An Engineer's Literary Notebook

Exploring the real and surreal connections between poetry and engineering

The Eyes Of The Transceivers

Posted by xbanguyen on August 16, 2009

At my first job as an engineer,  next to the block diagram of the FPS564 array processor, I adorned the wall of my first cubicle which the following lines:

Each morning a thousand roses brings,  you say.

Yes, but where leave the rose of yesterday?

Even though their proximity was somewhat incongruous, the two displays coexisted more or less peacefully. Because over-analyzing is an occupational hazard, when I looked up from the monitor to refocus my eyes at at different focal distances as they said I should, I often wondered why I was attracted by those two lines from the Rubaiyat.  The words they contained were ordinary. Perhaps it was the rhythm? Or perhaps it was the sense of yearning, of empathy, of regrets because nothing, least of all a flower, lasted?  Sometimes I cringed at how sentimental it all sounded.  Other times I embraced the pleasurable melancholy (why it is pleasurable is the subject of another post, I think) even as I attended design reviews.  Unlikely as it might appear, the duality of those thoughts provided me with such clarity of vision into the technical concepts being presented, perhaps because the vision was enhanced by the pleasure provided by the connection between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex as the poem took on a life of its own.

This reflection occurred to me tonight when I reviewed the techniques to widen the eyes of high-speed digital transceivers. To do so, transmitted signals are pre-emphasized to counter the attenuation incurred as the signals traverse toward the receivers.   The wider the eyes the better as the error rates would be reduced.   Would that it were possible to widen my own eyes to retrieve the same clarity possessed by that engineer, she of the faded flower taped on a cubicle wall, many years ago.

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