Un doveroso ringraziamento ai nostri "ispiratori"

Si sente a volte la necessità (direi quasi il dovere) di condividere le proprie esperienze, conoscenze e passioni.
Nell'ambito della scienza e della tecnica si è sempre ben consci della propria ignoranza, ma si avverte al tempo stesso l'importanza di comunicare quanto si conosce agli altri, soprattutto ai più giovani e meno esperti.
La cosa più importante poi non risiede in quelle poche schegge di esperienza che si riescono a condividere, quanto nella passione che ci ha permesso di acquisirle.
Trasmettere una scintilla di quella passione è tanto difficile quanto fondamentale.
Ognuno di noi ha avuto uno o più ispiratori che ci hanno istradato lungo il cammino di un "hobby" o di una professione.
Io dovrei ricordare l'amico conosciuto al mare che mi disegnò su un foglio di carta da lettera (che ancora conservo) lo schema e le istruzioni per costruire la mia prima radio "a galena" (in realtà utilizzava un bel diodo al germanio OA81 che ancora conservo gelosamente) e tanti, tanti altri, amici, conoscenti e colleghi, che hanno segnato la mia vita fornendomi idee ed ispirazione.

Non posso tuttavia non menzionare particolarmente un signore che, pur non avendolo io mai incontrato, ha influenzato più di tutti la mia vita e che rimane tuttora un riferimento ed un modello ideali: Guglielmo Marconi.

Guglielmo Marconi, padre della radio e primo radioamatore

Guglielmo Marconi, padre della radio e primo radioamatore

Ascolta la voce di Guglielmo Marconi

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sabato 21 maggio 2011

It's all about time

(the fourth dimension in technology, systems, projects and our everyday life)

Last year I had the opportunity and privilege to meet one exceptional man, one of those men that really make the history of technology: Dr. Truchard (the mythic Dr. “T”), co-founder and present president and CEO of National Instruments. It was during the event that National Instruments organizes every year in Austin, the so-called NI Week.

Dr. Truchard's speech focus as well as the convention leitmotiv were all about time: time synchronization and real-time systems, time for developing software, time for fast-prototyping, time for innovation and creativity.

Time, the fourth dimension, is becoming ever more important in all aspects of technology and science.
The provision of an accurate time reference is a strategic asset on which most disparate applications depend upon, from financial transactions to broadband communications, from satellite navigation systems to Big Physics.

In a world increasingly dependent on precise measurements, time is soon to become the ultimate unit of reference. In the International System of Units, the second is presently defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of a phenomenon called microwave transition in an atom of cesium-133. The meter, once the length of a platinum-iridium bar stored in the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sèvres, is, since 1983, defined as the path traveled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second, so it is a unit derived from time.

The world regulates clocks and time by a time standard, the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), which is itself based on the International Atomic Time (TAI). Few people know that an essential contributor to TAI, and so to UTC, is GPS, the American satellite-based navigation system. Soon, however, with the full deployment of Galileo, Europe will become a key contributor to UTC and will be able to broadcast its very accurate time standard to the world.

Time is more and more important also in large systems, especially network-centric systems. These systems rely upon a real-time diffusion of information on a geographically distributed architecture. But time is also the dimension through which technology evolves (as, e.g., per the Moore's law) and obsolescence spreads. Maintenance and refurbishment of obsolete parts are essential aspects in the operational life of a system, and they both deal with time.

Time is finally one of the key objectives of project management, together with cost and performance. While the market asks for new projects, bringing innovative technologies and services to users, to get timely (and successfully) concluded, in reality delays, with associated cost over-run, and failures affect a scaringly high percentage of them.

It is sometimes discouraging to perceive that politicians, managers and engineers are loosing the sense of urgency for keeping projects on schedule and for concluding them on time. More than two thousands years ago, Caesar, facing the need to build, for the first time in hystory, a bridge across the river Rhine, wrote in his “Commentaries on the Gallic War”: “Caesar thought it expedient for him to cross the Rhine (…). He devised this plan of a bridge (...). Within ten days after the timber began to be collected, the whole work was completed, and the whole army led over.”. Much closer to our times, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stated in his historic speech to Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” And on July 20 1969, less than ten years later, the promise was mantained.

And this brings us to the general questions about the importance of time in our own lives. How huge is the amount of time that we waist for trivial and non essential tasks? How could a better management of our time gain us more room for creativity, social relations and pursue of happiness? As you can see, it is not only how much time we can save by better managing our lives, but about the quality of our time and whether it is used to “be” or just to “have”.

In the last decades mankind became increasingly concerned about non-renewable resources, that is resources often existing in a fixed amount and being consumed much faster than nature can create them (e.g fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum and natural gas). The fact of the matter is, the only truly non-renewable resource we have is time: when it is gone, it is gone forever. So, let us make our lives sustainable, let us care of our most precious asset, our most valuable resource.

“Tempus breve est”, time is short, wrote St. Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor 5:14). But it is up to us, to our wisdom and professionalism, to have enough time for our realizations, our projects, our lives.

Benjamin Franklin wrote: "If you want to enjoy one of the greatest luxuries in life, the luxury of having enough time, time to rest, time to think things through, time to get things done and know you have done them to the best of your ability, remember, there is only one way. Take enough time to think and plan things in the order of their importance. Your life will take on a new zest, you will add years to your life, and more life to your years. Let all your things have their place."

It is really “time” we do something about it.

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