Day 158, Shustek and music

Thursday, 5/10/2019

In the morning I wrote a check to pay for income tax preparation, addressed and stamped it. Left a few minutes early for a day at the Shustek center in order to post it. I get tense about this, did I address the envelope correctly, put a stamp on it, will it arrive? Bleagh. (No, autocorrect, I did not mean “Bleach”. Since when has aggressive auto-correct been a thing? Here at WordPress, on Reddit, everywhere, it seems you can’t be cute any more without idiot computer telling you what it thinks you really meant.)

Cataloged a lot of stuff, most interesting being a collection of chips and a an actual lithographic mask (a beautiful thing, elegant pattern on a thick piece of glass) for the first Berkeley RISC chips. This grab bag of stuff was donated by David Patterson, who (according to that Wikipedia link) “coined the term RISC”. It was like old home week, it seemed, because another volunteer, Alan, still works for a company founded by Patterson’s student and co-author, and has met Patterson often.

Well, we have a message for Patterson; he’s been sitting on a CHM artifact for (presumably) years. In the donated collection of chips was one that had an old-style CHM accession number on the back, and was marked “ENIAC chip #3”. A quick check of our database, and yes: there it was, with a photograph and description matching this chip; its last known location a rack at Moffat Field. So sometime 15 years ago or so, when the CHM collection was mostly held in a warehouse at Moffat Field, this chip — one of a very small run of a student project to reproduce the WWII-era ENIAC machine as a VLSI design — was removed from the collection. It somehow made its way into the possession of D. Patterson, a highly-regarded professor at UCB. And here it was back home again!

This is what passes for excitement in the museum business.

Back home I had a simple supper and then went out again to hear a musical performance at CH. I mostly wanted to get a look and listen to the auditorium there. It’s a nice space, folding chairs for maybe 150 people, a low stage. Overhead, a large video projector and I could see where a big screen would roll down over the stage. Presumably that’s how they show movies on “classic movie night”.

The performance was by Bella Sorella, two sopranos that have been performing together since their college days. Accompanied by violin and piano, they performed light classical and some folk tunes and it was very pleasant, a highly skilled performance.

One of my interests in this was to watch how the sound system was managed. I’m thinking one way I might contribute at CH is to participate in the performance committee that runs this kind of event. The sound man, a resident, Herman, seemed kind of out of it. There were only two mikes in use (I could see several more on the sound console), one hand-held by the lady who introduced the show and one on a mike stand on stage for the performers to use introducing their songs.

Well, the mike on stage didn’t work, or its volume was set too low. There was an embarrassing moment when one of the singers went to introduce their first number, tap tap is this on? No, can’t hear you says the audience (this audience of oldsters was not at all shy about shouting “can’t hear you”). Herman just sits smiling. Performer takes mike off stand, looks at it, tries again, holds it close to lips — no amplification. Herman sits buddha-like smiling. Eventually somebody in the front row says, give her the mike Carla was using. The mike the introduction person used is handed up to the performer on stage, and it works. The dead mike is handed to Herman who accepts it with a smile, and the show proceeds.

I found this kind of baffling; Herman didn’t seem to follow what was going on at all, but he was in charge of the sound desk. Hmmm. Definitely some room for others to contribute here, but I do not want to come on too strong, or get myself responsible for a volunteer gig that is too demanding, either. Tread lightly as you enter a new situation.



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