Missing information

Our electrical theory has grown like a ramshackle farmhouse which has been added to, and improved, by the additions of successive tenants to satisfy their momentary needs, and with little regard for the future. We regard it with affection. We have grown used to the leaks in the roof .... But our haphazard house cannot survive for ever, and it must ultimately be replaced by a successor whose beauty is of structure rather than of sentiment.
- H W Heckstall-Smith, Intermediate Electrical Theory, pub. Dent, 1932, p283.

When Catt, Walton Davidson found they were unable to publish, or even record, the insights which resulted from their pioneering work on the interconnection of high speed digital logic systems, they decided to give seminars on the "profane" parts of their work. "Profane" means the routine information desirable if an engineer is doing routine design and fabrication of a prototype digital system. In contrast, "Sacred" means fundamental discoveries about the nature of electromagnetism, which do not have immediate implications for the design and manufacture of digital systems. The "sacred" was omitted from the seminars . Large and small companies sent their engineers to these seminars. The course notes given out at these seminars were later assembled into two books, Digital Electronic Design , which were self-published. These books were given to those attending later seminars.

The publishers Macmillan later published most of the content of the blue books Digital Electronic Design as a red book Digital Hardware Design

The key point to be made is that, 30 years after publication of the red book, none of its (profane) content is included in any relevant college or university course. Further, none of it is known to authors publishing text books used today. This includes discussion on the idea of adding a high speed capacitor when decoupling voltages, decoupling by printed circuit voltage planes, an improved mains filter design. Crucially, those researching into sending a high digital data rate between modules are severely limited in their grasp of the challenge because they do not kow the theory of crosstalk in that book, although it was first published by the IEEE in 1967, 40 years ago. This leads to a much lower maximum data rate.

Thus, the current suppression of "The Catt Question" is the tip of a very deep and large iceberg. The iceberg is the whole of the information, profane as well as sacred, gained from the pioneering work over the last fifty years on the design of high speed digital computers. Academia continues in the radio age of the early twentieth century, making no concessions whatsoever to the computer age.

Lord Martin Rees, President of The Royal Society, may or may not do something about it. Surely he can see that the iceberg maps neatly onto the content of his 2003 book?

Ivor Catt. 6 June 2007

30 years later












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