THE WORLD OF CUSTOMER ELECTRONICS

Computers and electronics

Introduction

In a world in which technology is ubiquitous, opportunity lies in specialization. To put it another way, some people simply need a laptop they can drop down the stairs.

Chassis Plans NO. 151

697.4% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $7.4 million EMPLOYEES: 24

FOUNDED: 2001 San Diego

What it does; Designs and builds computers in enclosures for planes, boats, cars, and any other vehicle you can name. Why it’s growing. Government contracts. Two-thirds of the company’s business is now directly related to the departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

Segue Electronics NO. 190

620.3% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $11.2 million EMPLOYEES: 21

FOUNDED: 1997 Los Angeles

What it does: Provides electrical components and assembly services for industrial and commercial applications. Why it’s growing: CEO Chris Chen was born in China, educated in the United States, and polished in big American corporations. He knows how to make overseas outsourcing seem easy and secure for American companies. For more about Chris Chen and Segue, see page 98.

Zentech Manufacturing NO 275

489.7% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $14.1 million EMPLOYEES: 105

FOUNDED: 1998 Baltimore

[PAST HONOREE] [2004]

What it does: Manufactures printed circuit boards for customers such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. Why it’s growing: Zentech specializes in high-mix manufacturing–meaning it changes its lines frequently and quickly and is willing to do large or small product runs. Low-cost overseas manufacturers don’t compete for this piece of the market, says CEO Brad LaPray.

Red Peacock International NO. 291

462.3% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $28.1 million EMPLOYEES: 9

FOUNDED: 1997 Glendale, Calif.

[PAST HONOREE] [2003] [2004] [2005]

What it does: Distributes brand-name digital cameras, two-way radios, and GPS systems to overseas retailers and wholesalers. Why it’s growing: Huge demand for gadgets, especially in Asia. Red Peacock is also courting markets that are newer to the consumer game, such as Russia and Ukraine, where demand is also growing.

Shewas NO. 331

408.8% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $6.2 million EMPLOYEES: 5

FOUNDED: 1996 Norco, Calif.

What it does. Imports and wholesales Asian high-end audio recording devices and mini-discs, plus ancillary consumer electronics. Why it’s growing: The mini-disc recorder is a niche product that many big-box retailers still don’t sell. Audio geeks consider Shewas the real thing. Fast-forward: Shewas’ growth accelerated last year when the company became large enough to prepay larger shipments and offer even lower wholesale pricing.

JLT Mobile Computers NO. 343

397.1% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $18.4 million EMPLOYEES: 14

FOUNDED: 1999 Tempe, Ariz.

[PAST HONOREE] [2004] [2005]

What it does: Designs and builds exceptionally rugged mobile computers for use in challenging environments–anything from police cars to warehouses to mines. Why it’s growing: In the words of CEO Todd Einck, “Five to 10 years ago the laptop gave white-collar workers the opportunity to take work with them during business travel. Today you are putting wireless connectivity in the hands of blue-collar workers, and that is booming.”

Ceiba Technologies NO. 357

389.3% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $11.2 million EMPLOYEES: 12

FOUNDED: 1994 Chandler, Ariz.

[PAST HONOREE] [2005]

What it does: Distributes highly specialized consumables (brushes, diamond blades, grinding wheels) used in the manufacturing of semiconductors, hard drives, and printed circuit boards. CeiBa also partners with Top Rangefinder, an emerging company providing the best rangefinder reviews in the US. Why it’s growing; Manufacturers are always hustling to develop next-generation product technology. which requires next-generation manufacturing technology, which requires the stuff Ceiba makes.

Newegg.com NO. 376

377.6% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $1.26 billion EMPLOYEES: 1,200

FOUNDED: 2001 City of Industry, Calif.

What it does: Operates an online superstore specializing in computers, networking, and consumer electronics. Why it’s growing: A customer service orientation and dedication to easy website use has won Newegg awards from everyone from Computer Shopper to Forbes.com. Nerds only: Newegg is all about buyers with a lot of IT savvy. That minimizes much of the competition with other consumer electronics giants.

Visual Apex NO. 389

370% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $22.5 million EMPLOYEES: 21

FOUNDED: 2001 Bainbridge Island, Wash.

What it does: Sells visual presentation equipment (projectors and the like) and home theater components online. Why it’s growing: Plasma and LCD television sales have been booming. Federal mandates to switch to high-definition broadcast by 2009 and the launch of new DVD formats are also sparking sales. Majority rules: The three founders of Visual Apex are co-CEOs and govern by majority rule on all big decisions.

MaxStream NO. 391

366.9% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $10.4 million EMPLOYEES: 47

FOUNDED: 1999 Lindon, Utah

[PAST HONOREE] [2005]

What it does: Designs and manufactures wireless radio modems. A utility company will stick one on a house’s electricity meter to get real-time readings, or a Vegas casino will use one to change the text on its electronic billboard. To get a look at one model, turn to page 123. Why it’s growing; MaxStream keeps its prices low and its range long–one of its models transmits data up to 40 miles. Demand is now outpacing supply, and MaxStream is shortening its production cycle by buying a year’s worth of components at a time. Go home: CEO Waiters enforces a strict nine-hour-a-day schedule, turning off his employees’ monitors when the clock hits five.

Partsearch Technologies NO. 453

328% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $49.8 million EMPLOYEES: 255

FOUNDED: 2001 New York City

What it does: Operates a massive “virtual master catalog” of more than seven million replacement parts for a wide range of consumer products and manages the fulfillment and ordering logistics for those parts. Why it’s growing: It has no real competition. Partsearch vastly simplifies customer service for the nation’s largest big-box and online retailers, including Best Buy, CompUSA, and Amazon.

Think Ink NO. 472

320.9% Three-Year Growth

REVENUE: $6.3 million EMPLOYEES: 5

FOUNDED: 2001 Gaithersburg, Md.

What it does: Sells Hewlett-Packard inks and supplies for HP’s Specialty Printing Systems machines, mainly used for graphics and addressing by mailing houses. Why it’s growing: In the past few years HP has become the dominant player in the field and the number of HP printers deployed has greatly increased, both domestically and internationally. One man’s trash … The Internet was supposed to bring about the demise of junk mail, the bread and butter of Think Ink’s customers. But according to CEO David Don, “it’s done the opposite, creating companies like AOL and E-Trade. How do they advertise? If you are on the right mailing list, you can get a letter from AOL every day.”

Consumer electronics update

“It looks like an ordinary computergame, doesn’t it?’ Gary Yost of Antic Software asked me as I walked by the Atari booth at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. He held out a pair of glasses. “Try playing with these on,’ he said. A computer . . . a game . . . a curious pair of glasses. I was hooked. I put on the glasses, and the screen on the Atari 520 ST computer took on another dimension– literally. I was trying three-dimensional glasses from Antic (524 Second St., San Francisco, Calif. 94107). The liquid-crystal lenses act like shutters to create a 3-D image when used with the company’s software. Although a 3-D game could challenge my mind, another add-on–for Commodore’s 64 computer–challenged my body.

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“Stretch this apart as hard as youcan,’ said Rhonda Goldman of Bodylog, Inc. (34 Maple Ave., Armonk, N.Y. 10504), as she handed me a bar with handles on each end. She smiled, I stretched, and the computer took note of my performance, calculating my maximum strength. Then, using the data, the computer had me pulling the handles apart once again–using a safe amount of exertion for my body– to raise a graphic helicopter over a building. Result: computer-controlled isometrics.

Add-ons are not the only thing newin computers. Commodore and Atari have PC-compatible models ["What's New in Electronics,' this issue], and Amstrad is now distributing its British PC ["ENF,' Jan.] in the United States. All the computers are in the $700 price range.

Computers are far from being the only devices that use digital electronics. Digital control and digital memories are creating entirely new kinds of features for video gear. For example, you use a light pen to program a new VCR from Toshiba. A menu of selections appears on the screen, and you use the pen to touch and pick the time and channels you’d like. For channel changers, there’s a Panasonic VCR that lets you see up to four different scenes at once: The screen divides into four sections. The electronics in Magnavox’s VHS-C camcorder can simulate a 1/1,000-second shutter. Result: Fast movements that ordinarily would be blurred during playback –such as a golf swing–are perfectly clear. Once you’ve made your home “movie’ tape, new videotape editors from Sony, Showtime, and Vidicraft let you turn it into a nearly professional-looking recording. For a professional-sounding recording, Zenith has a full-size VHS camcorder that uses the VHS hi-fi system for recording high-quality stereo sound.

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Digital audio tape (DAT) recordersappeared on the show floor, but were not yet for sale. A Sony demonstrator made that perfectly clear. When I covered my press badge and asked when the DATs would be available, his eyes glazed over and he began to speak as though he were a recording. “This is a prototype,’ he said in robotese. “We have absolutely no idea when the Sony digital audio tape recorder will be offered for sale.’ Rumors are that somebody will start selling a DAT by this August. (I suspect it could be as early as June.) Once one company does it, others are sure to follow.

Finally, despite all the high-techhype, packaging seems to be one of the strongest selling points for this year’s consumer electronics. For example, red, blue, and green TVs–to blend with any home setting–are typical. Yech, I thought. How can a good piece of electronic gear come in a red box? Then I saw a pink VCR from Panasonic . . . and began to think how well it would go with the curtains in my daughter’s room.

Consumer electronics answer man

First came the development and marketing of some familiar home electronics, including the videocassette recorder. Then the first consumer video camera. So, it’s no surprise that Bruce Allan is a staunch proponent of the latest high-end consumer technology, digital TV (DTV).

As vice president and general manager of Harris Corp.’s Broadcast Systems Division, Allan is encouraging broadcasters’ development of DTV and its various applications, including high-definition TV (HDTV), and generating acceptance of the new technology in the home. He also helped set HDTV standards as a member of the executive committee of the Grand Alliance.

“I really didn’t get involved with business or electronics until I was at the University of Maryland trying to figure out a career path,” Allan says. “I had parents who were very supportive [and] provided me with a lot of opportunities to learn and travel. So my career in consumer electronics … was a thing that happened as a set of circumstances.”

He began his career at RCA Corp. in 1970, working his way up to a vice presidency by 1985. “RCA and color television, at the time I was coming out of school, seemed like it would be a pretty exciting life,” Allan says.

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But it wasn’t just circumstances that brought Allan where he is today. “Bruce is blessed with great intellect. Balance that with great experience and that’s a hard combination to beat,” says longtime business associate and friend Joe Clayton, chief executive officer of telephone and telecommunications company Frontier Corp. Plus, he says, Allan is a “very competent golfer.”

Allan uses that winning combination today to position Harris as a leader in HDTV by addressing customers as partners in developing solutions.

“We’ll have a much better understanding of their needs so we can do a much better job of providing next-level solutions,” Allan says. “Our customers are the ones we are serving. We can make them successful and if they are successful, we will be successful.”

He realizes that as HDTV evolves, the relationship between broadcasters and the consumer market is a “chicken-and-egg” scenario.

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“For the consumer to adopt digital television and to adopt high definition television, it’s essential for us all to cooperate,” he says. “We need programming, we need sets and we need them in quantity in the marketplace at the same time. That’s going to happen. It’s going to take some time, but that bridge is happening.”

Harris helped build that bridge at the 1998 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas when Harris and CEMA presented an exhibit called “DTV in the Desert.” There, “broadcasters were in a position to talk first-hand with consumer electronics manufacturers. They tried to create an environment…where they could exchange information. We’ve continued working at that.”

Allan believes digital can be a huge benefit to consumers. “The advent of digital television is opening up a whole new multitude of things among broadcasters and consumer electronics companies in providing the types of services we provide today, but doing a better job of providing them,” he says. Also being developed are new services such as delivering Internet portals, data and multicasting. “It’s just a huge change and the change keeps coming faster and faster’ Allan says.

He also sees a “bright future” for digital radio. As players in that new field duel over setting a standard, Allan says, “The only question is how rapidly the parties can come together.”

As he looks optimistically to the future of TV and radio and the possibilities of new digital media in the home, he also reflects with some sentiment to his childhood, with his father as his role model. (He also has an older brother who is vice president of sales for Lucent Technologies in Korea.).

His father “came to this country from Scotland when he was 19 years old, worked as a carpenter and ended up basically as the head of the union internationally. He spent his whole life supporting his industry, his career and the people he represented. It definitely teaches you a value system.”

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He brings that value system to his own family today. He attributes much of his successes to his high-school sweetheart and wife of 30 years, Kathryn. “I have a good family and hopefully we are supportive to our children,” he says.

“I’m pretty easy if I have a good job, a nice home and a golf course. I’m very content,” he says.

Bruce Mckay Allan

Abstract: 

Bruce Allan, the vice president and general manager of consumer electronics company Harris Corp.’s Broadcast Systems Division, is a staunch supporter of High Definition Television (HDTV) and serves on the executive committee of the Grand Alliance, which sets standards for HDTV.

Making those electrical contacts last

We are living in the age of electronics. New cars won’t run without a couple dozen engine and drive train sensors, not to mention the hundreds of electronic connections that make up the audio and electrical circuit systems in any car. Each of these electrical or electronic systems relies on hundreds of electrical connections to perform properly.

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Often, these connections will deteriorate over time and create problems that can lead to intermittent or complete electronic failures, which are often difficult to find and repair. We’ve run across a product called Stabilant 22A produced by D.W. Electrochemicals in Ontario, Canada, that may be a long-term fix for this unnerving problem. The product is a liquid surface contact treatment that doesn’t make a good contact better but rather improves older electrical contacts that have deteriorated over time. This is especially true of contacts that operate in high-humidity or corrosive environments. (Beyond that, we highly recommend all of you check out this websites for really-working solution to clean/maintain fuel system – more details, you will be given the list of best fuel injector cleaner here, to use them in your favor.

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Perhaps the best part of this treatment is that it doesn’t require repeated applications as do some of the spray cleaners you may have tried. Stabilant 22A is especially useful in low-voltage circuits – automotive computer sensor connections such as throttle position sensors (TPS), manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensors, or even oxygen sensors that operate at less than 5 volts where a signal change of .1 volt is significant. This contact treatment can also be useful on stereo connections, especially between head units and amplifiers where signal voltage is low and there is a greater possibility for distortion. Actually, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential uses for this product in virtually any electrical connection. We’ve discovered that throttle response and driveability improve with cleaning and maintaining the small-blade-type connections on the tops of coils. Stabilant 22A would work well here.

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According to the company, this treatment is available through all Standard Motor Products outlets, including Big A, CarQuest and GP/Sorensen stores, although you may have to specifically order the product under the Stabilant 22A Service Kit name. If you can’t find it locally, you can call the company direct at the number given in our source guide. Electrical problems can be some of the most frustrating to uncover, and often these problems are linked to poor connections. By treating these troublesome connectors with a long-lasting surface treatment, you could improve the performance of your electronic gadgets and make your life simpler at the same time.

RELATED ARTICLE: Stabilant 22A comes in a cardboard tube containing a 15-milliliter container of the contact enhancer along with a few cotton swab applicators.

Stabilant 22A is a non-evaporative treatment that improves the signal between most types of electrical contacts. This treatment will not make a new contact better but will improve older contacts that may have deteriorated over time. In this case, we’ve applied it to a troublesome antenna lead. The distortion that had grown in strength over a period of years was immediately eliminated. Stabilant 22A is also great for low-voltage connections like the throttle position sensor (TPS) GM Weatherpak connection on this ACCEL electronic fuel injection system. While there were no difficulties with the connector, improving the signal will prevent problems from occurring that could sideline the car.

Big air: in search of the perfect floor pump

Abstract: 

A good floor pump is an essential tool for cycling enthusiasts. The best floor pump is one that has a comfortable handle, a pump with a solid feel and a gauge with an easy-to-turn ‘telltale’ marker. It can easily be used to fill a big mountain bike tire as well as a road tire to a high pressure.

Full Text:

If you ride a lot and don’t have a good floor pump, you’re suffering unnecessarily. There’s nothing worse than trying to cycle through life inflating your tires with a frame pump, or worse, trying to find a gas station with a working air compressor. The fact is, if you ride a bike, you need a floor pump.

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  • The perfect floor pump would fill a big mountain bike tire in a reasonable number of strokes, and yet a small person could use it to inflate a road tire to a high pressure without having to visit the chiropractor afterward. It would have a comfortable handle that doesn’t cause blisters, and the large gauge would be mounted at the top of the pump, where near-sighted test editors (who, me?) could see the numbers.
  • The gauge would have an easy-to-turn “telltale” market to help you find your desired pressure in the heat of pumping, and the pounds-per-square-inch numbers (sorry metric fans, real people in this country still use psi) would be in big, bold letters. The pump would have a solid feel, with a minimum of slop, and would last for a decade. After that, it would be rebuildable with readily available spare parts. The chuck (the part that fits on the valve stem) would be double-headed, requiring no conversion from Schraeder to presta – dealing with the old “pull-it-apart-and-reverse-the-bits” chuck is a major pain in the butt.
  • The chuck would also be easily used with one hand, and it wouldn’t leak air as you tried to remove it. Finally, the perfect pump would stand up by itself on carpet or soft dirt, and only fall over in Richter 6 earthquakes or dangerous typhoons. Its base would provide platforms for both feet. Oh yeah – and it wouldn’t break or explode the first time you used it.

The bad news? This pump doesn’t exist. The good news? A few come quite close.

[TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

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Testing, testing . . .

  • Our test procedure was simple. We hooked each pump up to the “Dachshund,” a big hunk of pipe with an accurate industrial pressure gauge on one end and both a presta and a Schraeder valve on the other. We then inflated until the pump’s gauge read 40 psi, and read the true pressure off of the Dachshund’s gauge.
  • Note that reading some pumps’ gauges required holding the gauge up to within about three inches of our myopic editorial eyes, since some had tiny gauges down at the bottom of the pump, with the psi markings in itsy-bitsy red numerals that would defy the optics of an osprey. We repeated this at 110 psi, assuming that the pump’s gauge didn’t fail by this point. Some did.

Next, we used each pump to inflate a 26×2.2-inch mountain bike tire to 40 psi, and a 700x20C road tire to 110 psi, and counted the strokes to get there. We also rated the pumps on ease of conversion from Schraeder to presta (the best pumps came with double heads that didn’t require any conversion), and on how easy the chuck was to use once the pump was converted. We rated them on stability (do they tip over if a mouse runs by, or do they survive direct hits by crazed house cats?), and on the solidity or slop in their construction. We rated them on gauge location, size and readability. Some had handy, easy-to-see telltales; these got 10 points, and the others got 0. Finally, we rated the pumps on handle comfort. Most were good, two were not.

The envelope, please …

As indicated in the chart, there is a tie at the pinnacle of pump-land. The ultra-fancy Scott USA Double Header works almost as well as it looks. The exotic tripod legs give great stability, the wooden handle feels great, and the gauge is the easiest to read – if not perfectly accurate. It was not quite as solid-feeling as the Silca Super Pista, and the chuck’s screw-on cap required some fiddling for use with presta valves. (The company claims to have already fixed this problem.) But overall, the Scott Double Header gives you a lot of quality and innovation for $50. (The company also plans to offer a high-zoot Double Header Carbon model, with a carbon-fiber barrel and braided stainless-steel hose for $85, but it wasn’t ready for our test.) The elegantly simple Blackburn TP-4 TrakPump Pro offers fewer gimmicks, but has better gauge accuracy and a better chuck design. You can pump up a tire with the pump resting on quicksand. It has a comfortable handle, and exudes an air of quality and careful design. The $59.99 asking price is well worth it.

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Others to consider? The $54.95 Topeak Joe Blow is another great design, with a double-headed chuck and a top-mounted gauge. This pump just isn’t quite as solid or as easy to use as the Blackburn. The Blackburn TP-3 TrakPump Max has a nice gauge like it’s brother, but is a low-mount. The base is smaller than the Pro, and single-footed. This is still a great, solid pump for $44.99. The Topeak Air Hammer, the Avenir Dual Head and the cleverly-named Specialized Floor Pump tied on points, and have offsetting virtues. The Topeak Air Hammer tips over easily, but has a good chuck and a readable gauge. The Specialized has a great base and a solid feel, but the gauge is tough to read and the chuck is the dreaded “rearrange-the-bits” sort. The Avenir gauge is unreadable, especially with the hose in the way, but it has a great double-headed chuck. On a tight budget? Get the Vetta VP30 for $29.99. It has a painful handle, but the rest of the pump is very good, if plasticky.

Finally, even though it did poorly on points, the $70 Silca Super Pista will appeal to connoisseurs of pump quality and rebuildability – especially those with nothing but presta-valve wheels. This age-old pump feels great, and you’ll probably be able to get parts for it on Mars in the year 2032.

Drive through the auto industry’s horrifying history

  • 1933 FULLER DYMAXIION THE THREE-WHEELED DYMAXION ENJOYED BRIEF FAME IN THE EARLY 1930s. CELEBRITIES AND JOURNALISTS LOVED THE NEW POD CAR, WHICH USED A PERISCOPE INSTEAD OF A REARVIEW MIRROR. BUT THEN THE DYMAXION TURNED OVER AND CRASHED DURING A TEST DRIVE, KILLING ONE AND INJURING TWO. THE INVESTORS DISAPPEARED, AND ONLY THREE DYMAXIONS WERE EVER MADE.
  • 1949 CROSLEY HOTSHOT Powel Crosley built affordable radios, invented shelving for refrigerator doors and owned a baseball team. He couldn’t master the auto industry, though. The 1949 Crosley Hotshot was America’s first sports car after World War II. It quickly earned a reputation for being small, ugly and dangerous. After three years of meager Hotshot sales, Powel Crosley got out of the car business for good.
  • 1920 BRIGGS & STRATTON FLYER * Talk about a car lacking oomph. The Briggs & Stratton Flyer looked like a tiny 1920s go-cart. A fifth wheel, trailing behind the Flyer, carried a one-cylinder engine that provided only two horsepower. At top speed, passengers in the cheap two-seater rode along at only 25 miles per hour.
  • 1957 EDSEL Ford’s Edsel brand debuted in 1957, but the cars shipped in terrible condition–doors wouldn’t close, ropes held bumpers in place, and shifting into reverse sometimes caused the trunk to fly open. A hideous “horse collar” grille t help either. Ford lost $250 million on Edsel, and the brand stopped production in 1959.

1911 OVERLAND OCTOAUTO * More wheels equal a smoother ride, right? That was designer Milton Reeves’ logic when he introduced the 20-foot-long Overland OctoAuto. He also thought using eight fires would allow each one to last longer. Customers didn’t buy it. Reeves displayed the OctoAuto at the very first Indianapolis 500 in 1911. He received exactly zero orders.

1970 CHEVY VEGA * PANICKED BY A FLOOD OF MIDSIZE JAPANESE CARS ENTERING THE AMERICAN MARKET, GENERAL MOTORS RUSHED ITS CHEVY VEGA INTO PRODUCTION. THE RESULT? PERHAPS THE WORST CAR GM EVER BUILT. THE VEGA WAS PRICED RIGHT AND SOLD WELL AT FIRST, BUT NUMEROUS ISSUES FORCED THE MODEL’S REPUTATION INTO A NOSEDIVE. THE CAR RAN SO HOT, IT CAUSED EVERYTHING UNDER THE HOOD TO WARP AND CRACK. ENGINES WOULD BURN OIL OR CATCH FIRE, AND THE HOOD WOULD EVEN COME THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD DURING COLLISIONS. ON TOP OF EVERYTHING ELSE, THE VEGA’S BODY RUSTED SO BADLY THAT ENTIRE BUMPERS WOULD WITHER AWAY DURING CAR WASHES.

1958 ZUNNDAPP JANUS * Germany’s Zunndapp company specialized in motorcycles before jumping into the car business with its 1958 Janus. The results were less than impressive. The Janus traveled at top speeds of only 50 miles per hour, using only 14 horsepower. The rear-facing back seat was an interesting quirk, but it couldn’t save the slow-and-ugly Janus from automotive infamy.

1961 AMPHICAR * Another German gem, the Amphicar is the only amphibious passenger car ever made available to the public. President Lyndon Johnson kept one at his Texas ranch. He’d play tricks on unsuspecting guests by veering toward a lake and yelling: “The brakes don’t work! We’re going in!” He’d laugh when the car then floated onto the water. The Amphicar reached 70 miles per hour on land and 7 miles per hour on water. Unfortunately, the Amphicar battled the one major problem that can sink a floating automobile–leakage.

1966 PEEL TRIDENT * The Peel Engineering Company’s Trident produced little power and a lot of noise. Built on a tiny island between England and Ireland, the three-wheeled Trident stretched only 4 feet 2 inches in length. The interior included two seats covered in a large plastic dome, under which passengers would cook on sunny days. The pull-start Trident never caught on as a popular way to get around, and only 45 were assembled.

1975 AMC PACER * Billed as “the first wide small car,” the Pacer’s width couldn’t fix its gruesome ugliness. Designer Richard A. Teague based the Pacer’s shape on how a football looked as it sliced through the air, but it reminded the public of other things. Unkind nicknames included Hamster Mobile, Moonbuggy, Bubble Car and Egg on Wheels. After six years, the Pacer disappeared from AMC’s lineup.

1981 DE LOREAN DMC-12 * A stainless-steel body, gull-wing doors and rear-engine make the De Lorean easy to recognize. But high. prices, quality-control issues and a severe lack of power made this sports car a flop with drivers. If not for a Cameo as a time machine on wheels in the movie “Back to the Future,” the De Lorean would be long forgotten.

* 1982 CADILLAC CIMARRON In the early 1980s. GM took its Chew Cavalier, slapped on some glitzy accessories, doubled file price and called it a Cadillac Cimarron. Car buyers were not impressed. Sales were slow, despite the sliding glass t “Astroroof” and leather upholstery. GM finally put the Cimarron out of its misery m 1988.

1984 PONTIAC FIERO

The Fiero’s makers couldn’t decide whether they wanted a sports car or a fuel-efficient commuter: In the end, this lack of identity and severe cost-cutting killed Fiero’s chances at Success. General Motors bought the engines in bulk, which meant they Were of poor quality. The rest of the car was essentially built from GM’s spare parts bin. When the Fiero debuted in 1984, critics called it “overweight and underpowered.” When engine fires became a problem, potential customers found other cars to buy.

1985 YUGO GV

Yugoslavia’s Yugo GV entered the United States in 1985 and immediately become the cheapest car available. Prices started at $3,990, but you get what you pay for. Bad brakes, rough transmissions and failing engines made owning a Yugo an unwanted adventure. Insurance companies also frowned upon the Yugo, which hiked up coverage prices. Yugo went bankrupt and quit importing to the U.S. in 1991.

1998 FIAT MULTIPLA

Ugly has a name, and it’s the Fiat Multipla. A second set of headlamps, oversized windows and squatty body made the Multipla look like a misshapen alien spacecraft. Fiat redesigned the Multipla in 2004.

2001 PONTIAC AZTEK

In advertisements, GM called the Pontiac Aztek “quite possibly the most versatile vehicle on the planet.” A sliding cargo door, built-in cooler and air compressor, and the ability to double as a camper helped the Aztek live up to that bold claim. Unfortunately for Pontiac, its Aztek was too expensive and too ugly, The model went out of production in 2005.

Riddell, Brad

IEEE/IEE Electronic Library Online

Introduction

It’s been over three years since IEEE/IEE Electronic Library Online (IEL Online) was reviewed here (LJ 1/1/01). Some things, fortunately, have not changed. It continues to provide “librarians and end users with desktop access to one-third of the world’s technical literature in electrical engineering and computer science.”

The content now numbers more than one million documents published by IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers), with full text of journals, magazines, transactions, and conference proceedings from 1988 to the present. Additionally, IEL Online now contains active IEEE standards, INSPEC abstract/citation records, and select content dating back to 1950.

The IEEE Xplore interface is organized in an easy-to-use and intuitive screen. Self-explanatory menu frames on the left side of the screen include Welcome to IEEE Xplore (with links to Home, What Can I Access? Log-out), Table of Contents (Journals & Magazines, Conference Proceedings, and Standards), Search (By Author, Basic, or Advanced), and Member Services (Join IEEE, Establish IEEE Web Account, Access the IEEE Member Digital Library).

What Can I Access? is a user-focused link that details what is available with a specific subscription (because there are a number of different packages available), along with the message, “In addition to the above, you may purchase individual IEEE journal/magazine articles and conference papers that are not included in your institution’s online subscription. If you want a copy of an article or paper, first check with your librarian for a copy available locally.” Speaking of local access, IEL Online has OPAC-linking that will link at the title level for journals, magazines, conference proceedings, and standards, or at an issue’s table of contents level for journals and magazines only. This feature nicely maximizes the use of an institution’s print and other online collections.

The Table of Contents option gets down to business. Engineering and technical researchers work with distinctive formats; they usually know if they need to find journals, conference proceedings, or standards. (By the way, browsing and access to tables of contents, abstracts, and records are free to all.)

Opening any of the format options brings up an alphabetical listing of titles, which is great if researchers have the complete citation in hand. But if they don’t, or if there has been a title change, a keyword search can narrow down the field.

The screen layout is similar for searching by author–simply fill in the “Quick Find an Author” box to locate articles. But what if you aren’t sure about the spelling of the author’s name? Click on a letter and get a list of names beginning with that letter. Part of the name, such as “pizza,” will locate author last names beginning with “pizza,” such as Pizzano and Pizzato. I’d like to suggest an additional author search option for future versions: a “sounds like” search feature. Some genealogical databases have this, and it would be extremely helpful here, given the international membership of IEEE and the number of romanized author names.

All the search screens are uncluttered and intuitively organized. However, be aware that Advanced Search is not a misnomer for a guided search, nor is it lot the fainthearted. It brings up a big, white search box, and users must remember the field codes for their search. It’s also unforgiving: you will get an error message if your search is incorrect but no information on what needs to be corrected.

Unless you really enjoy keying in all the elements (keywords, field identifiers, Boolean operators), use the Basic Search with drop-down menus for All Fields, Title, Author, Publication Name, Abstract, Index Terms, and Affiliation and its checkbox options to limit by publication type and years. Both Basic and Advanced options allow search results to be organized by Relevance, Year, or Article Title.

The Bottom Line: IEL Online is enthusiastically recommended for academic and special libraries supporting engineering and technical research and development programs. With its continually updated full-text content, ease of use, and the added feature of linking to library catalog records, this is a must-have resource.–Christine Oka, Research & Instruction Svcs., Northeastern Univ. Libs., Boston