On Thu, 24 Apr 2003 email@example.com wrote:
> Mr. Baccala,
> Have you received any notable responses to your Smart Cars page?
> I too am interested in distributed development/deployment of
> transportation systems; but I've mostly seen the top-down,
> megalithic approaches you mentioned. They seem committed to
> incremental improvement of the current systems.
An interesting book I just finished reading was "Nerds 2.0.1". It
included a chapter (the best one in the book, for me) on Xerox PARC,
who basically invented the personal computer. They built the first
bit-mapped displays, constructed a research lab with a computer in
front of everyone, on their desk (unheard of at the time - the 1970s),
invented the laser printer, invented the GUI, invented object-oriented
programming (to program the GUI), invented Ethernet. When Xerox
management couldn't see the vision and didn't productize the
technology, the researchers gradually left, and went places like 3Com
(founded by a Xerox PARC researcher), Apple, and Microsoft. I'm
trying to get another book about them called "Fumbing the Future" -
it's all about PARC, but I haven't read it yet, so can't recommend it.
Their development methodology was summarized by Bob Metcalfe, inventor
of Ethernet and founder of 3Com:
"We were working in... a time machine, where, in order to conduct
research, you create a completely artifical environment which is an
approximation in some dimensions of the remote future, and then you
plop your scientists down in it, and they develop things as if the
world is going to be the way it's not yet, and you learn things."
In my opinion, this is one of the most successful models of technology
development we've seen, and is probably the way to go. Of course,
they also had a lot of money.
> One thread that seems interesting is the work of ATRA,
> who suggest incremental SUPPLEMENT/REPLACEMENT of the current
> systems -- thereby allowing solutions which, by design, avoid
> some problems inherent in our current approach.
> You may find their current report interesting:
> A report by the Personal Rapid Transit Technical Committee
> of the Advanced Transit Association. (ATRA)
OK, I'll take a look. I think there is room for incremental
improvement - for example, all the new cars already have computers in
them, if the manufacturers could agree on a standard software and
hardware environment, it'd be a step (maybe a big step) forward. But
my gut feel is that it will really require the Xerox PARC approach -
you modify a hundred cars, pretty much no matter what it costs, and
get a team of really bright people to figure out how to make them all
Thanks for your feedback.
-bwb Brent Baccala firstname.lastname@example.org
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