I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tom Moertel’s tale of a great old-timey game-programming hack, it reminded me of my computer science days and assembly programming.
A long time ago, when I was a college undergrad, I spent some time working on computer video games. This was in the 8-bit PC era, so the gaming hardware was almost impossibly slow by today’s standards.
It might not surprise you, then, to learn that, back then, game programmers did all sorts of crazy things to make their games run at playable speeds. Crazy, crazy things.
This is a story about one of those things.
I’m more familiar with the America-centric history of networked computing, so I’m always fascinated to read about things that were happening in other parts of the world. Jeremy Rossman takes a look at France’s Minitel system and how it provided one of the first app stores.
In the early eighties the French government vaulted its country’s tech industry a decade ahead of the rest of the world by introducing a computer terminal called the Minitel. Rolled out as a beta product in 1980 and launched to the French public in 1983, every household with a landline subscription was eligible for a free Minitel. Its killer launch app was a digital version of the yellow pages — to encourage adoption the government cancelled the production of [the] paper [version].
Anatomy of a Logo: Star Wars takes a look at the evolution of the iconic logo.
“I’d been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas,” she says, “a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today—how they developed into what we see and use in the present.” After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, “I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most ‘fascist’ typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black.”
Inspired by the typeface, Rice developed a hand-drawn logo that translated well to the poster campaign, and ultimately to the movie itself. “I did have the screen in mind when I drew the logo originally,” explains Rice, who “stacked and squared” the words to better fit the brochure cover. It was an aesthetic choice that has lasted nearly three decades.
Mariner 1, a NASA probe, crashed into the ocean not long after takeoff. The cause was a source of confusion for a long time, but seems to have been the result of a missing hypen.
One of the official reports, issued by the Mariner 1 Post-Flight Review Board, concluded that a dropped hyphen in coded computer instructions resulted in incorrect guidance signals being sent to the spacecraft. The review board specifically refers to a “hyphen,” although other sources also refer to an “overbar transcription error” and even to a misplaced decimal point.
From Benj Edwards at The Atlantic comes the story of the world’s first computer art.
The pin-up image itself was programmed as a series of short lines, or vectors, encoded on a stack of about 97 Hollerith type punched cards, Tipton recalls. Hollerith punched cards were 7.375 x 3.25 inch paper cards that stored binary data via holes cut through a matrix printed on its surface. Like other 1950s computers, the AN/FSQ-7 used the cards extensively for program input.
Update: Some old computer based artwork.
Interesting photo set about the history of social media from Daniela Hernandez.
Before Facebook and Facetime and Google+ and Twitter, there was Plato and the Bell Picturephone and the Dynabook and the Xerox LiveBoard. Social media is nothing new. It just has better packaging — and better marketing.
The Harwell Dekatron WITCH has been rebuilt and rebooted at The National Museum of Computing in England, making it the world’s oldest working digital computer.
The 2.5 tonne, 1951 computer from Harwell with its 828 flashing Dekatron valves, 480 relays and a bank of paper tape readers will clatter back into action in the presence of two of the original designers, one of its first users and many others who have admired it at different times during its remarkable history.
If you’re a computer geek and get the chance to visit Bletchley Park, make sure you don’t overlook the museum. I had the opportunity to visit a couple years ago — I had no idea it was there, and probably could’ve devoted another day to it.
An excerpt from Tim Berners-Lee’s post to comp.sys.next.announce concerning the release of the WorldWideWeb app:
This project is experimental and of course comes without any warranty whatsoever. However, it could start a revolution in information access. We are currently using WWW for user support at CERN. We would be very interested in comments from anyone trying WWW, and especially those making other data available, as part of a truly world-wide web.
A revolution in information access indeed.
You also might be interested in this post from the eightface archive: The oldest page on the internet.