[Oberon] Re. e-ink and Oberon

Douglas G. Danforth danforth at greenwoodfarm.com
Fri May 16 05:03:02 CEST 2003

eas-lab at absamail.co.za wrote:
> Douglas G. Danforth wrote:
>>I have a dream and that dream is to have Oberon be the underlying OS for 
>>pen based displays yet to be produced by e-ink of Cambridge, MA.
> Why would Oberon be a candidate ?
> Because it has a high low-size*hi-speed product.

That's part of the answer.  The main reason is the language is modular, 
extensible, simple, and logical.  Try saying that about Windows XP.

> But why can't this be achieved by others ?
> This has puzzled me:
>   Is the file structure important ?

No, only a standard hierarchical structure is needed for efficient 
access to large number of files.  BUT for the pen project a linear 
arrangement is all that is needed.

>   The duplication of code in many modules, does not help the size.
>     I guess duplication comes from each 'student' doing a full project ?
>     eg. how many times has the 'hex2ascii' routine been rewritten ?
>     Partitions.Mod contains a lot of code which would also be in Hex.Mod .
>     Perhaps it doesn't matter with dynamic loading of modules ?
>     Are they able to be swapped out ?
>     Does  e-ink intend to have a Hard-Drive ?
>     I never got an answer to the question of why S3 code always uses
>     var.pars instead of functions which are easier to read.
>     Are these much more efficient.
>     The syntax doesn't exclude functional style programing,
>     but when I reported a 'failure' when eg. using 
>     Cost := Biggest( Cheapest(Shoes)) I was recommended to use the
>     var. pars 'work around'. 

These comments are based on your experience with Native Oberon and S3. 
I draw a distinction between generic Oberon and specific instances of 
the operating system (ETH V4, Linz V4, S3, Native, ...).  When I say 
Oberon as an operating system I really only mean the language and its 
modular structure.  The devices for a pen system will be specific to the 
pen hardware.

>>Since I am a physicist by training I have at least 35 notebooks full of 
>>calculations.  I would like to replace those books by a single one 
>>capable of holding thousands of pages that can be clean, neat, 
>>searchable and capable of transmission to others and of high enough 
>>quality for submission for publication.
>>Needless to say the Oberon display and mouse functionality would be 
>>replaced with gester (and possibly voice) recognition.
> What's 'gester' ?

Sorry that should have been gesture.  Drawing a line through a word can 
mean delete, moving the pen in a down stroke from the upper corner can 
mean turn the page, etc.

> Long hours of mouse usage has given me injury problems - which I
> previosly thought a myth.   Note that the hand position for mouse
> usage is at one extremity of its 'swivel'. A Joy-stick is in the middle
> (most relaxed) of the swivel range.  I want a 5 key joystick system !

Nope not for me.  You're still thinking of a computer.  That's not what 
this is.  Its just paper (smart paper).  Pencil and paper.

> N-o has generated many 'notebooks' full of info for me recently.
> Multiple partitions makes the info-glut managable.

That's for n-o, this is not n-o (although it very will might use some of 
the device drivers).

> This can't be done with a hand held.

The model I am using is that of a book (actually a library full of 
books).  Also the book is for creators in contrast to consumers.  It is 
for people who enjoy doing complex mathematics and would like the system 
to "keep them honest" by checking their steps.  It would have a form of 
Mathematica internally but would be WYSIWYG with respect to mathematical 
expressions (no linear form that is then compiled).

> You have to start from the human:
>    ten fingers and size of fingers ....etc.
>    The chair and table (for productivety) is as important as the computer !


>    Note book style can never be 'hi-volume-productive'.

That is correct.  This is for the subset of humanity that thinks.
This is for  Fermi, Feyman, Schwinger, Einstein, Planck, Turing, Wiles, 
Von Neuman, Maxwell, Whitehead, Ramanujan, etc.

>    You don't want to tell me that you do serious calculations without
>    sitting down COMFORTABLY ?  Which negates the note book size.

The size I have choosen is 9 x 6 1/2 (spiral bound looseleaf notebooks 
of this size can be found in your local stantionary store).  When opened 
and rotated it is at least 1/2 inch large on the margins than 8 1/2 x 11 
inch paper.

I usually do my research at lunch which frequently is at McDonalds.  I 
don't go there for the food but rather for a flat well lit table top on 
which to work.

>>Does anyone else share this dream?  Does anyone else share this dream 
>>strongly enough to kick around what it would take to form a company to 
>>sell such a device?
> I have dreams that involve n-o, but somewhat different from yours.

Again, n-o is secondary to my purposes.  Oberon-0 with different display 
drivers and pen input could also be a starting point BUT there are now 
man years of effort invested in n-o and it would be foolish not to 
capitualize on that work.

> I recently had a play with a pen/touch-screen based Motorola A008 
> cell-phone: e-mail access, Fax, SMS and WAP, handwriting recognition
> ..etc.  It's not a new development, yet there seems little demand for
> them.   I was impressed, but what the market wants is often very
> different from what we want.

The average "consumer" wants a computer as they currently know it. 
That's not my goal.  Laying pen based input on top of the current 
Windows (for example) interface is not the correct thing to do.

The pen dynabook (to use Alan Kay's phrase) is for deep thinkers who 
want to augment their calculations and diagrams with cleaned up precision.

I was going to end by saying that one would not think of writing a 
manuscript with the pen dynabook but then recalled an interesting story 
which follows:

I worked for two years as a statistics advior at the Center for Advanced 
Study in the Behavior Sciences where visiting fellows spend a year in 
sabbatical (they are chosen from the top 10% of the top quartile of 
behavioral science faculty throughout the US and world).  One year a 
German geneticist came to CASBS (which overlooks Lake Lagunita on the 
Stanford campus) but only stayed 6 months.  It seems that when they 
cleaned out his desk they found 12 empty ink bottles.  He had written a 
900 page tome on genetics in long hand!  The other fellows at the center 
were amazed and talked about it for some time there after.

So you see, the art of using the pen need not be restrictive!

-Doug Danforth

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