Albert Masetti & Associates,  Consulting Engineers


October 1998


  • Editorial Note
  • Calender Pad
  • Design Tip of the Month
  • A Retrospective - Everything Old is New Again
  • Data, Data, Data (yadda, yadda, yadda)
  • HOT web sites (& snail mails)

Editorial Note

In answer to a question, the ten drafts necessary for each issue take about 100 hours to research, write, edit, etc. Generally original work - not cribbed from some service. Must be squeezed in where possible and gets done later and later in the year. Sooo... Merry Christmas & Happy Thanksgiving and if you're worried about the stock market, try Lichello's "How to Make a Million Automatically" (a mechanical strategy employing market cycles) and O'Shaughnessy's "What Works on Wall Street" and "How to Retire Rich". (Not there yet.)

Calendar Pad

Steam Train Fall Foliage Tours -C&O No. 614
Oct. 10, 11, 17. 8. 31. Nov 1
(908) 236-2200, (888) 324-0614
-NYS&W No. 142
Oct. 24, 25, Nov. 7. 8
(877) 872-4674

Design Tip of the Month

Control Room/Video Wall Technology

Been getting more and more involved in project feasibility concentrating on human factors issues: communications, structure of language, use and misuse of language, cultural differences, applied artificial intelligence, appropriate off-the-shelf electronic systems, applied science with systems analysis and technology. Sounds like a mouthful, doesn't it?

Some of this finds itself in such things as design of highway signing, both fixed and variable message. The pioneers in signing design seem to be all retired or passed on and many of the lessons they learned have been lost. Their books and papers have been discarded as being physically old. With their ideas mostly lost, the current generation of designers finds itself having to learn the topic from scratch.

In the meanwhile, we're occasionally seeing interior signing standards being used for highway signs. Highway users have 1-2 seconds to read and comprehend a sign message while traveling at 88 feet per second in a distracting environment. Versus 1-2 minutes for a pedestrian in a corridor or a meeting hall.

At the other end of the technical spectrum is the issue of "how do you design the control room for a system of a hundred interlinked variable message signs for easy operation?"

Originally all this was kind of an off-shoot from the aerospace industry, cockpit design and all that. (Are you starting to get the connection about why and how I got into this?)

One of the keys to effective control rooms for variable message signs and incident detection is an ergonomically-designed video wall. Careful design will consider available space, staffing, and desired control features.

Modern data switching is now available commercially off-the-shelf ("COTS") (MC or Visa) for switches that can zoom or expand or reduce mixes of both CCTV and computer generated graphics - annunciator alarms, maps, Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL), outputs in any location on the video wall. At least 23 vendors offer six different touch screen technologies for user-friendly switching.

Consider thin wall units with front access. Be sure that the screen edges are VERY thin and fit tightly and that the focus is uniform. The old 3-gun CRT technology dates back to 1937. Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) projectors came to pass around 1980. But the latest is the DLP/DMD (Digital Light Processing/Digital Micro-mirror Device) from Texas Instruments which is radically sharper with convolved pixels (to fill in the empty space without blurring the image). This tiny unit has diodes with 1/4 million individually steered mirrors, automatic calibration, low heat output and long life bulbs, no flicker, higher fill factor, no hot spots and only uses 1/5th of the wattage of the LCDs. DLP/DMD is often used in office copiers.

For video-wall and switching design contact:
Electrosonic: (612) 931-7508
RGB Spectrum: (510) 814-7000
Avitech Live Video: (425) 836-8970
SL Corporation (415) 927-1724

Illustrative of the rapidly increasing capabilities of display technology, there was a demo of the Engineering Computer Simulations, Inc. (305) 262-7417 Interactive Transportation Design Tool and Virtual Reality Planning Tool. Right now it's being used for incredible 3-D virtual reality architectural modeling and airport planning using a PC. But it can accept data on a real-time basis and provide a variety of usable computer generated graphic output formats. Provides a superior display for multiple sensor inputs (e.g. incident detection, traffic flow rate, AVL, etc.) simultaneously and can display the combined data "as if" from selectable vantage points.

Given limited space and the need to provide ergonomic control room displays, maximum advantage needs to be taken of the available technology.

A Retrospective

Everthing Old Is New Again

As you may recall, in August 1995 this newsletter discussed the "Skunk Works approach" to project management, using the SR-71 Mach 3 Blackbird "spy plane". It was grounded - canceled by line item veto - saved $30 million out of a $1.5 trillion budget.") [Other systems terminated: 50-year old operation (but with the very latest technology) to monitor nuclear testing - by microscopic airborne dust sampling of nuclear debris; and ballistic missile defense items (Aviation Week 11/4/97).] Then in July 1998 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the line item veto.

So the SR-71 is theoretically no longer canceled, but the planes remain in storage. It doesn't dog fight, and flying it takes extraordinary skill, so the bureaucracy doesn't want it. The NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) is only interested in satellites (which with their easily calculable and not easily changed orbits are kind of fixed in space - sort of static dynamic assets). Rumors of successor planes abound, with no worthwhile sightings. Appears the Skunk Works facilities at Area 51 are busy, based on French SPOT satellite photography and internet web site reports - has that facility gone bureaucratic? So the SR-71 with its ability to dash in and out of hot spots (such as North Korea or Iraq) at will (unlike the older and slower U-2 which is still being used) - it goes so fast that it leaps across radar screens in two sweeps and is GONE - and nobody can catch it - is an orphan. Maybe NSA could operate it alone. Plenty of surplus air bases out there. Rumor has it the wings might be chainsawed from the remaining half-dozen to drive a stake thru the SR-71 program's heart.

Data, Data, Data

You can, I guess, make it rhyme with "yadda, yadda, yadda".

There is an eight-page technical paper* (dated January 1998) which, in one document, totally debunks global warming. Further, if the Kyoto treaty, which is based on flawed and fraudulent data, goes thru, it will cause a drastic contraction of the world economy. We're not talking about buying smaller cars; this is about shutting down entire sectors (30-40%) of the economy. Actually EPA has already stated it will proceed even without Senate approval.

But I'm not asking anyone to believe my ranting; you can read this for yourself. Get the paper* and find a quiet place when you are not tired and read for a half-hour. (Yeah, right.) The whole picture falls into place quickly. The George C. Marshall Institute has info on the economics.

**"Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide" by Robinson, Baliunas, Soon, & Robinson. It contains 66 additional references and it endorsed by Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences and President Emeritus of Rockefeller University.

Another useful and fully documented paper is "We Are One: Kyoto and Our Collective Economic Future" by Fredrick D. Palmer, Western Fuels Assn; (703) 907-6160 or If you would like a copy of either or both please call me at (201) 652-5997 or write to the address below or email me at jeanal

HOT Web Sites (And Snail Mails)

A few of my favorite Web sites (and snail mail equivalents) that may be of interest:



    George C. Marshall Institute, 1730 K st. NW, Suite 905, Washington, DC 20006.

  • Access to Energy, Box 1250, Cave Junction OR 97523, ( and [These two addresses include the petition project with 18,000 signatures that says Global Warming is bogus.]

  • DDP newsletter [Dr. Jane Orient, MD, 1601 N. Tucson Blvd, Suite 9, Tucson, AZ 85716 ]

    Back to the Newsletters Page


    Contact Information: