Useful Sites on Contemporary Computing

One of my colleagues suggested that a good use of this blog would be to inform those of our members who might not be aware of some the good places to find up-to-date information the latest goings-on in computing.

Here are a few annotated suggestions (as with most of my posts, with a strong American bias. I welcome proposed additions from other parts of the world):

    The Value (and Risks) of Emulation

    Courtesy of Evan Koblentz' recent mailing list message, behold this ancient analog computing device, Lego-style. The contrast between this device and the older reconstruction of the Babbage Difference Engine is illuminating. The latter aimed to be as faithful as possible to the original in terms of materials and design, in order to prove the viability of the machine within its original historical context.

    Game Internals

    I recently came across a brand new blog that may be of interest to SIGCISers, Game Internals, by programmer Chad Birch. His first post describes the algorithm used to control the ghosts in Pac-Man (including an interesting bug). Along with the "Pac-Man Dossier" that he links to, it would be a great primary source for a study of the history of video game software. Hopefully Birch will keep the interesting material coming.

    Virtual Environments and Historical Contexts

    I recently attended a talk given by Fred Brooks in Research Triangle Park. Best known as "the father of the IBM System/360" and for coining "Brooks Law" (the addition of more programmers to a late project will only make it later), he currently teaches at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina, which he helped found in 1964.

    Brooks spoke with lively enthusiasm about how his long-running interest in computer graphics, which he traces back to a talk he heard in 1965, led to his current work in virtual reality systems.

    The Obituary of Maurice Wilkes, Among Many Others

    A major figure in the history of computing, Britain's Maurice Wilkes, died this past Monday. Obituaries can be found at the Guardian and the Independent; the latter was written by SIGCIS' own Martin Campbell-Kelly.


    SIGCIS has created personal blogs on the request of several of its members. Content from these is sometimes promoted to our front page, but visit the blogs directly to see their full content.

    Currently our featured bloggers are Marie Hicks and Chris MacDonald, who have agreed to help keep the SIGCIS website supplied with new and exciting material, and Dag Spicer who will be keeping us up to date with events at the Computer History Museum. If you would like a blog of your own please let us know.

    Learning Who Really Invented the Computer?

    Last month's Wired magazine contained a story and interview with novelist Jane Smiley, whose recent book, The Man Who Invented the Computer, purports to finally reveal the true author of that device. Hint: The answer rhymes with Batanasoff. I have not had a chance to read the book, but based on the interview Smiley, an alumna of and former professor at John Atansoff's own Iowa State, appears to portray him as a wronged genius, exploited by a devious John Mauchly.

    More Blog Activity Forthcoming

    Dear SIGCISers,

    I've recently taken up the vacant position of Member Communications for SIGCIS. Expect this blog to be more frequently updated with information and commentary that is (hopefully) of interest to this community. Marie Hicks has also agreed to help me with this task from time to time (thank you!).

    2010 Workshop: Edwards Keynote Abstract

    Friction: Rethinking Speed, Power, and Possibility in the History of Information Infrastructures

    Tropes involving computers' "speed" and "power" have dominated discourses about computing from the earliest days of electronic machines. Metaphors of friction may provide a different lens, one that focuses attention on the materiality of information processing. Machines transform energy into work; friction reduces the amount of work they can do with a given input. Information systems transform data (among other things) into information and knowledge. Computational friction opposes this transformation; it expresses the resistance that must always be overcome, the sociotechnical struggle with numbers that always precedes reward.

    R|evolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computer History

    Dear friends,

    CHM is completing construction of its signature 25,000 sq ft, $17 million dollar on the history of computing. Due to open in January 2011, R|evolution will be accessible to the general public and technical audiences alike and will feature over 1,000 artifacts from CHM's world-beating historical collection.

    See: for more information.


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