Rupert Goodwins' Diary


Fresh from my orgy of nerdiness last week, when I found and downloaded emulators for Edsac, the Ferranti Pegasus, the Oric Atmos, the Altair, and other bits of antediluvian technology, I go sniffing around after ancient chips. One in particular turns up time and time again, the 4004. Intel's first microprocessor - indeed, the world's first microprocessor. As such, it figures large in the company's official mythology. But did you know that its development was funded on the quiet by Sharp? Or that Intel's enthusiasm for the whole idea was so muted that it very nearly didn't bother picking up the marketing rights, or that it only started to invest its own development money two generations of processor later, for the 8080?

Have a look at It makes fascinating reading.


Forget Tellytubbies. The PC Magazine offices are gripped with the next big cute thing, Fin Fin. This is Fujitsu's artifical life creation, half dolphin, half penguin, and its cuddly avatar is given pride of place on top of online whizz Wayne Hazell's monitor.

But then the atmosphere turns nasty. A lynching is afoot! Within minutes, the poor ickle thing is dangling from the ceiling by a length of Category 5 twisted pair network cabling! The mob is a vicious animal. But a saviour is at hand! Louise Lindop, managing editor of PC Magazine's network edition, swoops into action. In best Clint Eastwood stylee she rides into town, snatches the hapless toy from its fate and carries it to a safe haven on top of a stack of 100Mbps Ethernet switches.

It's a full moon tonight. I suspect this may have something to do with it.


What shall we do with the drunken Psion? I've been carting the Series 5 around all week, and it's growing on me like a veruca. Alas, last night it took it upon itself to stop responding to touch - everything works 'cept the stylus-sensitive screen. Normally I'd reset it and see if that helped, but the damn thing's got half a short story in by now. Which means I have to - gulp - get PsiWin running in order to ferry the data to a central core or refuge, and CIX, CompuServe and Usenet have had many a teary punter's tales of PsiWin woe.

I'm a professional. I must grasp the nettle. Odd how after fifteen years of fiddling with RS232 I no longer leap delightedly at the challenge of making it all work.

Watch out next week for an announcement from IBM. It's licenced the Palm Pilot technology from 3Com, and has a product just raring to go...


Hang loose with the good old boys from Lycos, the original search engine. These Bostonians have set up shop in Europe, the better to sell us spidering - their verb - services. They've got city guides. They've got local data. They've got... a rather unfortunate site name.

Now, I don't know whether it's just me but I find it very easy to spot alternative meanings to product names. The Palm Pilot, for example - a perfect Viz euphemism for an exponent of the old knuckle shuffle. Where would you think Lycos' UK operation would live? of course - but no, someone registered that ages ago and wants paying for it. Lycos wasn't having any of that, so has registered Lycosuk. Sounds like some peculiar perversion involving skin-tight clothing to me...

Not that we can laugh. When PC Magazine was setting up its online forum on CompuServe all those years ago, we had to choose a keyword for it. "I know", said one American. "Ziff UK". It nearly went through, until it was pointed out that spaces weren't allowed...


PR company Noiseworks has just delivered a large plastic dog bowl emblazoned with the logo of a client of theirs and the name of a new product.

I do not own a dog. I do not wish to own a dog. Dogs disturb me - I consider that Homo Sapiens has spent a good couple of million years evolving in order to dispense with the dangers inherent in sharing a planet with packs of wild carnivores. The idea of willingly sharing house space with an implacable, intelligent killing machine is not one that appeals. And the thought that Noiseworks is trying to get me to place my life on the line is worse -- what are these people up to? What dark anti-journalist conspiracy is afoot? We'll all be murdered in our beds, our throats torn out, our pillows soaked with arterial blood!

I am about to go around to Noiseworks' gaffe with an army of peasants clutching flaming torches in order to raze the nest of evil-doers to the ground when Guy Kewney looks over my shoulder and says "Oooh! A dog bowl! My dog Sam would love that!" and removes the satanic feeding device. This man knows no fear...