I think the point is that the standard clefs would be better aligned if there were 6 lines instead of 5, so both bass and treble could be EGBDFA. It would put the low C one below the bass clef and the high C one above the treble clef, instead of two below and two above but only one in between.
Yes, that was my general thought -- (added:) but that still would have two octaves different, where a note between staff lines in one octave is on a staff line in the other.
Also when you go above or below the two clefs and draw ledger lines for those notes, you're losing the background pattern once again -- you start having to count notes. With this proposed notation you'd draw another background octave (or enough of it for the notes used).
Lateral recording was a patent workaround. Thomas Edison had patented vertical recording and was not interested in licensing it to anyone else, so Berliner used the noisier, but available, lateral technique.
What they said in 1976 was that they wanted to be "able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software." So more than BASIC, but without the notion that the computer software market would grow to encompass everyone.
Yes, they wrote an assembler/linker/simulator on old Harv-10. I was there bugging him late at night, asking why he was wasting his time on silly hobbyist machines when we had the whole Arpanet at our fingertips. (All 20-30 machines at that point.) ;/)
Even though lots of folks were using the -10 for commercial projects on the side, Harvard made him give all the Altair money back to avoid disciplinary action. Wasn't really fair.
So, yeah, some of us were blind at the time. In my defense, I did help Carl Helmers get Byte Magazine off the ground a year later or so, along with my high school buddy Dan Fylstra who went on to create VisiCorp to commercialize the original VisiCalc.
The problem with making the opposing red end sooner ("oncoming traffic has longer green," as the signs say) is that the opposing permissive left turns that haven't cleared by the end of the yellow are then caught in the intersection with their signal red and yours still green. The problem is called the "yellow trap" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_trap), and some states, including California, outlaw the practice because it is too dangerous.
I'm completely with you about wanting everything demand-actuated to be very responsive, though. Traffic signals are all engineering with no user interface design at all.