Entrepreneurially Nimble Amish Pivot to Make Face Masks

(p. A9) SUGARCREEK, Ohio — On April 1, John Miller, a manufacturer here with deep connections to the close-knit Amish community of Central Ohio, got a call from Cleveland Clinic. The hospital system was struggling to find protective face masks for its 55,000 employees, plus visitors. Could his team sew 12,000 masks in two days?

He appealed to Abe Troyer with Keim, a local lumber mill and home goods business and a leader in the Amish community: “Abe, make a sewing frolic.” A frolic, Mr. Miller explained, “is a colloquial term here that means, ‘Get a bunch of people. Throw a bunch of people at this.’”

A day later, Mr. Troyer had signed up 60 Amish home seamstresses, and the Cleveland Clinic sewing frolic was on.

. . .

Almost overnight, a group of local industry, community and church leaders has mobilized to sustain Amish households by pivoting to work crafting thousands of face masks and shields, surgical gowns and protective garments from medical-grade materials. When those run scarce, they switch to using gaily printed quilting fabric and waterproof Tyvek house wrap.

For the full story, see:

Elizabeth Williamson. “In Ohio, Amish Families Pivot to Make Medical Gear.” The New York Times (Friday, April 10, 2020): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 16, 2020, and has the title “In Ohio, the Amish Take On the Coronavirus.”)

You Build Your Dream “and You Don’t Let Anybody Stop You”

(p. A10) Though he never became a household name, Chuck Peddle was among the peers of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in the 1970s who transformed personal computers from curiosities for geeky hobbyists into essential tools for the masses.

Mr. Peddle led a team at MOS Technology Inc. that designed a microprocessor priced at $25, around a 10th of the cost of competing devices. The MOS 6502, introduced in 1975, served as the electronic brain for some of the earliest personal computers, including the Apple I and II, as well as for videogame consoles.

The microprocessor’s low price changed the economics for personal-computer makers, allowing them to offer higher performance at affordable prices, said Douglas Fairbairn, a director at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

. . .

In an interview last March with the University of Maine’s alumni magazine, he summed up his engineering philosophy: “You take a dream, and you build a dream, and you keep building on it and you don’t let anybody stop you.”

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Engineer Helped Launch Personal Computer Era.” The Wall Street Journal (Satursday, January 4, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Jan. 1, 2020 and has the title “Chuck Peddle’s $25 Microprocessor Ignited Computer Market.”)

Starkweather Never Imagined How Low the Price of a Laser Printer Would Fall

(p. A20) Gary Starkweather, an engineer and inventor who designed the first laser printer, bringing the power of the printing press to almost anyone, died on Dec. 26 [2020] at a hospital in Orlando, Fla.

. . .

Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

. . .

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

. . .

But he soon finagled a move to the company’s new research lab in Northern California, where a group of visionaries was developing what would become the most important digital technologies of the next three decades, including the personal computer as it is known today.

At the Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC, Mr. Starkweather built the first working laser printer in 1971 in less than nine months. By the 1990s, it was a staple of offices around the world. By the new millennium, it was nearly ubiquitous in homes as well.

. . .

His father owned a local dairy; his mother was a homemaker. Their home was near a junk shop, where Gary would bargain for old radios, washing machines and car parts that he could tinker with in the basement, taking them apart and then putting them back together.

“As long as I didn’t blow up the house, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted down there,” he said in a 2010 interview with the Computer History Museum.

. . .

In 1997, while still at Apple, he gave a speech about the rise of the laser printer.

The first successful product sold by Xerox in the late 1970s cost more than $5,000 to manufacture, he said. He then held up a circuit board that drove the printers of the late 1990s. It cost just $38, making his product accessible to nearly any home or business.

That was not something he had ever imagined.

For the full obituary, see:

Cade Metz. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Is Dead at 81.” The New York Times (Thursday, January 16, 2020): A20.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Jan. 15, 2020 and has the title “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81.”)

Flying Cars Face “a Long Road to Regulatory Approval”

(p. B3) Curtiss Autoplane. Fulton Airphibian. Taylor Aerocar.

Businesses and entrepreneurs have been promising a mass-produced flying car for more than a century. None have succeeded, but that hasn’t stopped Hyundai and Uber from wanting in on the action.

. . .

. . . there is a long road to regulatory approval. According to Morgan Stanley, air taxis will probably be used first in package delivery, which has fewer technical and regulatory barriers.

For the full story, see:

Niraj Chokshi. “Hail a Flying Car? Soon, Hyundai and Uber Say.” The New York Times (Wednesday, January 8, 2020): B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 7, 2020, and has the title “Where’s Your Flying Car? Hyundai and Uber Say They’re Working on It.”)

Anonymous Message Apps Enable Protesters to Act at “Hyperspeed”

(p. A7) In June [2019], hundreds of thousands of young protesters connected by messaging apps took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest the encroachment of China’s central authorities on life in their city.

Four months on, antigovernment demonstrations have swept more than a dozen countries. From Chile and Bolivia to Lebanon and Spain, millions have taken to the streets—sometimes peacefully, often not.

. . .

Propelling the action on the streets to a kind of hyperspeed is a new generation of encrypted-messaging software such as WhatsApp and Telegram that enable large groups of protesters who have never met each other to communicate anonymously.

Whereas platforms like Twitter and Facebook were great for broadcasting ideas, the newer technology allows any would-be activist connected to the group to build consensus for large-scale actions in real time—without fear of being identified.

Meanwhile, the internet’s global reach has helped activists learn by watching and connecting with peers in other countries.

For the full story, see:

John Lyons in Hong Kong, Nazih Osseiran in Beirut and Margherita Stancati in Barcelona. “A Wave of Protest Rattles Governments.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 23, 2019): A7.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 22, 2019, and has the title “Global Wave of Protests Rattles Governments.” The penultimate sentence quoted above, appears in the online, but not in the print, version of the article.)

A.I. Researchers’ Joke: Whenever You Ask, Real A.I. Is 30 Years in Future

On February 1, 2019, at a conference at Texas A&M, I saw a demonstration of prototypes of A.I. driverless car technology. One of the lead researchers told us that it would be 30 years before we saw real driverless cars on the road.

(p. B3) While the A.C.L.U. is ringing alarm bells about the use of video analytics now, it’s anyone’s guess how quickly the technology will advance.

“The joke in A.I. is that you ask a bunch of A.I. researchers, ‘When are we going to achieve A.I.?’ and the answer always has been, ‘In 30 years,’” Mr. Vondrick said.

For the full story, see:

Niraj Chokshi. “Intelligent ‘Robot Surveillance’ Poses Threats, A.C.L.U. Warns.” The New York Times (Friday, July 14, 2019): B3.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 13, 2019, and has the title “How Surveillance Cameras Could Be Weaponized With A.I.”)

To Be Dangerous with Crispr Takes a Lot of Genetics Knowledge

(p. A11) “I frankly have been flabbergasted at the pace of the field,” says Jennifer Doudna, a Crispr pioneer who runs a lab at the University of California, Berkeley. “We’re barely five years out, and it’s already in early clinical trials for cancer. It’s unbelievable.”

. . .

Scientists have fiddled with genes for decades, but in clumsy ways.

. . .

Crispr is much more precise, as Ms. Doudna explains in her new book, “A Crack in Creation.” It works like this: An enzyme called Cas9 can be programmed to latch onto any 20-letter sequence of DNA. Once there, the enzyme cuts the double helix, splitting the DNA strand in two. Scientists supply a snippet of genetic material they want to insert, making sure its ends match up with the cut strands. When the cell’s repair mechanism kicks in to fix the cut, it pastes in the new DNA.

. . .

A . . . Crispr worry is that it makes DNA editing so easy anybody can do it. Simple hobby kits sell online for $150, and a community biotech lab in Brooklyn offers a class for $400. Jennifer Lopez is reportedly working on a TV drama called “C.R.I.S.P.R.” that, according to the Hollywood Reporter, “explores the next generation of terror: DNA hacking.”

Ms. Doudna provides a bit of assurance. “Genetics is complicated. You have to have quite a bit of knowledge, I think, to be able to do anything that’s truly dangerous,” she says. “There’s been a little bit of hype, in my opinion, about DIY kits and are we going to have rogue scientists—or even nonscientists—randomly doing crazy stuff. I think that’s not too likely.”

For the full interview, see:

Peterson, Kyle, interviewer. “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; The Gene Editors Are Only Getting Started; Would you eradicate malaria-carrying insects? Change your baby’s DNA? Scientists soon may have the power to do both.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, July 8, 2017): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date July 7, 2017, and the same title as the print versio.)

Doudna’s book, mentioned above, is:

Doudna, Jennifer A., and Samuel H. Sternberg. A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.