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Another kind of Oscar race

Friday, January 15, 2010

Each year at this time, I scramble to view as many Oscar contenders as I can before the award ceremony is held (March 7, this year). Nominees will be announced on Feb. 2, so nothing is official as yet, but the industry is still buzzing with speculation. Years ago, I had the privilege of covering digital content creation as a senior technical editor of a monthly trade publication on computer graphics and visual effects technologies, trends, and techniques. Today, I enjoy the benefit of seeing my previous and present roles converge; that is, a majority of today's coolest, eye-catching, and awe-inspiring films (and games, for that matter) incorporate a military, aerospace, and electronics vein.

Heck, I would even wager that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs includes a military aspect.

As I endeavor to take in as many soon-to-be-nominated films as possible, I am impressed by the majority that have a military or aerospace component this year.

Now, I am not implying that the films I mention here will be nominated for an Academy Award. (I have no psychic abilities, plus some of them I could not bring myself to finish watching--namely the Transformers sequel.) Nonetheless, I will admit that I found each of the following to be novel in some way, many with regard to the advanced electronics employed in mil-aero missions and environments. The films include:

Terminator: Salvation (this movie, in particular, included a display from Digital Systems Engineering and server from Crystal Group--something I blogged about earlier this year)
Star Trek
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglorious Basterds
Monsters vs. Aliens
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
GI Joe: Rise of Cobra

My favorite, by far, was Avatar. When I was in Seattle a month or so ago, the Seattle Science Fiction Museum was handing out free tickets to see Avatar at the Boeing IMAX Theater but they ran out. Rats! The trip was not wasted, however, as I was treated to a tour of the Future of Flight Museum and Boeing's facility in Everett, Wa. I highly recommend it if you're in the area (I will describe the visit in detail in a coming blog, and you can follow the Future of Flight on Twitter (#futureofflight) for some entertaining and interesting news and insights.

I finally saw Avatar just last night in 3D, and it was phenomenal. One of my geekier friends who attended with me (for his third time) called it "pure bliss." It was two hours and 40 minutes that passed in what seemed the blink of an eye--although I am sure I kept my blinking to a minimum, with eyes wide. It's the 3D CG (computer graphics) I have been waiting for since I was a kid--and I felt a bit like one watching, in awe.

Bravo to the industries that put out such creative films, and also to the mil-aero community that inspires them.

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Posted by John Keller

LAS VEGAS, 7 Jan. 2010. The military embedded computer industry is turning backflips today amidst the excitement surrounding this morning's introduction by microprocessor giant Intel Corp. of its Core i7, i5, and i3 processors at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Several of Intel's powerful new microprocessors are based on the company's 32-nanometer submicron processing technology, yet what has the military computer board industry excited is the floating point processing capability of the i7 device.

Intel and its customers are attracted to floating point capability for new generations of desktop computers that can handle video faster and more efficiently than ever before, but defense and aerospace systems designers and single-board computer makers see floating point and think digital signal processing.

While Intel sees the floating point capability of its Core i7 processor as the gateway to a new generation of complex graphics and fast streaming video, military systems designers see it as the latest and greatest way to implement signal processing for advanced radar, sonar, electronic warfare, and electro-optical applications with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) single-board computers.

Within hours of Intel's introduction today of the Core i7 processor and the other chips in the company's new Core family, embedded computing heavyweights Curtiss-Wright Controls Embedded Computing in Leesburg, Va., GE Intelligent Platforms in Charlottesville, Va., and Extreme Engineering Solutions Inc. of Middleton, Wis., had introduced embedded computers based on the Intel Core i7.

In the grand military embedded computing microprocessor wars that have been entertaining us now for nearly 30 years, it looks like there may be a tectonic shift happening that could swing preferences, which now revolve around the Freescale Semiconductor Power Architecture, back into Intel's camp.

During the past three decades since Intel virtually disappeared from the military embedded scene, the Freescale Power Architecture and its ancestors have dominated military embedded applications, dating from around the time when VME became the most popular databus for mil apps, progressing from the Motorola 68000 microprocessor, to the PowerPC, the PowerPC Altivec, and the Power Architecture.

Intel has not had a strong presence in military embedded systems since the 1980s, when the company abandoned its mil-spec semiconductor processing line in Chandler, Ariz., and concentrated almost exclusively on the desktop market. That's changing now, fast, and in a big way.

While Intel is out of the gate with big market momentum for its Core i7 devices, Freescale has a lot of catching up to do. The company disappointed many military systems integrators when it abandoned the Altivec floating point capability in its latest family of microprocessors in a bid to go after the handheld and cell phone market, rather than the desktop market, which Freescale had given up to Intel.

It remains to bee seen in the coming weeks just how big a deal this shift in the microprocessor industry will be. With the likes of Curtiss Wright, GE, and Extreme Engineering on board, it's bound to be significant for the military embedded industry.


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Blogger Dr Yuval said...
Where was this technology developed?
Israel, by any chance?
Friday, March 26, 2010 2:55:00 AM EDT  

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.