Wednesday 27 April, 2022

The grapes of wrath

Seen in an upmarket Norfolk greengrocer’s one Halloween afternoon.

Quote of the Day

”The trouble, Mr Goldwyn, is that you are only interested in art and I am only interested in money.”

  • George Bernard Shaw, when declining to sell the movie rights to his plays to Sam Goldwyn.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Haydn | Trumpet Concerto in Eb, 1st movement | Allegro | Alison Balsom | BBC Proms, 2009.


Long Read of the Day

 The Huge Endeavor to Produce a Tiny Microchip

This is a long, long read — but worth it if you’re puzzled why the post-Covid world is suddenly short of silicon chips, the tiny miniaturised circuits that now run the world. They’re amazingly difficult to make, and more than 90% of the really sophisticated ones are currently manufactured in Taiwan. Which is why Intel, the huge American semiconductor firm, is spending $20 billion on two factories at its chip-making complex in Arizona that will take three years to complete, with others to come in Ohio and Germany.

There’s a dramatic contrast between the tiny size of these silicon circuits and the enormity of the fabricant plants (fabs) needed to manufacture them. This New York Times report does a pretty good job of explaining and conveying that.

It also provides a compelling reminder that chip-fabrication has massive environmental downsides. Intel’s two fabs in Arizona draw 11m gallons of water a day from the local utility — in a drought-plagued state. The company claims that 82% of the water it consumes is reclaimed through filtration systems, settling ponds, etc. and sent back to the nearby city of Chandler, which operates treatment facilities (funded by Intel) and redistributes it for irrigation and other non-drinking uses.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was 40 last Friday

Photo by Bill Bertram

Nice piece of nostalgia from The Register:

The ZX Spectrum, replete with rubber keyboard, debuted at £125 for the 16KB version and £175 for the 48KB incarnation. A 32KB RAM pack could be plugged into the rear expansion slot of the former, and this writer well remembers the joy of an unexpected reset caused by a wobbly bit of hardware.

Over five million of the Z80A-based devices were sold, and its impact cannot be overstated. While over 1.5 million BBC Micros (made by Acorn) may have also been sold during its lifetime, it was the ZX Spectrum that found its way into far more homes across Europe, and its impact continues to resonate in the IT world of today.

Raspberry Pi supremo Eben Upton was more on the Acorn side of things, but recalled the effect of the plastic slab: “As a much more affordable alternative to the Beeb, and with roughly 3x the lifetime sales, the Spectrum probably had a greater role in promoting the accidental route into engineering careers in the ’80s and early ’90s.”

Gosh, was that really 40 years ago. Time really does fly. Wonder if mine is still in the attic, along with my first Nokia phone (the one as big as a house-brick).

Mikhail Gorbachev had one too!

My commonplace booklet

This City Pledges to Be Carbon-Neutral by the Time It’s Too Late

Nice spoof by Matthew Brian Cohen.

Thanks to decades of inaction, climate change is now an inevitable reality. However, there is still time to mitigate the brunt of the damage, and in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, we must be bold. That’s why, as mayor, I’ve set an ambitious (but achievable!) goal for our city to be carbon-neutral by the time it’s already too late.

The time for action is now, and by now, I mean twenty to thirty-five years from now. The window to push this back is rapidly closing. I fear that history will look back and ask us why we didn’t delay acting any sooner. That’s why my administration is committed to doing everything we can to kick the can down the road and tackle this looming existential threat at some vague point in the future.

The science is clear: to meet our climate goals, we need to radically transform both our societal infrastructure and our individual behaviors. And since we’re not willing to do that, the hope is that someday, when it’s one hundred thirty degrees in the middle of March, we will. In the meantime, we’re just going to stay the course as the oil and gas industry continues to see record profits from exciting new products like inner-city fracking and zero-use plastics…

It is a spoof — honest.

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