[ExI] reason on tim may (John Clark)

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Fri Dec 21 16:50:35 UTC 2018

On Thu, Dec 20, 2018 at 11:09 PM John Clark <johnkclark at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Dec 17, 2018 at 5:22 PM <spike at rainier66.com> wrote:
> > *> I never realized Tm May was such a big deal.  Through making his online
> > acquaintance, I knew he was a really smart guy, very insightful. *

Tim May and the Cypherpunks mailing list were a _really_ big deal.
The current Bitcoin and blockchain trace directly to that list.

> When I first joined the list in the early 90s Tim May was probably the most
> frequent contributor to a very active list, I didn't always agree with him
> but his posts were always thought-provoking and I made a point of reading
> him first. I was sorry he left the list after a few years. And I'm sorry he
> wasn't cryopreserved; he maintained the probability of success was too low
> to worry about, but I felt that the probability of success was not low it
> was unknown, all you could say was it was greater than 0 and less than 1.
> So if you have the money as Tim did then there was no downside.  If it
> didn't work you wouldn't be any deader. But I could never convince him.

I couldn't either.  Last time I tried was just after Hal Finney went
into suspension.

In the particular circumstances where Tim died, I am not so sure he
would have gotten much of a suspension.  I happen to know a little
about it and lying dead on the floor for about a week may not leave
much information in the brain.  Living alone isn't the best idea if
you are serious about cryonics.  Those who are signed up should keep
this in mind.

On a different note, not long after I met Tim, mid-80s, he invited me
to visit and see what he was doing at Intel.  At the time, the 386 was
in development.  Intel was trying to push up the clock rate.  As they
did, the chips failed to produce the right results.  The problem was
to determine where in the circuits it needed design modifications, but
that wasn't so easy since there could be 20 to 30 gates/clocks between
the original error and the data coming out on the pins.

The project Tim was in charge of used a scanning electron microscope
on a de-capped 386 in a big vacuum chamber.  The logic levels of all
the internal traces were visible in the display because the logic
voltage affected the scanning electrons.  Run at a low clock rate,
they knew what pattern the internal logic levels should be.  Run at a
clock speed where the chips failed, they could see where the deep
internal logic levels departed from the correct values.  They ran it
like a blink comparator.  As they cranked up the clock, the failing
logic trace would start blinking.

It was, without a doubt, the most ingenious use of fundamental physics
to solve a technical problem I have seen.  I believe the project Tim
was in charge of was one of the reasons Intel dominated the computer
chip industry.

I have not written about this before.


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