[time-nuts] Help - Hope?

John Miles jmiles at pop.net
Mon Jan 2 15:56:04 EST 2006

I think we're seeing the technology shift to a different level of
abstraction, that's all.  If the operating principles of a system built from
components cannot be understood in structural terms (i.e., from
disassembly), then your definition of "component" is what's insufficient.
You just need to move up a level and try again.

Even in this rarefied company, few of us truly work from first principles.
A veteran RFIC designer may well have forgotten Maxwell's equations and all
of their implications.  I'm not familiar with the details of RFIC modelling,
design, and fabrication, but I understand how the end product is applied at
the circuit level.  A kid playing with a WiFi card and a Pringles can
doesn't know the first thing about how his Wifi card works, but he will,
after some experimenting, understand how to use it to talk to his neighbor's
access point.

To the chip designer, a "component" is probably a subcircuit model that
exists only in software.  To me, a "component" is the resulting chip, with
pins you can solder stuff to.  To the kid, the "component" is the monolithic
WiFi card.  There is little to be gained by assigning relative levels of
merit to different abstraction levels, or assuming that society is doomed
because people rarely work their way down the abstraction hierarchy without
a compelling need.

I'm happiest when I'm able to work all the way down the lowest level of
abstraction I can actually put my hands on, but that doesn't carry much
weight in a global sense.  Witness the trouble I run into when I actually
_need_ the first principles that I ran away from when I dropped out of
college. :-)

-- john, KE5FX

> -----Original Message-----
> From: time-nuts-bounces at febo.com [mailto:time-nuts-bounces at febo.com]On
> Behalf Of Poul-Henning Kamp
> Sent: Monday, January 02, 2006 6:46 AM
> To: Discussion of precise time and frequency measurement
> Subject: Re: [time-nuts] Help - Hope?
> In message <20060102.141403.105215125.cfmd at bredband.net>, Magnus
> Danielson writes:
> >But to answer your question, younger people is still attracted
> and there is
> >still plenty of people having the right mind for these things around.
> A major difference for these younger people is that the technology
> of today is reverse engineering resistant.
> There is practically nothing to learn today by taking things apart:
> you can't see how they work.

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