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DEMO Spring: Automatic Emotion Detection Technology Wins Grand Prize

Turns out, that when you’re ticked off, you’re ticked off in any language. This is a good thing for startup company eXaudios Technologies. This Israel-based company has developed software that analyzes volume and intonation changes in a person’s voice and translates that information into statements about the speaker’s feelings and intent. (“You feel disrespect and rejection.” “Patronizing.”) It unveiled this technology in Palm Springs this week at DEMOSpring2010, demonstrating the system live in both English and Hebrew.

EXAudios is planning to sell this technology into call centers, where it can be used to monitor customers and agents, allowing supervisors to step in when a customer’s anger is mounting and, ideally, turn the call around. The technology has other applications—screening for Parkinson’s and other diseases, Homeland Security, but the company thinks it will take off most quickly in the call center world.

This company had all the right stuff—cool technology and an obvious market niche. I can see it having a positive effect on my life—the next time I call Verizon to complain about bizarre charges on my cell phone bill, someone who can actual do something might step into the conversation sooner rather than later.

And I wasn’t the only one who was impressed—eXaudios won the People’s Choice Award—a million dollars worth of advertising on IDG properties.


DEMO Spring: Advice to Future Companies

As a journalist who has attended a number of DEMO conferences, an event at which companies launch new technologies in six minute live demonstrations, I often find myself asked for some advice the night before the presenters take the stage. Tell me, a soon-to-be-presenter will say, what kinds of pitches get your attention, what turns you off.

At that point, it’s too late to make a sudden change in direction. And I don’t want to make someone nervous by inadvertently telling him that everything he's about to do is wrong. It may be wrong for me, but it could work. Maybe. And being nervous isn't going to help anyone. So I try to say something general and get off the subject quickly.

And truthfully, I can’t tell them what makes a six-minute demo great. Mostly, I guess, it’s about the technology itself—does it do more than take a tiny step forward, is it something I can see myself actually wanting, is it something I haven’t seen 10 times before? (And, by that third criteria, all great products are different and unpredictable.)

But there are a couple of things I do know that I like—and don’t like—in a Demo presentation.
—I like to know how much this thing is going to cost. Yes, yes, you have a free trial, free basic subscription, free something; but after that—what are you going to charge?
—I like props. I'll be seeing sixty-plus presentations in two days, some from companies with similar technologies; it gets hard to keep track of them all. At the most recent DemoSpring, one presenter kicked off by smashing a fax machine to bits with a baseball bat—all good, we’ve all wanted to do that. Having a woman do her presentation in handcuffs—that didn't really work for me but it was a noble attempt; it got attention, but I’m not so sure folks remembered much beyond the handcuffs.
—I don't want you to tell me that your social media/shopping/whatever site tosses a tiny percentage of its profits to nonprofits. The fact that you’re making the occasional charitable donation doesn’t make it a breakthrough technology. I don't care and the consumer won't either.
—I don't like hearing that your business model is a three-legged stool, a three-pronged fork, or three of anything. I know three is the magic number in presentations, but it doesn’t help you here. Telling me that you’re going to get revenue through advertising/premium subscribers/white label branding simply tells me have yet to figure out who really wants what you’re selling.
—And, finally, I don't mind if your demo has a few glitches. We know the network goes down, that your server back at home never had a glitch in 10 rehearsals. We do believe it is not your fault. And when the glitches happen, you’ll find everyone in the audience rooting for you to somehow get your message across in spite of what happened. Don’t panic, make an attempt at humor, and realize we’ll at least remember you, and will likely check your booth later to find out what we missed.


Photo: ABJK NewCo Inc. promises the end of the fax machine. Video below.

DEMO Spring: Taking on the Challenge of Internet TV

Many of us are watching TV on our computers. Some of us are browsing the Internet on our TV screens. Neither experience is ideal. TV on our computers is tiny; trying to navigate the Internet with a traditional web browser when the display is a couple of meters away is challenging. And true Internet TV, that is, a seamless convergence of traditional television and Internet content, well, it’s been right around the corner for at least 10 years (though devices—like Roku and Apple TV—are making it less frustrating than it used to be, it's still got a ways to go).

That doesn’t mean folks have given up. And, indeed, the company that finally gets it right could have a huge market. Three companies that launched products at Demo Spring this week in Palm Springs are hoping to do just that.

First of the TV/Internet contenders on Demo stage was ViaClix, based in Los Gatos, Calif. At first glance, ViaClix looked awesome, with its seamless navigation between Internet and regular TV channels. However, it turns out that there's a hitch; ViaClix technology will need to be integrated in cable and other set-top boxes; I won't be able to go out and get it myself. That leaves us broadcast-TV watchers out, and means that the company will have to sell TV providers on the technology. That may take a while.  (watch their six-minute demo at the end of this post)

GlideTV, from Pleasanton, Calif., is nearer term—it’s a software application that’s designed for finding entertainment programming on the Internet and browsing it by content rather than site.  The company plans to sell a $99 package that includes the software and a wireless touchpad optimized for TV browsing (photo, right, demo below).

Hillcrest Labs, from Rockville, Maryland, is also targeting folks that are willing to hook a computer up to their television. The company, however,  sees these folks asnot just looking for entertainment, but rather aas doing all sorts of web browsing. So Hillcrest is introducing a web browser, the Kylo Browser, that can be easily controlled from a distance; it makes the fonts, buttons, and cursor larger, moves most of the clutter to the bottom of the screen where it won’t get in the way of the TV picture, and pops up an onscreen keyboard when needed. Hillcrest is giving its browser away for free, in hopes of driving sales of its $99 remote, which is motion rather than touch sensitive. (photo, left, and demo below). (The remote, by the way, was hugely fun to use. Which has its good points and its bad points—my kids change channels too much as it is.)

Panelists discussing these approaches weren’t blown away, though they agree that when you move from a hundred channels to a thousand up and down channel navigation, typical on today’s TV remotes, is no longer viable.

Michael Jones, Chief Technology Advocate for Google, doesn’t see real internet TV happening as long as you have to hook up a gadget to your TV; not until television manufacturers build the technology into standard TV sets will it happen. Robert Davis from venture firm Highland Capital Partners agrees that it’s a hard sell as an add on, pointing out that besides the extra box problem, people have to be really motivated to run an Ethernet cable to their television, and most aren’t.

Instead, Chi-Hua Chien from venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers noted, convergence is more likely to consist of an iPad on the coffee table for Internet browsing during TV viewing.

Unless, the panelists said, you get that killer app. And we might just have had a glimpse of it on the Demo stage. It wasn’t something like an Internet TV navigator; instead, panelist Chien pointed to a startup out of Nyoombl Inc. from Palo Alto, Calif. with the Greypfruit, a device the size of a cell phone that hooks up to a TV for easy video conferencing—so simple, Nyoombl hopes, that when the kids turn on the TV they’ll be looking to visit with Grandma instead of watching cartoons. (We know the kids will be able to figure it out, the trick is making it simple enough for Grandma.) The company hasn’t released pricing information.

Six minute Demos from:





Hillcrest Labs


Engineering 3D

Since Avatar, 3D has become the "it" technology in the movie industry.  Exhibitors see 3-D as a way to compete with increasingly elaborate home entertainment options - from on-demand video to video games. Some of the biggest Hollywood players are getting in line.  Jeffery Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, creators of blockbusters such as Shrek and Madagascar, has said that all of the company’s films will be 3-D.  Powerful directors from Peter Jackson to George Lucas, who has talked of re-releasing the Star Wars films in 3-D, are on board. The aim is to transform the way visual entertainment is created and consumed – not just in theaters, but at home.

But there are challenges. Though Dolby’s projection technology can be utilized using a theater’s existing white screens, others require conversion to silver screens. Despite the estimated $5,500 cost of upgrading to a silver screen, this plan has won the support of exhibitors such as the Columbus, Georgia based Carmike Cinemas, the fourth largest theater chain the country.  Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements, an exhibitor based in Dedham, Massachusetts, has already equipped many of her 80 theaters.  Going 3-D is key for own strategy of beating the other theaters.  “It’s a way for us to differentiate and add a new dimension to the movie going experience,” she says.

Producers say there’s also a hidden challenge that’s just as crucial for growing the new market for 3-D movies:   getting filmmakers up to speed.  Cary Granat is producer of blockbusters such as Scream and Spy Kids, and co-founder of Walden Media, the company that put out the animated Real D film, Chicken Little, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.  “How do you train the world of filmmakers to now rethink how they’re shooting their movies?” Granat says, “It’s not simple as just shooting in 3-D.  Everything you know from camera system to scripting scenes has to be rethought.”

Granat credits Cameron, with whom he worked on short 3-D films Abyss and Into the Deep, with engineering key solutions.   While working on Avatar, Cameron created a virtual camera system that allows him to watch portions of the film-in-progress in 3-D while he’s working.  Now others can make use of such wares.  “That was an enormous as a leap,” says Granat, “if that hadn’t happened, the cost would have been extraordinary. Another challenge is balancing the transition between 3-D and standard 2-D films.   While a film may debut in 3-D, for example, it will have a longer shelf life in 2-D form for television viewing on DVD and On Demand.  Filmmakers are working overtime to devise a fix.  Rob Letterman, director of DreamWorks’ flagship 3-D animated movie, Monsters versus Aliens, says he had to prepare two versions of some film sequences to accommodate each format.  Chase scenes in 3-D, for example, require entirely different pacing and construction.   “We’re learning how to shoot movies all over again,” he says.   

NYC Regional FIRST Robotics Competition Starts Tomorrow

This weekend the NYC regional FIRST robotics competition pits 64 high schools against each other to see whose robot plays soccer better.

The pre-game started today. High school students from the NYC area, plus one team from Great Britain and one from Brazil, finally unpacked the robots they built over six weeks in January and February. After weeks of anticipation they started tinkering again and dove into practice rounds for this weekend’s competition. The Javits Center in Manhattan was abuzz with teams making last minute adjustments and fixes, trading team buttons, parading mascots around, and most importantly, testing their bots on the field of battle.

That battlefield looked more like a soccer field for the game called “Breakaway,” where robots are supposed to roll or kick balls into a goal while climbing over or under obstacles in the field [see our January commentary for more on FIRST and this year’s challenge].

Vinod Lala, science teacher and mentor for the Mary Louis Academy’s rookie robot team, said it’s already apparent that the game will be tough – about 60 percent of the practice rounds were scoreless, 0-0, he said. And while robots get extra points for hanging off of posts placed in the center of the field, most robots aren’t going for it.

With some exceptions, of course. The Iron Maidens, a veteran all-girls team from the Bronx High School of Science, neatly steered their robot to a central post, where it reached a long arm up, latched on, and lifted itself off the ground.

The FIRST competition challenges students to make engineering design decisions from the get-go, many of which became apparent on the playing field: some robots will squeeze under obstacles, while others are built to roll over them. Some teams were even planning to add additional parts to their robots at the last minute, like a "kicker" to try to score goals.

The competition starts tomorrow and goes through the weekend, with seeding rounds Saturday and Sunday mornings, then qualifying and final rounds in the afternoon. Top scoring teams will travel to the global championships at the Georgia Dome, in Atlanta, in April.

FIRST Lego and Tech challenges, for younger students, will also take place at Javits this weekend. The events are free and open to the public.


In the early hours of November 8, 2008, a young man in John Lennon shades and a black fedora slipped his card into an ATM machine in Chicago.The seemingly banal scene played out at 2100 ATMs in 280 other cities around the world from Atlanta to Moscow. 

But these were no ordinary withdrawals.  They were part of what a U.S. attorney now calls “perhaps the most sophisticated and organized computer fraud attack ever conducted."  In November, four Eastern European twentysomething hackers were busted in coordinating the elaborate ATM heist, which netted them $9.4 million in just 12 hours.  After hacking into the Atlanta-based RBS WorldPay, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, they made bogus debit cards – which were used during the spree.  So-called “cashers” got hired to make the withdrawals in exchange for a 30 to 50 percent cut.  A mastermind nicknamed Hacker 3 coordinated the cashers, who did all their dirty work with just 44 fake cards.

ATM heists are growing.  Recently, three crooks died after stealing an ATM case in a small town in Holland.  The ATM’s anti-theft device exploded, spraying the cash with dye – the thieves died when their car wiped out on the run.  In August, a fake ATM machine got set up at the casino hosting the annual DefCon hackers conference, and skimmed the card info from unsuspecting geeks.  Old ATM machines – complete with card numbers – are being bought and sold on Craigslist for under $1000.  I’ve been following the ATM  heist for months and waiting for the indictments – now that they’ve hit, a portal into a new kind of battle is emerging:  how ATMs get stolen/hacked, and how banks are fighting against them.

Entrepreneurs Wanted, Or Why You Should Start a Company During This Global Economic Downturn

So you had an amazing idea for a tech start-up that would change the world like Google, Microsoft, and Intel did. But in the blink of an eye, the global economy came crashing down on your dreams. You may be tempted to retract back into your cubicle, never to let your idea see the light of day. But think again. If history is any guide, the best time for entrepreneurship may be when the economy is at its worst.

General Motors was founded by entrepreneur William Durant during the Panic of 1907, while aerospace giant United Technologies emerged during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Biotech titans Amgen and Genentech were founded during the soaring oil prices and economic malaise of the mid-1970s. Cisco, Starbucks, and Home Depot became multi-billion-dollar enterprises despite the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s. And Google rose from the ashes of the dot-com conflagration.

To be clear, it’s still ugly out there. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, first-round venture investments are a third of what they were two years ago. But the world -- and the checkbooks of VCs such as my firm Lux Capital -- are still open to innovative ideas in several areas. A lot of science and technology breakthroughs come from big companies, but in this environment, corporate inertia and a reluctancy to try new technologies have slowed down their innovation engines. And that’s where you -- the entrepreneur -- come in.

Instead of incremental advances, from Lux’s vantage point, now is the time to develop revolutionary ideas to solve today’s most critical problems. Today’s entrepreneurs ought not focus on "trinkets" that promise to be slightly cheaper or a bit more efficient than the current state of the art -- the market may not be willing to pay for these benefits. Thinking big doesn’t mean expecting to get funded with a pie in the sky idea scribbled on the back of a paper napkin (despite all the VC lore you hear). For starters, you need to understand the market you're entering: Who your customer will be and how much they will be willing to spend on your product.

For example, Lux recently backed a start-up developing radios that transmit over 100 times faster at prices comparable to those that are in your laptops and cell phones today. The concept had many implications, like eliminating all those nasty cables to our TVs or moving hours of HD video between our gadgets in seconds rather than hours. We chose to invest in the company because, among other things, they were able to clearly describe their immediate customers (television manufacturers), end users (television viewers), displaced competition (A/V cable providers), product manufacturing partners (chip foundries), and key decision makers (electronics retailers). The company had a solid sense of the challenges that needed to be overcome and was able to make a compelling argument as to why customers, and investors, would pay for their technology.

So you understand the market -- but can you navigate your way through rough waters? What do you do if, say, your customers postpone adopting your cutting-edge technology?

For one thing, make sure you’re armed with answers. Another start-up in Lux's portfolio started off expecting to produce fully-integrated MEMS and CMOS timing chips that don't require bulky, power-hungry quartz crystals. However, as the economy headed downhill, the already-conservative market was reluctant to entirely abandon quartz devices -- which have been in use since the era of vacuum tubes! In response, the company chose to enter the market with an early-entry product (without the MEMS) as an evolutionary step towards the fully-integrated solution. In the meantime, it partnered with a leading semiconductor firm to get the CMOS and MEMS technology ported to a world-class foundry. It now expects to introduce a variety of fully-integrated timing and sensing products in the near future.

The start-ups mentioned above are just two I'm familiar with (disclosure: Lux Capital and I personally have financial ties to these companies). VC firms have plenty of other successful stories to tell -- and, of course, many unsuccessful tales as well. With these examples, I'm trying to illustrate how entrepreneurs and management teams succeed by having laser focus on customers and flexibility to adapt to a changing environment. For first-time entrepreneurs, the lessons are the same.

Now get out of your cubicle and get started on that business plan.

PS: I'll be writing occasionally in this space about entrepreneurship and venture capital. Write me with questions:

Shahin Farshchi is a senior associate at Lux Capital. Based in California, he focuses on investments in semiconductor and energy technologies. He is an IEEE Member and holds a PhD degree in electrical engineering from UCLA.

Homebrewed Nukes

I've been doing research into school science projects, and came across this interesting item, billed as "The Ultimate Science Fair Project" - homebrewed nuclear reactors.

It's not as off the wall as it seems, and brings to mind the forgotten story of gamer Cameron Sneed.  Twenty-two-year-old  Sneed lived with his parents in Rockwall, Texas, a small town east of Dallas. He’s an auto school dropout, but he was also a resourceful geek who loves to make things. While working as a coder at a local telecom, Sneed got the video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.:  Shadow of Chernobyl. He couldn’t afford a new PC to play the shooter, which was set in the post-meltdown hellscape of the infamous nuclear power plant. So Sneed tweaked his old graphics card and cooling device to keep it from overheating.

The game was good, full of radioactive mutants to kill. But the graphics were lacking, so Sneed created a “mod” to fix them. He uploaded his mod and promoted it on the site Ars Technica a gathering place for hackers and tinkerers. More than 50,000 people downloaded Sneed’s tweaked version of the game, and PC Gamer named it Mod of the Year. “I'm glowing with pride that this project came out of our own community,” effused one geek on the Ars Technica forum.   Sneed,  unemployed, basked in the glory for a while.  Then he decided to build something a little more ambitious: A nuclear reactor.  “The whole point of the project was to prove to myself that you can breed materials with little expense in your garage and do it relatively safely,” he said. 

He wasn’t the first.  In 1994, a 17-year-old misfit named David Hahn gained notoriety after a failed attempt to build a fast breed nuclear reactor in his parent’s backyard. Hahn, dubbed “The Radioactive Boy Scout,” can’t shake his hobby. He was  rearrested after stealing several smoke detectors, presumably to harvest their Americium-241.  Hahn’s mug shot shows a face dotted with lesions, which were caused by repeated exposure to radiation:.

But Sneed was determined not to become another David Hahn.  Unlike him, Sneed wouldn’t sneak around or steal; he’d build his reactor in public. Last November, he logged onto Ars Technica and posted: “I will document all experiments and injuries along with odd phenomenon such as opening the gates of hell.”  Sneed snagged some Americium-241, as well as some natural radioactive ore on eBay. He boasted of producing Plutonium-239, a component in nuke weapons. He later wrote, “I melted a large hunk of uranium out of one side of an ore chunk. I am concerned that background radiation level in my office and bedroom have almost doubled”   Meanwhile, posters in the Ars Technica forum begged Sneed to stop. “Do not ionize or vaporize uranium!” one geek wrote. “It's not the radiation that will kill you, it's the fucking heavy metal toxicity.”   Sneed ignored such warnings. “I am no David Hahn and am not as stupid,” he posted, “I HAVE built a functioning breeder Aluminum+Lead shield, but some radiation is escaping.  I’ll beef it up.”

He didn’t get the chance. Agents from the FBI and the Texas Department of State Health Services' Radiation Control Program showed up at his parent’s house. They’d been tipped off by someone on Ars Technica.   Because there were not dangerous radiation levels yet and since the materials were legally obtained, Sneed was not arrested. FBI spokesman Mark White admired Sneed’s handiwork, saying “if he had kept his experiment going, it probably wouldn't have blown up.”

Life Among the Internet Natives

My two youngest children—now 14 and 11—are Internet natives. They relate to the Internet in the way I relate to running water—when I need water, I turn on the sink; when they need information, they open a browser. (My oldest child, now 18, isn’t quite in the same space; he’s more like someone who emigrated as a child, he’s comfortable, he speaks the language, but he still has connections to the old country. He’s been known to go to the library to find information he needs, for example.)

Since I’m a relatively happy Internet immigrant, I mostly forget how different the Internet has made my children’s world from the one I grew up in, and continues to change it. But sometimes I’m struck by the ubiquity of the technology. And it doesn’t always happen in the highest tech environment.

This year my daughter competed as part of her high school’s mock trial team. Mock trial is a high school competition, with county, state, and national tournaments.  Students study a case, field defense and prosecution teams, and then try the case in front of a real judge and a jury made up of legal experts. When I watched my daughter’s team compete as part of the California Mock Trial Program, the courtroom was as traditional as it gets—an old courthouse, heavy oak furniture, the judge in his black robes.

The case itself, however, a murder trial in which a comedian is accused of killing someone who gave him a bad review on an online ratings site, turned on Internet technology. There were no witnesses, no DNA evidence. There was a little low-tech evidence, in the form of tire tracks, but these only put the defendant’s car at the scene, not the defendant.

Instead, they had an email and two tweets.  To me, the Internet immigrant, it seemed odd that both the defense and the prosecution were whipping out this information as evidence; to the Internet natives on the teams, however, it made perfect sense, for what they do on the Internet is as real as what they do in the real world.

First, the email—the defendant sent a personal message to the critic through the online website, “YellUp” (perhaps a loosely disguised “Yelp), giving him a last chance to remove the review, and threatening, if he doesn’t, “to do more than ruin [his] livelihood”. The detective (my daughter) has discovered this during a search; up for pretrial debate--was that search was legal? The detective had a warrant to search the defendant’s car, house, and computer, and all records or information on purchases, no matter where stored. She viewed the browser history, then clicked through into the Yell-Up site to find the message. The pretrial arguments centered on whether or not this was admissible under the search warrant, since YellUp is not a shopping site, or whether only data on the computer itself should have been searched, and not data in the cloud.

Then, there was a twitter message, also introduced by the prosecution. The defendant tweets, "I'm going to kill tonight and shut up the critics once and for all." The defense didn’t argue that tweets should be inadmissible as evidence, but instead brought forward witnesses who explain that “kill” is a term used by comedians to describe putting on a great show.

The prosecution wasn't the only team pulling evidence out of the Internet. The defense brought out a tweet as an alibi, arguing that the defendant couldn’t have murdered the victim at the time in question because he had tweeted from a computer, not a phone, around the same time.

My daughter’s team was knocked out at the county level, having won a few and lost a few. But other teenagers around the country will continue for the next few months to argue a murder case based on Internet evidence. And they won’t realize at all that they really are living in a new world.

John Carmack's Lifetime Achievement

This week, news comes that one of the most influential programmers in the videogame industry, John Carmack, will be receiving a lifetime achievement award at next month's Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco. Carmack joins luminaries including Will Wright and Shigeru Miyamoto.  Carmack is known for popularizing the first person shooter genre with innovative games such as Wolfenstein 3-D, Doom, and Quake.  I spent months interviewing him for my first book, Masters of Doom, and was always impressed by his commitment to his craft - and his dedication to sharing his knowledge (and code) with others. In honor of his honor, here's an unpublished excerpt from my Masters of Doom interviews (this one took place in 2000) in which Carmack tells me why he enjoys programming. 

JOHN CARMACK:  It is one of those things where it really has this wonderful sense of rightness.  There’s something about working on the programming where you’re able to create things out of thin air.  It's so flexible and such a creative medium. You’ve got these almost limitless possibilities.  If you could think about it and figure out the right puzzle piece way of fitting it together, then you could then make it happen. [I enjoy this] sense of being in this self-contained world where you don’t need a machine shop full of tools or you don't need to order supplies from different places. You've got your computer and your basic development tools and you can just sit down there and it’s up to you.  It’s not anybody else’s fault if it doesn’t work.  It’s all you.  And I guess that’s part of the thing.  I’ve never been a team player, I don’t like team activities or anything like that.  That’s probably a good chunk of it.  You don’t have to rely on anybody else when you’re working on the programming stuff. It’s very cut and dried. If it follows the logical progression of the rules established, it will work.  Everything makes sense.  Even when tracing out the hardest, most awful bug and it’s kind of random and it doesn’t seem to follow any rhyme or reason, you can always come back the bedrock of this:  it does make sense, you just don’t understand it yet.  It's great when you find something that seems so horribly random and you find out that you really understand it.  That does happen in all forms of engineering, but it’s just so much more fluid and rapid in computers.  Comparing against some of the people that I deal with in the auto racing stuff or rocketry stuff, they still have the same types of things when they finally understand why something didn’t work right,  But the difference between that and the computer stuff is it may take so much longer, the tests are so much cruder, you can’t repeat the things and in the end you may have burned and broken various other things or had to wait  weeks for new parts to get in.  But with a computer, you can just work at it until you can’t work anymore.  Eventually, it is always possible to get it.  There is hardly any time when you can say 'this is not possible to find.Computers are deterministic things.  At some point you can go in and start emulating the entire machine, cycle by cycle, and find out exactly what’s happening.  That’s probably the big thing:  in the end it all makes perfect sense and it’s accessible sense.  It’s not like some form of high energy physics or something where you spend a decade of your career preparing for that one big blast of the particle accelerator - and then work for five more years analyzing this stuff.  You can find the truth in programming on a much more rapid scale.


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