As part of the BBC’s ongoing series on deep time, Alexander Rose describes the research he’s been doing for the clock of the long now—materials, locations, ideas …all the pieces that have historically combined to allow artifacts to survive.
Sunday, June 16th, 2019
Tuesday, June 11th, 2019
I’ll be in my bunk.
Sunday, June 9th, 2019
Each typeface highlights a piece of history from a specific underrepresented race, ethnicity, or gender—from the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Argentina to the Civil Rights Movement in America.
Friday, June 7th, 2019
Language is not an invention. As best we can tell it is an evolved feature of the human brain. There have been almost countless languages humans have spoken. But they all follow certain rules that grow out of the wiring of the human brain and human cognition. Critically, it is something that is hardwired into us. Writing is an altogether different and artificial thing.
Thursday, June 6th, 2019
From the days of Xerox PARC:
In your garage organization, there’s always a bucket for miscellaneous. You’ve got nuts and bolts and screws and nails, and then, stuff, miscellaneous stuff. That’s kind of what the hamburger menu button was.
Same as it ever was.
Tuesday, May 28th, 2019
Given its origins and composition, the Obama library is already largely digital. The vast majority of the record his presidency left behind consists not of evocative handwritten notes, printed cable transmissions, and black-and-white photographs, but email, Word documents, and JPEGs. The question now is how to leverage its digital nature to make it maximally useful and used.
Monday, May 27th, 2019
Before leading the software project that put men on the moon, Margaret Hamilton worked on the equations that led to chaos theory, followed by Mount Holyoke graduate, Ellen Fetter.
Thursday, May 9th, 2019
Marcin explains why line height works differently in print and the web. Along the way, he hits upon this key insight about CSS:
Web also took away some of the control from typesetters. What in the print era were absolute rules, now became suggestions.
Remember that every line of CSS you write is a suggestion to the browser.
Friday, May 3rd, 2019
This is a fascinating story of psychological manipulation and internal politics. It leaves me feeling queasy about the amount of power wielded by individuals in one single organisation.
Sunday, April 28th, 2019
What would Wiener think of the current human use of human beings? He would be amazed by the power of computers and the internet. He would be happy that the early neural nets in which he played a role have spawned powerful deep-learning systems that exhibit the perceptual ability he demanded of them—although he might not be impressed that one of the most prominent examples of such computerized Gestalt is the ability to recognize photos of kittens on the World Wide Web.
Wednesday, April 24th, 2019
A terrific six-part series of short articles looking at the people behind the history of Artificial Intelligence, from Babbage to Turing to JCR Licklider.
- When Charles Babbage Played Chess With the Original Mechanical Turk
- Invisible Women Programmed America’s First Electronic Computer
- Why Alan Turing Wanted AI Agents to Make Mistakes
- The DARPA Dreamer Who Aimed for Cyborg Intelligence
- Algorithmic Bias Was Born in the 1980s
- How Amazon’s Mechanical Turkers Got Squeezed Inside the Machine
The history of AI is often told as the story of machines getting smarter over time. What’s lost is the human element in the narrative, how intelligent machines are designed, trained, and powered by human minds and bodies.
There’s a new reissue of the twenty year old documentary on Justin Hall’s links.net and the early days of the web.
Saturday, April 6th, 2019
Ignore the ludicrously clickbaity title. This is a well-considered look at thirty years of linking on the World Wide Web.
One evening last month, during An Event Apart Seattle, a bunch of the speakers were gathered in the bar in the hotel lobby, shooting the breeze and having a nightcap before the next day’s activities. In a quasi-philosophical mode, the topic of goals came up. Not the sporting variety, but life and career goals.
As I everyone related (confessed?) their goals, I had to really think hard. I don’t think I have any goals. I find it hard enough to think past the next few months, much less form ideas about what I might want to be doing in a decade. But then I remembered that I did once have a goal.
Back in the ’90s, when I was living in Germany and first starting to make websites, there was a website I would check every day for inspiration: Project Cool’s Cool Site Of The Day. I resolved that my life’s goal was to one day have a website I made be the cool site of the day.
About a year later, to my great shock and surprise, I achieved my goal. An early iteration of Jessica’s site—complete with whizzy DHTML animations—was the featured site of the day on Project Cool. I was overjoyed!
I never bothered to come up with a new goal to supercede that one. Maybe I should’ve just retired there and then—I had peaked.
Megan Sapnar Ankerson wrote an article a few years back about How coolness defined the World Wide Web of the 1990s:
The early web was simply teeming with declarations of cool: Cool Sites of the Day, the Night, the Week, the Year; Cool Surf Spots; Cool Picks; Way Cool Websites; Project Cool Sightings. Coolness awards once besieged the web’s virtual landscape like an overgrown trophy collection.
It’s a terrific piece that ponders the changing nature of the web, and the changing nature of that word: cool.
Perhaps the word will continue to fall out of favour. Tim Berners-Lee may have demonstrated excellent foresight when he added this footnote to his classic document, Cool URIs don’t change—still available at its original URL, of course:
Historical note: At the end of the 20th century when this was written, “cool” was an epithet of approval particularly among young, indicating trendiness, quality, or appropriateness.
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019
Saturday, March 30th, 2019
These diagrams of early networks feel like manuscripts that you’d half expect to be marked with “Here be dragons” at the edges.
Friday, March 29th, 2019
Martin gives a personal history of his time at the two CERN hack projects …and also provides a short history of the universe.
Monday, March 25th, 2019
This history of the World Wide Web from 1996 is interesting for the way it culminates with …Java. At that time, the language seemed like it would become the programmatic lingua franca for the web. Brendan Eich sure upset that apple cart.
Friday, March 22nd, 2019
An interesting way of navigating through a massive amount of archival imagery from NASA.
Steven Pemberton’s presentation on the printing press, the internet, Moore’s Law, and exponential growth.