Talking About the Automat
Original Publication Date: 1979-Aug-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-11
Software Patent Institute
True Seaborn: AUTHOR [+2]
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Talking About the Automat
The Open Channel
The Open Channel is exactly what the name implies: a forum for the free exchange of technical ideas. Try to hold your contributions to one page maximum in the final magazine format (about 1000 words).
We'll accept anything (short of libel or obscenity) so long as it's submitted by a member of the Computer Society. If it's really bizarre we may require you to get another member to cosponsor your item.
Send everything to Jim Haynes, Applied Sciences, UC Santa Cruz, CA 95064.
"Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art."
Charles McCabe San Francisco Chronicle
Ed Yarwood dropped in the other day just before leaving for a new job in Philadelphia. I felt it necessary to remind him of the inscription on W. C. Fields' tombstone.' He brushed that gently aside. Ed is one of our UC Santa Cruz graduates and one of my favorite conversationalists. He had started to major in classical studies before switching to computer science, and thus may be the only computer scientist on this side of the Atlantic (or, at least, on this side of the Charles) who knows how to form the plural of "platypus" correctly. An ability like that can come in handy for a conversationalist.
Mention of Philadelphia reminded me of one of our conversations of some years ago, concerning the existential meaning of the Automat. Automats exist, so I hear, only in New York City and in Philadelphia. I've never been to Philadelphia, nor have I visited an Automat on either of two brief trips to New York. so I can discuss the subject only from secondary information,'' but I think I have an accurate mental picture. An Automat is a restaurant where the articles of food are individually displayed for purchase behind coin-operated glass doors. The food is prepared off-site and staged in an area behind the glass doors, where employees refill the compartments as items are purchased.
From a purely pragmatic standpoint we can treat the Automat as an adaptation of the cafeteria principle. Patrons . . can view the offerings before deciding what to purchase, and they can assemble any desired combination of articles, no matter how improbable. The Automat substitutes random access and parallel processing for the serial pipeline discipline of the cafeteria. Some implications of this manner of processing have more to do with marketing psychology than with queue theory: perhaps the Automat is more attractive to the patron because it lessens the prospect of having to wait in line before starting to eat. But then cafeteri...