What's the coolest piece of technology you work with

Mine is nothing unique, but it’s still pretty damn cool - even just to watch. We have two Sun StorageTek SL8500 Tape Libraries. I could sit there all day and watch those little robots zip around their tracks, pluck tapes from one place, and zip them over to another, over and over and over. Here’s a YouTube video I found that shows it in action. These things can scale to 70,000 slots (about 56 petabytes*). Our two SL8500s are connected in the back so that they can pass tapes between them, which is pretty cool, I think. The base price for a minimally configured SL8500 is $195,000.

*That video shows them using 9840 tapes, which are kind of old and lacking in space, but it’s capable of using LTO IV Ultrium tapes (800GB native/1600GB compressed). Ours are filled with LTO IIIs (400GB/800GB).

That is really awesome.

On the other extreme, I have an overhead projector, which consists of a lightbulb and a mirror. I’m actually really fond of it.

There are some smart boards in the school, but I don’t have one. We don’t have any ceiling-mounted projectors, and I find that having a projector on a stand is more trouble than it’s worth.

We mostly use thin clients. They are set up so if I put my badge into one anywhere in the world, I get the desktop and session I had when I left home. I don’t have one at home, but those who work at home do. The other nice thing is that since all your files are on a central server, you don’t have to worry about backup. My old one broke a while ago - it was less trouble than switching cellphones. I got another, plugged it in, and nothing else was required.

The most fun thing for me is the endoscope. At the shelter we use one to take biopsies for testing cats for IBD. At the emergency room we use one for fishing stuff out of dogs’ and cats’ stomachs. It’s fascinating to watch the little camera take its journey, and fun to operate it, and neat not to have to cut the animal and make him/her have to recover from major surgery.

I have voice activated systems for pretty much all my complicated technology needs. Two of them. They type, fax, copy, mail, answer phones, present various complicated looking reports for me to sign, produce checks when I need to pay for stuff, and zealously guard the portals to my domain from unnecessary intrusion. They’re called secretaries. Marvelous inventions. Worth their weight in gold.

I bet the most interesting answers to this question would come from those who can’t answer the question in this forum.

My TiVo is pretty cool. Does that count?

I can’t match the storage robots, but I do have a missile turret plugged into my computer which can swivel, make whirring noises and fire tiny missiles across the office.* :cool:
*OK, about two feet. :o

I think you’re right about that.

My favourite pieces of technology at work are servo motor applications on various types of equipment. I mostly troubleshoot them but once in a while I get a chance to do some programming with them, very fun (in a geeky way).

ETA: glee that sounds like a lot of fun, I want one!

God, but do I hate thin clients. They’re little more than flash drives that connect your monitor to an actual computer however far away. Neat idea, but not at all preferable if you do any work with graphics. That, and it ruined our YouTubing.

I can’t decide what the coolest piece of tech I work with is. On one hand, it’s our fleet of multimillion dollar aircraft. I think, though, that our mechanics and pilots can claim those. Instead, I’ll go with the various software that I use to keep track of those planes. I can’t imagine liking my job if it were 50 years ago–or even 15-20.

we use DWDM technologies in some of our fiber optic networks in areas where we don’t have enough fiber available. It’s pretty cool to use the same fiber, and different “colors” of light to push lots more data than you could conventionally.

A fiber optic distributed temperature sensor. Basically, the instrument fires a laser into a fiber optic cable and watches the scattered light (reflected from impurities in the fiber, molecular interactions, refractive surfaces, etc.) that come back to it. The scattered light has two components: one is temperature dependent, and one is (mostly) independent of temperature. If you know the ratio of these two signals, you can figure out what the temperature of the fiber was at the point where the light was reflected. We can do a trace (a temperature reading every meter along a 4 km cable) every 30 seconds.

I go out and put cables in the environment, and we use the temperature changes to figure out where and how fast water (usually - sometimes we’re looking at air) is moving… once you get through the gobs and gobs of data that the thing spits back at you.

The truck is nice too, but I think I just like that someone else is buying the gas.

A Lockheed Martin Tray Management system (PDF file)

I’m trained to operate the one in Sydney’s main mail sorting centre. It’s hard to find decent info on it online, but it’s most similar to an airport’s automated luggage system (only more complicated than that). There are three kilometres of overhead track with dozens of entry and exit points. Maps of the layout remind me a little of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. From touch screens located around the facility, I can send mail from anywhere to anywhere else. It can be a lot of fun (and also a bit hair-raising when we’re busy and it’s playing up).

Ow, might as well bump. Bump! Go 'head and bump.

Because I want to hear about more cool technology.

Nothing very exciting by 2008 standards. Which belies the fact that I’m using a 22inch LCD monitor connected to a machine that would have been considered a supercomputer 15 years ago, while listening to music streamed over the ethernet or generated from a little box the size of a business card.

These too aren’t exactly new but we have a couple of presentation/workrooms set up with SGI drivers that stereoscopically display 3d volumes of interpreted seismic data onto about a 30 to 35 foot wide screen. With the 3d glasses on we can walk into the model to discuss various horizons, faults, traps and entire reservoirs in greater detail with our colleagues. It’s like walking into and studying closely a semi transparent Earth and we can do it for anywhere on Earth we have data, ie several miles underneath the North Sea, GOM, wherever.

IME tape drives typically only got +50% capacity - 150 GB on a 100 GB tape - or 18 GB on a 12 GB tape. What capacity are you actually getting?

We just got a new Toshiba laptop in the lab which has an actual volume knob to control the volume. You don’t have to find the FN key and whatever other keys you need to press to turn the volume up or down; there’s no backlit icons on the desktop, just a simple little rotating wheel. Awesome.

Do I at least place?


Not as cool as the others, but the Scantron we use to grade multiple-choice tests is pretty nifty. In addition to marking incorrect responses, it will tally which questions had the most incorrect responses, so the teachers know where students need help. Plus, I like the rat-tat-tat noise.

I don’t see the actual data. It’s stuff for state agencies, so I don’t know exactly what kind of data it is, and I can’t even recall any byte counts off the top of my head because, until something better opens up here, I’m a tape librarian, and the content and size of the tapes isn’t all that pertinent to my job. Of course, with close to a million tapes from 18-track (they finally ditched the round reels for good earlier this year) up to Ultrium, and absolutely everything in between, the job can get kind of interesting.