Letters: February 2012

Feedback from our members

17 February 2012

Bringing Early Games to Life
From Pong to PlayStation 3” [December] didn’t acknowledge the many contributions by General Instrument Corp. to the development of consumer video games.

I discovered the opportunity to develop computer chips for video games in the early 1970s when I heard the familiar “plink” and “plonk” of a breadboard Pong game in the engineering laboratory at GI in Glenrothes, Scotland. Together with engineers at GI in Hicksville, N.Y., the Scotland group developed a video game chip that was purchased immediately by a number of consumer electronics manufacturers.

Shortly after GI began manufacturing the chip, I remember Atari founder Nolan Bushnell taking a red-eye flight from California to travel to the Hicksville plant so he could make sure a large order of chips was fulfilled. Those chips were used in Atari’s Pong as well as in many other games.

The overnight success of the chip led GI to design chips for several other video games, including Battle Tank for Nintendo NES and Head to Head Baseball, a handheld electronic game developed by Coleco, an electronics manufacturer. GI also developed the chip set for Intellivision, a video-game console released in 1979 by Mattel, as well as a memory chip used in many other Mattel video games.

Ed Sack
Coronado, Calif.

The Tyranny of Majority
As an IEEE life senior member and IEEE volunteer for three decades, I am disillusioned with the organization’s recent priorities, as reported in “Top Five Ways to Improve IEEE” [December]. The problem is what philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once described as the “tyranny of majority.” The majority of IEEE members chose unwisely at last year’s Sections Congress when they decided to place at the top of the improvement list, “IEEE to develop a comprehensive long-term strategy to increase the number of next-generation youth pursuing science and engineering careers.”

IEEE should focus on the technical professional community and not on issues having to do with preuniversity education and the next generation. In recent years, IEEE has put too much money toward such things as Graduates of the Last Decade, student memberships, and more. These programs have had no impact on the great number of student members that discontinue their IEEE memberships once they graduate college.

IEEE’s preuniversity programs are not necessary to make engineering popular among high school students in countries such as India and South Korea, where many students are already interested in engineering. If there is a lack of interest among students in the U.S., it should be dealt with by IEEE-USA and not IEEE as a whole.

It is high time that IEEE’s resources focus on higher-grade members and technical professionals, especially from industry. Continuing education begs more attention from IEEE than these other wasteful programs.

C. Satish
Hyderabad, India

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