Henry Vinerts' March 2006 Meeting Notes
Reports Across the Big Pond
for Vierte Dimensions
German Forth Dimensions

The regular crew of the ship "SVFIG" assembled again on March 25, 2006, under the leadership of captain George Perry . The officers all came, even John Hall, the erstwhile captain of the once proud flagship "FIG," joined us early in the day.

As it almost has become a tradition, this meeting again started with a talk by the ship's chief engineer, C.H. Ting, who described six of the projects that he has been working on these days, with the current version (5.20) of his eForth as the main item in his tool box. In February, last year, I wrote to Friederich about Ting's lecture on Chinese music and the simplified music notation the Chinese developed around 1900, which is still used today. Basically, it differs from the Western way of notation in that instead of notes placed on a five-line staff, it uses numbers and special characters in sequence like a string of text. Well, it looks like our inventive chief engineer is the first one to think of ASCII as a tool for digitizing Chinese music. Now he has his own system of transcribing the Chinese musical notation into ASCII text files, which via MIDI can produce the music on the speakers of the computer. We heard samples of 27 songs that Ting had coded in three days from the Canaan Hymnal (Nov. 1998, ISBN 957-9642-55-9). He even added his own harmony by way of chords based on first notes.

Among the other projects that kept Ting from coding the remaining 760 songs in the book, one caught our attention, because he actually was paid for using Forth, embedded in a board of his own design. It was a charging regulator for batteries of a wide range of voltages. Co-incidentally for me, the discharging/charging curve Dr. Ting drew on the chalkboard reminded me of the S-curves described in the book Predictions by Theodore Modis, which I just recently started reading when it occurred to me that the life of Forth also might be following the S-curve.

SVFIG's purser, John Rible, came from Santa Cruz. Ken Morley had covered a longer distance from his home about 150 km away. Glen Haydon came down from his ocean-view hill in La Honda. The more local "deck-hands" -- Herman Griffin, Jay McKnight, Tom Gregory, Alan Furman -- were there, ready to sail on the World Wide Web, if not otherwise occupied. Of course, I am not forgetting Dave Jaffe, our webmaster, who in the olden days of seafaring might have served as the ship's radio operator.

And I am mentioning the captain's chief mate, Kevin Appert, last to emphasize that due to his efforts our programs have been enriched with talks and presentations by interesting visitors like Dave Wyland, whom Kevin introduced to us after lunch.

Dave's expertise is in robotics. He said that his beginnings in Forth date back to the birth of the "Homebrew Robotics Club," which I assume was an offshoot of the Homebrew Computer Club in Silicon Valley in the 1970s. He said that he remembered suggesting the name Forth Dimensions for the magazine, which, as we know sadly, died in 1999, not having reached 21 years of age. The subject of Dave's talk was "SIFT, FPGAs, and Forth." Again, alas, too rich and too advanced for me to summarize with layman's words. He mentioned that the text of his presentation is available on the Web, and that there is more on SIFT (Scale-Independent Feature Transform), as originated by David Lowe of the University of British Columbia. I gathered that if there are enough computer scientists who understand animal training as well as Gaussian filters, FFTs, and Laplacian operators, then there may be hope that they will one day produce a robot that will obey the command "go get me a beer from the 'fridge'."

The day concluded with Dave Jaffe showing more new computer products from the Web, John Rible telling about Chuck Moore's latest endeavor's at Intelasys, and Kevin Appert's comments on interesting web sites. The next two meetings are scheduled to be on the third Saturdays in the months of April and May. It is possible that you'll hear from me again in June. Good luck with keeping Forth alive in Germany!

With best regards,

Meeting Announcement

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