¿Who Am I?

Me on stage Me at race Me smiling Me pensive

I was born in London and grew up in Sydney, Australia and Rochester, Minnesota. I studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology, math at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and computer science at the University of California at Santa Barbara. My math research was on the mathematics of music theory; the computer science work was on programming languages. I’ve worked at Philips Media writing software for compilers, interpreters, and digital video, Cerwin-Vega! designing loudspeakers, E-mu Systems writing software for electronic keyboards, at the MAMA Foundation recording and producing jazz CDs, and at expertcity and Citrix writing network and system software. I have taught physics at Muir and Marshall High Schools in Pasadena and Dos Pueblos High School in Santa Barbara, chemistry at San Marcos in Santa Barbara, algebra at Santa Barbara City College, and operating systems and assembly language at the University of California at Santa Barbara. I am currently teaching math at Napa Valley College.

You can send me mail at andrewzboard at gmail dot com. For prospective employers, here’s my résumé.


What’s with the favicon? (I.e. the little icon favicon associated with this page, displayed on some browsers next to the URL.) Here is a magnified version of the icon, next to a Z-Board. See the similarity?

favicon       zboard

Mobile Apps

ana-grabr   An iPhone app that helps you create anagrams. You can walk your way down the “decision tree”, picking words or backing out if you hit a dead end. It’s free!

gear-grafr   Another iPhone app that plots gear ratios for bicycles. Not yet in store; should be there by the end of June 2013. It will cost (all of) $0.99.

Web Apps

These are Web pages that use JavaScript to perform animations and other interesting page effects.

Graph Clock   A 24-hour clock that is a little puzzle for you to figure out.

The Golden Ratio Pages   A series of pages exploring the famous ratio.

Chaos   Not a confused web page, but a discussion of chaos theory.

The 3D Pages   My JavaScript implementation of interactive 3D graphics.

The DSP Pages   Explaining the Fourier transform in the discrete domains.

Anagrammer   A tool for rearranging letters to make new words. There is also a mobile app for this.

Gear Ratios   A simple (I hope) explanation of bicycle gear ratios, what they mean and how to calculate them. Comes with a new JavaScript tool to graph these numbers for your bike. There is also a mobile app for this.

Regular Expressions   Sometimes a non-match can hang the system.


Objective-C Pocket Reference   (2002, O’Reilly & Associates) A concise but complete description of the Objective-C programming language. Commonly known as the “Fox Book”.

Pitch-Shifting   (1988, JAES) Describes the complementary relation between shifting pitch and converting sample rates of digital signals.

The Analytic Impulse   (1988, JAES) Award-winning paper that examines the continuous and discrete Hilbert transform, its application to the Dirac delta function and to the design of loudspeakers.

Combinatorial Music Theory   (1991, JAES) My Masters research. Discusses scales, chords, and fingering patterns from the perspective of the physicist or mathematician.

The Z-Board   (1992, AES) Describes the Z-Board, a new kind of MIDI controller that expands, generalizes and abstracts the fingerboard interface of string instruments.

Objective-C: Dynamite!   An article about Objective-C, extolling the convenience of dynamic typing.

Other Stuff By Me

DSP   A three-letter acronym for Digital Signal Processing. Some much-used slides with little commentary.

Recursion   Related to chaos theory; it is one way to create chaos!

TLA Overload   Are we running out of acronyms? Does PDA mean Personal Data Assistant or Public Display of Affection? Check this list.

Aspect Ratios   The only place you will ever find a comprehensible and comprehensive definition of the slippery term “aspect ratio”. Discusses resampling issues for digital video.

Time Codes   An explanation of what the hell drop frame means and how it is used.

MPEG-1 Pictorial Guide   A graphical guide to the ISO 11172 (MPEG-1) digital audio/video standard. Here’s a PostScript version.

MPEG-2 Pictorial Guide   A graphical guide to the ISO 13818 (MPEG-2) digital audio/video standard. Here’s a PostScript version.

Other Stuff

Here you will find links to other Web sites devoted to topics that interest me.


Nite Grooves   A groovy group of people who can’t stay at home on Wednesday nights.

UCSB Triathlon Team   The funnest group of people in Santa Barbara. (Yes, funnest is a word!)

Gear Ratios   A simple (I hope) explanation of bicycle gear ratios, what they mean and how to calculate them.

You know you’re a triathlete when...   Collected from rec.sport.triathlon.

You know you’re a cyclist when...   A similar list.

Motivation   A list of motivational sayings for athletes, from rec.sport.swimming.


On Stage   Some photos from my musical history.

David Lindley   This LA-born white boy plays reggae better than the best of the Caribbeans. His album El Rayo-X (Spanish for “X-Ray”) is the single best album I’ve ever bought. Clean, clear, and upbeat. Sounds like a mango tastes.

Ry Cooder   The musician’s musician. Plays American roots blues and jazz. His drummer Jim Keltner is also one of the best.

Grateful Dead   They brought real polyphony to rock and roll. So many different styles...or was it just one big style?

String Cheese Incident   I didn’t really think another band this good would come along so soon after the Grateful Dead. But here they are!

J.S. Bach   Our Master. The Well Tempered Clavier is the Old Testament of keyboard music.

Ludwig van Beethoven   The Sonatas are the New Testament of keyboard music.

Special Santa Barbara Talent

Jessica McAllister   An amazing jazz singer, with a pitch and expressive range and timbre that will give you goosebumps.

Debra Farris   Debra really has the knack for giving each song its individual flavor.

Bruce Goldish   Another Minnesotan finds his way out west with a guitar in hand.

Antara & Delilah   The reigning queens of Santa Barbara music.

Heather Stevenson   What an amazing voice...you have to hear her at the Presidio Chapel.

Bent Myggen   Bent, and a bit twisted.


A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman   My favorite work of historical writing. I wish it went on forever, like history itself. Follows the life of a single French nobleman in the 13th Century, but encompasses the entire age.

The Fourier Transform and its Applications by R. N. Bracewell   Sets a standard for technical writing. Saved my butt as an undergrad, and inspired me as a researcher.

Gödel, Echer, Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter   One of the great books of the century. Primarily a discussion of Gödel’s Theorem about the limitations of mathematical systems, but seasoned by many other intellectual cultures.

Chaos and Fractals by Peitgen, Jürgens and Saupe   Clear simple explanations of the basic framework of chaos theory. A lot depends only on high-school math. If I’d read this as a teenager I could have gone in quite a different direction.

Programming Language Processors by David A. Watt   Shows how simple compiler design really is. This book got me started on the path that led here to UCSB.

Nature, Man and Woman by Alan Watts   The only guy who makes sense when he writes about Zen. A true prose stylist too.

The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim   Shows how important real drama is in the stories we tell children.

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien   Shows how important real drama is in the stories we read as adults.

The Nose by Nikolai Gogol   The best short story ever.

Tilings and Patterns by Grünbaum and Shepard   Another book that might have changed my direction if I’d read it earlier. Great example of building an entire field of math from the ground up.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson   My childhood favorite. I still am Harold.

Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino   Fantastic short stories, in all senses of the word.

William Shakespeare   Here you can look up phrases in a big Shakespeare database. “What is the city but the people?” [Coriolanus III.i] And what is Shakespeare but the words?


Urban Legends   Why do we believe what we believe? Sometimes stories propagate forever. Here are some of them.

new!Quotes   Some trenchant observations.

(The background pattern for this page was created with a program I wrote to examine tiling patterns first explored by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher. To get a closer look at it without all the autobiographical fluff, click here.)

several Mac made!