FCT Library Blog


Video Games Father Was Refugee

Video Games' Father Was a Refugee

Ralph Baer father of video gamesWhen Ralph Baer [bear] was just a boy he was kicked out of school, not for being a disciplinary problem, not for being too slow to keep up, but because he was a Jew. He was forced to start working at menial and odd jobs when he was 14. His boss at a shoe factory told him he would never amount to anything, but then he invented a machine that speeded up the shoe manufacturing.

Baer also taught himself English during this time, which is how he, at age 16, and his family managed to be accepted as immigrants to the United States. That was in 1938.

Because Baer had no school completion records from Germany, he started reading at the NYC Public Library to educate himself. He also took correspondence courses in radio and TV electronics. Five years later he was drafted into the U.S. Army where his knowledge of German got him placed in Intelligence.

After the war, he attended college on the GI Bill. He earned "what he always believed was the very first B.S. degree anywhere in television engineering." After WWII, electronics came into its heyday; and Baer was in the right place at the right time. His company had him developing television sets. But he wanted to do something much more interesting with a TV screen than passively watch it. When he mentioned this to the chief engineer, the latter told him "Forget it. You're behind schedule anyway, so stop screwing around with this stuff. Build the set."

Later on, while waiting at a bus stop one day, it occurred to him that "you could get into the antenna terminals of a TV set via Channel 3 or Channel 4." And starting from that thought, interactive TV became a possibility.

Little by little, and with sporadic help from others, and working both in his home basement and in a small, side lab at his company, he achieved rudimentary game possibility. The next step was to consider what games to play. They started out playing ping pong onscreen.

Baer was also good at visualizing the commercial prospects of his work. In the 1970s, Sanders Associates, his employer, started making money with Baer's "brown box." Sanders licensed it to Magnavox Corp., who took the ideas and developed "the hugely popular Odyssey video game console."

There is a 3:25 minute video plus several photos on the below webpage showing him, his home lab, and the re-creation of his early lab at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in D.C. He also explains why, at over age 90, he has not retired from creating electronic things.


Above adapted from article by Arthur Molella, published on 12/14/2015 at: Article on Huffington Post




Veterans' Day

Veterans' Day 2015, Knoxville

PARADE in Knoxville -- 11 AM – 12 Noon. Gay Street. The Veterans Day Parade will begin at the Civic Coliseum and continue onto Church to Gay, and along Gay to Depot Avenue.

A 5-question QUIZ about Veterans Day history, sponsored by the VFW. http://quizzes.familyeducation.com/other-holidays/veterans-day/veterans-day-quiz.html?74648=3&verify_input=1&show_result=Submit&qlisted=74648&clisted=74648&total_score=0


More than a dozen restaurants (some with multiple locations) are offering free food to veterans on November 11. Several of them are complete meals. http://wate.com/2015/11/06/top-veterans-day-deals-and-freebies/

American Legion, Knoxville Post 2 http://legionknox.com/

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) http://www.vfw.org/




Metal Breakthrough

Can Metal Be Lighter Than Air?

Yes. Well almost.

That is, if you arrange the atoms just so. "The world's lightest metal contains hardly any metal at all—in fact, it is made up of 99.99% air. Called a microlattice, the material is a three-dimensional grid of tiny tubes that is up to 100 times as light as Styrofoam (1)." The tube walls are 1000 times thinner than a human hair (2). (The microlattice is compared to the structure of human bone.)

"In addition to its ultra-low density, the material's cellular architecture gives rise to unprecedented mechanical behavior for a metal, including complete recovery from compression exceeding 50% strain and extraordinarily high energy absorption." "Boeing says an egg wrapped in the new material would survive a 25 story drop (2)."

The Boeing Company wants to build airplanes with it, as the material is as strong as aluminum but half the weight; and lighter weight translates into reduced fuel use. NASA, who is paying for the research, hopes to use the material for flying to Mars (1).


Sources: (1) Time Magazine. Nov. 2, 2015. P. 25. In the near term, you can see the photograph by finding this issue in the student lounge. It's in the issue with the Fusion illustration on the cover.

(2) Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3270060/The-end-heavy-metal-Boeing-shows-material-99-99-AIR-lead-new-generation-planes-spaceships.html#ixzz3r1gv8AM8.Accessed Nov. 9, 20015. Also shows the photograph, a portion of the material resting on a dandelion seed head.




A Robot-Run Society?

John Markoff Is Guest on NPR's Fresh Air, Hosted by Terri Gross.
August 20, 2015

How Close Are We To A Robot-Run Society?

I found this to be a really interesting interview. John Markoff is the technology editor for the New York Times. He is highly informed on the topics of robots, warehouses, etc. What he says about cars may not be what you expect. At the same time, it makes sense with my lifetime of driving experience, both long distance and city. –Carol Bell, Fountainhead Librarian

"From self-driving cars to automated warehouses, humans are being pushed out of the equation. Soon, robots will "do a million other things we can't even conceive of," author John Markoff says."

If humans don't have jobs, how will we be paid? Society will have to figure this out.

Later in this podcast, "TV critic David Bianculli reviews the IFC spoof 'Documentary Now!' and the prequel series 'Fear the Walking Dead.' "

Scroll down the page to find the title. Organized in reverse chronology.



Unlimited Online Reading

Kindle Unlimited Is for You and Me.


And your librarian is just a little bit excited about it.


Amazon has a new program called Kindle Unlimited. It permits anyone with any device--mobile, PC, anything, to read any of well over a million Kindle e-books for $10 per month. Plus there is a free 30-day trial period. The fee is charged to whatever bank card you have set up in your Amazon account.


No need to buy a Kindle Reader. No need to even have a smart phone. All you need is a PC and an internet connection.


Amazon is amazing!


Because it is a Kindle product, you can save your eyes by dimming the screen.


Aside from your personal reading interests, how can you use this for college?


If you are a student, you can find supplementary reading: (a) to round out your research for papers and presentations, and (b) round out, without assignments, your knowledge in your technical specialties for your own benefit.


If you are faculty, you can recommend specific titles to your students. The librarian is interested in assisting with vetting recommendations, as needed.


The only drawback as of now is that the student must purchase the service for $10 per month, or limit her- or himself to 30-day trial period. For some, this amount may be a hindering factor.


The Fountainhead Library would like to work out some arrangement with Amazon such that we could sponsor Kindle Unlimited in isolation from our Amazon accounts (and bank cards). While it is currently unknown whether Amazon will help us in this way, we are exploring the possibility.


Kindle Unlimited Page: https://www.amazon.com/b/ref=ku_lp_rw_ku_lp_psu_rw?_encoding=UTF8&node=9578129011


Good reading to all!




Safety: Kitchen Fire

GREASE FIRE in the Kitchen.

1. Which of these is the WORST thing you can do to try and stop a grease fire on the stovetop, oven, or microwave?

A. Smother it (remove oxygen) with a lid (or another pot, cookie sheet, etc.).

B. Smother it by thoroughly covering burning oil with a dry powder (baking soda).

C. Smother it by pouring water on it.

D. Toss it outside into the yard.

E. Turn the heat source off.

F. Use Fire Extinguisher.

G. Smother it with a wet cloth.

H. Swat at it with a dry towel.

I. If in oven or microwave, smother (remove oxygen) by shutting the door.

2. What are the BEST thing(s) to do for a stovetop fire?

3. What are the BEST thing(s) to do for an oven or microwave fire?

4. What could go wrong with above-mentioned methods, A-I?


Dummies.com: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-put-out-kitchen-fires.html

WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Put-out-a-Grease-Fire

The Kitchen: http://www.thekitchn.com/kitchen-safety-how-to-put-out-138233

4-minute demonstration of the water no-no: http://digg.com/video/slow-mo-captures-why-you-should-never-ever-use-water-to-put-out-a-grease-fire?ncid=newsltushpmg00000003


1. What is the WORST thing you can do to stop a small grease fire in the kitchen?

POURING WATER IS THE WORST. Either the water will sink beneath the oil without smothering the flame or, far worse, it will splash, causing the oil to flare up much bigger. It is easy to lose control of the flame this way, burn your kitchen or entire house.


2. What are the BEST thing(s) to do with a STOVETOP FIRE?



3. What are the BEST thing(s) to do with an OVEN or MICROWAVE FIRE?




See F and G for two other effective methods.


4. WHAT COULD GO WRONG with the above-mentioned methods?

A. Lid does not cover well enough, oxygen still enters the fire.

B. Insufficient amount of the powder. It must do more than soak up the oil/grease; leave plenty of dry power on top.

Bicarbonate of (baking) soda is most recommended; salt seems next best. Although some say flour works, others say it will explode and cause a worse fire. (Suggestion: Keep stale refrigerator-deodorizer soda near the stove for this contingency.)

C. The danger of pouring water is explained above.

D. Attempting to get the fiery skillet or pot outside is very foolish. You can burn and scar yourself badly doing this. You can splash it on someone else or drop it and melt your flooring. Even if successful in getting it outside, you might start a grass fire.

E. Turning off the heat source (burner) is essential unless the fire is beyond control and/or you will get burned doing so.

F. NOT JUST ANY FIRE EXTINGUISHER WILL WORK. Some are worse than nothing (contain water). A Class B Dry Chemical (or Class K) extinguisher is/are the recommended types.

How to use a fire extinguisher and types of extinguishers: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-a-Fire-Extinguisher With extinguishers, ALWAYS AIM AT THE BASE OF THE FIRE to be effective at actually extinguishing and to not waste content with ineffective use.

The extinguisher was not listed as best above because: (1) it is questionable whether most people will have the correct type, and (2) of this caveat: When you use the Class B extinguisher, you will contaminate your kitchen. However, if you do have one handy, it may be your best option, if you cannot immediately smother the fire out with a lid or baking soda.

G. A WET cloth (kitchen towel, cotton shirt) can block oxygen if there is no dry powder or adequate lid quickly available. But be sure, on the one hand, that it is totally wet so that it doesn't burn, but, on the other hand, that it is also not dripping so as to explode the flame.

H. DO NOT swat at it with a dry towel. This is almost as dangerous as pouring water; you will catch the towel on fire.

I. If in oven or microwave, smother flame (remove oxygen) by shutting the door. The inside will likely be damaged; that is better than the alternatives.




Access Point


Internet Space Crunch

The Internet Is Almost Full

"The internet's fibre systems could reach capacity within the next five years."

"Fear of a capacity crunch stems from a hard physical truth—there is a limit to the amount of information you can cram down any communications channel, fibre-optic cable or copper wire. Discovered in 1940 by Claude Shannon, this limit depends on the channel's bandwidth—the number of frequencies it can transmit—and its signal-to-noise ratio."

The known tricks for forcing more and more along an optical cable have played out. Current research shows that the limit is about 100 terabits per second. That's approximately equivalent to 250 Blue-ray discs.

But, not to worry about using Netflix just yet. People are exploring and developing new tools. One analyzes interference and makes reconstructing the correct signal possible at the receiving end. Another is exploring the tricky process of combining multiple cable cores into a multi-core cable. This is tricky because when travelling distances, the cables must stay straight. Maybe that is not exactly optimal for trans-ocean routes—or even for a few kilometers.

"I don’t see a crisis.” "I've got a lot of faith in the ingenuity of people to keep delivering the goods," said a researcher at the UK firm British Telecom.

From New Scientist, 23 May 2015, p. 20.

This weekly magazine is available in the Student Lounge.

Access Point

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