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Otis Boykin’s Precision Passives Propelled the Pacemaker

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The simplest ideas can be the ones that change the world. For Otis Boykin, it was a new way to make wirewound precision resistors. Just like that, he altered the course of electronics with his ideas about what a resistor could be. Now his inventions are in everything from household appliances and electronics to missile guidance computers.

While we like to geek out about developments in resistor tech, Otis’ most widely notable contribution to electronics is the control unit he designed for pacemakers, which regulate a person’s heartbeat. Pacemakers are a real-time clock for humans, and he made them more precise than ever.

Street Smarts and Book Smarts

Otis Frank Boykin was born August 29th, 1920 in Dallas, Texas to Sarah and Walter Boykin. Otis’ father was a carpenter who later became a preacher. His mother Sarah was a maid, and she died of heart failure when Otis was only a year old.

Otis in an undated photograph. Image via Philadelphia Tribune

Not much is known about Otis’ childhood, but he must have had some foundational interest in electronics and the drive to go after a career in the field. We do know that Otis graduated as the valedictorian of Booker T. Washington high school in 1938. Then he moved to Nashville, Tennessee to attend Fisk University on a scholarship. As part of the deal, he worked as an assistant in the university’s aerospace lab, testing automatic controls for various aircraft.

Otis graduated from Fisk in 1941 and moved to Chicago to work as a lab assistant for Majestic Radio & TV. Before long, he was promoted to factory foreman. This position lasted a few years until he got hired as a research engineer at P.J. Nilson Labs in nearby Oak Park. During this time, he enrolled in the Illinois Institute of Technology. Otis only attended graduate school for two years — it’s unclear whether he dropped out because of financial problems, or he left because another job opportunity came along.

For the next fifteen years, Otis worked around Illinois and Indiana as a consultant in various radio and electronic positions. In 1946, Otis started a short-lived electronics research laboratory with one of his mentors, Hal Fruth, before the two were hired by the Monson Manufacturing Corporation.

Image via US Patent #2634352

Resistance is Utile

In the early 1950s, Otis invented a new, more precise type of wirewound resistor and applied for a patent. Wirewound resistors rely on coils of wire, and the loops introduce unwanted inductance to the circuit. Before Otis came along, wirewound resistors were difficult to make and thus quite expensive.

Otis’ wirewound resistors were made up of wire drawn out and wound into a skein. By twisting the ends of the skein and inserting thin sheets of plastic between the loops, Otis was able to minimize the resistors’ inductance and reactance. In the patent, he describes several variations on this theme with different types of housing and connectors.

A few years later, Otis patented another, even better resistor that was both cheap and easy to manufacture. It was tough enough to withstand extreme temperature changes and physical shocks without breaking or losing precision. This resistor was ideal for an array of applications. The US military used it in missile guidance computers, and IBM put it in their mainframes.

Chest x-ray showing a pacemaker. Image CC BY-SA 3.0

Setting the Pace for Life

He continued to pursue other inventions up until the end of his life. These included components like capacitors, a chemical air filter, and a burglar-proof cash register. But Otis Boykin’s most important invention was inspired by his mother’s death, and is currently keeping a large number of people’s hearts ticking accurately.

In 1964, he invented a control unit for pacemakers, which maintain a steady cadence for the human heart, regulating the heartbeat. Before this, pacemakers weren’t as reliable.

The sad irony is that Otis himself died of heart failure in 1982. His influence lives on in all the people who are alive because of his contributions to technology.



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Facebook wants to make AI better by asking people to break it

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The explosive successes of AI in the last decade or so are typically chalked up to lots of data and lots of computing power. But benchmarks also play a crucial role in driving progress—tests that researchers can pit their AI against to see how advanced it is. For example, ImageNet, a public data set of 14 million images, sets a target for image recognition. MNIST did the same for handwriting recognition and GLUE (General Language Understanding Evaluation) for natural-language processing, leading to breakthrough language models like GPT-3.

A fixed target soon gets overtaken. ImageNet is being updated and GLUE has been replaced by SuperGLUE, a set of harder linguistic tasks. Still, sooner or later researchers will report that their AI has reached superhuman levels, outperforming people in this or that challenge. And that’s a problem if we want benchmarks to keep driving progress.

So Facebook is releasing a new kind of test that pits AIs against humans who do their best to trip them up. Called Dynabench, the test will be as hard as people choose to make it.

Benchmarks can be very misleading, says Douwe Kiela at Facebook AI Research, who led the team behind the tool. Focusing too much on benchmarks can mean losing sight of wider goals. The test can become the task.

“You end up with a system that is better at the test than humans are but not better at the overall task,” he says. “It’s very deceiving, because it makes it look like we’re much further than we actually are.”

Kiela thinks that’s a particular problem with NLP right now. A language model like GPT-3 appears intelligent because it is so good at mimicking language. But it is hard to say how much these systems actually understand.

Think about trying to measure human intelligence, he says. You can give people IQ tests, but that doesn’t tell you if they really grasp a subject. To do that you need to talk to them, ask questions.

Dynabench does something similar, using people to interrogate AIs. Released online today, it invites people to go to the website and quiz the models behind it. For example, you could give a language model a Wikipedia page and then ask it questions, scoring its answers.

In some ways, the idea is similar to the way people are playing with GPT-3 already, testing its limits, or the way chatbots are evaluated for the Loebner Prize, a contest where bots try to pass as human. But with Dynabench, failures that surface during testing will automatically be fed back into future models, making them better all the time.

For now Dynabench will focus on language models because they are one of the easiest kinds of AI for humans to interact with. “Everybody speaks a language,” says Kiela. “You don’t need any real knowledge of how to break these models.”

But the approach should work for other types of neural network too, such as speech or image recognition systems. You’d just need a way for people to upload their own images—or have them draw things—to test it, says Kiela: “The long-term vision for this is to open it up so that anyone can spin up their own model and start collecting their own data.”

“We want to convince the AI community that there’s a better way to measure progress,” he adds. “Hopefully, it will result in faster progress and a better understanding of why machine-learning models still fail.” 



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In Praise Of The DT830, The Phenomenal Instrument You Probably Don’t Recognise For What It Is

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If we had to make a guess at the single piece of electronic bench equipment owned by the highest proportion of Hackaday readers, it would not be a budget oscilloscope from Rigol, nor would it be a popular portable soldering iron like the TS100. Instead we’re guessing that it’s a multimeter, and not even the most accomplished one.

The DT830 is a genericised Chinese-manufactured 3.5 digit digital multimeter that can be had for an astonishingly low price. Less than a decent hamburger gets you an instantly recognisable plastic case with a chunky rotary range selector switch, and maybe a socket for some kind of transistor or component tester. Make sure that there is a 9 volt battery installed, plug in the pair of test leads, and you’re in business for almost any day-to-day electrical or electronic measurement. They’ve been available in one form or another for decades and have been the subject of innumerable give-aways and loss-leader offers, so it’s a reasonsble guess that you’ll have one somewhere. I have three as far as I know, they make great on-the-go instruments and have proved themselves surprisingly reliable for what they are.

Persuading You Is Going To Be A Tough Sell

An undervalued instrument, by my estimation.

If you talk about the DT830 in polite company, you might be greeted with snorts of derision. It’s not difficult to find reviews that tear one down and compare it to a more expensive meter, and not surprisingly find the pricey meter to be of higher quality.

And it’s certainly true that for a couple of dollars, you get a switch that won’t last forever and high voltage isolation that maybe isn’t quite up to spec. But I’m going to advance a different take on the DT830 that may surprise some of you: to me it’s a modern classic, an instrument that provides performance for its price that is nothing short of phenomenal. Because that pocket-money meter not only measures voltage, current, and resistance, it does so accurately and repeatably, and to compare that with what might have gone before is to show just much better a device it is.

Thirty years ago, a digital multimeter was an expensive item, and most multimeters were still analogue. A cheap multimeter was therefore invariably a small pocket analogue device, and the very cheap ones could be astoundingly awful. Accuracy and repeatability in reading wasn’t their strong point, and while I am a great fan of analogue multimeters when it comes to spotting dips and trends in tweaking analogue circuitry, even I can’t find reason to praise the inexpensive ones. By comparison the DT830 delivers reliable and accurate readings with a high-impedance input, something I would have given a lot for in 1985.

That Performance Is No Fluke

An ICM7106 epoxy blob on a 40-pin DIP-shaped PCB
An ICM7106 epoxy blob on a 40-pin DIP-shaped PCB in this roughly 18-year-old DT830

So given that it costs considerably less than a pint of beer in a British pub, how does such a cheap instrument do it? The answer is, by standing on the shoulders of giants. My colleague Anool Mahidharia supplied the answer here back in 2017 when he took a look at the Intersil 71XX series of integrated circuits; the archetypal DT830 contains an ICM 7106 3.5 digit digital panel meter chip, whose roots lie in a much more exclusive stratum of the industry.

(Despite there being a load of newer and more accomplished multimeter chips on the market I was surprised to find that none of them had found their way into the meters I’d opened.)

The ICM 7106 was based on work Intersil did in 1977 to produce the part in Fluke’s first portable DMM, the model 8020A.

Google hasn't found any ICM7106 conterfeiters!
Google hasn’t found any ICM7106 conterfeiters!

So you’re not getting anywhere near the physical design or component quality of that expensive meter, but you are benefiting from the tech that made its ancestor a very good instrument for the 1970s. The dual-slope integrating ADC and precision reference are the same as the ones in many far more expensive meters, which is what makes the reading from your few-dollar DT830 one you can trust. Not bad for something you might dismiss as a piece of junk!

If there is something to be gleaned from this story, it is a very real demonstration of the power of semiconductor manufacturing. Assuming it has passed acceptable factory QA, every 7106 is as good as any other 7016, from the first one made by Intersil in the 1970s through to the unknown-origin chip hiding under an epoxy blob in my cheap meter. The manufacturer can skimp on every other component in the meter, but assuming that there’s no money in counterfeiting a 43-year-old chip that long ago left its premium product phase behind and has been manufactured by many sources over the years, they can’t skimp on the chip that powers it. To be an ICM7106, it must have the same features as the original from the 1970s, thus my bargain-basement meter still shares something that matters with one of far higher quality.

The DT830 multimeter, then. It may be a heap of junk, but it’s an astonishingly good heap of junk. I for one, salute it.



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How To Play Call Of Duty Mobile With A Controller?

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Call of Duty Mobile is a mammoth battle royale game with millions of players worldwide. Like every other mobile game, most Call of Duty: Mobile players enjoy the game using the touch controls. However, what most players don’t know is that they can also play Call of Duty Mobile with a controller on both Android and iOS devices.

Activision announced the controller support for Call of Duty Mobile back in November 2019. However, most players are still unaware of this feature. So, if you want to play Call of Duty Mobile with a controller but don’t know how to connect it with the game, then you’re in luck. In this article, we’re going to guide you through the entire process to connect a controller with Call of Duty Mobile.

Supported Call of Duty Mobile Controllers

As of now, the official Dualshock 4 PS4 controller, except the first generation, and the official Xbox One controllers can be used to play Call of Duty Mobile. However, the good thing is that over time, Call of Duty: Mobile will bring support for new controllers as well.

If, somehow, you manage to connect a non-supported controller with Call of Duty Mobile, you might still run into problems while playing the game. So, we highly recommend that you only use one of the supported controllers.

How To Connect A Controller With Call Of Duty Mobile?

Follow these easy steps to connect a supported controller with Call of Duty Mobile on both Android and iOS:

  1. Enable Pairing On Controller

    On a PS4 controller, hold the PS and SHARE button simultaneously, whereas, in case of Xbox One controller, hold the Xbox and Sync button to enable pairing.

  2. Turn On Bluetooth On Mobile

    Navigate to your mobile device's settings and turn on the Bluetooth.

  3. Find The Controller

    Find the 'Wireless Controller' in the device list and tap on it to connect. The game will automatically detect the controller.

  4. Enable Controller in Call of Duty Mobile

    In Call of Duty: Mobile settings, go to Controller and enable the 'Enable Controller Support' option.

  5. Customize Controls

    Finally, customize the sensitivity for both Battle Royale and Multiplayer mode and get going.Change controller sensitivity in Call of Duty Mobile

That’s it; now you’ll be able to play Call of Duty Mobile with a controller in both Battle Royale and Multiplayer.

Note: If you leave your phone idle for a long time, then the controller might get disconnected from your phone, so you’ll have to connect it again.

COD Mobile Controller Support: Everything You Need To Know

When you play Call of Duty Mobile with a controller, you will only get matched against players using the controllers. Moreover, if you’re playing in a squad where one of your squad members is playing with a controller, even then, you’ll have to go against players using the controller support.

It’s important to note that you can’t use COD Mobile controllers to explore the in-game menu. So, if you want to change the weapons loadout and customize your character before entering the match, then you’ll have to do that using game’s native controls.

Also, make sure you enable the controller before entering the match. If you forget to do that before entering the pre-game lobby, the controller won’t work in the entire game.

The post How To Play Call Of Duty Mobile With A Controller? appeared first on Fossbytes.



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