Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues











Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues









Last Two Issues








Last Two Issues










Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues












Last Two Issues









"History is just people doing things"


                 ISSN 1087-2302   Online Edition Number 298......October 2020

Published since 1985 for clients and contacts of 
ABQ Communications Corporation, the fuzzy focus

of The ABQ Correspondent is "the impact of new 
technology on society." If you'd like to receive email 
notification when each monthly issue is posted, please 
let us know.   correspo at swcp dot com



IBM (you know them) and ProMare (a non-profit research organization interested in things underwater,…mostly deep underwater) have announced the launch of a solar-powered, unmanned trimaran that will after some months of sea trial cross the Atlantic on its own, roughly following the path the Mayflower took on its voyage in the early 1600s. The ~50-foot vehicle will be loaded with instruments for measuring all sorts of interesting things in and above the ocean along the way, and will even carry a small vehicle that can move off on its own to investigate things of interest. This is a smart system, able to detect hazards and opportunities and take action without guidance from a remote human pilot. IBM and ProMare have already posted a website that will let us all receive updates on the voyage. Safe travels to the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS)! 

Within the same week a Stockholm-based company, Wallenius Marine, announced its plan to launch in 2024 a sailboat…well, a ship powered by the wind…capable of carrying 7000 automobiles at a time from one port to another. The sails are not canvas, and the 260-foot masts are not tall sticks, but telescoping structures…no yardarms, sheets, booms, ratlines, etc. This is all very impressive high-tech stuff.  Wallenius knows a thing or two about designing, building, and operating ships that carry thousands of cars at a time. They have been in that business for decades, so this isn’t just pie-in-the sky speculation. The object is to reduce carbon emissions by 90%, which seems wholesome. 

Doubters point out that the ship will be a lot slower (say 12 days in an Atlantic crossing, instead of eight) and the amount of capital tied up for the extra time…not just in the ship and its operation, but in the valuable cargo…may make it economically impractical…quite apart from concerns about being becalmed in the Sargasso Sea from time to time. Wallenius says it has thought about that and are proceeding anyway.

This isn’t the first approach in modern times to harnessing wind power in a new way. There were a lot of experiments with “rotor ships” in the 20th Century, chiefly the work of an interesting guy named Anton Flettner, and people have talked more recently about hybrid systems using Vertical Axis Wind Turbines (VAWTs) powering electrical motors to drive conventional ship propellers. Not much seems to have come of that after a lot of effort. One hopes for better from the Oceanbird sailing ship. We shall see.



We’ve seen intriguing reports on work at Imperial College London, the University of Vienna, and RMIT University in Australia about production of a substitute for leather…using fungus. Not so much the buttons you’d cook for dinner, but the mass of fibrous material that connects circles of mushrooms underground. It’s possible to grow significant quantities of that stuff on sawdust or other organic material, to harvest it, clean it, and press it into a sheet that is very leathery. Without the use of toxic chemicals or non-biodegradable materials you can make of that sheet anything you can make from an animal hide. Indeed, you can see pictures of products made from such sheets…a watchband, a designer bag, even a pair of shoes. So far, so good. No need to be mean to animals, but what are we going to do with all those the hides unless we suppress meat eating at the same time we increase artificial leather production? The stuff is biodegradable and has all the good characteristics we wish for in environmentally friendly products. Still…how fast will those shoes biodegrade if I walk through a puddle in them? Will the dog eat the designer bag? One suspects that the dogs haven’t eaten my leather belt largely because it is loaded with bad-tasting toxic chemicals…and so on. Will your Rolex be lost if you fall in a lake? It’s not easy, probably not even possible to change one element in a system, mechanical or social, without affecting everything else. Fortunately we have some time to prepare for the effects of fungal leather (the tannery industry must already be drafting legislation to forbid the application of the term “leather” in any form to anything but processed animal skin…it’s a miracle we still get away with references to peanut butter in spite of the dairy industry) because nobody has yet scaled up production of the fungi to an industrial level. It can surely be done, but don’t hold your breath.   




The Correspo has touched more than once on developments in the “exoskeleton” field, systems that augment a person’s ability to lift heavy things…or even just walk. A recent look shows interesting progress. A re-visit to Ekso Bionics shows practical progress, refinement of their system, making it better and cooler.  Sarcos Robotics demonstrates a their awkward-looking-but-gee-what-it-can-do Guardian XO. You don’t appreciate it until you realize the man is casually lifting three car batteries with one hand. (Look also at the video of their Guardian S remote inspection system that can crawl...or move like a sidewinder.)  And just for a vicarious taste of crazy power, see what Furrion Exo-Bionics is doing with its giant system.



We’d never thought of lamps as “inflatable” …or not. The concept just never came up.



Associate Dar Scott has been working on novel audiology equipment for a client and has been learning a lot about human listening systems. He has shared some of that: 

“We know the ear spectrum analyzer has tuning forks for the interesting frequencies. The frequency separation of the forks determines the frequency resolution of that spectrum analyzer. Right? Nope. The ear is physically reconfigurable. The frequency response of each tuning fork in the ear can be tuned by a tiny muscle at the base. The ear can tune to sustained sounds for detailed analysis and it can be tuned to various frequency bands depending on the situation. It especially does this to detect unusual sounds. This is why the experienced machinist can hear a tiny wobble of a squeal in a machine at the other end of the loud shop. This is how the wildlife photographer hears the change in the sound of the waterfall that he is sleeping near when the lions go by. (Pride goes before the fall.) This requires experience, learning. Even we mortals do this. When listening to a note in music, with brain and sometimes ear, we tune to those unusual harmonics so we can detect whether something is amiss.” 





This item from 1996 is brought to mind by stresses

in the movie biz caused by covid concerns that have

dramatically reduced the number of people paying

for tickets in theaters. 



It’s all very well to have fun making movies, but it is necessary also to attract audiences to them, and new promotional tools like the Internet are quickly being pressed into that service. An article by Michael Fisher in ON-Production-and-Post-Production Magazine commented recently that the $10,000 to $100,000 cost of setting up a website for promotion of a film seems like a great bargain. The Web is now full of sites, many genuinely interesting, that give the visitor insights and entertainment connected with new films. Some have links that let you find out where the films are showing locally, and some reportedly make it easy to order tickets online. The part that drives the promoters nuts is their inability to connect their expenditures, website hits, or anything else directly with ticket sales. They know in their hearts that websites are good for them, but hunches are more readily available than data. Exploration of the new medium is full of fun and excitement, more so for those who think a hundred grand is a bargain.


Things have changed a bit in the last 24 years, as

indicated by this lightweight, but useful guide to

promoting movies online in pre-covid 2018. You

don’t need $100k; you need only pay your ISP bill

and enlist the services of a PR person who knows

the ropes to put the technology to work. It still isn’t

clear how to relate specific promotional activity to

ticket sales …except negatively. If you don’t do this

sort of thing, combining it with more conventional

ploys like making sure your actors are interviewed

in the media just before the film’s release, you just

know you’ll regret it.

The business of making movies and showing them

to paying customers has been turned upside down

and inside out by technology in recent decades. It

even seems not quite right to call productions

“films” these days, and some of us wonder what

reward there is in watching Lawrence of Arabia

on a smartphone. Even on an eight-foot television

screen covering a living room wall, the big spectacle

blockbusters don’t provide the zip they did in a

theater full of excited people reacting to the


It isn’t just entertainment that’s affected.

Advertising is becoming even more complicated.

Quartz comments: “Companies that depend on TV

ads will have to adapt to a rapidly changing media

landscape or risk irrelevance…”

Only slightly apropos of this; there’s a world of

movie production in India of which most Westerners

are quite unaware...not only Bollywood, but the

Punjab movie establishment. It’s, colorful, energetic

and prolific. I just watched the full 2-hour,

12-minute production of  Goreyan Nu Daffa Karo

(which Google Translate renders as “Don’t Beat the

Whites”) online. It’s full of big stars, music, dance,

comedy, drama, and social import. (The two-minute

trailer can be seen here). Given my non-existent

Hindi, I didn’t understand anything, including the

plot. The movie is of interest because the surprisingly

grey guy playing “Albert,” who is or is not to be

beaten, is my kid brother Terry. The movie was a big

hit and there’s talk of a sequel to be shot in Vancouver.

Ter expressed both regret and relief that he wouldn’t

be going to Amritsar again for the shoot (long airplane

rides are hard on his back after those years turning

backflips in the gorilla suit in The Banana Splits), but

he’s assured that the premier would be in Punjab,

and he’d be there. He looks forward to the possible gig.

Rapidly changing technology surely affects the

production and distribution of films there as elsewhere.

Maybe we’ll all learn something. 


Nobody’s a nobody.


After some years of working and reworking, this has become a real book, via Lulu Publishing. The blurb on the back (under a picture of the author looking unnaturally cheerful) says:

 “This book is Nels Winkless’s wry look at his half-century-and-more as a “professional outsider” writing, editing, interpreting, presenting new ideas, and serving as a sounding board for interesting people who have influenced some of the major technical developments of the era. While fascinated by the dazzling advance of technology, he’s most intrigued by the savage resistance people have to every sort of change, making technical progress virtually miraculous, and he suggests an explanation for this puzzling conflict.
   His recollections of the work and people are often funny, sometimes painful, and usually surprising.


ISBN: 978-0-557-05785-6                        Review(s)               Available at


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