Tags: book:isbn=0142001449




Andy and his cohorts have been busy recovering an important televisual document of computer history: The Machine That Changed the World (originally titled The Dream Machine). The series comprises of five parts:

  1. Great Brains
  2. Inventing the Future
  3. The Paperback Computer
  4. The Thinking Machine
  5. The World at Your Fingertips

The first episode is particularly fascinating, tracing the history of the idea of a universal machine, starting with and his Analytical Engine. The documentary includes footage of Doron Swade, author of the excellent book The Cogwheel Brain (released in the States as The Difference Engine). The story then moves on to the turbulent time period of the 1930s and ’40s that saw the creation of the world’s first programmable computers — a period so evocatively described in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

The documentary shies away from declaring any one computer as “First!”, though plenty of time is devoted to . The is covered but the secrecy surrounding the project ensured that its place in computer history would be denied for decades. Churchill himself once quipped that he would personally shoot anyone who blabbed about the code-breaking at .

Today we understand the historical importance of Bletchley Park and yet the charity responsible for the upkeep of the centre has to go cap in hand to the Heritage Lottery Fund to ask for the money required for its upkeep. If you are a British citizen (or resident) and you consider the preservation of the site of the Colossus to be an important task, consider signing the petition to save Bletchley Park.

Hybrid Design and the Beauty of Standards

My speaking commitments at the Web 2.0 Expo have been fulfilled.

The panel I gatecrashed on Monday morning—The New Hybrid Designer—was a lot of fun. Richard deftly moderated the discussion and Chris, Kelly and I were only too eager to share our thoughts. Unfortunately Emily wasn’t able to make it. It may have been slightly confusing for people showing up to the panel which had Emily’s name listed but not mine; I can imagine that some of the audience were looking at me and thinking, “wow, Emily has really let herself go.”

I mentioned a few resources for developers looking to expand their design vocabulary to take in typography and grids:

Tuesday was the big day for me. I gave a solo presentation called The Beauty in Standards and Accessibility. My original intention was to give a crash course in web standards and accessibility but I realised that the real challenge would be to discuss the beauty part.

I reached back through history to find references and quotations to bolster my ramblings:

One of the tangents on which I veered off was Joseph Whitworth’s work with Charles Babbage. If you’re interested in following this up I highly recommend reading a book by Doron Swade called The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer—originally released under the title The Cogwheel Brain in the UK

I really enjoyed giving this presentation and from the reaction of the people in the room, a lot of people enjoyed listening to it too. I was just happy that they indulged me in my esoteric wanderings.

On the morning of the presentation I schlepped a box full of copies of Bulletproof Ajax from my hotel to the conference centre so that I could give them away as prizes during Q and A. My talk was in the afternoon so I left the box in the speakers’ lounge for safe keeping. Once my talk was done and I had time for some questions, I said “I have some book… oh.” They were still in the speakers’ lounge.

Thus began our merry trek through the halls of the conference centre. I continued fielding questions from the enthusiastic crowd of followers eager to get their hands on a copy of my book. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer audience. I was only too happy to reward them with tokens of my appreciation in dead-tree form.

My lovely audience We got books!