close this bookVolume 8: No. 6.3
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James H. Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics and of Netscape, will soon have a new 155-foot yacht carrying 25 SGI computers, 500GB of storage, and 37 miles of network cables. Computers will control all of Hyperion's essential operations, plus data logging (30 times per second), five console displays, and a video reference library. The ship can be run remotely, via satellite link. Six EEs spent almost three years hooking it up. Clark might start a new company based on this application. [Otis Port, BW, 09Feb98, p. 71.]

The Lego Robotics Invention System, developed with MIT, lets kids use a computer to drive their own robot designs. [SJM, 04Feb98, 1C.] Lego may be basing this on its new brick with an HC11 microprocessor inside. The programming language is a dialect of Logo that supports parallel processing, according to IBM Systems Journal 35:3 (1996). [, comp.arch.embedded, 30Jan98.]

Here's a quick comparison of three microprocessors used for robotics and simple control or automation applications: PIC, Stamp, and 6811. 1) PICs are cheap and easily available, easy to program and with lots of free tools available. Different versions range from $6 down to $2, or even less in quantity. Instruction timing is simple, but the equally simple interrupt scheme makes pre-emptive multitasking nearly impossible. PICs are great for doing one thing well, such as controlling sensors and actuators. 2) The Basic Stamp from Parallax is also very easy to use, but costs about $35 to $50. Parallax customer service is very good. 3) The 6811 is far more capable, and more expensive than a PIC. Demand is so great that you may have to wait months for a particular version. 6811 circuits tend to have quite a bit of RAM, e.g. to map a maze. [Paul Haas , comp.robotics.misc, 18Jan98.]

Two companies will soon be offering home LANs via house electrical wiring. Tut Systems will provide Ethernet connections for PCs and Macs. Intelogis will be offering a slower Passport system that only requires a PC parallel port. (There is said to be a Mac version in the works.) [Dan Gillmor, SJM, 30Jan98, 1C.]

Data General is showing a $500 box that will link home computers with radio-link boards to each other and to the Internet (via phone line, ISDN, or cable modem). The wireless device hookups will cost about $10-$20 each, and can be 150 feet from the spread-spectrum server. Eventually we may have washing machines and such hooked up to this. , for the ThiiN Line Network Utility Box (NUB). [Jodi Mardesich, SJM, 08Feb98, 1E. Also Dan Gillmor, SJM, 03Feb98, 1C.]

Throw Inc. (Seattle) is starting beta tests of InstantOnline, a browser-based product that lets you set up private Internet communities: family, class, scout troop, etc. (Their slogan is "Aren't there times when you don't want all of America online with you?") The basic kit will be free, with advanced features offered for money. A family starter pack may include email, chat, address book, bookmark manager, calendar, announcement board, photo album, trophy case, and gift registry. Throw may also offer HTML templates for a book club, virtual office, team sports, etc. [Jodi Mardesich, SJM, 08Feb98, 1E.]

In March, the A.T. Cross pen company will introduce an IBM-developed pen and legal pad that can enter your notes into a PC for storage or faxing. The $400 initial version can hold about 50 pages of paper. . [Ibid.] (Dan Gillmor said it can learn to read your handwriting.)

WEARABLES is a discussion of wearable computers. Send a "join wearables your name" message to . . [new-lists, 16Feb98.]