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Wetware, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

SXSW Dreaming

The deadline for submitting panel proposals for South by Southwest Interactive kind of snuck up on me. I learned just before midnight last Friday that the deadline was midnight on Sunday. It turned out that I had a bunch of stuff to do on Saturday and Sunday, so only spent a few hours Sat & Sun evening working on my panel proposal. The hard limit for the proposal was 1,500 characters. My first draft was twice as long. So as the clock ticked towards midnight Sunday I took out my trusty machete and started hacking.

I’m not really happy with the final proposal I submitted, but I thought the 3,000 character draft wasn’t that bad. In any event, it’s a panel that I would like to be on, or, failing that, attend.

So anyway, below you’ll find longer draft, the “before machete” version. Soon enough, I hope, you’ll see my “after machete” version on the SXSW website & I’ll bug yzall for your votes. Thanks.

Self-Publishing Novelists 2011: A Report from the Trenches.

We’ve been hearing for a while that new technologies for authoring, designing, printing, publishing, marketing, distributing and consuming books will disrupt the traditional book publishing business model and empower the everyman self-publisher.
Read More »

Also posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Software, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , | Comments closed
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