N-Grams and the History of Computing

Google N-Gram Search
Google N-Gram Search

As I'm sure most of you know, late least year Google announced a new research tool known as the Ngram Viewer. (An n-gram is any sequence of items--in this case words--of length n; so a 2-gram would be any word pair). The tool was released in conjunction with the publication of a paper in Science that made use of it to explore the history of culture.

Paul Baran's Passing

Network diagrams from Paul Baran's "On Distributed Communications"

Polish-born engineerPaul Baran died this week in Palo Alto, at age 84. [Aside: the number of important figures in the history of computing who were born to Jewish families in Eastern Europe before World War II and later emigrated to the U.S.

The Latest Synthesis

Book Cover for A History of the Internet and the Digital Future by Johnny Ryan

Ars Technica has posted the last of three articles adapted from Johnny Ryan's recent book, A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (Here are the first and

There and Back Again

A 1914 Bell Telephone advertisement produced just after the 1913 "Kingsbury Commitment". It includes Theodore Vail's famous slogan, "One Policy, One System, Universal Service."

The recent announcement of a planned merger between AT&T and T-Mobile here in the U.S. led me to compile a (rough and partial) time-line of recent mergers in the telecommunications industry (or at least a big chunk of it - I've ignored the cable industry, for example).

From the Horse's Mouth

Leonard Kleinrock, Paul Baran, and Larry Roberts, photographed by Vanity Fair in 2008.

I'm pleased to share with the SIGCIS community a resource on Internet history that I was totally unaware of until a friend of mine sent me the link a couple of weeks ago: an oral history of the Internet compiled and edited by Vanity Fair magazine. It begins (as many Internet histories do) with packet-switching and Paul Baran, who (as some Internet histories are not) is realistic about his contribution:

The Root of the Problem

Internet Map

An interesting story appeared recently from Nancy Scola at The Atlantic on a little-known event in Internet history (yes, it was only 14 years ago, but in Internet Time, history started yesterday!)

When Computer Dating Was Mail Order

A couple promoting the Harvard University-based dating service Operation Match.

Atlantic blogger John Hendel reports on the phenomenon of computer dating in the 1960s. These services operated by comparing questionnaires that would-be romancers submitted by mail, returning a list of potential matches some days or weeks later (in a similar fashion to job-matching systems of the era).

Watson and AI: Does Mind Matter?

The upcoming televised matches between IBM's Watson and Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter seems like a good time to reflect on the history of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a field.

A Tribute to Ken Olsen

Paul Ceruzzi has pointed the mailing list to this video, commemorating the life of Digital Equipment founder Ken Olsen, who died on Sunday. (See also the discussion onSlashdot and the New York Times obituary).

King Knuth

The latest discussion on the SIGCIS mailing list surrounded the impending release of a new volume (or sub-volume, rather) in Donald Knuth's computer science masterwork, The Art of Computer Programming. Volume 4A is now in print from Addison-Wesley. Paul Ceruzzi announced this development earlier today:

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