Start-up Costs: ‘Silicon Valley,’ ‘Halt and Catch Fire,’ and How Microserfdom Ate the World
Douglas Coupland’s novel Microserfs is about the spiritual yearnings and time-frittering activities of youngish coders immersed in the drudgery of the software-development process, and how those activities become an expression of those yearnings. It was published 20 years ago this month, which as far as I’m aware makes it the earliest significant stab by a fiction writer at the Great North American Tech-Company/Start-up Novel. It predates Po Bronson’s The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest, Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, Dave Eggers’s The Circle, numerous other neuroman-à-clefs, score-settling pseudomemoirs and murder-dot-com whodunits,1 as well as tech-sector TV shows like Silicon Valley and Halt and Catch Fire, serials that pick up where the novels leave off.[more inside]
The 1964 NYC World's Fair. Period photos. Then and now. What remains. Video of the Futurama II ride. Stock footage at the Fair. NBC's ' A World's Fair Diary'.
"Never before had electronic equipment been so exposed to the elements. [T]hey could easily jam or run out of product. They could erroneously dispense several bank notes instead of just one—all without the owner's knowledge. They were activated by plastic or paper tokens that would only activate for the operating bank and, in some cases, only that particular bank location. Some banks would keep the token in the machine and return it to the customer (by post) once the account had been debited. As a result, early ATMs were standalone, clunky, unfriendly, and inflexible."
Rarely is the question asked: can you generate a Mandelbrot fractal on a fifty year old IBM 1401 mainframe?
The robot cookbook: can a supercomputer write recipes? Watson, IBM’s supercomputer, has (with help from the Institute of Culinary Education) written what IBM's Florian Pinel calls "the first specimen of a new generation of smarter cookbooks". Do the unusual ingredient combinations work, or is plum pancetta cider really as disgusting as it sounds? IBM sent a food truck to SXSW to (ahem) road-test the recipes. Reports are, the Bengali butternut BBQ sauce is delicious. Of course, there's a TED talk.
IBM's Selectric typewriter "paved the way for computer printers because the Selectric had an early version of a digital to analogue converter..." called the whiffletree, the application of which here is totally sweet.
James Murphy (formerly of LCD Soundsystem) has built an algorithm to musically interpret live data from the US Tennis Open which will create around 400 hours of music. All previous games can be listened to and each has a different flavour - it can get a little glitchy but try Djokovic vs Querry or Brengle vs Lisick for starters. Or have a play with the algorithm yourself.
In Search at San Jose the R&D minds at IBM describe how they designed & built the world's first hard drive, the IBM 305 RAMAC (previously). First sold in 1956, it stored a whopping 5 million characters of information, all ready for immediate access to the user.
CNBC: Apple, IBM in massive enterprise hardware, software partnership Tech behemoths Apple and IBM announced a partnership Tuesday that could make Apple—traditionally a consumer brand—a major player in the business market. IBM said it would create a class of more than 100 business applications exclusively for iPhones and iPads to run on Apple's iOS platform. In return, IBM will sell Apple's products with 100 industry-specific apps to its clients worldwide. [more inside]
8088 Dominion is a production by demoscene programmer Jim Leonard (a.k.a. Trixter) displaying full-motion color video with audio on a 1981 IBM PC 5160. The production is a followup to a similar 2007 demo, 8088 Corruption, but with improved graphical fidelity. [more inside]
Inside, please find a list of twenty-eight movies, TV episodes, and short subjects by Errol Morris and two movies about Errol Morris, all of which can be streamed, along with some short descriptions of their content. [more inside]
Digger is a classic IBM PC game from 1983 made by Windmill Software. You can play it online via HTML5, online via Java or download a version for platforms both common and obscure. More ports are on the Links page. [more inside]
On this date 50 years ago, IBM announced the System/360. IBM bet $5 billion and the company's future on the product. [more inside]
Mark Ames follows up on The Techtopus (previously) with a new report showing a much larger conspiracy than has been previously reported: [more inside]
A series of columns by Robert X. Cringely about the decline and impending demise of IBM
- Not your father’s IBM
- Something’s rotten in IBM Dubuque
- Magical thinking at IBM
- How to fix IBM in a week
- We’re all just lab rats to IBM
- By 2015 IBM will look like Oracle
- Fulfilling customer requirements is a weapon at IBM
- The New IBM — vampires in our midst
- IBM to customers: Your hand is staining my window
- The Decline & Fall of IBM
- IBM sells Intel server business, company is doomed
Mesmerizing: Aston Martin DB9, Space Shuttle, harmonic, Tutankhamun, locomotive, Marilyn(-esque). Slow: Art Plotter, Teapot, big! burny! mighty! Home-made: Rostock, DVD drive, with lasers!, old scanner, Lego, mug, whiteboard. Art Projects: Hektor, Pedro & Sybil, sand plotter, Paul, XY, PolarGraph.
Like the AmigaOS, TOS, and BeOS, IBM's OS/2 operating system's rise and fall gives insight into the current computing landscape.
At the core of good science and engineering is the careful and respectful treatment of data. We calibrate our instruments, scrutinize the algorithms we use to process the data, and study the behavior of the models we use to interpret the data or simulate the phenomena we may be observing. Surprisingly, this careful treatment of data often breaks down when we visualize our data.
"Gentlemen: I have a story that may be of interest to you. It is not widely known who invented the circuitry concept for the automatic sequential performance of musical pitches - now well known as a sequencer. I, however, do know who the inventor was - for it was I who first conceived and built the sequencer." This is the opening to an undated, unaddressed letter, found in Raymond Scott's personal papers (yes, the same fellow whose kooky soundtracks scored everything from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies to Ren & Stimpy, The Simpson, and Animaniacs). You can read the rest of Scott's letter, along with Bob Moog's recollections of visiting Raymond's electronics laboratory in the mid-1950s. Or you could jump ahead to the mid-1960s, when Jim Henson was in his late 20s to early 30s, and he was working on a variety of odd projects after a successful run with Sam and Friends, but before he it it big with Sesame Street. It was at this point that he teamed up with Scott on a few short, experimental films. [more inside]
David Bradley is an engineer, one of the 12 strategists who worked around the clock to hammer out a plan for hardware, software, manufacturing setup and sales strategy for the first IBM PC from 1980-1981. At that time, Bradley and others were tired of wasting time rebooting the system without powering it down. So, one day he had something like "write keyboard shortcut to reboot system" on list of things to do, and Control-Alt-Delete was created. Years later, he said "I may have invented it, but I think Bill made it famous." (YouTube) [more inside]
w.s.m [Worlds smallest movie]
NASA will send you an email or text alert when the International Space Station is visible from your area. IBM scientists have recently made significant advances in nanotechnology. A mathematician thought a poorly-encrypted headhunting email from Google was testing him, but he had actually discovered a major security hole. All of this found via The Brief: A Daily Briefing of Technology News Worth Caring About from MeFi's own nostrich. [via mefi projects]
Corporate music at IBM. Chronology. Song clips. Scans of selected songs from Songs of the IBM, with commentary. A description of the 1937 IBM Symphony by Vittorio Giannini. 106 IBM Company Songs.
Breaking records at 16.32 petaflops, Blue Gene/Q is the world's new fastest supercomputer. [more inside]
25 years ago today, IBM released it's next-generation operating system OS/2. It never took the world by storm as planned, but it also never really went away.
A look at OS/2: Beginnings - OS/2 1.0 - OS/2 1.1 - OS/2 1.2-1.3 (screenshots) - OS/2 2.0 (screenshots) - OS/2 Warp - OS/2 Warp 4 (screenshots) - eComstation
A look at OS/2: Beginnings - OS/2 1.0 - OS/2 1.1 - OS/2 1.2-1.3 (screenshots) - OS/2 2.0 (screenshots) - OS/2 Warp - OS/2 Warp 4 (screenshots) - eComstation
"Researchers at I.B.M. have stored and retrieved digital 1s and 0s from an array of just 12 atoms, pushing the boundaries of the magnetic storage of information to the edge of what is possible." [NYT]
IBM is currently putting together database and barcode tracking to allow farmers and grocers in China to track your porkchop, from the pig to the plate. Using supply chain tracking (similar to what is done already in other industries), the goal is to limit and hopefully prevent disease outbreaks by tracking the health of the animal, including which other animals it has come into contact with. So the next time you sit down for some nice ham, you might be able to scan the barcode (or RFID tag) to see whom else on your block shares your own porcine six degrees of separation. [more inside]
Our intrepid reporter spends a week trying to write, browse the Web, edit photos, and even (shudder) tweet on IBM's first PC. PC World takes on the IBM 5150. Watch the original marketing video (CNET) or a modern homage to the 30 year old PC. Happy belated birthday, 5150! Wait, one of your inventors doesn't even use PCs anymore?
"IBM is proud to announce a product you may have a personal interest in. It's a tool that could soon be on your desk, in your home or in your child's schoolroom. It can make a surprising difference in the way you work, learn or otherwise approach the complexities (and some of the the simple pleasures) of living." [more inside]
"The fingers you have used to TYPE are too fat. To obtain a special TYPING wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now."
IBM is working on a keyboard design that will adapt to a user’s finger anatomy. Touchscreen keyboard morphs to fit your typing style. [Fig. 2] Via: [Wired] Morphing Touchscreen Keyboard Interface (PDF) [Pat2PDF/IBM]
"The story begins unambiguously. A group of IBMers, working on a secret project to build a personal computer, flew to Seattle in August, 1980, to see if [Bill] Gates could supply them with an operating system. He couldn't -- and referred them to [Gary] Kildall [of Digital Research Inc.] When they showed up at DRI's offices the next day ... the company's business manager ... refused to sign their nondisclosure agreement.... [IBM] did get together with Kildall ... a short time later, but they couldn't reach an agreement. At around the same time, [IBM] saw Gates again. [IBM] and Gates both knew of the operating system [Tim] Paterson had built at Seattle Computer Co.... "Gates said: 'Do you want to get [QDOS], or do you want me to?' [IBM] said: 'By all means, you get it."' Gates bought Paterson's program, called QDOS, for $50,000, renamed it DOS, improved it, and licensed it to IBM for a low per-copy royalty fee."Tim Paterson, the man who created DOS, the operating system that dominated the computer industry between 1981 and 2000, has an occasional blog that provides a fascinating history of the microcomputer industry: Is DOS a Rip-Off of CP/M?; The Contributions of CP/M; Design of DOS; The First DOS Machine; IBM PC Design Antics; and All Those Floppy Disk Formats…
In 1967, IBM had the answer to our "paperwork explosion." Somewhat surreal film promoting new IBM dictation technology. Mad Men meets the future with a trippy electronic soundtrack. [more inside]
Network Awesome has compiled a short history of some of Jim Henson's early muppet work, including his infamously dark Wilson's Coffee commercials: (on YouTube) 1, 2, 3 and the IBM Muppet Show. (Who among us hasn't woken up in the morning and wanted to eat their coffee machine? (Previously) (Via) [more inside]
IBM's Watson computer destroys human competition in Jeopardy (prev). Gets welcomed by Ken (via). Celebrates by getting smashed on Conan.
After the first night, IBM's Watson has only played a single round of Jeopardy, and could be doing better. Stephen Baker (who wrote the book on this) and David Ferrucci (the project's chief scientist) analyze some of his mistakes. After his career as a game show contestant is over, will Watson be up for a role on House?
They Were There is a 30 min video from IBM, who is turning 100 this year. "told by first-hand witnesses—current and retired employees and clients—who were there when IBM helped to change the way world works."
The Watson Artificial Intelligence system will take on Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in February (previously). Here's a sneak preview of a warm-up round between the contestants. [more inside]
The Butterfly Keyboard (officially called a TrackWrite) on IBM's Thinkpad 701c was so unusual and innovative that it's housed at MoMA. So what killed the design? (via) [more inside]
The Watson Artificial Intelligence system has been discussed on MeFi before. The Jeopardy AI will get a chance to prove its skills in early February when it squares off against Jeopardy titans Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter for the prize of a million dollars.
Paul Rand was one of the great graphic designers of modern times, designing among other things, logos for Westinghouse, ABC, IBM and UPS. The website has galleries of book design, posters, logos, and much more (open images in new tab or window to see the full-sized image, some books have image galleries, look for a "see inside" button). You can also read his thoughts on design, watch interviews and videos about him, and follow the many links to interesting online Randiana.
The Body Snatchers look at a human and see a nice new home. The Visitors look at a human and see a yummy snack. The Smarter Planet people look at a human and see data. Our planet is alive with data. Yummy data.
Let's take a jaunt back, to the early days of DOS, from the early 1980s to early 1990s. Way back to IBM PC DOS 1.00 and 1.10. Back when Bill Gates wrote code. This was the time of avoiding donkeys on the road (gameplay), gorillas lobbing explosive bananas over skyscrapers (gameplay) and a hungry line named Nibbles [a variant of the older Snake game] (gameplay). So have at it! Gorillas recreated in Flash | Flash tribute to Gorillas, with updated graphics | Snake | two-player Nibbles | Radical Snake (now with curves) | Snake (like Radical Snake, but with landscape obstacles) | Nibblets (All 10 original levels from the QBasic game Nibbles, but with a new control system) | Snake/Nibbles for Vim (download) | Donkey (QBasic source code)
50 years ago today, IBM announced the 1401 Data Processing System. Originally designed as a spooling system for the larger machines, the 1401 became very popular as a mainframe in its own right, eventually being called 'The Model T of Computers'. By the end of 1961, the number of 1401s installed in the United States alone had reached 2,000 - representing about one fourth of all computers installed by all manufacturers at that time. 15- 20,000 were eventually built. The Computer History Museum in Mountain View is having a 50th anniversary celebration on November 10th. Here's what $125,600 (or $2500/month rent) would get you: [more inside]
Scientists image single molecule with atomic force microscopy. See the original abstract in Science. CNET reproduces a representation of the experiment.
From the satisfying click of its keys to its no-nonsense layout and solid steel underpinnings, IBM's 24-year-old Model M is the standard by which all other keyboards must be judged. (previously)