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IEEE Computer Volume 15 Number 11 -- THE OPEN CHANNEL Disclosure Number: IPCOM000131555D
Original Publication Date: 1982-Nov-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Nov-11
Document File: 3 page(s) / 20K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Charles McCabe: AUTHOR [+2]


THE OPEN CHANNEL * The soul of a new computer book

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This record contains textual material that is copyright ©; 1982 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Contact the IEEE Computer Society (714-821-8380) for copies of the complete work that was the source of this textual material and for all use beyond that as a record from the SPI Database.


Charles McCabe

San Francisco Chronicle

"Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art."

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.

The soul of a new computer book

Who would have guessed that Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine would become a best-seller, be available off the shelf in at least one Santa Cruz bookshop, and would go on to receive that ultimate accolade of American literature, condensation by Reader's Digest.

From time to time I've wondered about that condensation process. What would happen if you took a book that was already condensed and condensed it again? How many iterations would it take to condense a book to a single letter of the alphabet, or to make it disappear altogether? It seems likely that some books might vanish after only a few iterations, while others might converge ever so slowly toward some nonzero asymptote. Would the number of iterations or the size of the asymptote be useful as a literary figure of merit? Perhaps books should be published with the results of several successive condensations appended to the original text so that the busy reader could choose one appropriate to the available reading time. But I digress. I guess the appeal of Kidder's book stems from the fact that it has something for everyone. Engineers of course like it because it captures the genuine excitement and human drama that attend to high- tech product develop meet. They are depicted as heroes in much the same sense that books of a hundred years ago celebrated the builders of bridges, roads, dams, canals, and other highly visible engineering triumphs. Antitechnologists are equally pleased that the book offers proof of

what they knew all along: Engineers are subhuman creatures who readily abandon their wives, their children, their social lives, the arts, and everything that really matters in life to worship the idolatrous god Machine. The closely guarded industrial laboratory is merely the modern manifestation of the medieval cloister or the ancient temple of secret rites. Managers like the book because it shows how a top-level executive decision...