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Computing
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Surfing Silicon Valley: Wild rides and wilder weather

By CNN San Francisco Bureau Chief Greg Lefevre

Email: glefevre@CNN.com

March 12, 1998
Web posted at: 11:36 AM EST (1136 GMT)

MORE FAITH IN HIS POWERBOOK THAN IN THE PILOT

Scott Gaidano, who makes a living rescuing data from damaged disk drives, placed his faith on the line this week.

The major domo of DriveSavers was on a United flight to Hawaii when one of the engines on the jetliner suddenly stopped. Gaidano says the cabin went dark. The plane began descending. Then an announcement: a warning light and a strange vibration caused the pilot to shut the engine down.

Fear. Concern. Inspiration!

Gaidano began feverishly chronicling the event on his Powerbook. He say he typed constantly during the rest of the trip. The plane diverted from its original destination, Kona, to Honolulu where emergency crews stood by.

He typed letters to his daughter. He detailed moment by moment what he was seeing, hearing, feeling. He used the Powerbook's sound recorder to capture cabin sounds, "If this plane went down, I figured my staff would recover the disk drive, rescue the data and learn of my experience." Gaidano's company has pulled data off disk drives flooded in the midwest, burned in fires, but so far none recovered from crashed planes.

This was not to be the first. His United DC-10 landed safely an hour later.

Rave

THIS IS WHAT THESE MACHINES ARE ABOUT !!!

The Peace Corps last week sponsored a video conference call between kids in Washington, DC, and Pretoria South Africa. The South Africans showed off some of their trees, including the California favorite, avocado. The Americans talked about palm trees.

A Marin County technologist once told me that the real power of the computer is its ability to connect people, to help them communicate. There's lots of debate over how well the machines do the job. But kids, being kids, either ignore or don't notice the obstacles. No one chats more freely than kids. No one seems less afraid of the medium than kids. Adults could learn from them.

BUT THEY'RE STILL TOO CLUNKY TO USE.

How many "fatal errors" did you receive this week? How many times did your "application unexpectedly quit?"

We've come a long way in the design of personal computers and software. We've got a long way to go, too. The true promise of the "desktop" concept has not been met.

In 1979 some folks at Xerox in Dallas showed me a computer screen with an In Box, Documents, a Waste Basket and a File Drawer depicted on it. The way it was explained to me at the time (and it took a while) was that anything you could do on your desk (the wood and Formica one) you could do on a computer (the CRT one).

Fast forward (not quite) to the present:

Actual example: I want to write a quick memo. I take a 3x5 sheet from the bin on my (wood) desk, scribble a few words with my (wood and graphite, manually configured) word processor and drop it on the associate's (wood) desk on the way out. Elapsed time: 40 seconds. Hard copy, confirmed delivery. OR I could open my mail program, 15 seconds, seek the address of recipient, 10 seconds, select if I need a copy and where that copy stores, 10 seconds, determine the urgency or not of the document, 5 seconds...

I haven't typed word one and I'm over time already.

Computers are complete, sure. But convenient? No.

Mini Rave

EL NINO: THE CD-ROM

It had to happen: The Storms of the Century bring the CD to document how they happen. This hybrid disk loads and plays in a snap on Macs and PCs. We had zero trouble running it. Even though we in California are witness to El Nino first hand, it was revealing to see how widespread this phenomenon really is. The information was remarkably current, the graphics and explainers easy to understand. The El Nino CD-ROM. $29.95 REMedia, San Diego. (800) 573-6334.

Surf on...

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