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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Computer projected 1952 presidential winner

By Mark Ollig

On this date, 61 years ago this evening, CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite announced the winner of the 1952 presidential election. 

This was the first coast-to-coast televised broadcast of a presidential election night, and the CBS television network was featuring a computer’s computational analysis proficiency in determining the outcome of a presidential election.

The revolutionary computer CBS showcased that night was called the Universal Automatic Computer (UNIVAC). 

The UNIVAC, a large mainframe computer manufactured by the Remington Rand company, was designed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly. It was the world’s first commercially manufactured, electronic digital computer.

J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly are the same people who created a computational device called an Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, or ENIAC, which became operational in 1946.

For more about the ENIAC, check out the column yours truly wrote Sept. 30 at:

The UNIVAC used in 1952 took up a lot of physical space. Its equipment cabinets were approximately 25 by 50 feet in length.

A supervisory typewriter (made by Remington Rand) was connected directly to the UNIVAC.

Around 5,200 vacuum tubes (acting as logic-gates) were wired inside the UNIVAC system.

It also included large-capacity, magnetic-metallic tape drives used for long-term data storage inside a “UNITAPE” machine cabinet.

A “UNIPRINTER” machine for printing paper copy was also attached.

The UNIVAC used a high-speed “mercury-delay-line storage” memory which transmitted ultrasonic wave pulses through liquid mercury tubes; data was stored in binary-coded form.

The UNIVAC weighed 29,000 pounds, and could process about 1,905 operations per second using a 2.25 MHz clock. It consumed 125 kW of power.

I watched a video which showed, CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite seated at his anchor desk on the evening of Nov. 4, 1952. Nearby, a teletype machine was set up to send information back and forth from the UNIVAC. 

Cronkite introduced fellow CBS newscaster Charles Collingwood, who was seated near the UNIVAC computer operator’s console located in Philadelphia. 

Collingwood described the UNIVAC to the nation by saying; “This is the face of a UNIVAC. A UNIVAC is a fabulous electronic machine which we have borrowed to help us predict this election from the basis of the early returns as they come in.”

You can watch the video at:

A photo of how the UNIVAC looked in 1952 can be seen here:

Around 8:30 p.m. EST, the UNIVAC determined through its computing analysis programming, the winner of the 1952 presidential election would be Dwight Eisenhower – even though only a small number of the votes had been counted. 

The CBS network, which Cronkite was working for, was hesitant on sharing UNIVAC’s prediction with a national audience because public opinion showed Adlai Stevenson to be ahead. 

The UNIVAC had calculated 100-1 odds in favor of Eisenhower winning the election. 

Those odds didn’t sit well with the folks at CBS; some were speculating the “electronic-brained” UNIVAC was going to turn out to be a failure.

UNIVAC’s first set of electoral vote numbers predicted Eisenhower with 438, and Stevenson with 93. 

The actual electoral vote tally ended up with Eisenhower receiving 442, and Stevenson taking 89.

The UNIVAC had a less than 1 percent error – an amazing prediction result. 

On the popular vote totals, the UNIVAC projected 32,915,000 votes for Eisenhower; the official total was 33,936,252 which put the UNIVAC projection at around 3 percentage points in the accuracy rating category.

“We saw it as an added feature to our coverage that could be very interesting in the future, and there was a great deal of pride that we had this exclusively. But I don’t think that we felt the computer would become predominant in our coverage in any way,” Cronkite said about using the UNIVAC.

A photo of Walter Cronkite and J. Presper Eckert standing near the UNIVAC computer console can be seen at:

During the 1952 election night coverage, CBS competitor NBC was using a tabulating computing machine called the Monrobot, built by the Monroe Calculating Company. It was considerably smaller than the UNIVAC and less powerful, but it did tabulate votes in favor of Eisenhower. 

A picture of the Monrobot can be seen here:

During the 1956 presidential election, all three major television networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC, were reporting the presidential election results using computerized analysis.

The original UNIVAC can be seen in the Smithsonian Institution.

A personal note: As a youngster, and after seeing a Saturday morning cartoon showing Wile E. Coyote building a “do-it-yourself UNIVAC Electronic Brain,” I recall finding a cardboard box and cutting out a slotted opening on the front of it. I then colored several round “computing lights” on the box using red, green, yellow, and blue crayons.

I neatly placed sheets of paper and a sharpened pencil next to the box.

On a piece of paper, I wrote the following and taped it to the side of the box: “Write your question on paper, and insert in slot with a dime for the answer.” 

I printed along the top of the box in large letters, using a black crayon: “UNIVAC.” 

My family, especially my dad, got a kick out of it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Apple introduces brand-new smart devices

by Mark Ollig

Apple has the knack for presenting new computing gadgets just in time for the holiday shopping season. 

In advance of their presentation last Tuesday before a live audience, the online Apple Store posted a “We’ll Be Back” teaser message. This meant new products and prices would become accessible after Apple’s official announcement. 

Inside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., took the stage, as those in attendance and watching live online (including yours truly) waited to see what goodies he would be offering. 

Cook began by telling us last month’s introduction of the iPhone 5c and 5s resulted in 9 million iPhones being sold during its initial launch weekend. 

He stated there are 1 million software applications (apps) for Apple’s user devices available in the Apple Store catalog, and that approximately 60 billion apps have been downloaded. 

Cook also pointed out app developers have now earned $13 billion in payouts for their software creations. 

So, yes, young people, it does pay to learn how to code. 

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering at Apple Inc., gave a demonstration of the newest version (10.9) of Apple’s OS X desktop operating system, called Mavericks. 

More than 200 new features are included with Mavericks.

He first worked in Pages, which is an Apple word processing application where users can create documents, letters, flyers, and invitations.

Federighi also showed the new version of Maps, which Apple designed to provide users intuitive, verbal destination directions, along with interactive 3D views. 

Mavericks is being released as a free download from the Mac App Store.

Maps and iBooks will also be included in this version, as well.

The Mac App Store can be found at

Phil Schiller, senior vice-president of worldwide marketing at Apple Inc., spoke about the new MacBook Pro laptop computer.

The popular Retina display will be included on both the 13 and 15-inch models. 

The MacBook Pro comes configured with a fourth-generation Intel quad-core i3, i5, or i7 processor.

These processors are said to provide much faster application performance and improved battery life; this new MacBook Pro claims to have nine hours worth of battery time.

There are five new MacBook Pro model configurations to choose from.
The MacBook Pro 13-inch display, 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor starts at $1,299, while the better-equipped, 15-inch display, 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor model lists at $2,599.

The next new computer to be shown by Schiller was Apple’s new desktop model the Mac Pro.

We usually think of desktop or tower computers as being rectangular, tall, or box-shaped. 

Not the Mac Pro.

The Mac Pro computer housing is cylindrical, less than 10 inches high, and is painted a glossy black; however, don’t be fooled by its small size there’s plenty of processing power built into it. 

Its physical chassis is fashioned from extruded aluminum and is finely polished. 

“Assembled in the USA” is laser-etched on the bottom of its chassis.

The new Mac Pro’s next-generation Intel Xeon E5 Quad processor comes configured with six, eight, or 12 cores, and a 30MB L3 (level 3) memory cache to improve computing performance.

I was surprised to learn there was only one cooling fan inside the new Mac Pro, as previous models came with eight. 

Significantly improved energy efficiency is one reason for a single cooling fan, as this new model uses a remarkable 70 percent less energy than the earlier Mac Pros.

This computer includes display support for up to three, 4K display screens (digital screens supporting 4,000 pixels).

The Mac Pro is 9.9 inches high, and has a width of 6.6 inches. It weighs 11 pounds.

At the minimum $2,999 price, it comes equipped with a 3.7GHz quad-core Xeon E5 processor, 12GB of DDR3/ECC (double-data rate type 3/error code correcting) memory, Dual AMD FirePro D300 graphics processors, 2GB GDDR5/VRAM (graphics double-data rate 5/video random-access memory), and a 256GB PCIe/SSD (peripheral component interconnect express/solid-state drive). 

Complete technical specifications can be found at

Schiller said the new Mac Pro will be available in December.

He then talked about Apple’s iPad Air. 

This new iPad is 9.4 inches tall, has a width of 6.6 inches, a depth of .29-inches, and weighs 1 pound.

The iPad Air uses the iPhone 5s A7 processor chip, along with the motion (M7) co-processor. 

It includes a 9.7-inch (diagonal) Retina display, and is available in two colors, space gray and silver. 

The Wi-Fi models come in 16, 32, 64, or 128GB configurations priced at $499, $599, $699, and $799, respectively. 

The Wi-Fi and cellular models come in the same GB configurations, and are priced at $629, $729, $829, and $929. 

These new iPad Air computing tablets will be available in November. 

Cook remarked how it has been three and one-half years since the iPad was first introduced, and how others doubted it would make much of an impact in the computing industry. 

He then revealed (with a smile) that Apple sold its 170 millionth iPad earlier this month. 

“Now everybody seems to be making a tablet, even some of the doubters,” Cook said. 

You can watch Apple’s presentation at

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., speaking at the start of the October 22, 2013  Apple Event inside the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Friday, October 18, 2013

A deep-sea Internet system

by Mark Ollig

State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) researchers are working on a project for allowing submerged devices in the ocean to directly access the Internet.

“A submerged wireless network will give us an unprecedented ability to collect and analyze data from our oceans in real-time, said Tommaso Melodia, UB associate professor of electrical engineering and the project’s lead researcher.

When thinking wireless networks, we usually envision radio signals communicating via antennas with land-based towers, or a GPS navigation system using Earth orbiting satellites.

Consider how NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) currently obtains tsunami information from electronic sensors on the seafloor.

These sensors transmit data via aural or acoustic wave frequencies to floating buoys, or markers, on the ocean’s surface.

The acoustic waves are then converted into high-bandwidth (64 kbps or higher) signals which are transmitted up to a satellite. The signals are then redirected to satellite receivers on the ground.

The information acquired from the electronic sensors on the seafloor is made available to the computers linked to the Internet Cloud.

This data is protected via an Internet firewall.

Melodia confirms many systems worldwide use this model; however, it is challenging to share this information with others because different kinds of systems employ their own types of unique data infrastructures.

Also, I learned propagation (transmission) delays can be encountered using current underwater networking systems.

The new underwater network Melodia is suggesting would provide for existing and new undersea sensors to transmit their data instantaneously to smart devices, laptops, and other types of devices via a commonly used information transmission control protocol.

We know the Internet has rules for how our computers, laptops, and wireless smart devices communicate and share data.

That’s right folks; it’s the TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol standard.

This protocol standard (including IPv6 revisions) is what Melodia wants to see being used for the data transmissions from undersea sensors.

Melodia said using this type of framework (networking) would allow linking together undersea buoys which would detect tsunamis.

He feels this sort of communication network between them would be valuable in providing a more reliable warning to coastal residents who would be affected by a sensor’s detection of tsunamis.

Another advantage of using TCP/IP is that it’s designed for high-performance communication and is not subject to propagation delays. Also, information would be collected from the undersea sensors in real-time, thus making the sensors data more readily available, and timely.

Energy savings would also be realized using TCP/IP architecture because it would not consume as much power as traditional RF (Radio Frequency) wireless underwater devices such as sensors, relay-nodes, and modems do.

A recent underwater test was conducted just south of downtown Buffalo, in Lake Erie.

Two doctoral candidates who work in Melodia’s lab; Hovannes Kulhandjian and Zahed Hossain, released two 40-pound sensors into the lake from their boat on Lake Erie.

They then typed a command into a laptop computer, which communicated with the sensor in the lake. Within seconds, a sequence of high-pitched chirps were being monitored – confirming their test had worked.

“The Internet Underwater: An IP-compatible Protocol Stack for Commercial Undersea Modems” is a 2013 research paper Melodia and Yifan Sun collaborated on.

This paper describes, in extreme detail, how TCP/IP would work with devices in an underwater networking environment.

The research paper also envisions users accessing information from underwater sensors using any Internet connected device.

A drawing shows an example of how a Subnet 2 network of underwater sensors or nodes would send their TCP/IP data to a surface ship, which would then transmit the data via 3G cellular signaling into the traditional IP-based network we access.

You can view this drawing at:

Work on undersea devices using an IP-compatible network is supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

Someday, undersea buoys could provide a wealth of real-time information easily accessible over the Internet. They will tell us about their environment, water temperatures, and many will even have cameras attached to them for us to observe their surroundings.

On a future vacation, we may be accessing data from undersea buoys using the Internet while scuba diving off a tropical island.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bite into this: A smart tooth

By Mark Ollig

This week I have a dentist appointment, and so what better topic to write about than a new, high-tech tooth.

Yes, indeed, faithful readers, yours truly is writing a column about a unique smart tooth created in a research laboratory at the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering at National Taiwan University, in Taipei City.

During one test, researchers attached the smart tooth to the test subject’s real tooth using dental cement; it was then coated with dental resin.

This prototype smart tooth (a sensor-on-a-chip with built-in electronics and an accelerometer) had about 3 feet of wiring connecting it to a computer.

During testing, a computer program monitored the movement of the test subject’s mouth, and recognized the activity and motion data sent via the smart tooth.

The computer program was able to determine specific oral activities the person was engaging in.

Oral activities of the smart tooth wearer, such as: eating, drinking, smoking, coughing, and talking, were monitored and understood via the computer program. The results had an accuracy of almost 94 percent.

Chu stated how this technology would help in monitoring our health.

“Our mouth is an opening into our health; our drinking and eating behaviors shed light on our diet,” said researcher Hao-hua Chu, a computer scientist at National Taiwan University in Taipei.

“How frequently we cough also tells us about our health, and how frequently we talk is related to social activity that can be related to health,” he added.

A wireless-enabled smart tooth using Bluetooth technology is being developed which would send motion-monitored information to nearby smart devices for evaluation.

Chu revealed the idea for the smart tooth was inspired by his daughter, who needed to see the dentist on a frequent basis.

He began thinking about integrating digital technology into an artificial tooth.

Chu believes, in the future, our dentist will offer us two options for artificial teeth. The first is the traditional artificial tooth, while the second would be having a smart tooth, implanted which could monitor and record our oral activities.

The smart tooth would be mounted like a conventional dental crown by a dentist.

Currently, powering of the smart tooth is accomplished by re-charging it.

Researchers said the smart tooth would need to be removed for cleaning, and it would need a charging and storage station, “similar to that of an electric toothbrush.”

Chu feels some sort of small “energy harvester” could be added to the smart tooth which would allow it to operate for a full day without re-charging.

Additional sensors could be added to the smart tooth for detecting even more detailed information, such as the type of food a person was eating.

Researchers said they hope the information obtained will help people overcome unhealthy habits, like smoking, or overeating.

Dentists, it was reported, would be involved in the manufacturing of a future smart tooth.

For now, it is thought people requiring a dental crown would be able to wear the smart tooth; however, a future smart tooth which would fit inside the tooth cavity is being developed.

Researchers acknowledged future tooth models would have to consider safety; the smart tooth’s sensor units are small enough to be swallowed.

Sept. 11, Chu, along with his colleagues, Cheng-Yuan Li, Yen-Chang Chen, and Wei-Ju Chen, demonstrated their work on the smart tooth at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers event in Zurich, Switzerland.

When I visit my dentist, I will have to ask her when they will be offering smart teeth to their patients.

Being I still have all my wisdom teeth, this humble columnist presumably won’t need another smart tooth.

Speaking of teeth, for some reason I recall an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” where Gilligan began receiving radio station signals in one of his teeth filled by the Professor.

Also, there’s an old story about the “I Love Lucy” star Lucille Ball, who after having some dental work done, told friends she was able to hear radio signals via the new fillings in her teeth.

I imagine someday someone will create a “telephone tooth” for receiving and placing phone calls. Ah, so you think this will never happen?

Whenever I thought something could never happen, my mom would say to me; “Never say never,” and mom was usually right.

A Reuters YouTube video report about the smart tooth can be seen at: