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PDP-11

Techno-zombies and Pluribus

I'm always amazed at how long a piece of apparently obsolete equipment can remain in service, especially in government service. Bruce Schneier's blog listed a link to NSA's 1991 video catalog at governmentattic.org. The catalog grants us an interesting if spotty view into the world of crypto gear and classified data collection systems.

I was particularly astonished to see inclusion of a video about the Pluribus - a long-obsolete Arpanet-era packet switch. I worked on the beast: it was overbuilt and underpowered. And unreliable (more on that another time). In the ideal world of tech, such obsolete junk should have been recycled by 1991. I was optimistic.

Computer Speech Recognition: Dialog, Verbex, Dragon

Cousin Jon e-mailed me a New York Times article on the latest version of desktop speech recognition using Dragon technology. We have a sort of familial interest in speech recognition, since both of us worked for Dialog Systems in the 1970s.

By the time I had left, Dialog had developed speech recognition systems that worked over phone lines and recognized 'isolated' words. In other words, the systems did tolerably well as - long - as - you - paused - between - each - word. There was also an R&D demo system (paid for via Rome Air Development Center) that listened to continuous speech and identified specific words (perfect for monitoring phone conversations for words like "terrorism" or, back then, "Russian spy")

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Thumbs Down: Another Top Ten Computer List

A site called "Live Science" has posted a "Top 10 Revolutionary Computers." This was obviously written by someone who doesn't know a lot about what makes a computer significant, beyond advertising.

The TRS-80 (aka the Trash 80)? The latest IBM parallel monster? Give me a break. These were all reruns of well-understood concepts. Nothing new. They listed the Alto, so why list the Macintosh?

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