In the early 80’s, personal computers were a new innovation. Films like WarGames made it seem as if a kid with a keyboard could hack into anything: a school or corporate mainframe, NORAD, the US nuclear arsenal or your neighborhood bank. Hoping to capitalize on this, in 1983 CBS premiered a show which could have been considered WarGames’ intellectual successor. It featured a group of resourceful kids who solved crimes by hacking and cracking, led by Matthew Laborteaux, child star of Little House on the Prairie, and advised by a Gavilan SC-toting, mustachioed reporter played by Max Gail, formerly of the show Barney Miller. Whiz Kids lasted only a single season: 18 episodes, but all of them live on in cyberspace, on YouTube. Complete episode links contained within. [more inside]
The ZX Spectrum's chief designers reunited 30 years on, discussing what became 80s Britain's most popular home computer and gaming platform, despite stiff competition from the technically superior Commodore 64.
In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. The flight from conversation.
If you've ever worked with the command prompt on a Unix-based computer, you're likely familiar with SSH (Secure SHell), which is a program and a protocol that allows you (yes, you!) to securely access a remote system. While SSH has certainly earned the "Secure" portion of its namesake over the years, it's functionality as a shell has ironically received very little attention, and has begun to show signs of age and obsolescence: SSH doesn't work very well on mobile connections, and its support for Unicode is buggy and incomplete. A group of MIT researchers think they've found solutions to these problems, and have created Mosh as a potential successor to SSH, which fixes many of the old protocol's annoyances and shortcomings, while retaining all of SSH's security features.
In the main link in griphus' post this morning, there was this little aside: "In 1957...a physics student named Don Knuth built a program for the IBM 650 to help the 1958 Case Institute of Technology basketball team win the league championship." Yes, THAT Don Knuth. Here's a young Don with the team and the IBM 650 (capable of making 50,000 calculations a minute!), and here he is talking about it. [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
It arrived at MIT in the middle of the night... 1988 computer virus - (via Dangerous Minds) [more inside]
Starring the Computer is a website dedicated to the use of computers in film and television. Each appearance is catalogued and rated on its importance (ie. how important it is to the plot), realism (how close its appearance and capabilities are to the real thing) and visibility (how good a look does one get of it). Fictional computers don't count (unless they are built out of bits of real computer), so no HAL9000 - sorry. (See also: computers in fiction)
He leaves his cellphone and laptop at home and instead brings "loaner" devices, which he erases before he leaves the US and wipes clean the minute he returns . In China, he disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi , never lets his phone out of his sight and, in meetings, not only turns off his phone but also removes the battery , for fear his microphone could be turned on remotely. He connects to the Internet only through an encrypted, password-protected channel, and copies and pastes his password from a USB thumb drive. He never types in a password directly, because, he said, "Chinese are very good at installing key-logging software on your laptop." - Travel precautions in the age of digital espionage.
If people thought Apple's voice assistant Siri was conservative, then Iris, a similar feature for Android (which uses the search engine ChaCha), will blow their mind.
Gizmo's Freeware is a non-commercial community website staffed entirely by volunteers. Our primary function is to help you select the best freeware product for your particular needs.
Previously the Guardian has done a series on Writer's Rooms, now they have started on Writer's Desktops - "where writers show us around their working lives by revealing what's on their computer desktops" (Previously)
"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]
Watch your favorite operating systems reboot at The Restart Page.
IIT and a firm called Datawind have designed the world's cheapest tablet - costing about $50 for components. Their first customer is the Indian government, and they have had inquiries from several other governments as well. Wikipedia on the Aakash (also called the Ubislate 7); the first are sold out, but may be pre-booked for 3000 rupees (just under $60 USD).
The world's first general-purpose, programmable computer was Charles Babbage's mechanical Analytical Engine, which was a formidable accomplishment even if the cost of its construction was prohibitive. While Babbage focused on engineering challenges, mathematician Ada Lovelace wrote the first program for the Analytical Engine, and provided some important insights into the power of a programmable computer. Unfortunately, Babbage never completed an Analytical Engine. Mike James has written an interesting piece on his blog speculating about how our world would be different a working Analytical Engine had been constructed. This topic also was covered in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's 1990 novel, "The Difference Engine", a seminal work in the steampunk genre. It's interesting to think about how the world would be different had engineers and scientists had access to fast, high-speed computers a hundred years before the birth of UNIVAC. [more inside]
Matthew Kirschenbaum, an English professor at the University of Maryland, is exploring the literary history of word processing. In a lecture at the New York Public Library entitled Stephen King's Wang, Kirschenbaum asks "When did literary writers begin using word processors? Who were the early adopters? How did the technology change their relation to their craft? Was the computer just a better typewriter, or was it something more?"
How Computers Work. Recently recovered & scanned in by the good folks at BoingBoing, this was an early textbook explaining the fundamental concepts & inner workings of modern computing systems. I believe a slightly different edition of this book was my own introduction to computers when I was in 6th grade or so, which explains a lot about my approach to using them.
Things CPU architects need to think about. Bob Colwell gave this lecture in 2004, for the Stanford University Computer Systems Colloquium (EE380). Colwell was the chief architect of the Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III, and Pentium 4 processors. [About 90 minutes, Windows Media format] [more inside]
10 Things Our Kids Will Never Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution. An optimist's take on how the lives of future generations will improve based on technology.
As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows — Do too many digital devices distract doctors from their daily rounds and endanger patients?
In 1985, Apple started the "Apple University Consortium Europe" collaboration program, and one of the first universities to enroll was that of Lund, Sweden. To celebrate the collaboration, Apple CEO Steve Jobs came to Lund - and a 16 minute film of his visit has now been found and been made available by the University of Lund. You can see the clip here (.mov).
Datamining Shakespeare --- Othello is a Shakespearean tragedy: when the hero makes a terrible mistake of judgment, his once promising world is led into ruin. Computer analysis of the play, however, suggests that the play is a comedy or, at least, that it does the same things with words that comedies usually do. On October 26, 2011, Folger Shakespeare Library Director Michael Witmore discussed his recent work in Shakespeare studies which combines computer analysis of texts, linguistics, and traditional literary history. Taking the case of Shakespeare's genres as a starting point, Witmore shows how subtle human judgments about the kinds of plays Shakespeare wrote — were they comedies, histories or tragedies? — are connected to frequent, widely distributed features in the playwright's syntax, vocabulary, and diction. (approx. 30 minute lecture.) [more inside]
Leisure Suit Larry is a series of adventure games written by Al Lowe and published by Sierra from 1987 to 2009. The main character, whose full name is Larry Laffer, is a balding, dorky, double entendre-speaking, leisure suit-wearing (but still somewhat lovable) "loser" in his 40s. The games follow him as he spends much of his life trying (usually unsuccessfully) to seduce attractive women. [more inside]
“We try and illustrate a “universe-next-door” where the new product is the only novelty. Where there is still tea, and the traffic is still miserable.”
Future Drama is a tumblr devoted to that particular kind of futurism - corporate prediction demos of how their products will change the world - See The Mother Of All Demos from 1968 introducing the mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing - Apple in 1987 - Philco-Ford The Future Now!
"We’re allowing a whole new level of intelligence in the networks...We can take a copy of everything coming through our switch and dump it off to the FBI."
The Surveillance Catalog: Where Governments Get Their Spying Tools The Wall Street Journal has obtained a "trove" of documents from the secretive retail market in surveillance technology sold to world governments, and has created a searchable database for your enjoyment. "Among the most controversial technologies on display at the conference were essentially computer-hacking tools to enable government agents to break into people's computers and cellphones, log their keystrokes and access their data..." E.g., FinFisher installs malware by sending fake software updates for Blackberry and other devices; VUPEN's Exploits for Law Enforcement Agencies "aim to deliver exclusive exploit codes for undisclosed vulnerabilities" in software from Microsoft, Apple and others. [more inside]
Google Music v iTunes Match v Amazon Cloud Player. Google has officially launched its (U.S. only) "Google Music" service, which aims to do for the Android market what iTunes and the recently unveiled (U.S. only) iTunes Match service does for Apple. All three services allow you to upload thousands of songs to the "Cloud". This music store showdown could revolutionise the way people collect, store and listen to music - or not.
My assumption has always been: If something like a soul exists, and it affects our consciousness in any manner, then it must be detectable by some scientific device. I find it difficult to imagine that something can interact with my physical body without leaving any physical trace. But though I find it hard to imagine, is it possible for something like a soul to interact with me without leaving any physical trace?
"We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil." ~C.A.R. Hoare, quoted by Donald Knuth
Save the Scrollbar! [slate.com] Why are Apple, Google, and Facebook eradicating a linchpin of user interface design?
Building a Computer 1: Numerals - recently my kids have been asking me about how computers work. I like to give in-depth answers to such questions, so we set out on a quest to understand how they work... Follow-up parts 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15.
To meet this need for high speed data processing, the scientists and technicians of the Eckert-Mauchly division of Remington Rand have created a miracle of electronic development: UNIVAC! [more inside]
The PC industry is built around an idea of almost infinite variation: different Wi-Fi adaptors, different Ethernet chipsets, different GPUs, different USB3 controllers. This variety is then reflected in the systems available from manufacturers—and more importantly, it's reflected in the way the systems are actually built. … The big reason that HP wants to get out of the PC business is that it's simply not very profitable for HP—and that's true for all the major PC OEMs, Cupertino excepted. Cheap PCs are certainly important for making computing accessible, but they also mean that PC vendors have made themselves vulnerable: endless price cuts and a failure to emphasize the value of a quality product have cut revenues and slashed profitability. Desperate to compete on pricing and pricing alone, the mass-market PC OEMs have ended up cutting their own throats.Ars technica explains why the PC industry is having such a difficult time trying to build a competitor to the MacBook Air.
40 Year Old 3D Computer Graphics, created by Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke (with some help from Bob Ingebretsen) in... wait for it... 1972!
The Shrine of Apple--a (sill in progress) archive of photos and specs for Apple's complete product history.
Ever wonder where the Windows XP default wallpaper came from? The man behind the camera is American photographer Charles O’Rear. Don’t let his name fool you into thinking that the photo was in fact taken in Ireland. Bliss, as it turns out, is in.....
In-depth pieces in Vanity Fair and Wired detail the structure and impact of the Stuxnet worm, and what it means for the future of cybersecurity. (Previously)
Using a computer for the first time. A Firefox UXer has an interesting encounter with someone who has never used a computer before and we all learn something. (Also, Jessamyn has a nice comment.)
Self-proclaimed "avid, loyal Windows user" and PC World editor Tony Bradley spent 30 days immersing himself in Ubuntu Linux, and chronicled his experiences as a Linux newbie. His previous project: 30 Days with Google Docs (Via: 1, 2)
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]
"Over the next five years more and more things will act on our behalf and encourage us to do things based on our actions. " How the Internet of Things will change the world.
Microsoft Mathematics is a free Computer Algebra System (CAS) available from Microsoft. A CAS is a program that can solve purely symbolic mathematical equations. For example, the program can tell you that the derivative of 6x^2 + 12x is 12x + 12. The program has functions for calculus, statistics, linear algebra, and graphing. One interesting feature of the program is that in some cases it can show and describe the intermediate steps involved in solving an equation. Here’s a 16 page tutorial (in MS Word docx format) showing how to use the program. The program can be downloaded from the Microsoft download page. Thirty-two and sixty-four bit versions are available. The program only works on XP/Vista/Windows 7.
A famously fast, robust, command-driven text processor/file manager that publishers... relied on throughout the '80s and some do even now, [XyWrite] is an unrivaled writer's tool.
Solarized is the mother of all colour schemes. "Solarized is a sixteen color palette (eight monotones, eight accent colors) designed for use with terminal and gui applications. It has several unique properties. I designed this colorscheme with both precise CIELAB lightness relationships and a refined set of hues based on fixed color wheel relationships. It has been tested extensively in real world use on color calibrated displays (as well as uncalibrated/intentionally miscalibrated displays) and in a variety of lighting conditions."