Talking Shop -

Talking Shop

Election day seems so long ago now. As I write this, it's only a week in the past. But then, that's how print works. I write these columns at least a month and sometimes two before you read them. It takes that long to edit and layout each page, insert ads, and have tens of thousands of copies printed and mailed.

I mention the last election because it offered me a glimpse of the future in a couple of ways.

Many people take the position that electronic voting is less trustworthy than paper-based balloting. Without dismissing their concerns, I think we should also consider the positives that electronic voting may bring. Having moved this fall, I had the unlikely experience of using a shiny new touch-screen electronic voting machine during the primary, then going back to a paper ballot during the general election. Traveling backward in technology like this gave me lots to think about.

Some of the really nice things about the touch-screen system are the ease with which a voter can change his or her mind or correct a mistake and the virtual certainty that you've cast all the votes you are allowed and that they've been properly read. Misvotes, undervotes, and overvotes are all possible with optical scanners and other paper-based systems, since the ballot readers don't give the voter any feedback.

Thinking that Embedded Systems Programming's other contributors (Jack Ganssle, Bill Gatliff, Larry Mittag, etc.) might have their own experiences and well-informed opinions on the subject, I wrote these thoughts down and sent them to the group by e-mail. Their response was overwhelming and the resulting discussion quite stimulating-so interesting that we decided to post it on In fact, our discussion has launched a new, more timely, communications forum.

Our new forum, called Shop Talk, offers insight into the embedded developer's mindset. The voices and personalities, as well as informed opinions of the industry experts we've been bringing you in print for so long shine through in these periodic roundtable-style conversations. Our discussion of the potential risks and rewards of electronic voting is merely one of several you'll now find at

Which brings me to the other glimpse of the future I mentioned, though this future has been sneaking up quietly and is already quite real.

The website, which we launched several years ago as a simple companion to the magazine you hold in your hands, is today a destination in and of itself-and one now visited by a much broader audience. The site has technical insights, opinions, and personalities you won't find here; significant industry news and new products are announced there daily; and, of course, there are searchable databases of development tools/vendors and an archive of articles and code from Embedded Systems Programming.

What's tremendously interesting and important about these changes is that the news and analysis you find at can be brought to you in near real-time. I think this complements the print magazine quite nicely.

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