FEDERAL BYTES

To market to market

When is a computer like a fish? Ask Skip Kemerer who runs NASA's Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement.

At the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils technology acquisition conference last week Kemerer said buying computers wasn't so different from buying fish. If you haggle too long at the dock trying to get a better deal you'll end up with something inedible. Same with technology. Buying at market prices means you'll get the freshest stuff but if you spend too much time looking for a better deal you'll end up with computers you can't use.

But at least they won't smell bad.

Eliminate Congress?

Frank McDonough deputy associate administrator for intergovernmental solutions at the General Services Administration last week raised a question that deserves some pondering: In an age of Web-based services and interactive government do we really need Congress?

At last week's FGIPC conference McDonough point-ed out that Congress was created to give citizens situated far from the center of the federal government a voice in its operation.

But if citizens can hop onto the Internet and convey their thoughts directly there would be no need for these representatives McDonough reasoned.

While this is certainly food for thought we doubt the Internet will ever replace Congress. Such a move would require a two-thirds majority vote from Congress and we doubt it would attract that much support.

Feds in cyberspace

The federal government is well-represented in the coffee-table book 24 Hours in Cyberspace: Painting on the Wall of the Digital Cave. A quick browse through the book revealed the following:

~ A photo of an Army doctor at Walter Reed Medical Center viewing a digital image of a soldier in Somalia with a bullet wound to his head - the first time Army doctors diagnosed a casualty in real time via telemedicine.

~ Soldiers guarding a 25-ton bomb-resistant door that houses the North American Aerospace Defense Command's high-tech equipment.

~ School kids in Sheffield England downloading NASA graphics and data to help them build models of the solar system.

The book is available in an old-fashioned paper version and on CD-ROM.

Birds of a feather

Tektronix Inc. traditionally code-names its printer development proj-ects after birds. The company's code name for the recently announced Phaser 600 the product of a joint venture between Tektronix and Mutoh Industries Ltd. employed an avian pun. The name of the cooperatively developed product? Toucan.

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