Archive for March, 2009

The rise, fall and rise of IBM (Ch 3 of “the Long Revolution”)

March 31, 2009

In Chapter 3 “The rise, fall and rise of IBM” the author vividly explains the dominant role played by IBM for 25 years from Nov 2, 1951 till May 31, 1978 when they were asked to leave. Though the IBM dominance had its share of controversy, IBM did have its clout;

 

  • Prime Minister Nehru met the first batch of IBM recruits
  • President Zakir Hussain talked about the benefits of technology in an IBM event
  • when IBM left India, Indian Railways, Indian Airlines, LIC and defence departments depended on IBM
  • IBM kept spares in 84 locations in the country to meet the requirements of 10,000 machines running at 100 locations

 

IBM offering to license all its patents for Indian companies to manufacture anything they liked (except export to communist countries) at a royalty of just 1% and IBM developing 370 local vendors in India are not widely known. “You get out” drama of Minister George Fernandes is well captured. The three entities that were formed almost overnight

 

  • CMC (Computer Maintenance Corporation)
  • CMS (Computer Maintenance Services)
  • IDM (International Data Management)

 

managed the transition well. It is not widely known that CMS had grown to 7,000 maintenance engineers at 250 locations across the country. IBM also contributed to the creation of a pool of highly trained computer professionals. The author must be congratulated for bringing out the fact that many countries including UK, Germany, France and even Brazil too faced IBM dominance; but they invested heavily (hundreds of million of dollars) in local companies while Indian government invested a very small amount in ECIL – leading to expected consequence. This chapter also brings out succinctly how the political class and scientific community (with strong influence of socialism) were on the same side as far as foreign capital and foreign technology are concerned; in turn this led to near vacuum as far as the participation of private sector in high technology areas like computers.

The author also narrates the entry of IBM back in India after nearly a decade in partnership with Tatas and later as full IBM entity; interestingly IBM today has grown to nearly 80,000 employees in India today

(My Book Review will be posted over the next 10 days (starting March 28, 2009) – a chapter a day for each of the ten chapters!)

Book Review

Sharma Dinesh, “The Long Revolution”, The birth and growth of India’s IT industry”, Harper Collins (Dec 2008)

 

 

In the state’s shadow (Ch 2 of “the Long Revolution”)

March 30, 2009

In chapter 2 “In the States Shadow”, Sharma narrates the power play enjoyed by three scientists Bhabha (of TIFR), Mahalanobis (of  ISI) and Bhatnagar (of CSIR), thanks to their ‘direct access” to the real power center, namely, Prime Minister Nehru. The author aptly terms them as “science czars” – unelected, unaccountable, yet powerful. Interestingly, such “access” led to significantly large research grants to Department of Atomic Energy, at the cost of Universities and Institutes of higher learning. This chapter documents

 

  • the creation of ECIL (Electronics Corporation of India),
  • extensive use of computers in different wings of the government, namely, atomic energy, defence, planning commission and CSIR Labs,
  • the formation of IPAG (Information Planning and Analysis Group), and,
  • the huge bureaucracy created by Department of Electronics (DoE) that led to average delay of 3-4 years to get any computer imported

 

The decisive roles played by Professor M G K Menon with his strong personal views are very well documented. Though Prime Ministers Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai had very different views, the hold of DoE ensured that electronics and IT grew only at the government controlled way.

 

(My Book Review will be posted over the next 10 days starting March 28, 2009 – a chapter a day for each of the ten chapters!)

Book Review

 

Sharma Dinesh, “The Long Revolution”, The birth and growth of India’s IT industry”, Harper Collins (Dec 2008)

 

 

 

 

India’s First Computers (Ch 1 of “The Long Revolution”)

March 29, 2009

Chapter 1 “India’s first computers” traces the history of analog and digital computers globally, and the Indian success story at the two premier research groups in 50’s and 60’s, namely, the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) in Calcutta and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai. The research groups were led by exemplary scientists Homi Bhabha and PC Mahalanobis. The book vividly brings out the seminal technical contributions that started even before Indian independence; though they were not commercial success stories. The rivalry among the ISI and TIFR to host the National Computer Center, the higher success of the TIFR camp and the contribution of several early pioneers in Indian computing scene are well articulated; it is interesting to note the application focus of early computing – solving scientific problems, particularly relating to atomic energy and economic theory.

(My Book Review will be posted over the next 10 days – a chapter a day for each of the ten chapters!)

Sharma Dinesh, “The Long Revolution”, The birth and growth of India’s IT industry”, Harper Collins (Dec 2008)

Jai Prakash and Lok Satta Party – hope for better days ahead

March 28, 2009

I am a great admirer of Mr Jai Prakash, a former Physician and Civil Servant (IAS Officer) who has quietly built a new political party Lok Satta with a  clear motto – new politics for a new generation.

Several IIT students have formed a political Party – they did participate in the 2004 Elections. They do not seem that well organized.

With Vote India, Jago Re and several ways in which the younger generation is taking active interest, I do hope Indian Politics will change, and change for the better.

I wish it happens soon  – may be  not in 2009, but hopefully in 2014!

Nice to be in Tirumala on Ugadi Day

March 27, 2009

Today (March 27, 2009) is Ugadi Day. This day marks the New Year for Chandramanas (those who follow Lunar calendar in India). The States of Karnataka, Andhra and parts of Maharashtra, Orissa follow this system; the remaning States (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengal, Assam, Punjab for example) folow the Suryamana system (those who follow Solar calendar in India) with New Year (Baisaki) falling generally on April 14 every year.

Since I had to attend a Technology Presentation meeting on Security solutions  at TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams) on March 26, 2009 at 5 PM, I stayed overnight and had Darsan in the morning.

The Deity had an unusual dress, of course, divinely. The couple of seconds one gets a chance to have a glimpse of the Lord is always electrifying.

The floral arrangements at Tirumala are just amazing. Due to security devotees are NOT allowed to carry photographs; otherwise it would have been photographers’ delight. I do hope the TTD Official Photographer sends at least some pictures to us. It is heartening to note that a silent devotee from Bangalore takes care of all such floral arrangement!

I also could get a Darsan of Padmavaty Ammavaru in Tiruchanoor. Being Friday it was very auspicious.

The road too was very kind; leaving Tiruchanoor at 1225 PM I reached our home(near IIMB) at 455 PM!

A great way to start the New Year which I am sure will be a great Year for me, IIIT-B and India

TTD is very tech-savvy

March 26, 2009

TTD (Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam) the organization that manages the temples in Tirumala, Tirupati ) is an amazing organization.

The temple in Tirumala is one of the busiest temples in the world (with an average 60,000+ devotees visiting the temple everyday).

Located on a beautiful hill top, Tirumala is undoubtedly one of the best hill station (definitely the best maintained among all hill stations).

It manages to provide most services – Darsan, Mundan, stay, reach and food – free of cost to nearly 80% of the devotees.

The temple also is one of the richest in the world with annual revenues of several hundreds of Crores of Rupees.

TTD is also very tech-savvy. Way back in 1999, TTD introduced “Sudarsan” – bar-code based tag to identify the queue position of devotees as they arrive and use the bar code technology to replace the long “physical queue” with a “logical queue”. Over the past ten years they have extended Sudarsan to Tirupati, many locations around Tirupati, all TTD Centers in India as well as over the Internet. They have replaced bar-code with biometrics. They have also introduced a Web-site, e-Hundi (payment gateway), Room reservation system, accounting..

It is nice to see a temple management looking at technology solutions on a continuous basis. They are looking at devotee-friendly security solutions to be deployed from July 2009

May such TTD-like organizations multiply in the country

IIT KGP student dies, riot follows in campus, Director resigns

March 25, 2009

In an unfortunate development Rohit Kumar, 3rd Year Electrical Engineering undergraduate, died on March 22, 2009 on way to a hospital several miles away from the IIT Kharagpur Campus; medical aid could not be mobilized at short notice. Being Sunday, there was minimal facility and expert support; the case was rather complicated (head injury of a student supposed to have some other complications also); it is most unfortunate that a budding youngster lost his life at a premature age.

All IITs suffer from a not-the-best medical facility; partly because some of them (like Kharagpur) are rural towns; partly because IITs  are solitary campuses and the doctors find the campus jobs do not provide ample opportunities  for their own professional growth (the doctors do not get to see a larger number of diverse  and complex cases)

Generally students and faculty are emotionally connected; they are all part of a large “IIT family”. IIT students are generally very mature (of course they are very bright). What is intriguing me is what followed the death of Rohit Kumar. A large group (different reports talk of 1,000 to 2,000) walked up to the Director’s house and ransacked the house, damaged the car (some blogs have the picture of the badly damaged car) and according to some reports even attempted to enter the house with a possible intent of hurting the Director; it is reported that there was some violence for the next two days. Classes started only on Thursday. How come the students in large numbers turned violent in otherwise very friendly campuses?

The Board has set up a Committee headed by Justice Banerjee; hopefully there will be follow-up action to improve medicare not only in IIT-KGP but in other campuses as well.

One hopes it is an isolated case;  different campuses should view this incident seriously and think of ways of addressing such unfortunate developments within the IIT family.

The passing cloud should disappear soon. IITs should continue to be centers of excellence in all aspects of life;. I am sure they will.

Tata Nano Launch Ad has inspiration from Obama

March 24, 2009

I still preserve the Tata Nano launch last year; a full page color Ad with pithy but apt words

I found something similar yesterday “now you can” – as answer to a series of questions such as

  • Can you imagine a car within the reach of all?
  • Can you fit your family into the smallest of the cars? Without a squeeze?
  • Can you feel the safety of a big car?
  • Can you find more kilometers in every litre? More than any other car?
  • Can you make a difference to the environment? By hurting it the least?

The answer clearly in NANO

Nice way to reach the message across. Tatas have done proud to India, yet again

Tata Nano launched today in Taj Mahal Hotel

March 23, 2009

Tata Nano (the world’s most inexpensive car, often compared with “people’s car in other parts of the world including Volkswagen) was announced in January 2008 Auto Expo in Delhi.

From the beginning it attracted a lot of attention.

Thanks to Trinamool Congress stance and the agitation that followed Nano rolled out of Gujarat instead of West Bengal; gain for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and loss for Buddhadev Bhattacharya (West Bengal Chief Minister)

At Rs 1,00,000 ($ 2,500 when announced and $ 2,000 on the launch day (today) thanks to Dollar appreciation against Rupee) it is the world’s most inexpensive, yet it is a very modern car that gives 100 Km for a charge of 5 liters of petrol, has a stylish finish and meets the European norms for emission.

It will be interesting to watch Tata Nano unfold in the market over the next couple of years.

Some of us remember the 1984 launch of Maruti car (another people’s car of the previous generation)

Perhaps BBC endorsed it best when it calls Tata Nano a demonstration of Indian ingenuity.

By choosing to launch it from Taj Mahal Hotel (ravaged in November 26, 2008 terrorist launch that Tatas got re-built in record time) Tatas demonstrated the indomitable spirit of enterprise.

All in all it is a proud day for India & Indians

AR Rahman in Apple web site

March 22, 2009

It is nice to see “our own” AR Rahman featured on the Apple site under the story

Scoring “Slumdog Millionaire” with Logic: An Interview with A. R. Rahman

with a nice picture too

AR Rahman does proud to India indeed