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]
The use of cardboard for things other than packaging is not new to the blue, from detailed artwork to furnature (and even re-making the Tron light cycle scene), and now computer cases. Brenden Macaluso's design is not the first, with a Japanese design from 2005 (the original site is down, but Archive.org has a backup, with more versions archived), and other kludged fixes for an existing case missing parts. Recompute wasn't the only cardboard case in the 2009 Greener Gadgets design competition. The other was Cardboardcase, by Francesco Biasci and Martina Becattini, which is a more of a traditional computer case form. On the DIY side, Instructables provides plans for a DIY cardboard laptop case. [more inside]
A Mac Classic shows bullies what's for in "3½ inches is enough" by Unreal Voodoo. This demo (actually written to run on a Mac Classic) was presented at ASSEMBLY, Finland's largest computer festival. More highlights from ASSEMBLY are available at GameSetWatch. The demos are mostly trippy and impressive hand-coded animations as one might expect, but there's also a live action short featuring a Rube Goldberg machine.
Sir George Julius's Automatic Totalisator, first used by the public in New Zealand, and quickly taken up by racetracks throughout Australasia and North America (warning hideous HTML), automates parimutuel betting.
Impressed and alarmed by advances in artificial intelligence, a group of computer scientists is debating whether there should be limits on research that might lead to loss of human control over computer-based systems that carry a growing share of society’s workload, from waging war to chatting with customers on the phone. From the NYT: Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man.
Before the mouse, there was the trackball. Built for DATAR in 1952, DATAR turned out to be a complete failure. The next user interface device that used a ball was the mouse at Xeroc Parc in 1972. Trackballs are a dying breed of interface devices. But sometimes a trackball just seems more natural choice for certain applications - not so obvious for others. Would you sit on one?
15 Classic PC Design Mistakes, along with explanations as to what exactly they were thinking at the time.
Intel’s fabrication plants can churn out hundreds of thousands of processor chips a day. But what does it take to handcraft a single 8-bit CPU and a computer? Give or take 18 months, about $1,000 and 1,253 pieces of wire.
Computer music is relatively old, going back to the very early 1950s. In the following decades, people have been creative with programmable technology, leading to "She'll Be Comin' 'Round the Mountain" being played on an IBM chain printer back in 1966, and in more recent years, HP ScanJet 5100c included an Easter Egg. The HP ScanJet 4c's SCL (Scanner Control Language) unofficial PLAY TUNE command lead to these fine little ditties. Now over a decade ago, the duo known as [The User] enlisted three specialists to operate a computer program via a server that synchronized the dot-matrix printers and read complex ASCII text files in order to create musical compositions. The result was a techno-sounding piece that was performed by the administrators of the system, rather than one that was simply being played. Like a symphony of car horns, the coordination of these printers became Symphony #1 and #2 for Dot Matrix Printers (samples of Symphony #2, Symphony #2 Slashdot thread). [More computer music exploration inside] [more inside]
Pixel City is a procedurally generated cityscape by Shamus Young. Procedurally generated graphics have a long history of producing attractive results with extremely small amounts of code, like Elevated, which was generated by just 4K of code, automatically generated video game content (also, Spore) or the generation of realistic water flows. Note the last demo reel may have been the test for a new film mentioned previously.
Project GREAT: General Relativity Einstein/Essen Anniversary TestThink your dad was a nerd? A mad genius? Was he a Clark Griswold-esque cheerleader for outdoor family vacations? You ain't seen nothin' yet.
Clocks, Kids, and General Relativity on Mt Rainier
Touch screen. Awesome graphics. Online community. No, I'm not talking about the latest handheld device to hit the market, I'm talking about Control Data's PLATO system. [more inside]
Time to reconsider the traditional campus computer lab? The University of Virginia has begun a three-year process of shutting down its public computer labs to shave costs, citing 99% laptop ownership of incoming 2007 students and the predominant usage of free software in their computing facilities. Issues such as printing and software distribution have yet to be ironed out. [/. thread]
overclockblocked, by Sumit Dan. short story told in speculative chippy dialect. Fucken AIbrid think he so fucking cool with he retrofleshy stylen. Like you don’t already know he dealin double-helix, not just some two-bit qubit.
A visualization of all the nouns in the English language arranged by semantic meaning. [NSFW words included!] [more inside]
The computer generated first-down line in American football is something we take for granted these days. However, the logistics required to make this work is pretty complex. At the very least, have you considered this: if it's computer generated on a moving image, how do they draw it under the people running around on the field, and not over them? And it gets a bit more complicated than this. "Here are some of the problems that have to be solved in order for this system to work: [more inside]
The National Security Agency is building a data center in San Antonio that’s the size of the Alamodome. Microsoft has opened an 11-acre data center a few miles away. Coincidence? Not according to author James Bamford, who probably knows more about the NSA than any outsider. Bamford's new book reports that the biggest U.S. spy agency wanted assurances that Microsoft would be in San Antonio before it moved ahead with the Texas Cryptology Center. Bamford notes that under current law, the NSA could legally tap into Microsoft’s data without a court order. Whatever you do, don't take pictures of it the spy building unless you want to be taken in for questioning.
Another dimension, new galaxy - J.C.R. Licklider was one of the most influential people in the history of computer science . Dr. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider (or “Lick”), was the Director of ARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office and from 1963-64 put in place the funding priorities which would lead to the Internet, and the invention of the mouse, windows and hypertext. In 1960 he was writing about Man-computer symbiosis and The Computer as a Communications Device . He also wrote epic memos such as his 1963 memo to “Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network ”
Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble! A "board game" where you gather a gang of girls in the roaring 20s and taunt, fib, & flirt your way to high school domination! [more inside]
Designers spend about 90% of their waking life in front of a computer, so the most appealing genre for a wallpaper would be one that has beautiful design mixed with the all important aspect of being outdoors. At their best, desktop wallpapers bring animation to often lifeless computer screens, reflecting the personality of the user and acting as a calling card for creative talent. The Desktopography Project first arrived in 2005 as a place to download nature / topological themed wallpapers with edits from selected designers. They have just released their 2008 library.
Bletchley Park: A WWII juggernaut. It decrypted German Enigma (try one!) and Japanese messages on an industrial scale in huts and blocks, had an outpost in Mombasa, and built one of the first modern computers (it helped that Alan Turing was on staff). Now a diverse museum with or without a funding problem, it generated yet more intrigue in 2000 when an Enigma was stolen, and hosts a rebuilt, working Colossus that launched a cipher challenge. Beating it wasn't easy! [more inside]
The Phillips Machine, also known as the Moniac, is a early analog computer for economic modeling with an unusual twist: all of the computation is done by water flowing through its pipes. The flows represent taxes, income, and so on, and the chambers represent balances held by various bodies. Floats attached to pens can provide graphical output such things as GDP and interest rates, and valves can be opened and shut to change the state of the system in real time. You can listen to a BBC radio segment on the origin of Phillips machine, or see a demonstration of one of the only extant working models at the University of Cambridge. [more inside]
The Evolution of Computer & Video Games (Google video) The Evolution of Computer Commercials (video) The evolution of mobile phones (video)
foldit is a new computer game scientists have created that lets YOU help them make science!! [more inside]
Generative Creativity is a course offered by the University of Sussex through their Informatics department. The lecture series discusses tools and techniques for generating graphics, music, jokes and riddles, and more.
Inspired by this earlier post, I thought it was time to formally introduce people to Rocky's Boots. [more inside]
Cope pipe without a jig. Enter a few parameters and get a pdf that will give you a printable pattern that will allow you to notch tubing for welding or brazing to another pipe.
Out of the Blue: "Can a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain be built from a supercomputer?"
I'm not a computer programmer, but I love the thought and artistry that go into [computer] application design. [more inside]
"So, at our meeting earlier, you suggested building a robot. Is that something we can really do?" [more inside]
The USNS Swift (HSV-2) looks like something a Bond villian would own, but it's actually one of the most advanced ships owned by the US Navy. Highly manueverable and having a top speed of 51mph, it's heavily automated, capable of handling helicopters, carrying cargo, and launching both manned and unmanned vehicles -- all with only 42 people. It's assisted with relief efforts in Indonesia, Lebanon, and after Hurricane Katrina. But the best thing about the ship? It can be remote controlled through a web browser.
In October 1947, the directors of J. Lyons & Co (think - teashops, nippies, bakeries, ice-creams, steakhouses, hotels, Wimpy Bars and Dunkin' Donuts), decided to take an active role in promoting the commercial development of computers. In 1951 the LEO I computer was operational and ran the world's first regular routine office computer job.
Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism. Examining the social rules and norms, as well as the pitfalls, of electronic "friending" (yes, it's a verb now - or is it a gerund?). Via.
The Horizon Simulation 70 billions particles : a new world record for a large scale simulation of the universe. [more inside]
Youscope is the result of hooking up an oscilloscope to a soundcard. [youtube] 3rd place winner in Short Films at Assembly 2007.
Meet Rick and Steve : The Happiest Gay Couple In All The World. The animated series follows a gay couple, Rick and Steve, and other couples from their (fictional) town, West Lahunga Beach. Rick (voiced by Will Matthews from MTV's "Punk'd") is Steve's stay-at-home partner. He is a genius but very insecure. Steve (voiced by Peter Paige, best known as Emmet Honeycutt from "Queer As Folk") is a real estate broker and devotee of the gym. Margaret Cho lends her voice to the character Condie Ling. The computer generated animated series began airing on Logo on July 10, 2007, and is based on the 1999 short films of the same name from creator Quenton Allan Brocka. Let the comedic stereotyping begin! In animation form, anyway. (Episodes 1-5 available in three parts each from the first link.) Not quite safe for work. Or the easily offended.
Content Aware Image Resizing. Every year SIGGRAPH rolls around I get a reminder of how smart everyone else is, especially people who do computer graphics research. From Shai Avidan and Ariel Shamir. The algorithm resizes images non-uniformly and, well, somewhat magically.
"How I Became A Programmer" veers between linear biography and brain dump. The piece meanders through its theme, stopping along the way to flirt with word origins, family politics, the senior prom, Japan, airlines and military recruitment. Reading it, I felt trapped inside inside an extremely quirky -- yet recognizable (in a too-close-for-comfort way) -- mind. About half the time I yearned to tell him that he needs an editor; the other half, I was grateful that he didn't have one. Mostly, I'm amazed he HAD a date to the senior prom!
Social Wallpaper. A community effort to classify, rank, and distribute high resolution images for use as computer wallpaper.
In 1937-38, computer pioneer George Philbrick worked for the Foxboro Co. as an analyst. He had the radical idea of building an electronic analog computer to simulate the behaviour of hydraulic industrial equipment, so Foxboro customers could experiment with control systems without needing a pipe wrench. One of the world's first analog computers was ignominiously ferried around the U.S. in the back seat of Philbrick's car. Ironically, Philbrick didn't give his "Automatic Process Analyzer" a properly techy, pretentious nickname. He dubbed his one-eyed monster Polyphemus. (PDF) (prev)