As with his four previous anthologies, the author organized the columns in this volume, around particular topics. He selected the articles in this fifth volume (as with the other four), from columns previously appearing in IEEE-USA InSight and Today’s Engineer Online. For this book, Christiansen chose columns relating to design issues, engineering writing and communicating, historical recollections, and the engineering gender gap.
He approaches each column with the same thoughtful and pragmatic style that has made Backscatter so popular over the years. Christiansen was a practicing engineer before he moved on to IEEE Spectrum, and he applies the best of the engineering mindset–analytical, logical and detail-oriented–to his writing.
In one column, “Quack, Quack?” Christiansen looks at the good and bad consequences of engineering development—noting both the advantages and consequences of using simulation as a tool for design and teaching. In another column, “Don’t Blame Us,” he waxes philosophic that when technology “goes bad, people usually expect engineers to take the blame. Christiansen took the tongue-in-cheek approach, though; and he admits he tried to muster enough evidence in the column, to shift the blame to technology itself.
In his column, “When Designers Should Say No,” Christiansen suggests that in the early stages of design, designers should consider unacceptable design outcomes as equally as those they want. “Too often,’ he writes, “the designer’s focus on extensive lists of wanted features, plus the increasing complexity of modern systems, precludes the time and attention needed to avoid unwanted outcomes.”
Christiansen also reveals the results, after he and a publishing design colleague scored common technical periodicals that engineers and other technical professionals read. However, to learn how MIT’s Technology Review, Science, Scientific American, and other publications fared, Donald Christiansen followers will have to read The Best of Backscatter, Vol. 5.
So, really–what could possibly be better than reading one of Donald Christiansen’s Backscatter columns in IEEE-USA InSight? Why, the opportunity to read 16 of these thought provoking and well-researched essays, by the respected former editor and publisher of IEEE Spectrum—all in one handy place, of course!
In August, IEEE-USA is offering this $4.79 e-book free to IEEE members only!
Georgia C. Stelluto is IEEE-USA’s publishing manager; manager/editor of IEEE-USA E-BOOKS; editor of the IEEE-USA Conference Brief; and the InFocus department editor for IEEE-USA InSight.