The Language We Invented as We Invented the Future

After 15 years, IEEE Spectrum’s language columnist bows out

3 min read
Illustration of rear-view mirror on roadway.
Illustration: Dan Page
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-⁠bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.

I wrote my first Technically Speaking column way back in June 2002. How long ago was that? Long ago enough that some companies that seem now to have been around forever weren’t even gleams in their founders’ eyes: Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype, Twitter, YouTube. Friendster was trying to persuade people to do social networking; Internet Explorer 6was the dominant Web browser; and people were getting excited about Swiss army phones that—O brave new world!—could do more than just make and receive phone calls.

In 2002, we were so innocent. We thought the PDA was here to stay and that Wikipedia wouldn’t last. We didn’t foresee Web 2.0orfilter bubbles. We knew nothing about the wisdom of the crowd or the convenience of the cloud. There was noclickbait or CAPTCHAs, no MOOCs. There had not yet been a singleflash mob.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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