Jun 25, 2011 at 12:31
Hundreds of my family emigrated from Ireland in the 19th Century. Poverty, the potato famine, absentee landlords, the Church, and too many children all contributed to the need to look elsewhere in the world for something that was better than what they had been born to. For a time it was said that emigrants – all male as far as I know – arrived at one of the main shipping ports in Ireland, like Cork, and simply got on the first vessel that had accommodation. The result was relations who ended up in places as varied as North America, South Africa, Bechuanaland, Australia, and New Zealand. On the paternal side of the family they became policemen, lawyers, croupiers, pharmacists, and engineers; on the maternal side they worked on railways and farmed: mostly with sheep.
That extraordinary tide of emigration partially reversed in the 1990s; not specifically for my family but for a lot of young people who had come to the US during the couple of decades before and for whom the new wealth of Ireland becko...
Jun 19, 2011 at 12:49
Jim Williams of Linear Technology died last Sunday, June 12 2011, after a stroke earlier in the week. He had been the victim of Parkinson’s for the last few years and was aged just 63.
I make no claim to have known Jim for the full length of his career, but my first contacts with him were by telephone while he was in his early days of working at MIT and I was teaching in the UK, having, by then, been earning a salary as an analog electronics engineer for about ten years. I had modified a couple of Tektronix oscilloscopes to provide full TV timebase locking, with the ability to pluck out every one of the eight fields in the full PAL sequence (but brightness limitations meant you needed to look at the display in total ambient darkness!), and MIT was looking for some similar NTSC functionality for NASA well before Tektronix themselves provided less than ideal solutions as model options. Transatlantic telephone calls at the time were still fairly exotic, and my department head was happy that the calls orig...
Jun 12, 2011 at 1:13
Google has had a checkered history with China, initially, to the distaste of many, working with the authorities there to have an established presence that allowed for some freedoms but with some restrictions. Like most of such bastardized living-with-the devil arrangements, it fell apart – the devil always demands more than your already stretched morals can take – after the site’s security was compromised (apparently to track anti-government activists), and Google is now limited to a presence in Hong Kong.
It is certainly not in Google’s best long-term interests, assuming that it wants to get back in operation on the mainland again in the future, to start a row that it is not totally convinced it is right about. So when the company claims that its Gmail is being hacked from China you have to be pretty sure that they are speaking in as honest a fashion as they can.
Although Google has traced the hacking to Jinan in Shandong province, it has not directly accused the Chinese government ...
Jun 5, 2011 at 12:55
My family got its first TV receiver in 1953 in time for the June coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It wasn’t purchased: at the time receivers (sets) were quite costly and beyond our finances. They were also rather unreliable, with the line output transformer acting almost like a fuse! So a great many people rented their sets from an operation called Radio Rentals. The company was founded in 1932 by one Percy Perring-Thoms to rent out radios and later expanded into TVs. The company name still survives in Australia, but TV rentals are far from being its major thrust.
Even a couple of decades later, if you were entitled to have a BBC-provided TV in your home, it was always rented – and it was collected extremely promptly after your departure from the Corporation.
My father was rather pedantic about a lot of things, and one thing that he had a real bug about was pulling the power cord on the TV receiver at night. It didn’t, of course, increase or diminish the three minutes that it took for the...