Lives of the Great LGBT Engineers

Serendipity and tolerance in the rise of ARM processors.

There was a loose end in my piece on the astonishing proliferation of ARM microprocessors. How did they come to dominate the low-power niche? The first processor designed in 1985 by ARM’s ancestor Acorn was for a desktop computer the size and shape of a large typewriter, run off the mains. Surely power efficiency wasn’t a priority?

The answer is: good old British penny-pinching, with an assist from good old Brummagem standards of manufacturing.
From a story by Chris Bidmead for The Register:

BBC Acorn computer

According to [Acorn’s co-founder Stephen] Furber. “We designed the ARM for an Acorn desktop product, where power isn’t of primary importance. But it had to be cheap. Cheap meant it had to go in a plastic package, plastic packages have a fairly high thermal resistance, so we had to bring it in under 1W.”

When the first test chips came back from the lab on the 26 April 1985, Furber plugged one into a development board, and was happy to see it working perfectly first time. Deeply puzzling, though, was the reading on the multimeter connected in series with the power supply. The needle was at zero: the processor seemed to be consuming no power whatsoever.

As [the designer Sophie] Wilson tells it: “The development board plugged the chip into had a fault: there was no current being sent down the power supply lines at all. The processor was actually running on leakage from the logic circuits. So the low-power big thing that the ARM is most valued for today, the reason that it’s on all your mobile phones, was a complete accident.”

Wilson had, it turned out, designed a powerful 32-bit processor that consumed no more than a tenth of a Watt.

Of course, somebody would have developed a low-power line of processors: the large potential market in mobile devices was obvious, and the RISC idea had been around for a while. Indeed, ARM has smaller competitors today, such as MIPS. However, it’s a matter of some interest in Britain how, against the odds, and the powerful economies of networking of Silicon Valley, a sleepy university town in the Fens managed to grab and hold on to a gratifyingly large slice of one of the world’s key technologies.

Pure luck? Not quite. Continue reading “Lives of the Great LGBT Engineers”

The Subsidy of Marriage by Social Security

Josh Barro notes that marriage cannot be an entirely state issue because of the way in which it impacts things like Social Security and Medicare eligibility. Below is the majority of a post I wrote in September, 2011 on the subsidy of marriage provided by Social Security…..

Gene Steurle and Stephanie Rennane have a nice policy brief put out by the National Institute for Health Care Management on the lifetime contributions and benefits of Social Security and Medicare. This is mostly familiar stuff, with lifetime Medicare benefits consistently being several times larger than contributions to the pay-as-you-go program, and Social Security lifetime contributions and benefits being more similar for singles and two-earner couples. However, one thing jumped out from this figure (circled):

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North Carolina Passes Amendment One

I am a proud North Carolinian, who has lived in this state for 40 of my 44 years (I was born on an Air Force Base in Mississippi, and did a post-doc in England). I am not surprised that Amendment 1 has passed tonight, since polls have shown this was going to occur for some time. However, as it has occurred, it makes me feel not angry, but sad, in the “we can do better than this” sense.

It is also the first time I have seen my kids be interested in politics, and my 11th grader especially has been passionately opposed to Amendment 1, and she is disappointed. It is hard to see her first interest in politics end in disappointment, but that is a part of life.

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Alan Turing Needs No Pardon

Alan Turing, the intellectual godfather of modern computing and artificial intelligence and a genuine war hero, was gay when it was illegal to be so. His life was ruined by the laws of the country he had helped save during the war, driving him to suicide.

The British government has apologized to Turing, but last week the House of Lords refused to formally pardon him. Heather Cox Richardson makes a strong case that pardoning Turing would be inappropriate.

He doesn’t need a pardon; the society that made him a criminal does….Some things can never be put right. Pardoning a dead victim for the crime of being hated is a gift to the present, not the past. It lets modern-day people off the hook. They can be comfortable in their own righteousness, concluding that today’s injustices have nothing to do with such right-thinking people as they are. But they do….It’s way too late to pardon Alan Turing. And it’s way too early to pardon ourselves.

You say “part of Satan” as if that’s a BAD thing

David Gregory nails Michelle Bachmann on her anti-gay bigotry.

Michelle Bachmann thinks that loving other people of the same sex is “sexual dysfunction” and “bondage” and “slavery,” and that anyone who thinks otherwise is “part of Satan.” And of course their families aren’t really, y’know, families.

But don’t worry: Bachmann isn’t judging anyone. She thinks all those limbs of Satan have “honor and dignity.” Well, all right then.

Do you think there’s one chance in a million that David Gregory will be anything like this tough on Rick Perry about his extreme views?

Romney does the full wingnut

Fiscally irresponsible AND socially intolerant.

The “grown-up” Republican candidate favors not only having the country welsch on its obligations, but also passing a constitutional amendment that would have the effect of un-marrying the same-sex couples married under New York law. Of course, that amendment will never pass, but in the meantime Romney has pledged to support the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies those married couples all the benefits extended to opposite-sex couples under Federal law, and to appoint only judges who promise to uphold its constitutionality

This will cost him precisely zero support among glibertarians and fair-weather federalists. But it provides more support for the idea that no one can win the Presidential nomination of today’s Republican party with a set of positions that would allow him to win the Presidency.

Tell me again that Obama – who has refused to defend the constitutionality of DOMA before the Supreme Court, and appointed two Justices sure to vote to strike it down – is no different from a Republican? I didn’t hear you the first time.

Gay tendencies and anti-gay attitudes

Hudathunk it? That old bit of slander about how straight men hostile to gay men are actually fighting their own impulses has some scientific basis.

I really, really hate it when the argumentum ad hominem gets paraded in clinical dress. For example, “Opponents of gun control are compensating for feelings of sexual inadequacy” or “Opponents of gun laws are all drug abusers.” I’m even uncomfortable for “homophobia” as a parallel label to “racism” or “sexism” or “anti-Semitism,” because it converts a belief system into a diagnosis; might as well call gun-control advocates “ballistophobes.”

Another example: the belief that opponents of gay rights are fighting their own homoerotic impulses. Talk about a cheap shot!

But I really, really, really, utterly, totally hate it when one of those cheap-shot arguments proves to be … ummmmm … well … true. Or at least supported by actual scientific evidence.
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