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 304......April 2021

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



For many decades (surely more than a dozen) people have noticed that a lot of energy goes to “waste” (well perhaps it’s powering psychic activity in some way obscure to us) and a lot of thought has been given to making practical use of that energy. The closest we’ve come on a useful scale is probably in systems like hybrid cars. We spend stored electrical energy and use fresh internal-combustion energy to get the car up the hill. Then, when coasting down the hill (or applying brakes) we can drive generators to pump up the battery a bit. Not wholly satisfactory, but a step in the right direction. A couple of different ideas have shown up online recently, of interest because there are a many applications now (e.g. phones and lighting) that don’t require a whole lot of power, and batteries for storing the power are better than they used to be  One of these extracts energy from specially treated wood (piezoelectric flooring), which is appealing, because you don’t have to do anything “extra” to produce power…you’re walking on it anyway, or the dog is, or a bowling ball is rolling on it, with a big burst at the end if you happen to hit any pins, or people walking through a dark hallway provide the energy to light it.  The other produces energy from friction between moving water and a solid. The demo in the video uses water in a small tube sloshing between electrodes…looks like a lot of work to make those LEDs flash, but the motion could be provided by ocean waves or movements of a vehicle. See some explanation here. It’s hard to forget the adage that a penny saved is a penny earned.



Tires for vehicles like cars and bikes don’t seem to change very rapidly…maybe just an illusion, because they look the same while big changes in materials and structure are going on inside. I haven’t bought any white sidewall tires in ever so long, and the very idea of “tubeless tires” (introduced to the market in the ‘50s) still seems strange and improbable to some of us. In recent years we’ve seen articles talking about the automobile tire of 2050, not really very long hence, but until just the last few weeks the popular media haven’t found the topic exciting. Suddenly, things have changed, all because of the photos of the tracks of the Perseverance on Mars. The wheels of that exploring vehicle are not pneumatic and it doesn’t even seem to carry a spare. Who’s gonna change a flat on Mars? The tires on Perseverance are modified from those on Curiosity, which are visibly wearing out after nine years of driving about fifteen miles around the Martian surface. That’s not very impressive mileage, but temps may get to 200°C, and the terrain is notably rough. The excitement arises from the next tire NASA has developed. The thing is apparently woven of nitinol, stuff that has fascinated nerds for many years, but has found few practical applications…none mass-market. The first earthbound applications for NASA’s new wheels will probably be on bicycles. Who’d have thought?





This ship tunnel just seems like a charming. if obvious, idea. 



This speculation on the nature of time (which seems not especially startling) may help to ease a concern that has long been nagging: If you hop into a time machine and travel back or forward in time just a few minutes, you expect to emerge in the garage in which you keep the machine. However, in those few minutes one way or the other, rotating Earth and the solar system and the galaxy and whatever is next up would have, or will have, moved a gazillion miles, maybe leaving your garage behind. Unless your machine is able to affect every other aspect of its (and your) existence proportionally, you may wind up in a place you don’t like. Dr. Rovelli’s attitude that you’d just be changing your point of view, not really going anywhen, is reassuring.          



The notion of a triplane, with it wings not stacked, but in line is startling, especially with its suggested advantages. The man is suggesting not a new aircraft for the Red Baron, but a structurally different, safer airliner.



We’ve been watching the Boston Dynamics critters grow ever more capable for some years now. Here’s an interesting “evolution of Boston Dynamics critters” since 2012, if you can believe it. And speaking of convincing deepfakes, here’s a video of a robot that fights back against the guys who have been tormenting it with kicks and hockey sticks all these years.



This item from 1985 or early 1986 was brought to

mind by watching my doctor (who is not a

professional computerist) adroitly looking up my

records on a computer in the examination room,

commenting on them, and adding his personal

observations. This was probably not a standalone

computer in the room, but a workstation connected

by wire to the establishment’s central system, but

the fact that it could be either is significant.


The PC Jr. has bitten the dust, personal computer sales are slumping, bankruptcies and mergers are common, and the whole semiconductor business is suffering dramatically. Why? An associate observes that "Everybody who actually likes computer custom, logic, and superstition now has a machine to play with. Everybody who detests that custom, logic, and superstition, but has to use computers anyway, also has a machine. The bulk of the population, with neither interest nor need, continues to avoid buying computers." When computers are disguised as smart typewriters that try to help, as refri­gerators that can suggest good things to do with their contents, as entertainment centers that learn what you like from experience, and try to provide it to you, or as smart cars that tell you specifically what their problems are, and suggest solutions--computers will sell in real numbers. "We've used up all the computer freaks." The market for computers is very limited. The market for machines that help us is immense.

These decades later, the piece still seems sensible,

though the route by which machines that help us

would become ubiquitous was not clear at the time.

That was about six years after the 1979 introduction

of Visi-Calc, a spreadsheet application that is widely

recognized as the first “Killer App.” A killer app is

well described as “an application so useful that it

justifies the cost of the system required to run it.”

The cost of the system to run Visi-Calc was almost

a hundred times the introductory cost of the software

so by 1985, not all of us were clearly aware of the

great historical importance of that product. Note

also that this was a decade or so before the

internet was upon us in earnest.  

Further, the computers at the time were not

point and click graphic control systems like

Windows, but required entry of specific instructions.

The computers themselves had to speed up and add

RAM before the killer apps could be exploited by

Everyman/Everywomen/Everykid. They did that.

Smart typewriters* and smart cars are already

among us, the Internet of Things (a plague upon it)

is fumbling with smart refrigerators, and the

entertainment industry is indeed aggressively

making some good/some bad recommendations for

presentations we might like, based on what we’ve

looked at before.  

What was not obvious to us slow thinkers in the

mid-eighties was that our personal computer would

become part of the internet, a single, mammoth,

all-pervasive worldwide computer upon which we

depend for almost everything.

*For me, of course, the all-time killer app is word processing.

No more retyping (introducing new typos) articles rejected by

editors who had the gall to write on the paper in ink, so the piece

couldn’t be submitted to anybody else. Grrrr.

However, word-processing, as someone has pointed out, did not

arise from microprocessor computing development; it was absorbed

into it. I thought the IBM Selectric typewriter with the ability to

correct typos somewhat laboriously) was a marvel…the Lanier

dedicated word-processor was a lifesaver when it came along, and

the whole series of frustrating little instruction-controlled apps like

the Electric Pencil were encouraging. They led to delightful,

powerful WordPerfect, which has been squeezed out by the

juggernaut Word, full of wonderful capabilities for which one is

grateful along with some infuriating quirks with which we must live.

Maybe something better is coming. Hard to see what.


Everybody is Somebody.


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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