ANNE-FRANCOISE PELE: (Greetings in French)
BRIAN SANTO: …And I’m Brian Santo, EE Times editor-in-chief. Today’s greeting was from Anne-Françoise Pele, our correspondent in France. You’re listening to EE Times On Air, and this is your Weekly Briefing for the week ending December 18th.
As we first go live with this episode, there’s still a week to go before Christmas. This time around, instead of our usual focus on the industry, its people and the technology, we offer a sort of audio Christmas card from EE Times, our colleagues and our families. We hope you enjoy it.
The tradition of bestowing gifts on Christmas has expanded into a phenomenon that provides critical annual boosts to the retail sector of the economy, and to the electronics segment, too.
Other holidays from around the world have been swept up in one, big, end-of-the-year retail whoosh. The gift-giving season has become global, pulling in holidays sacred and secular, including Diwali at the end of October, November 11th — Singles Day – Christmas, of course, and it includes some New Year’s celebrations in different parts of the world.
The holiday season has become just that – a whole season. It can be overwhelming, and it can get overdone. The sentiment that holiday gift-giving was getting out of control was already prevalent way back in 1965 when Charlie Brown lamented the commercialization of Christmas.
But no matter how crazy the buying spree gets, a gift earnestly offered is a token of regard for the recipient. A gift received is a fine thing, but giving a gift can be even better, and that won’t change. Singles day might be the biggest retail event in the world, but it is also one of the most popular days for single people to hold a wedding.
It’s in that spirit that we at EE Times and our sister publications at AspenCore prepared this show. What we would like for Christmas and what we’re doing for the holidays and our hopes for the year to come. We hope you enjoy it.
2020 has been… notable. Not least because of the pandemic. Most of the world has been behaving mostly responsibly, staying mostly at home whenever possible. That has of course led to some challenges, but – as luck would have it – there are technological solutions for at least some of those challenges.
Barb Jorgensen runs a sister site called EPS News. Barb chimed in from Massachusetts, which was in the process of getting a down payment on a White Christmas as we recorded this episode. We asked her what she wanted for Christmas… besides the snow.
BARB JORGENSEN: What I want for Christmas is an XFi pod. XFi pod. Why does she want XFi pod, you may ask. I have shared my internet service with two other people for the past six months, and look forward to sharing it with people for the next six months.
And what I have discovered is, having been banished to the kitchen, is that my internet connection is lousy! I get cut off on video calls, things will like completely fade away and I will miss answers to questions for a good minute and a half. And my system continually reminds me that my internet connection is lousy.
After exploring self-help options and spending hours on the phone with the self-help phone option of my carrier, it has been determined that the XFi pod will be the solution to all of my problems.
I have ordered one three times. I haven’t received it yet. I have communicated with every possible option except for a human being, and so now I am appealing to the world at large and to Santa to buy me an XFi pod for Christmas.
I hope your aspirations are highly technological, a whole lot of fun and a vast improvement over what I am begging for for Christmas.
BRIAN SANTO: Junko Yoshida grew up in Japan. She joined EE Times in 1990 or thereabouts, and those of us who were there at the time – and that includes me – we were delighted to welcome her to the publication. I took Junko on her first business trip to New Jersey, and despite that, we’ve been friends ever since.
As an unexpected bonus, Junko turned out to be two-fer. Over the years, her spouse, David Benjamin, has weaseled his way into becoming an indispensable asset to EE Times. Lately, he’s been writing a column called Reality Bites. He is a skilled writer, an able photographer and a dedicated raconteur. We suspect the only thing that would stop him from spinning one yarn after another would be a large blunderbuss, which I think they stopped making in the 1890s, so even if we wanted to cut him short – which, honestly, we don’t – we couldn’t. You’ll see what I mean. Here are Junko and Benji:
JUNKO YOSHIDA: Hi, Benji. I see you are wearing a Santa Claus hat. What are you doing?
DAVID BENJAMIN: I’m wrapping Christmas presents for my kids and my nephews and nieces and so forth.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: So what’s in your Santa bag?
DAVID BENJAMIN: I’m giving away my books and t-shirts with my books’ covers on them!
JUNKO YOSHIDA: All right. Tell me a little bit about your Santa bag tradition you’ve created for all of our relatives.
DAVID BENJAMIN: Well, I came to the conclusion that I hate Secret Santa. And usually when dealing with Secret Santa with relatives, you get random choices for presents.
I remember I was traumatized, I think in third or fourth grade, when we had a Secret Santa at St. Mary’s School. I drew Brenda Olson as my gift receiver, who was a cute blonde girl that I really liked. But I had no money, and so I ended up going to the dime store and finding a Frosty the Snowman candle for 29 cents or something like that. And I gave it to her, and she looked at me like I had just spit on her hand. So from then, I have always hated Secret Santa.
As a result, when the family started coming up with this Secret Santa thing, I said, “Why don’t I just go to the freebies we get a tradeshows and odds and ends that I can buy from an outfit called American Science and Surplus and buy a whole bunch of stuff for under ten bucks and fill a bag with that a dump it on the floor and let the whole family run around in it and fight over it.” Which is what we do every year now!
JUNKO YOSHIDA: Tell me about that catalogue, American Science Surplus?
DAVID BENJAMIN: American Science and Surplus is one of the most entertaining catalogues ever put together. I recommend that everybody look it up and buy stuff from American Science and Surplus. They provide weird stuff that is basically left over from various manufacturers and distributors all over the world. A lot of it’s useful stuff; a lot of it’s really silly. You can always get a rubber chicken, for instance, from American Science and Surplus. You can get a full-size plastic human skeleton for about $150.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: Your son loved it!
DAVID BENJAMIN: I got one for my son when it was only $99. And he made it into a sculpture.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: The one that I like is the crime scene tape.
DAVID BENJAMIN: Yeah, you can get crime scene tape, and you can also get fire scene tape. I wish you could get murder scene tape, because that would be a best seller, wouldn’t it?
JUNKO YOSHIDA: Any other tricks that you have for your Santa bag to make it more fun or enjoyable?
DAVID BENJAMIN: I go to a catalogue of books. I get several book catalogues. I’m an author, you know. (www.lastkidbooks.com) I find cheap remaindered books. Mainly puzzle books and dot-to-dot books and things like that. And people love it. They eat it up.
And what I want for Christmas is a Frosty the Snowman candle!
JUNKO YOSHIDA: So that you can get back at your former…
DAVID BENJAMIN: It’ll be nostalgic.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: Nostalgic. Okay.
DAVID BENJAMIN: It’ll take me right back to the Brenda Olson and the dirty looks she gave me for Christmas.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: All right. I’ll try to find one.
BRIAN SANTO: I worked for EE Times back in the 1990s, and a few years ago I came back home. Anne-Françoise Pele is another boomerang editor – someone who went out for spin and then returned to where she started. She worked for EE Times in the aughts and teens, covering the global electronics business. She left to work for Google for bit, and then rejoined the paper a little over a year ago.
Here’s Anne-Françoise, with special guests, reporting from just outside Paris.
ANNE-FRANCOISE PELE: In France, Christmas is a season of great joy and expectation. At home, we’ve just finished decorating our close to four meter high tree. And for the first time this year, our wish list is all about electronics.
Let’s start with my 14-year-old daughter, Alienor.
ALIENOR PELE: I love listening to music. So for Christmas I’ve asked for a compact wireless speaker to enjoy high-quality sound with my friends.
ANNE-FRANCOISE PELE: Amaury is 11, and his career plan is to be a “robotician.”
AMAURY PELE: For Christmas, I would like a robot with lots of sensors, and a PlayStation5.
ANNE-FRANCOISE PELE: Foucault is 9 years old. A few weeks ago, he asked me about black holes and what’s inside them. And after he watched “Back to the Future,” he asked me about time travel.
So Foucault, tell us about what you want.
FOUCAULT PELE: For Christmas I would like a DeLorean.
ANNE-FRANCOISE PELE: How about my husband and I? Like many people, the lockdown has made us appreciate us the little things in life. Blooming flowers, the sun rising over the trees. Our kids’ happy faces have been our go-to day brighteners for the past 10 months. Even though we have good camera phones, there’s nothing like a digital single lens reflex camera to capture a family’s priceless memories.
BRIAN SANTO: During his career, Nitin Dahad had done just about everything there is to do in electronics. He’s worked with big enterprises and also with a startup, which he helped see through an IPO. He’s been an editor, and he’s also worked the dark side – public relations.
To be fair, so have I. I have so much more sympathy for PR people now.
Anyway, for the last few years Nitin has been writing for EE Times and has also guided Embedded.com as its editor-in-chief.
He’s checking in from his home somewhere midway between London and Cambridge.
NITIN DAHAD: My holiday season runs all the way from the end of October, for Diwali, through to December for Christmas. And Thanksgiving in between.
I love technology. Give me any sophisticated gadget and I’ll probably love it to bits. Otherwise, specifically, I’ve always fancied a Tesla just because when I first gave it a little spin in Santa Clara quite a few years ago when it was first out, I really enjoyed the smooth drive. And obviously it’s doing something good for the environment.
But one of the things I’m really missing right now is the travel. I meet people, I talk to people. What would be really good is a teleporter, where I could also go out and meet colleagues, friends, family, and talk to them and do things. But also I think I haven’t met my grandchildren for over a year. So I’d love to just be teleported 6,000 miles away to be with them and play with them.
What else? What would be really, really good is a personal tutor. I’ve tried all year but failed miserably to try and learn piano. And with all this social distancing and lockdowns, it’s actually difficult to go and get a physical lesson. And online hasn’t worked. So a personal tutor — maybe a robot — would be really, really good.
BRIAN SANTO: Echo Zhao is chief analyst at EE Times China. She’s a frequent contributor to EE Times, and she’s been one of our favorite guests on this podcast.
Her son, Daniel, is 9 years old. He has also appeared in a previous podcast, and we’re happy to welcome him back, too. Here are Echo and Daniel, recorded at home in Shenzhen.
ECHO ZHAO: Hey, Daniel. What give would you like for the coming New Year?
DANIEL ZHAO: I can play video games every day.
ECHO ZHAO: Okay, what games do you like?
DANIEL ZHAO: Minecraft and (?).
ECHO ZHAO: Okay.
DANIEL ZHAO: Can I have that gift?
ECHO ZHAO: No. Sorry.
DANIEL ZHAO: I can! I can! I can!
ECHO ZHAO: For the last several years, I yearly took overseas travel for vacation. Sometimes with my family, sometimes with our Mommy and Kids group. But I didn’t go anywhere for the past year. So my wish for the new year is a chance for overseas travel.
BRIAN SANTO: Travel. Yeah…
Most major air carriers have been treating their customers like cattle for years now, and my dislike for them and for flying remains intense. But I gotta say, once this is all over I am going to be so ready to be crammed like a sardine into one of their tin cans and emerge someplace else. Like, maybe… Canada.
Gary Hilson is our correspondent from The Great White North. He mostly covers memory technology for us. We begged him to provide us with a photo that we can use as the art for this podcast’s web page, and he did not disappoint. After hearing him speak, you might guess what it is, but either way, I encourage you to check it out at www.eetimes.com/podcast. It’s spectacular.
GARY HILSON: I always get a Lego set for Christmas, and one for my birthday in January, from my family. This year, my unused travel budget went toward buying myself lots of Lego for the upcoming winter lockdown. What I really need is an extra room in my apartment to display it all!
What I’d like most for Christmas, however, is to be able to have a pint of Guinness in my favorite pub.
BRIAN SANTO: Next, we’re swinging halfway around the globe again, this time stopping in Taiwan, where we’re going to check in with Judith Cheng. Judith is the chief editor of EE Times & EDN Taiwan. She joined the organization in 2005, and we’ve been pleased to have her as an occasional guest on the podcast, too.
JADE CHENG: [singing] We wish you a merry Christmas, We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
JUDITH CHENG: That’s my daughter, Jade, here with me. She would like to talk about her Christmas wish. Okay. So, Jade, what’s your wish for Christmas?
JADE CHENG: No homework anymore.
JUDITH CHENG: Okay, thank you, Jade. This is the first year of Jade’s junior high school student life. And the academic pressure for Taiwan students is really heavy here. If they want to go to a good high school or a good university, they have no choice. They have to study very hard every day. So her biggest wish is no homework anymore. But it is impossible. Sorry.
In this tough situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unfortunate that we can have no more daily life here as usual in Taipei. We have never been in a lockdown situation and need to work from home or study from home.
So although Jade’s biggest wish is no homework, we appreciate that they can go to school as normal.
BRIAN SANTO: Barb Jorgensen isn’t the only one our colleagues with a white Christmas on the way. Gina Roos, the editor in chief of Electronic Products, resides in Maine, and the storm coming for Barb in Massachusetts was on its way up the Eastern Seaboard.
If I hadn’t mentioned it, I’m absolutely certain you would never guess she’s from Maine. That’s sarcasm, which will become obvious as soon as you hear Gina tell us what she’s looking forward to.
GINA ROOS: I’m old-school when it comes to photos. I actually miss pulling out my hard copy photo albums and flipping through the pages down memory lane. And it’s always nice to have favorite photos on your desk or hanging on the wall instead of clicking and searching through dozens of photo folders on your smartphone or in Google Drive.
So my holiday gift wish is for an instant photo printer with good image quality to print 4×6 photos directly from my smartphone.
As for my youngest niece and nephew, on their wish list is a Nintendo Switch.
BRIAN SANTO: EE Times has been around for close to 50 years. During that span, many of its editors have been journalists who specialized in covering technology, and many others were technologists who just happened to be particularly good writers.
With a Ph.D. in physics, Maurizio di Paolo Emilio is one of those. Maurizio writes for EE Times and is also the editor of Power Electronics News. He resides in Pescarra, which he will tell you is the most beautiful town in Italy, and judging by the pictures, it might be hard to argue with him. Here’s Maurizio.
MAURIZIO DI PAOLO EMILIO: Ciao, everyone. This is Maurizio, editor of Power Electronics.
Christmas is very close. First of all, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2021.
From an editorial point of view, a year full of new things awaits us, especially for energy and electric vehicles. But also gallium nitride and silicon carbide. So don’t miss our next AspenCore book about gallium nitride. This is a surprise, so, stay tuned.
Speaking of electric vehicles, it would be nice to have one. This is my dream for now. I could put on the top a solar panel that can re-charge my battery and so I can do a lot of kilometers without looking for charging stations.
Anyway, for this year I asked Santa Claus for a nice spectrum analyzer. Could sound strange, but this would be useful to complete my laboratory. So, I think that I did well, so let’s hope Santa Claus will bring it to me, finger crossed.
So this spectrum analyzer is an instrument that allows the analysis of frequency domain signals, a sort of dual oscilloscope that of course I already have one.
Actually, I asked for other things, too, but they are a little bit strange. They are about science fiction. Let’s say that a time machine would be the ideal gift, but only to go into the past, very past, but I don’t want to change it, I just want to visit the past to know more in person the famous scientists.
There would be so many steps I guess to take, many years. I don’t think that this machine is electric but… so Emmet Brown suggested plutonium during the Back to the Future film, so a little bit dangerous I guess.
So other gifts to do can’t miss for the children, they are waiting for that.
Let me switch to Italian because I would like to ask my kids which gift they chose. I’m worried that they want to have many gifts…
BRIAN SANTO: The next conversation you’ll hear is between Maurizio, his daughter Elisa, and his son Federico. Elisa is the elder sibling. The conversation is entirely in Italian, but I feel that parents and children are much the same everywhere, and you’re going to hear it in his voice when Maurizio gets hit with a Christmas request from his daughter that he did not see coming.
Maurizio: ciao Elisa, ciao Federico
Maurizio: tutto bene?
Elisa, Federico: Si
Maurizio: Allora, siamo pronti per il Natale?
Elisa, Federico: Si
Maurizio: Letterine, pronte?
Elisa, Federico: Si
Maurizio: Che cosa vuoi, Federico?
Federico: la nave dei Gormiti, sono 5 ragazzi della tribù del regno di Gorm…
Maurizio: regno di Gorm, non lo so…puoi spiegare per favore?
Federico: È una isola dove vanno in cerca di frammenti…
Maurizio: ok, frammenti?
Federico: delle star…
Maurizio: Tu perché suggerisci?…Hai suggerito ? No…tu Elisa cosa vuoi per Natale?
Elisa: voglio le scarpe Fila nere e bianche, con il tacco alto, ma prima volevo un’altra cosa…
Maurizio: Ma…Però, non c’è però…Tacco alto?! Hai detto ?
Maurizio: Sei sicura?
Maurizio: non è pericoloso, Federico non è pericoloso…
Maurizio: perché ridi? Sei sicura?
Maurizio: Ok, letterine sono state già prese?
Elisa, Federico: Si
Maurizio: Quindi, dovete aspettare il 24…
Federico: Novembre…eh Dicembre!
Maurizio: 24 notte però…
Elisa, Federico: dicembre
Maurizio: per la scuola avrete tanti compiti durante le vacanze
Elisa: secondo me si
Federico: secondo me no
Maurizio: Materia preferita ?
Elisa: a me matematica e tecnologia
Federico: matematica e italiano
Maurizio: E basta, solo due? Strano…Va bene, facciamo gli auguri?
Maurizio: vai Elisa…
Elisa: Merry Christimas and Happy New year
Federico: Buon Natale, Ciaoooooo
Maurizio: hi Elisa, hi Federico
Maurizio: everything’s OK?
Elisa, Federico: Yes
Maurizio: So, are we ready for Christmas?
Elisa, Federico: Yes
Maurizio: Letters for Santa Claus, ready?
Elisa, Federico: Yes
Maurizio: What do you want for Christmas, Federico?
Federico: The ship of the Gormiti, they are 5 boys from the tribe of the Kingdom of Gorm…
Maurizio: Kingdom of Gorm, I don’t know…can you please explain?
Federico: It’s an island where they go in search of fragments…
Maurizio: ok, fragments?
Federico: some stars…
Maurizio: Why do you suggest?…Did you suggest? No…Elisa, what do you want for Christmas?
Elisa: I want Fila black and white shoes, with high heels, but I wanted something else first….
Maurizio: But…But, there’s no…High heels?! Did you say ?
Maurizio: Are you sure?
Elisa: For sure
Maurizio: he is not dangerous, Federico is not dangerous…
Maurizio: why are you laughing? Are you sure?
Maurizio: Ok, have some letters already been taken?
Elisa, Federico: Yes
Maurizio: So, you have to wait until the 24th …
Federico: November…eh December!
Maurizio: 24 night though…
Elisa, Federico: December
Maurizio: for the school you will have a lot of homework during holidays
Elisa: in my opinion yes
Federico: in my opinion no
Maurizio: Favourite subject ?
Elisa: me mathematics and technology
Federico: mathematics and Italian
Maurizio: Enough, just two? Strange…All right, shall we greet everyone now?
Maurizio: go Elisa…
Elisa: Merry Christimas and Happy New year
Federico: Merry Christmas, Ciaoooooo
BRIAN SANTO: On our podcast web page, there’s a full transcript of this show, including a translation of what you just heard. If, like me, you aren’t fluent in Italian, Elisa just asked her dad for a pair of high heels. I have two daughters, both adults now, and all I can say is: Maurizio has no idea what’s about to hit him!
Okay – now we’re heading back to England.
Sally Ward-Foxton is yet another editor that carries on the fine tradition at EE Times of technologists who write exceedingly well.
In 2020, I have become fully accommodated to the idea that a great weekend involves a good binge watch and a lovely bourbon. With that in mind, you’ll understand why I’m being so judgmental about Sally’s contribution to this episode. I cannot be dissuaded that she has precisely the appropriate priorities.
SALLY WARD-FOXTON: Sally Ward-Foxton here, EE Times AI reporter.
For Christmas this year, I’m asking Santa for the LG signature wine cellar. It’s essentially a fancy fridge for keeping wine in. It’s got everything you’d expect a wine fridge to have: it keeps the wines at the perfect temperature, I think to within half a degree. But then the fridge door is glass. Of course, wine should be stored in the dark, out of the UV light. So the glass panel turns completely opaque. And then to see the wines, you just knock on the glass door and it turns transparent again. No need to open the door to browse the wines because of course that would let warm air in.
The same fridge door comes with the technology they use for opening car boots. So when you’re carrying a heavy crate of wine, you just put your foot on the right spot on the floor and the fridge door opens automatically. It’s very cool.
As if that weren’t enough, it also has refrigerated drawers below the wine fridge. So LG suggests that you might want to keep a selection of cheese to enjoy with your wine. I’d love to have this in my house because I think it would be really fun to select a wine and a matching cheese by knocking on the fridge door.
Of course, if Santa could also bring a bigger house to put the wine fridge in, that would be perfect. Merry Christmas!
BRIAN SANTO: And that is the Weekly Briefing for the week ending December 18th. Thank you for listening.
GARY HILSON: Happy Holidays from Toronto.
GINA ROOS: Happy holidays, everyone. Wishing you all the best in 2021.
JUDITH CHENG: And I also wish all of you to have a very good Christmas and a happy new year. And please do stay safe and take care of yourself. Hope everything will be back to normal soon and everything will become better and better.
BARB JORGENSEN: Happy Holidays, everybody.
ANNE-FRANCOISE PELE ET FAMILE: Joyeux Noel!
MAURIZIO DiPAOLO EMILIO: Va bene, facciamo gli auguri? Va Elisa… [Elisa:] Merry Christmas and Happy new year [Federico:] Buon Natale, Ciaoooooo!
BRIAN SANTO: We are taking next week off. For those of you desperate to spend your Christmas listening to the melodious and dulcet recitations of your favorite audio program host, we invite you to visit our podcast web page. Go to our home page at eetimes.com and click the navbar button that says “radio” – and see if there’s an episode you missed. And of course you can always relisten to a favorite. Ho ho ho.
The Weekly Briefing is available on all the major podcast platforms, including Spotify, Stitcher, iTunes and Android, but if you get to us via our web site at www.eetimes.com/podcasts you’ll find a transcript along with links to the stories we mentioned.
This podcast is Produced by AspenCore Studio. It was Engineered by Taylor Marvin and Greg McRae at Coupe Studios. The Segment Producer was Kaitie Huss.
I’m Brian Santo. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and we’ll be back on January 1st.