Techman Texts: Isaac Asimov, ahead of his time

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I, fan: TechTeen was a big fan of the prolific author Isaac Asimov, from his "Foundation" series, robot mysteries and other science fiction to his nonfiction works on a wide variety of subjects.

Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards (including a postcard sent to TechTeen in response to a fan letter).

One thing that made Asimov such a good science fiction writer was that he was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, so he knew his science.

What brought this to mind was an article at recounting predictions Asimov made in light of the 1964 World's Fair of what would be seen at the 2014 World's Fair. (One thing he got wrong was that there would be a 2014 World's Fair.)

Among his accurate predictions: automatic coffee makers, unmanned craft on Mars, synchronous satellites used for communications, video calling, 3D TV and robots, which he said, "will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence."

When I later got a chance to interview Asimov after an appearance in Hershey, this man, who wrote so prolifically about space flight and other worlds, revealed that he hated flying and would be driving back to New York.

Want oil with that? A group called the Employment Policies Institute ran a newspaper ad last week suggesting that protests over low wages in the fast food industry could force restaurants to replace workers with robots.

At the same time, reports that San Francisco-based Momentum Machines makes a machine called the Alpha that "with a conveyor belt-type system, the burgers are freshly ground, shaped and grilled to the customer's liking. And only when the burger's finished cooking does Alpha slice the tomatoes and pickles and place them on the burger as fresh as can be. Finally, the machine wraps the burger up for serving." It can turn out 360 burgers an hour.

Irony alert: pointed out that the technique used by the Syrian Electronic Army to take down The New York Times site last week was the same approach that the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) wanted to use to disable sites accused of violating copyright.

Kiwis get it right: New Zealand has passed a new patent bill that outlaws software patents. Perhaps with all the patent trolling going on, we should look at that idea.

Color me angry: Apple may face some opposition if a rumor that it will bring out an iPhone this month in a color described as "champagne" proves true.

According to, the Interprofessional Committee for Champagne Wine has made clear its unhappiness if that occurs.

"Champagne doesn't have one single color," Charles Goamaere, the organization's legal director said. "Therefore, any company wanting to use the name 'Champagne' would be doing so [only] to attract all the benefits that surround [the label.]"

Website of the week: If you've ever wanted to kill your account on a social media site or Web service, you might know how deeply some of these sites hide the information on how to leave them. collects direct links for killing various accounts dead and puts them all in one place, reports,

Geek saying of the week: There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.

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