Haas uses computers to make its patternsHow do you...

TECHNOLOGY & COMMUNICATIONS

November 23, 1992|By Leslie Cauley

Haas uses computers to make its patterns

How do you transfer the tailor's touch, gleaned over 30 years of fashioning custom suits, to a computer software program?

That was the problem confronting Haas Tailoring Co., a Baltimore-based custom clothing manufacturer that has been in the business since 1897.

The company, which sells to wholesalers and custom shops nationwide, wanted to find a way to capture the experience of industry artisans on staff at the company.

Besides cutting turnaround time on finished products, the company hoped to help up-and-coming tailors learn the craft of custom manufacturing from people with years of experience.

The answer: an "expert system" that could replicate the wisdom of tailors, and do it on a consistent basis. Expert system is an industry term for software that captures knowledge in a form that makes sense to a computer.

Before you can devise an expert system, programmers go through a phase known as "knowledge engineering." That means talking to the people whose knowledge you're trying to capture, and asking a lot of questions.

"You listen to people, talk to people, and try to figure out what the information means so you can systematically computerize what they know," said Ben Newsom, manager of the computer engineering project for Haas.

The result: a computer system that can generate clothing patterns that take into account a person's physical characteristics, including height, weight and body nuances (large girth, short inseam, posture, etc.)

According to Michael McLean, vice president of Haas, there's been a 40 percent decrease in pattern-making time since the company computerized the process about a year and a half ago.

Tailors still do post-production alterations by hand. But fewer alterations must be done with computerized patterns, Mr. McLean said.

Computing dictionary gives lots of details

Ever wondered what a circuit board looks like? Prentice Hall's new "Illustrated Dictionary of Computing" shows you -- along with lots of other personal computer components too small for the naked eye.

The 540-page dictionary includes official international standards, illustrations, tables, and a style manual for usage of computer terminology. It also highlights the history of the computer industry, and important events such as the birth of the PC.

The book, which costs $24.95, is available at area stores.

Survey provides base salary information

Need some benchmarks to compare salaries within your high-tech company?

Check out a survey sponsored by the Suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia Technology Councils.

Here are some of the average base salaries included in the sampling of 73 high-tech firms in the Washington area. Each position has two benchmark salaries -- one for companies with revenues less than $20 million and the other for companies with revenues greater than $20 million:

Top executive, $116,000/$197,000

Top technical, $95,700/$103,500

Top financial, $82,000/$112,200

Senior engineer, $51,500/$59,300

Technician, $28,800/32,000

The high-tech companies increased their salary budgets by more than 5 percent in 1992, according to the survey. More than half of the companies provided incentive bonuses.

To obtain a copy of the survey, call Bill Jaffe or Jeanne Plumb at Alexander & Alexander Consulting, (202) 833-4046.

Prodigy makes pitch for holiday season

Retailers aren't the only ones breaking out the Christmas promos in anticipation of the holiday sales rush.

Prodigy, the online shopping service from International Business Machines Corp. and Sears, tells us that "the holiday shopping season, in all its sanity-sapping, superficial, spend-crazed splendor, has indeed begun."

Prodigy suggests shoppers opt for something "more meaningful" this holiday season -- namely a subscription to Prodigy. The service notes there are online cookbooks for mom, an online golf tour for dad and assorted offerings for kids, such as the educational game, "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

Prodigy made its holiday pitch in an Oct. 16 announcement. Ho, ho, ho.

New phone book has 10.8 million listings

So you want to hunt down that high-tech firm in Silicon Valley, but just can't seem to remember where it is?

The American Business Phone Book can help solve that problem.

The phone book, on CD-ROM, has listings for 10.8 million business listings from more than 5,000 yellow pages directories in the U.S. and Canada.

Businesses can be located by name or, if you don't know the full name, by a partial name. Companies also are listed by city, state and ZIP code.

The American Business Phone Book, sold by American Business Information Inc., costs $298. To order, call 402-593-4595.

This is the second version of the phone book. The first one, produced in the fall of 1991, had 9.2 million listings. It is updated every year.

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