close this bookVolume 1: No. 26
View the documentNews -- research industry
View the documentNews -- European software industry
View the documentNews -- venture capital; ACM career services
View the documentNews -- conferences and workshops
View the documentComputists -- Ken Turner, Gianfranco Passariello
View the documentDiscussion -- corporate research labs
View the documentDiscussion -- pioneering cultures
View the documentDiscussion -- health discussions
View the documentDiscussion -- carpal tunnel syndrome
View the documentDiscussion -- tendinitis

The Senate has unanimously passed a $1B/5-year supercomputing initiative similar to that passed by the House of Representatives in July. NSF appears to have won out over DOE as lead spending authority, although network operation will fall to an interagency group. The bulk of the money, if approved, will be for research on supercomputer communication, with $650M this year for NSF, $388M for NASA, and $31M for NIST. Part of the funds will support NREN, the National Research and Education Network. [Edmund L. Andrews, NYT. SF Chronicle, 9/12.]

A report on the Pentagon Critical Technologies Plan says that funding for passive sensors is expected to increase $102M (24%) in FY '92, and high-performance computing will increase by $64M (59%). Most other research areas will decrease. [Myron Struck, Defense Electronics, 8/91.]

The new, 17,000-person Air Force Intelligence Command (AFIC) at Kelly AFB, TX, will become operational October 1. The command will merge functions now handled by the AF Foreign Technology Division (Wright-Patterson AFB, OH), AF Special Activities Center (Fort Belvoir, VA), and AF Intelligence Agency (Washington, DC). [ibid.]

In yet another restructuring, DARPA director Dr. Victor H. Reis has been promoted to Director of Defense Research and Engineering (DDR&E). He replaces Dr. Charles M. Herzfeld, who is a candidate to be director of the Critical Technologies Institute (part of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy). Ronald Fraser, former EVP of the Charles Stark Draper Labs, is expected to become director of DARPA. Fraser spent the last year with DoD's office of test and evaluation. [ibid.]

DARPA is giving $5M of its $50M cooperative-ventures money to the Linguistic Data Consortium. The LDC will collect raw and annotated text, speech, and lexical data in English and foreign languages. The work will be done under contract to companies and universities. Contact Charles Wayne, (703) 696-2259. [Brian Robinson, EE Times, 8/5.]

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) are a mechanism for transferring technology from the nine national labs to private industry. Although available since 1987, few computer or electronics companies have taken advantage of them. A new "accelerated CRADA" process is being introduced to cut the paperwork time from 18 months to 2 months. Under prodding from state senators, Sandia National Labs (Albuquerque, NM) has just signed its first private-industry R&D agreement. Initial transfers are in IC and semiconductor fabrication. [Brian Robinson, EE Times, 8/26.]

The IIC (Knowledge Engineering Institute) in Madrid, Spain, is looking for industrial ESPRIT partners in Northern Europe. ICC intends to add features to its multimodule real-time control system, including neural networks, fuzzy logic, and qualitative modeling. [Seshashayee Murthy (murthy@emdcci11.bitnet), NL-KR, 9/13.]

Cap Gemini Sogeti S.A. (CGS), Europe's largest computer services company (at $1.7B in 1990 sales), has been on an international buying spree. Last year it bought control of Hoskyns Group PLC, a British software company; purchased Scientific Control Systems (Germany) from SD-Scicon PLC; and bought control of United Research (Morristown, NJ). This January it bought control of MAC Group Inc. (Cambridge, MA). Now Daimler-Benz A.G. (Germany) is purchasing control of Sogeti S.A. of France, the parent of CGS. (The deal includes $445M for 34% of Sogeti plus an option to buy majority control after 2/95.) Daimler-Benz has also been diversifying into electronics and defense, and established its own 4,000-person computer-services company, Debis Systemhaus, last year.

SD-Scicon sold to CGS for cash to fight off takeover bids by Cray Electronics PLC and by Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS), a subsidiary of General Motors Corp. EDS already owns 25% of SD-Scicon, having bought the stock from British Aerospace PLC.

Thorn EMI PLC (Britain) has gotten out of the software business by selling 80% of Thorn EMI Software to its management. The $197M spin-off is being renamed Data Sciences. [These items from Roger Woolnough, EE Times, 8/12.]

James J. Mitchell's business column condenses a lot of good sense about Silicon-Valley start-ups in this recession. While gurus monitor the agonies of large companies, hundreds of laid-off workers have been starting new companies -- small, invisible, but often healthy and growing. Technological change continues to accelerate, and entrepreneurs are stepping in to exploit advances or to help those struggling to keep up. The number of start-ups is down, but the number that will succeed is probably as great as ever. Venture-funded companies will have fewer well- funded competitors, and excellent prospects for success (or they wouldn't have won funding). There are more trained, hard-core entrepreneurs now, and venture capitalists are also more experienced. PCs and networks are more prevalent, so markets are bigger and customers are better educated. [SJ Mercury, 9/15.] (This might be a great time to start a business. Or to invest in one.)

See the 9/2/91 issue of MicroTimes for extensive articles on venture capital. (I'll try to condense some of the ideas for a later Communique.) Another resource is Upside magazine, which caters to executives and investors in technology companies. (11 issues per year for $48. (415) 377-0950.)

ACM members can tap several services mentioned in CACM, 9/91, p. 14. ACM sponsors a resume bank, job fairs, training course discounts, financial services, and [soon] career workshops and a career handbook. Members can also get discounts on Computerworld subscriptions, mail-order office equipment and supplies, and Airborne Express shipping.

Tim Finin (finin@venus.cs.umbc.edu) asked me to pass this along. The 1st International Conference on Practical Applications of Prolog will be held on April 2-3 in London. Other logic- programming language are also welcome, as the conference is sponsored by the Association for Logic Programming. Chairpersons are Chris Moss (bel0172@applelink.apple.com) and Ken Bowen (ken@elvis.als.com). Contact Al Roth (alroth@cix.compulink.co.uk) by 10/31/91 to submit a paper. The exhibition will be open to non-delegates, and opportunities for vendor sponsorship are still available.

The Consortium for Lexical Research (CLR) will hold a workshop at the NMSU Computing Research Laboratory (CRL), Las Cruces, NM, January 7-9, 1992. The theme is dissemination of lexical resources for research, plus discussion of the problems that researchers face. The role of CLR will also be debated. The conference fee is $250. For details, contact lworkshop@nmsu.edu or Yorik Wilks (yorick@nmsu.edu), or call Erin Baca at (505) 656-5466. [(ted@nmsu.edu), NL-KR, 9/13.]

CRL will also host a US-Japan Workshop on Integrated Comprehension and Generation Systems in Perceptually Grounded [Multimedia] Environments, December 11-13, 1991. Contact iworkshop@nmsu.edu.

I'd like to welcome Dr. Kenneth C. Turner (kturner@nsf.gov), NSF Program Director for Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology, and also a member of the Investigators Working Group for the NASA SETI Microwave Observing Project. Ken's Ph.D in Physics (Princeton, 1962) led to a postdoc in radio astronomy, then to work at the Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. He spent three years at the Argentine Institute for Radio Astronomy, then joined the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. He will soon return to Puerto Rico to an R&D/consulting business he started a few years ago. Ken's computing interests are in extraction of weak signals from noise, modeling of complex systems, and languages.

Gianfranco Passariello (emsca!conicit!gpass@sun.com) is also joining us. From Naples, Italy, he migrated to the Universidad Simon Bolivar (Caracas, Venezuela) for an EE degree, RPI (Troy, NY) for an M.E. in Biomedical Engineering, and the Universite Franois Rabelais (Tours, France) for a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. He joined the Dept. of Electronics, Universidad Simon Bolivar, in 1981. Gianfranco been teaching biomedical instrumentation, signal processing, and bioelectronics, with research in electrocardiology instrumentation and intelligent biomedical systems. He has more than 40 research articles, seminars, conferences, and technical reports, and has consulted for the Venezuelan electronics industry. (His netmail channel is being provided by Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas (CONICIT), the Venezuelan equivalent of NSF.)

No one has nominated an ideal research lab. It seems we all must "work" for a living, except for isolated individuals with research grants -- the Presidential Young Investigator (PYI) awards, for instance.

Many labs started with good intentions -- freedom to choose projects for maximum scientific impact -- but convert to applied or short-term research within a few years. Many AI labs were founded to draw recent AI graduates and clone their LISP expertise, but managers planned from the beginning to extract some value within two to three years. Semi-independent labs -- ICSI, RIACS, CSLI, MCC -- often serve philanthropic, tax-sheltering, or public-relations functions when new, but must look for new sugar daddies when good intentions fail to produce a sufficient stream of results. (I'm told that RIACS is down to 1/3 of its former staff. Founder Peter J. Denning has moved to George Mason University, and Dorothy Denning has left DEC WRL/SRC for Georgetown University.)

Physics and astronomy labs draw funding for "pork" and national prestige, plus defense and commercial potential. Pure research labs in computer science survive mainly in hardware domains, where patents protect the parent company from "giving away the store" in scientific publications. (If it weren't for the patents, companies would do just as well to let universities or start-ups pioneer new technology.) Now Microsoft and Apple are scrambling for software patents, and Microsoft has coincidentally opened a research lab. Hmmm. Perhaps Apple could be persuaded to do the same.

I was wrong about Xerox PARC (Palo Alto, CA) having a hiring freeze. Mark Weiser (mark_weiser.parc@xerox.com) is looking for researchers in systems work: hardware, languages, operating systems, and networks. PARC has been at steady state since 1980. It MAY be true that AI groups have not been hiring recently, but that is not an across-the-board freeze.

Mark adds that Xerox is not philanthropic, it's just willing to bet on long-term returns. The Microsoft lab may not be in the same league. Jim Mallory's Newsbytes report [Computer Currents, 9/10] quotes Nathan Myhrvold as saying "We're going to look at stuff that is two to five years out and focus a lot of effort on it." Mark doesn't consider that basic research, given that it has taken more than 3.5 years to develop Windows 3.0.

On the other hand, Microsoft is saying that there will be no management pressure to undertake projects with clear profit potential. Rick Rashid says that this will be no skunk works or Windows project. "This is an opportunity to take a fresh look at what computing can be like, how computers will be used in the next five to ten years." He's modeling the lab partly after Xerox PARC, and expects to publish in scientific journals. [Rory J. O'Connor, SJ Mercury, 9/15.]

(BTW, Mark Weiser has heard that Brian Berhad will be inheriting Rick Rashid's Mach DARPA contract, ten Ph.D. students, and staff. Brian is a recent graduate of UWashington, having worked under Dr. Lazowska on specialty operating systems.)

AI may be too civilized -- a "definite, coherent heterogeneity" -- but Larry Press (lpress@isi.edu) points out that network communities are still in the Nebraska Pioneering stage. It's tough to share a beer over the network, but homebrew systems clubs do meet regularly (or continually) in cyberspace. Larry has also had extensive contact with Soviet RELCOM (Reliable Communication network) users at the Moscow Demos Cooperative, and was linked to them in marathon sessions during the recent coup attempt. He's written an article about it: "A Computer Network for Democracy and Development," El Mercurio, Santiago, Chile, September 5, 1991. RELCOM links 391 organizations in 70 Soviet cities, for stock and commodity exchanges, politics, news services, etc. Traffic to Finland reached 13,159 messages per day during the coup, full capacity and about double the usual traffic. Much of the news was translated and transmitted at great personal risk to those in the Soviet Union. Larry says that the technician-entrepreneurs running Demos are idealistic and non-competitive, much like CS graduate students in the U.S.

Calton Pu (calton@cs.columbia.edu) has twice changed cultures. He observes that the invitation-only fraternities and clubs (e.g., Rotary) are surviving well enough, but that churches and student groups are having trouble. It's difficult for newcomers to gain acceptance. Calton spends much of his frequent travel time talking with friends -- senior people -- about research issues and progress. That meets his needs, but there isn't much time for socializing with outsiders.

If people gather just to be with others, they have little to say or do together. If they meet for a specific purpose or job or ceremony, they don't get to know one another -- and may have little in common with the people they do meet. Health clubs, martial arts, duplicate bridge, or PTA work for some. Social climbers take up tennis, handball, racquetball, or whatever the boss is playing. Many people (women, especially) have recently found "networking" groups to be the perfect answer. Some groups are limited to executives and business persons, with emphasis on career contacts and business presentation skills. Others are wide open, on the theory that you never know when somebody's sister's mechanic will have just the information you need.

Network discussion lists (including this one) are networking societies in this sense, but do lack an important dimension of personal contact. They fail (for the most part) in developing your social and presentation skills, and they fail to put you in contact with customers. Many consultants and entrepreneurs cite social networking, participation in service organizations, and public speaking as key to getting customers. Donna Friedman, for instance, belongs to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Women's Economic Development Corporation, National Association of Women Business Owners, Toastmasters, and (in her own field) the International Special Events Society. Consultants can often cite large contracts referred to them be acquaintances at professional organizations. [David Hallerman, Home-Office Computing, 9/91.]

C+HEALTH (Computers and Health) is a discussion list covering both medical hazards of computer use and corresponding remedies. To subscribe, send a "SUB C+HEALTH " message to LISTSERV@iubvm.ucs.indiana.edu, with contributions to C+HEALTH @iubvm.ucs.indiana.edu (or to iubvm.bitnet). (You may need to specify "C+HEALTH" because of the plus sign.) Moderators are Judy Smith (smithj@a1.relay.upenn.edu) and Kimberly Updegrove (kimu@dairp.upenn.edu). [Andy Breeding (breeding @search.enet.dec.com), PACS-L, 8/13.]

A related list is EDUCOM's EASI (Equal Access to Software for Instruction), for those developing computer support services for the disabled. Contact Carmela Castorina (csmiclc@uclamvs.bitnet). [ibid.]

LISTSERV@bitnic.bitnet can also provide some short CCNEWS articles, including computers and health (GET COMPHEAL DUBEY_J or COMPHEAL UPDEGR_D), carpal tunnel syndrome (GET CTS SGEEHAN_M), computing pains (GET PAIN BRADLE_J), and VDT risks (GET VDT SHEEHA_M).

Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) can cost up to $48,000 per case. Newsday (Melville, NY) has experienced 150 cases. To combat it, they've disabled reporters' outgoing email capabilities. Editors can still send email, but reporters have to reply by phone. [Business Week, 6/3.]

C+HEALTH members have been discussing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Jani Spede (jspede@nervm.nerdc.ufl.edu) passed along the following (9/13), from interviews with Dr. Thomas Wright, Dept. of Orthopedics, and Dr. Ralph Williams, Dept. of Rheumatology at UFlorida.

Some people are predisposed to CTS. Risk factors are low thyroid, pregnancy (but not use of birth-control pills), diabetes, fluid retention from heart disease, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Alcoholism is not a risk factor, nor are other known genetic traits. Only half of all CTS sufferers can trace the problem to repetitive motion, so you are not safe just because you seldom type. (Other repetitive activities include sewing, drafting, auto mechanics, and playing musical instruments.)

Symptoms are tingling, numbness, and weakness in the thumb or fingers, sometimes with pain and sometimes (in the worst cases) without pain. Early detection and ergonomic treatments do not always prevent CTS from developing. (Then again, they may. I saw one report of a recovery after a year in chiropractic therapy.) Carpal tunnel release, a surgical procedure, has a satisfaction rate of 90%. (I.e., 10% of the patients are unhappy with a persistent post-operative disability.)

Marilyn Everingham (mrln2@msu.bitnet) described her CTS therapy in C+HEALTH (9/16). She takes Motrin, wears hard wrist splints at all times, and has an hour of physical therapy three times per week. Her elbows are rubbed with ice for five minutes, then ultrasound is used for deep heating. This makes her forearms very sore, with a slight numbness that does not go away. She does a series of exercises with small weights (1, 2, and 3 pounds), including exercises to develop upper arm strength and shoulder flexibility. Then come five minutes of squeezing silly putty, plus ten minutes of ice packs if her arms hurt. She has seen no improvement in either wrist during more than two months of therapy.

Professional Safety (5/87) had an article on exercises to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Included were flexibility exercises such as whole-body and arm stretching, wrist circles, finger stretch, thumb stretch, shoulder shrug, and neck flexion. Other exercises such as thumb squeeze and finger squeeze then dealt with strength. [Michael Sauda (sauda@maine.maine.edu), C+HEALTH, 9/16.]

You can send for a packet of CTS information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Services, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, 4647 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226. [Ed Wilds (ehsadm3@uconnvm.bitnet), C+HEALTH, 9/14.]

There's another debilitating cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) or RSI: tendinitis. I've been nursing a "sprained" left wrist for the last three months. Varied activities, short breaks, and exercises can prevent the problem, but once you get a swollen and irritated tendon, further exercise just makes it worse. Even minor typing is enough to keep the condition from healing.

Each tendon is attached to a muscle. Exercises elongates the muscle so that it applies less stress to the tendon. (Heat applied to the muscle may also help, but don't apply heat to the damaged tendon. Ice works better.) Typical exercises involve using one hand to bend the other wrist up or down, optionally rotating the forearm in one direction or the other. Hold for a few seconds, then shake the hands limply.

My own problem stems from a muscle on the bottom of the forearm that pulls the wrist down. I did wrist warmups when I studied aikido, and open-hand pushups for a karate class. During this last year, though, I allowed the wrist to lock up. When I began this newsletter business, the restricted and repetitive motion of typing proved too much -- especially one-hand control- key or shift-key stretches. There are also plenty of motions in "real life" that pull on the same tendon, such as pushing down on a faucet handle. Having my watchband a notch too tight may also have been a problem.

One wrist exercise that might have saved me is to turn the left palm up, grab with the right fingers on top of the left ones and the right thumb pushing into the wrist from below, and apply force to arc the left hand out from the body and then downward. You should feel the stretch near your left elbow. A variant is to place your palms together in a prayer position, then gently raise your elbows to stretch the forearm muscles for ten seconds. This should be done about once per hour of typing. (Taking a break every 15 minutes is even better.)

When you type, keep your wrists straight. (With my sore wrist, it helped to keep it angled slightly down. This is not recommended under normal circumstances.) Adjust your chair height as necessary; an inch can make a big difference. Use a wrist pad or rolled-up towel to keep your wrist from bending upward. Heavy- duty keypunchers (11,000 keystrokes per hour) risk carpal tunnel syndrome if they use wrists rests, but most people should use them -- it saves the constant muscle tension of holding the forearms horizontal. Don't use a sharp edge for a wrist rest, though.

Keep your keyboard far enough away that you don't have to bend your wrists sideways; 12" is good. I find it helps to angle my keyboard so that it's further away on the left. (This takes some getting used to. I had to move my monitor to the left to keep from turning my whole body to the right, but now I risk getting a little stiff in the neck.) Don't use backless or kneeling chairs for prolonged periods. Keep your shoulders relaxed and drop your elbows. Be sure to check your body position while typing from printed copy; I was damaging my wrist most while copying from text at the left of my keyboard.

Bodies differ, and diagnosing can be tricky. If you suspect tendinitis, see a doctor. If the condition gets worse, seek out a support group. (The RSI group in San Jose can be reached at (408) 246-1544.)

For information on preventing CTD, your company can contact Lauren A. Hebert's company, IMPACC (Bangor, ME), (800) 762-7720. They offer training, consultation, books, and posters. Some of Hebert's books are: The Neck Arm Hand Book; Worksmart: The Industrial Athlete; and Taking Care of Your Back (with Gaynor Miller). [Michael Sauda (sauda@maine.maine.edu), C+HEALTH, 9/16.] I've also seen literature from FingerTip Info (Palo Alto, CA), (800) 484-1095 x4421, and Wrist Watch (San Diego, CA), (800) 722-6837.

-- Ken