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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reboot Ctrl, Alt, Delete

Again the air turns cold and windy after the rain exits the region.  I know that we are going to get the right combination of cold and moisture this winter to see some snow.  Until then, it is a rather boring winter, at least as far as the weather.

One of my loyal readers has offered to put me in contact with a guy who does small machinery repair (lawn mowers, snow throwers, etc.)  With some luck he will be able to pay me a visit and replace the auger on my snow thrower before our first storm, without charging me an arm and a leg.  Its always best to support a local person and someone you know as opposed to a large company like Sears (no hard feelings….NOT).

While at work today I noticed a reminder on my whiteboard that said meet with BNL scientist.  A colleague and friend of mine knows a guy a Brookhaven National Labs, and he also knows from our conversations that Gavin is a science major in college.  Turns out that today was a good day for him, and his friend to meet at John Harvards, and he asked me to tag along.

So after work it was off to John Harvards for a beer and some eats, and a chance to meet a real scientist.  Not knowing what to expect, and thinking that the guy would come in with lab jacket and pocket protector, was brought back to reality as he is just a regular guy.  No lab jacket, or scientific aura, just a regular middle aged guy who likes soccer, hockey, and travelling.

This day in history “Ray Dolby is born”  American physicist, engineer, and inventor of the Dolby Noise Reduction Systems. Dolby is famous for innovations ranging from the high-quality cassettes we use in our car stereos to the latest digital surround sound in movie theaters. As a high school student he went to work part time for Ampex Corporation. While still in college, he joined the small team of Ampex engineers dedicated to inventing the world's first practical video tape recorder, the Ampex VTR (1956). Dolby founded his own company, Dolby Laboratories, in 1965. His first development was Dolby A-type noise reduction, an audio compression and expansion which dramatically reduced background hiss in professional tape recording with no discernible side-effects.

Without sounding like a broken record, you all know how much I love music.  While no longer an audiophile, at one time I was the owner of some pretty sweet audio equipment.  In those days, separate components where the rage, and I had a state of the art JVC (Japan Victor Corp) setup with pre-amp, amp, tuner, and tape drive.  Yes tape drive, that was what we called a good quality cassette tape player.
Well, the hiss on even a TEAC, BASF, or other fancy tape at the time was annoying to the trained ear as was the noise the diamond needle made as it travelled the groove on the LP.

Along comes DOLBY, and its noise reduction technology, as well as surround sound and the world starting hearing instead of just listening.  Music could be played at higher volume without distortion and Pink Floyd ruled.

Not to be confused with Thomas Dolby, the one or two hit wonder who is famous for the tune “she blinded me with science”.  I saw them at NYU one of the years I was working there.  I think he had another cool electronic synthesizer sounding song, but cant remember.

Back to the BNL scientist, who goes by the name of Matt.  Turns out he is a physicist too, just like Ray Dolby, only he is working on particle physics and not cool sound stuff.  A very nice guy, who after a couple of diet cokes and a fish and chips (he is from England), was nice enough to let us know that BNL does have a college intern program, but he could not help much as Gavin is a biology major and not a physics major.  Science is science, and he will be sending the link to fill out the application.   Who knows, maybe once the application goes in, he can talk to the biology people….

Did you know that the Dolby corp recently came up with new technology….those scientists never rest.

2010: First public demonstration of 5.1-channel surround sound on a mobile phone using Dolby Mobile technology.

Before calling it a night at John Harvards I decided to tell my internet story.  It had to be told.  Matt is a scientist who has been to most of the major universities and think-tanks, and I worked at NYU.  Well, seems the whole information super-highway, internet etc, starting as a pet project of the LABS to communicate with one another.  The ARPA or DARPA net was born.  By the time I started working at NYU, about 50 universities where connected, and sharing information, some if it with the Department of Defense. 

Anyway, back around 1980something, while working as a data communications technician at NYU I get a call to help restore service between Livermore Labs and BNL.  The hop on the internet that got the data there was at NYU.  Scientists can be impatient when they are not getting results.  So with the key in hand to unlock the cage that contained the computer that was hung up, I was instructed to power off, wait 30 seconds, and then power on the node at NYU.  That reboot restored the data flow on the ARPAnet…the predecessor to the modern day internet. 


Photo of the day “Reboot Ctrl, Alt, Delete”

1 comment:

  1. Great story from a fellow geek. Good luck with the snow thrower. I get nervous every year as My snow thrower turns 10 this year.