VACETS Regular Technical Column

"Everyday Engineering"

"Everyday Engineering" was a technical column posted regularly on the VACETS forum. The Chair of of this column is Dr. Hoang Viet-Dung. For more publications produced by other VACETS  members, please visit the VACETS Member Publications page or Technical Columns page.

The VACETS Technical Column is contributed by various members , especially those of the VACETS Technical Affairs Committe. Articles are posted regulary on [email protected] forum. Please send questions, comments and suggestions to [email protected]

A Personal Journey Into the PC World

Having a 12 years old son and a 7 years old daughter, our family had pizza delivered to our house in many occasions (more times than I care for). Just the other day:

"Pizza Hut. Thank you for calling. What will be your order today?"

"I like a medium pepperoni and cheese, and a medium all vegetable", I answered.

"Do you have a coupon?"


"Thank you, Dr. Hoang! Your order is $13.54 and will be delivered to your house in about 30 minutes!"


As I counted the money for the pizzas, I suddenly realized that Pizza Hut not only knew my name but also my address. (Undoubtedly, their Caller-ID machine had identified my phone number and had it fed to their computer.)

This was not always this easy. For those of us who grew up with the second generation computers, where card readers were the inputs-du-jour, and paper tape was still a few short years in the future, this is not just a PC revolution, it is a change in life style and culture.

When we look at the term PC (Personal Computer), we naturally picture the desktop computers on our desks at work. For those of us who are old enough to remember, the PCs used to be called microcomputers. Many of us, who are in the line of works that do not have the need for the use of PCs, have came to believe that the microcomputer evolution has passed us by. Think again! We all use them on a regular basis. We just failed to recognize them.

At the heart of the PCs, and microcomputers, are the microprocessors (the Intel 8080s, 286s, 386s, 486s, and pentiums of the world; the Motorola folks will take offense to this list - I appologize). The microprocessors have made their way into our lives beyond the PC world. We just take them for granted.

Many gas station pumps now allow the drivers to run their credit cards at the wee-hours of the night. We all use the ATM to withdraw money from our banks, and get our food scanned at those check-out counters at the supermarket. We all wear quartz watches, don't we? I assume that most of us now own a VCR and a TV (remote controlled, no doubt). Certainly, we all have a phone (and I am not talking of cellular phone here). We fail to recognize that all these machines are but specialized microcomputers, for at the heart of their "control center" lay the tiny chip called microprocessor.

Yes, my friends, the PC revolution has not passed you by. It just comes by so fast, and replacing everything on its path, that the past is but a blur in our mind. And so the next time you are sitting at a traffic light, remember that behind that red light is a microprocessor. Just be patient, you should feel proud to be part of this Brave New World.

Viet-Dung Hoang, Ph.D.
[email protected]

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