28 April 2007

Caffeine is the New Nicotine; Books; 3-D

Caffeine is the New Nicotine
It finally struck me at a Madison Avenue Starbucks while waiting for a meeting to begin; people stylishly clickety-clackiting down the street with latte firmly-in-hand, young traders with Blackberry in one palm and macchiato in the other... and very few people smoking.

Coffee is the new addiction. Coffee is what one hand is holding while the other is cellphoning or notebooking.

Well hey, coffee's healthier! It aids creativity! And although recent finance books devote sections to minimizing frequent micro-purchsaes (a.k.a. "the latte factor"), sometimes you really can get out of Starbucks spending less than $5.

Goodbye C10H14N2, hello C8H10N4O2!

A Sentimental and Non-Proprietary Stroll Down Memory Lane
We 3-D visualization folk are moving into a new office and have unearthed some of the pre-history of our 3-D display technology -- the prototype display we built before completely changing our minds about how 3-D displays should work in 2000.

Whereas today's Perspecta Display launches a whopping 100 million 3-D pixels into floating 3-D space from several souped-up projectors and secret algorithms, one of our first 3-D displays used a jury-rigged collection of 64 laser pointers and a heap of breadboarded circuitry to make a tiny image with about 3/100ths the resolution. You gotta start somewhere, right?

Prototype display and a flanneled 1997-era me.

One reason I'm boring you about this, dear reader, is that I can't imagine getting that prototype through airport security lines anymore as we did back in 2000 for a pharmaceutical design conference. We folded the electronics up into a small briefcase:

Which opened up to look fairly James Bondian:

One sentimental aspect of this is that the system's video card (i.e., you actually plugged this board into your PC) is something I happily made from scratch back in 1999. Here's the front:

And the back, an example of the manual PC board prototyping technique called wire-wrapping:

Ah, ISA cards. Now we're using commercial GPUs with enough horsepower to... kill a horse. (Curious about how this display worked?)

In other news,

Thoughtful friends got me a gift certificate to fuel my book-buying addiction. (Thank you, Fergusbergs.) What'd I get?

  • Douglas Coupland, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
  • Frederick Brooks, Jr.: The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering
  • Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
  • Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
  • Melanie Mitchell, An Introduction to Genetic Algorithms


Odd things lingering in the "Read Later" bookmark folder:

There's no green in this photo, honest.

Holo-what, now?

Pseudonymous reader Crispy Fried Polenta posed an optics question that my phalanx of research staffers is working overnight to find answers for. Stay tuned.



Crispy Herb Polenta said...

It's Crispy Herb Polenta, please. Hard H on the Herb, like Herb Caen. The name's Herb, they call me Crispy Herb, and when me and mah posse gets together, Crispy Herb Polenta and the Tabouli Boys will be puttin' down some phat dirty bluegrass, with that classic bass grind of corn meal and the high-strung mando ZING of fresh mint and bulghur. Mark that day in your calendar (pick one, because we haven't got one yet) and we will appear in a blinding flash to rock your world with zest and seasonings!

GEB said...

Re coffee: Personally I'm sticking to the recent study, mentioned a week or two ago in the NYT, that ranked coffee and tea the second-most healthful beverages out there after water. Like, ahead of milk and juice. Yeah, baby...