FYI - Improper Channels & Xerox Star,
Computers and the Handicapped - CBS and Teletext,
Communicating via Network - Human Communcation & Impacts on Language
Date: 25 May 1981 1939-EDT
From: Jeff Shulman <SHULMAN at RUTGERS>
Subject: Improper Channels - a review
The premise of this movie is this:
Due to a misunderstanding, a couple's child gets taken
away from them by the Department of Social Services.
The couple want to get their child back.
The misunderstanding happened because an over-zealous social
worker illegally obtained computer records from the Social Service's
computer. When the characters found out how it was done, they planned
revenge. The revenge occurred in the last 15 minutes of the movie,
and is a MUST SEE by all "net-type" computer people (since you are
receiving this over the ARPANET, you are a 'net-type'). It was
I was pleased to see that the computer (a CDC) looked like a
'real' computer. The 'center' was an electronically secured room. In
the room was a console (with printer), tape drives, disk drives, and
the mainframe (not JUST tape drives or CRT's as usually portrayed.)
However in the end, the computer (or the info on it) did wind
up to be the fall guy (oh well).
I recommend it (if even only for the last 15 minutes.)
Date: 1 Jun 1981 1313-EDT
From: Sross at MIT-XX (Sandor Schoichet)
Subject: Star Survey Results
I have compiled and tabulated the responses to my survey on the Xerox
Star, and added in some other material on the Star as well.
See ps:<sross>star.mss on mit-xx.
Thanks to all who contributed, further opinions and comments are
Date: 26 May 1981 08:33 PDT
From: ChiNguyen.ES at PARC-MAXC
Subject: Re: HUMAN-NETS Digest V3 #106, Xerox Star
you fictitious story is somewhat misleading. This is something that
would be real:
I had the "pleasure" of getting the Xerox pitch at NCC '81.
Me: "Great! Here is my check for $61,300. Please deliver my 'Star'
to. . "
Them: "Please leave your name and address to the young lady over
there. And please, don't call us we will call you !!"
Date: 27 May 1981 19:37-EDT
From: Brian P. Lloyd <LLOYD at MIT-AI>
Subject: Re: HUMAN-NETS Digest V3 #106, Xerox Star
My "fictitious" converstion was not fictitious. Perhaps you had
better train your booth people better. If I got the exact numbers
wrong I appologize, but that is the only place where my recreation of
the conversation might be in error. I was DELIBERATELY led to believe
that the cost of a STAR was $16,300 and it wasn't until I pushed
[hard] that I got the real numbers. Again, I suggest you ride better
herd on your booth staff.
Date: 06/01/81 05:05:39
Subject: Re: HUMAN-NETS Digest V3 #109, CBS and Teletext.
The people at ABC would certainly be pleased if they could have seen
LJS's recent message. All this antipathy against CBS by the deaf
community is just what they hoped for when they supported line 21
captioning. You see the people at ABC are opposed to Teletext. They
know that teletext decoders are cheap (perhaps $200 not $1000 as ljs
reports) and that the technology could be quickly implemented (indeed
a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles is already broadcasting Teletext
material as part of a market trial). But the people at ABC were
afraid that Teletext would mean fewer viewers watching regular
programming, and that would cut into their advertising revenue.
How then could they slow the introduction of Teletext? The needs of
the deaf for closed captioning provided the perfect alibi. Under
pretext of helping the deaf, if they could convince them to buy
decoders which could only receive closed captioning of the most
limited sort, they could tie Teletext up for years in regulatory
delay. Too bad if it meant that the deaf would pay more for their
decoders than they would if decoders capitalized on the economies of
scale of Teletext terminal production. And too bad if it meant the
deaf would have to shell out another $200 if they wanted Teletext
reception later. After all, who cares about the deaf when advertising
revenue is at stake.
And the sad thing is, it's working out just like they planned.
Date: 27 May 1981 0209-EDT (Wednesday)
From: Gary Feldman at CMU-10A
Subject: sociology and psychology of computer use
Permit me to carry the doom-crying one step further. I am curious
whether the increasingly easy access to computers by adolescents will
have any effect, however small, on their social development. Keep in
mind that the social skills necessary for interpersonal relationships
are not taught; they are learned by experience. Adolescence is
probably the most important time period for learning these skills.
There are two directions for a cause-effect relationship. Either
people lacking social skills (shy people, etc.) turn to other
pasttimes, or people who do not devote enough time to human
interactions have difficulty learning social skills. I do not whether
either or both of these alternatives actually occur.
I believe I am justified in asking whether computers will compete with
human interactions as a way of spending time? Will they compete more
effectively than other pasttimes? If so, and if we permit computers
to become as ubiquitous as televisions, will computers have some
effect (either positive or negative) on personal development of future
I am not trying to be anti-technology. In fact, my hunch is that the
answer to the above questions is either no or only slightly. However,
as an ethical computer scientist, I believe in asking these questions
One aid in answering these questions is to get psychological profiles
of people involved with computers (not necessarily demographic data).
A direct psychological survey would be most precise. However, getting
indirect data such as gender, marital status, membership in
fraternities/sororities, etc. would also be useful, if properly
interpreted. The only reason for picking on sexual preference (apart
from the unfounded claims that have been made in these digests) is the
slight correlation between sexual preference and other psychological
Anyone have other ideas for evaluating the psychology of using
computers? I would certainly like to see some sound research efforts
in this direction, although I don't for a minute believe that the
economics of research would permit such efforts.
Date: 26 May 1981 18:07:23-PDT
From: sdcsvax!bob at Berkeley via <CSVAX.upstill>
Subject: Steven Zeve, the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of English
Any discussion of language usage ought to be preceded by the
excellent advice, "Judge not, lest ye be judged". (Steve - That's
"grammar", not "grammer", and why invent words like "preciseness" and
"understandability" when we already have "precision" and "clarity"???)
If only "evolution" in language meant clearer ways of
expressing difficult concepts! However, the magic words "linguistic
evolution" are usually invoked to protect and defend muddy, redundant,
pretentious and lazy non-style.
Wouldn't you be disgusted with a programmer who whined "Well,
the computer KNEW what I REALLY meant! It was just being
old-fashioned and picky!" The reader is usually at a disadvantage,
and often DOESN'T know what you mean. I believe that Steve made this
point, in a roundabout way. (Something about context? Obviously
Here are three rules I've found useful: (1) Don't kludge,
rewrite! (2) Mean what you say, and say what you mean. (3) Edit!!
That usually means condense, not elaborate.
Strunk & White, in "The Elements of Style", say:
Clarity, clarity, clarity. When you become hopelessly
mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; do not
try to fight your way through against the terrible odds
of syntax. Usually what is wrong is that the construction
has become too involved at some point; the sentence needs
to be broken apart and replaced by two or more shorter
Muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a
destroyer of life, of hope: death on the highway, caused by
a badly worded road sign, heartbreak among lovers caused by
a misplaced phrase in a well-intentioned letter, anguish of
a traveler expecting to be met at a railroad station and not
being met because of a slipshod telegram.
Couldn't we all add to that: programs that aren't used, and
systems that fail, because of obscure documentation. I recommend
Strunk & White, and also Wilson Follett's "Modern American Usage".
These are essential for anyone who writes, and cares whether they
Bob & Mary Hofkin
Date: 22 May 1981 17:48:26 EDT (Friday)
From: Dan Franklin <dan at BBN-UNIX>
Subject: language evolution
Some comments on language evolution, in response to a recent letter on
Of course languages evolve, and of course they become more useful as
they do so. The introduction of new words and phrases, such as "smog",
"rush hour", etc. obviously improves a language. A shift in meaning
(the word "organized" once meant "drunk") can also be quite useful.
But too often languages degenerate purely through sloppy usage and a
desire to use a less-common word whose meaning the writer isn't really
certain of, but which sounds good. The most obvious example is the use
of the word "infer" to mean "imply". The two words mean different--in
some sense opposite--things. To slur their meanings together removes a
useful distinction from the language. Alas, Webster's Third
International does just that (and commits other egregious sins--get an
American Heritage dictionary instead!). Another distinction--this one
a lost battle, I guess--is the difference between "verbal" and "oral".
There was a time when "verbal" wasn't just a fancy synonym for "oral";
"verbal" referred to words in any form (thus, Human-nets and Sf-lovers
are almost entirely verbal forms of communication). Now that no one
knows that anymore, what word can I use instead when I want to talk
about words apart from their oral or written forms?
Then there's "flout" vs. "flaunt," and "jejune" (which once meant
"insubstantial, dull, unsatisfying"--but because of its resemblance to
"jeune" people started using it to mean mean "immature, childish"
too). I could go on, but others have done it better. I guess I'm just
getting old and cranky. I already have a hard time convincing some of
my friends that "its" is sometimes spelled without an apostrophe (and
not just when it refers to the Incompatible Time-sharing System)...
Date: 27 May 1981 14:49:00-PDT
From: vax135!mh135a!rba at Berkeley via <CSVAX.upstill at Berkeley>
Subject: Influencing Language
The existence of verbal conditioning (that people will imitate other
people in the words they use) is well established by experimental
psychologists and not too surprising. Beyond that, psychological
research has focused on: (1) the issue of how aware people are of this
imitation (do they imitate on purpose or as a result of subliminal
processes); and,(2) whether imitation of anything more complex than
word usage (e.g. grammatical structures) occurs. For a review of the
literature see "Principles of Behavior Modification" by A. Bandura,
Date: 25 May 1981 06:14:17-PDT
From: decvax!duke!unc!smb at Berkeley via <CSVAX.upstill at Berkeley>
Subject: Flaming/Gay vocabulary
Greg, I hadn't noticed too much use of the word "flame" on the net
except for a brief period just prior to your article. Some, yes, but
not to excess. As for the drop-off afterwords -- well, you're
probably right, it's probably homophobia. But usage is picking up
again; maybe it's still curable.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Date: 28 May 1981 06:33:38-PDT
From: decvax!duke!unc!bch at Berkeley via <CSVAC.upstill at Berkeley>
Subject: origins of flame
It strikes me that you folks are making an etymological mountain out
of a molehill. I seem to remember using the term "flaming as....le"
in which the word "flaming" had precisely the same connotation as it
does in hackerese in the late 1950's and very early 60's. Later, the
usage seems to have been shortened to "flamer," hence the verb "to
flame" as logical fallout. I don't believe the term came out of any
particular subculture or at least was not adopted directly from any
particular subculture before it was in the general slang heap.
More interesting to me are words in hackerese which replace other made
up words in general use (i.e. "frob" for "gizmo.", "foobar" (fubar)
for "snafu", and so on.) I don't believe there is historical
precedent for replacing linguistic artifacts with other linguistic
artifacts, but then computer folk always did like re-inventing the
End of HUMAN-NETS Digest