Do you recall my Logically Speaking column in the 11 September 2006 print issue of EE Times? This was the one titled: "Do some see B/W schematics in color?"
The idea is that when some folks have one of their senses stimulated – say their taste buds – they simultaneously perceive the experience with one or more of their other senses (sight or touch, for example). The term for this is synaesthesia (also spelled synaesthesia), which is derived from the Greek syn, meaning "together" or "union," and aesthesis (or aesthesis), meaning "sensation" or "to perceive."
One very common type of synaesthesia is when folks associate letters of the alphabet with different colors. For example, a non-synaesthete may see the alphabet printed as black text on white paper, while a synaesthete may see the letters in a rainbow of colors. (I provided an example of this in my column).
Another common type of synaesthesia is when folks associate numbers with different colors. I've provided an example of this in the illustration below. A non-synaesthete like me will simply see black text on white papers as ... well, as black text on white paper. By comparison, a synaesthete might see the number 2 characters in one color and the number 5 characters in another. When you look at the illustration below, you can see how useful this could be.
This thing is that I'm a logic designer by trade, so I started to wonder if there were any synaesthetes out there who see black-and-white schematic diagrams in color; do they see AND gates in green and OR gates in mauve, for example? I've tried to capture what I'm talking about in the following illustration.
Well, I just heard from retired electronics engineer Dwight W. Grimes, who reports that although he didn't see logic gates in color, he did sometimes experience seeing the wires linking them in color. At the time, Dwight assumed that these colored lines were the result of prismatic refraction of light through the water on the surface of his cornea. However, it may be that he was having a synaesthetic experience without knowing it.
Furthermore, Dwight says that he has different "feelings" toward the various logic gates. For example, AND gates feel "friendlier" to him than do OR gates; an XOR gate feels "kind of special"; and a register element like a latch feels like "the icing on top of the cake." As part of this feeling, Dwight told me that he has the underlying feeling that if he were to cut AND and OR gate symbols out of a piece of paper and weigh them, then the AND gate would weigh more because it feels "more substantial."
Does this seem strange to you? Well, visualize someone playing the low notes on a piano with their left hand. Now visualize them playing the high notes with their right hand. Now think of two colors: dark brown and bright yellow – with which notes/hands do you associate these colors? The reason I ask is that most folks tend to associate dark and light colors with low and high tones, respectively. Could it be that we're all synaesthetic to some degree?
I find all of this extremely fascinating, but I'm still on my quest to find a logic designer who truly perceives the various logic gates in different colors. If anyone reading this blog is synaesthetic and does associate different colors with different logic symbols, I would love to hear from you (please e-mail me at email@example.com).
In the meantime, if you want to read more about this topic and related issues, make sure to check out my ever-evolving Color Vision paper on my www.diycalculator.com/sp-cvision.shtml webpage (I added a whole bunch of new stuff just a couple of days ago).
Questions? Comments? Feel free to email me – Clive "Max" Maxfield – at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy Gabe at email@example.com. And, of course, if you haven't already done so, don't forget to Sign Up for the weekly EDA DesignLine Newsletter.