Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pathfinder -- No, not James Fenimore Cooper!

Pete Hale's Website

I've posted several times on Benjamin Hale's novel, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, and I intend to post more as soon as I have time to get back into re-reading it once this busy semester's over, but I've not posted about the creative work of Ben's father, my old friend Pete Hale. He's a physicist with expertise in lasers and goes by his business name Charley Hale -- just in case any readers are interested in doing business with him -- and he's currently reworking his website now that he's started his own small business, Pathfinder Research LLC, as he recently explained:
I'm increasingly gearing up my little website to get reasonably serious about selling my existing little laser R and D product, the "CoolCard" (I'm realizing you may not know about that site, it's down in my "main" site, which I'm also not sure you know of -- it's an amateurish effort at best to date, but gets the nominal job done at present, I think . . .) (mainly I need to get back in there and tone down the font size I used, which a smart-ass friend or two have told me, appears to be sized for the "vision impaired photonics community" -- ha, yeah, I guess it is . . .) (this BTW plays into the tired old lasers/photonics joke that runs, "Warning -- Avoid Laser with Remaining Eye" -- heh); I'm thinking I should make it possible for the dozen or two people on earth who NEED a CoolCard, to "buy it now" with a credit card . . . we'll see. I hate to see a % go to some bank, but, if it actually results in more sales, I reckon it would be worth it. The CoolCard has a storied history; I made the thing up (I can't quite bring myself to say "invented") in 1991, I find recently in my old notes I've had to dig up, and I did in fact sell about 30 of the things back in the mid-90's and up to about 2000 when I just got tired of trying to deal with it and way getting too busy at "real work" anyhow. But now in my ever-dicey new world of self-unemployment, I'm revisiting it big-time. It really is a very useful thing to folks out there in the world who deal with infrared lasers of a wide variety, so, I'll see what another concerted push might yield. And I definitely need to increase the price, lordy everything's gone up since the 90's!

As you can see by the red-fonting that I've added above, Pete is clearly a man who loves parenthetical remarks! Indeed, he apparently writes in parentheses, occasionally interrupting them to make a main point! I now see where Ben got his experimental literary style . . . and his interest in science.

Anyway, Pete -- or rather, Charley, since we're now discussing his business -- invented a cool device that he calls a "CoolCard" and describes here:
The ONLY hand-held infrared laser beam location and spatial evaluation technology for laser sources operating at wavelengths beyond 1.7 μm.

Well, I think that we can ALL use one of these, except for when we're dealing with wavelengths this side of 1.7 μm, which I'm usually not. But even if you don't need one at all (not even for wavelengths beyond 1.7 μm), check out this photo of Charley's CoolCard:

You see where the late Steve Jobs got his idea for the iPod's design . . . unless Charley was also influenced by the Braun T3 Pocket Radio designed by Dieter Rams. But I think Jobs more likely to have been directly influenced by Charley's device since both have a screen, unlike the Braun T3.

And we see that it really is a "cool" CoolCard (though a bit thick for a "card") . . . if we consider the designs of Rams and Jobs cool . . .

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At 12:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This just proves again how much more intelligent Pete was/is than the rest of us. At least scientifically! As a line in my current play, A Christmas Story, goes, "There are only three scientists in the world who understand his 3rd grade science project"..... :-)


At 3:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I remember Pete making tensegrity spheres just from following the explanations in written form (I guess), precisely the sort of thing that I was terrible at doing. So . . . he started out way ahead of me.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi--you guys are way too kind. Salem HS had some sort of weird bubble of high-functioners there at that time it seems to me (but maybe it always seems that way to everybody, eh!), and here we all variously are, I reckon. Walmart IT world-steerers, international men (and women) of intellectual mystery, and the occasional uber-nerd like myself, I guess.

Man, I just read the most incredible article in the latest Atlantic about Walmart and China, Jay, I'm sure you know it. Are you in the thick of that stuff?? Mind-boggling, truly.

Soon I'll revise my website with the new and improved "CoolCard II", which is sure to sell like WAY more than the comparatively boring original edition...! And it really does look more like a fool iPhone now, than it used to...Your comment about its seeming lack of "card-ness", Jeff, is a good one, and has an actual explanation. It turns out that the industry-standard product of this sort for several decades now, is a little plastic-laminated card thing a bit larger than a business card, and about 2-3x thicker (this is a link to a pretty representative product of this sort: IR phosphor card ). These clever chemistry-intensive things phosphoresce sort-of orange or yellow, when struck by IR light. But as you can see at that site for instance, they all conk out at about 1.7 um wavelength; longer wavelengths don't cause the phosphorescense and so they don't work out there. The liquid-crystal material in the CoolCard keeps on reacting no matter what (being purely thermal in nature, and IR radiation is, well, heat), though, and works just as well at much longer wavelengths, as at shorter ones. But so anyhow, that's the genesis of the "Card" part of the name. The "Cool" part comes from the fact that the thing has what is called a Peltier or thermoelectric cooler inside it, that keeps the front "window" part of the thing cool, while the thick back part of the thing gets hot (and so thus its need to be pretty thick, so it's got a lot of thermal mass to dissipate that heat). Amazing little devices, I've used them for many things over the years. And so anyhow, put it all together, you got yourself a CoolCard.

And with that, I promise to never mention this arcane thing here ever again! :) --Pete

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Pete, thanks for splainin that to me.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also by the way, a local friend commented to me about the company name, in that there's a neat (unintended, but neat) Colorado connection, as the great western explorer James Fremont was known as "The Pathfinder". Some of the personality traits attributed to Fremont on his Wiki page are disturbingly in line with some of my own, I'm afraid...! But anyhow, it's better to be associated with him I think, than a run-of-the-mill Nissan SUV!

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hmmm . . . I guess I'd better look at that Wiki.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Pedro - I am not too involved in the China aquisitions or growth, but am well aware of what Walmart is doing there. My team is currently developing new applications for our transportation services, which are all those Walmart/SAMs trucks and trailers you see on the road. We have around 57,000 trailers with aproximately 8,000 tractors and over 7,500 drivers we create applications for.

In additon my team also creates new software for our dispatch offices throughout the US. We do not have full blown truck delivery services in any other country, however; we do support parts of the transportation business in Canada, Mexico, UK, and South America. China and South Africa are two of our biggest growth areas, so I am sure we will be creating/installing processes for them in the near future.

Good to hear from you and good luck on your new CoolCard!


At 3:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jay, despite living in East Asia, I'm ignorant of Walmart in China. I can imagine shipping problems due to China's unevenly developed infrastructure and consequent traffic jams.

For some reason, Walmart didn't succeed in Korea. I don't know why.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeff, hopefully this link leads you to the Atlantic article:
Walmart article
It is really fascinating. It would be extremely interesting to understand why they failed to do well in S. Korea, for sure. There must be some really subtle cultural thing they missed there (that they'll no doubt figure out at some point!). --Pete

At 4:40 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Pete.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

South Korea and Indonesia were our first forays into the Asian world of commerce. There were many issues and culture clashes, however; the one overbearing thing was all of the restrictions the governments of both countries put on Walmart. I think we tried to comply and adjust while still trying to weild some influence on the decisions being handed down, but our company was not as big or "influential" as it is today.

Ultimately, the fight with trying to keep up with too many regulations specifically designed for Walmart got to be too expensive to maintain our cost/price leadership, so we pulled out of those two markets.

Who knows, maybe we have learned more over the years to where we would be more welcome if we were to re-enter either S. Korea or Indonesia.

While I did not try to find them, I am sure there are past articles detailing why we "failed" in those markets. What most people do not know is we also "failed" in our first foray into the grocery business. The HyperMarket stores, as they were called, were terrible, but they gave us the foundation to develop our SuperCenter format, which is now the #1 grocery chain in the US.

Juat a touch of history. I have been here 26 years and it is hard to imagine we were not even in half the US when I started!


At 6:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jay, your story sounds plausible. You might be interested to hear that the FTA was finally approved in Korea's National Assembly yesterday, so Walmart might try again without fear of excessive regulations crafted to block competition.

Jeffery Hodges

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