50, 25, 10 years ago
This page offers a look back on a variety of interesting items from Control Engineering's past issues, highlighting content from 50, 25, and 10 years ago. April 1955 Dr. Bush calls for automatic encyclopedia Dr. Vannevar Bush wants knowledge at his fingertips—all human knowledge. In fact, he wants the Federal Government to start planning the world's most grandiose data-processing project.
This page offers a look back on a variety of interesting items from Control Engineering's past issues, highlighting content from 50, 25, and 10 years ago.
Dr. Bush calls for automatic encyclopedia
Dr. Vannevar Bush wants knowledge at his fingertips—all human knowledge. In fact, he wants the Federal Government to start planning the world's most grandiose data-processing project. He would have the mounting volume of human knowledge coded and made available "in prompt, accurate, effective fashion, and at a distance if this is desired."
He made this bold suggestion at a meeting of the ASME, which had just awarded him honorary membership. Only about 150 such members have been named since the society was founded in 1880.
Bush pointed out that equipment is at hand to do the job. Scanners can glance at a thousand items per second. Photographic methods cram a thousand books into the space of a cigarette package. Digital computers manipulate records at the rate of a million numbers per second.
"Our libraries are overflowing," he warned, "and their growth is exponential," with much valuable data embedded in the mass of paper. Breaking loose this mired information would open the way to "another spurt forward of civilization."
Fiber-optic nuclear plant fail-safe system
More than 200 flame-retardant optical cables will be used in the development of two nuclear plant safety systems. The systems are being produced by Bailey Controls Co. for the Babcock & Wilcox Co.
Total absence of failure propagation was the chief factor in selecting the fiber-optic approach. Unlike copper conductors, glass fibers will not short circuit, even if the protective covering is damaged by fire or physical injury... To accommodate the various signals used in the safety control system, Bailey developed three types of links: a multiplexed analog link, a multiplexed digital link, and a dedicated digital link for communications between redundant safety systems. In the dedicated link, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) criteria demanded that no single fault, physical or electrical, cause more than one redundant safety channel to malfunction. Each link uses Siecor fiber-optic cable, terminations, and receptacles for light detectors and sources. It is believed to be the first application of fiber optics in the nuclear industry.
Wanted: skilled people for the plant floor
"When automation systems first entered the plant floor, their principal purpose was people elimination... The intervening years have seen this change radically. While work-force reduction is still a factor, today the prime benefit of plant-floor controls is efficiency improvement and all which that entails," wrote consulting editor, Byron K. Ledgerwood.
"In many situations, this trend is causing a step-function in the capabilities required of plant floor workers. The ability to interface with CRT terminals, understand quality charts and make adjustments based on the information, and be capable of maintaining complex electronic controls are only some of the activities workforces are increasingly being expected to put forth.
"One of the major questions is: where are the people to come from who can handle these positions? Shop courses in schools are rapidly vanishing, the number of good technical schools is limited and apprentice programs are largely a thing of the past... It seems that increasingly, manufacturers are going to have to rely on their own schooling and training programs to procure the type of people they need. This applies not only to new hires, but also to current employees who need to be brought up to date as new and more complex control systems are introduced to the plant floor... There seems little doubt this will become a more significant problem in the future."