Tags: computers

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Friday, December 8th, 2017

The world is not a desktop

This 1993 article by Mark Weiser is relevant to our world today.

Take intelligent agents. The idea, as near as I can tell, is that the ideal computer should be like a human being, only more obedient. Anything so insidiously appealing should immediately give pause. Why should a computer be anything like a human being? Are airplanes like birds, typewriters like pens, alphabets like mouths, cars like horses? Are human interactions so free of trouble, misunderstanding, and ambiguity that they represent a desirable computer interface goal? Further, it takes a lot of time and attention to build and maintain a smoothly running team of people, even a pair of people. A computer I need to talk to, give commands to, or have a relationship with (much less be intimate with), is a computer that is too much the center of attention.

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

The Coming Software Apocalypse - The Atlantic

The title is pure clickbait, and the moral panic early in this article repeats the Toyota myth, but then it settles down into a fascinating examination of abstractions in programming. On the one hand, there’s the problem of the not enough abstraction: having to write in code is such a computer-centric way of building things. On the other hand, our world is filled with dangerously abstracted systems:

When your tires are flat, you look at your tires, they are flat. When your software is broken, you look at your software, you see nothing.

So that’s a big problem.

Bret Victor, John Resig and Margaret Hamilton are featured. Doug Engelbart and J.C.R. Licklider aren’t mentioned but their spirits loom large.

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Folklore.org: The Original Macintosh

Anecdotes about the development of Apple’s original Macintosh, and the people who made it.

Like a real-life Halt And Catch Fire.

Monday, May 1st, 2017

The Orrery at The Interval: An Invitation to Long-Term Thinking — Blog of the Long Now

The Long Now Foundation has been posting some great stuff on their blog lately. The latest is a look at orreries, clocks, and computers throughout history …and into the future.

Monday, January 30th, 2017

What Is the Oldest Computer Program Still in Use?

A fascinating bit of technological archeology tracing some of the oldest still-running software, from a COBOL program at the Pentagon to the firmware on the Voyager probes.

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Seeing Like a Network — The Message — Medium

How computers work:

One day, a man name Alan Turing found a magic lamp, and rubbed it. Out popped a genie, and Turing wished for infinite wishes. Then we killed him for being gay, but we still have the wishes.

Then we networked computers together:

The network is ultimately not doing a favor for those in power, even if they think they’ve mastered it for now. It increases their power a bit, it increases the power of individuals immeasurably. We just have to learn to live in the age of networks.

We are all nodes in many networks. This is a beautiful description of how one of those networks operates.

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

The Future of Programming

A wonderful presentation by time-traveller Bret Viktor.

Friday, January 11th, 2013

The changing face of computers on screen

A look at the depiction of computer hardware and peripherals in sci-fi movies over time.

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

The Restart Page - Free unlimited rebooting experience from vintage operating systems

Wallow in nerd nostalgia and experience the Proustian rush of rebooting old operating systems.

Friday, August 6th, 2010

CS404

This looks like an excellent event: learn about programming without being a programmer.

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

A Democracy of Netbooks

The bottom-up appeal of netbooks in all their cheap, crappy glory.

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

The entire text of this seminal work is online in HTML, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Ethan Hein | Player1Ready

Judging from the research information collected on Delicious, Flickr and Last.fm, this book proposal—tying together informatics, music and games—could blossom into a great read.

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

The Long Now Foundation - Essays

Richard Feynman and The Connection Machine.