The Shock of the Old

Turntable and Record Photo, Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic, © 2004 by Tomasz Sienicki

A couple weeks back I discussed Matthew Lasar's article on Ars Technica about the invention of the PC. Lasar has done it again this week with an excellent piece on the surprising persistence of old technologies.  Tech pundits, Lasar notes, are very quick to declare technology dead or obsolescent, when the latest, hot thing comes along:

Sherry Turkle on Furbies

Robot Scrabble

WNYC's Radiolab is a show dedicated to making difficult scientific issues accessible and interesting for a popular audience. I sometimes assign segments of episodes to my history of technology students to reward them after particularly dry or difficult readings, so the recent episode on AI, called "Talking to Machines" caught my eye.

Living technological change

There was an article in the New York Times recently that summarized findings of scientists studying the effects of light on sleep/wake cycles. One of the most interesting findings, for historians of computing, was the fact that the bright, bluish light put out by modern computer screens very effectively suppresses the body's ability to generate melatonin, and therefore to sleep well and regularly. Disturbed sleep, however, was not the only effect observed.

Science Fiction and the History of Computing

Science Fiction and Computing: Essays on Interlinked Domains (Book Cover)

David Ferro recently posted on the SIGCIS mailing list about the release of his and Eric Swedin's new edited volume, Science Fiction and Computing. This is a sequel, of sorts, to a workshop at the Society for the History of Technology meeting in Tacoma last fall. I thought it would be appropriate to re-post this announcement here for further publicity and discussion, given the extent to which the book is a product of this community. As David wrote, the contributors (other than the editors themselves) include Thomas Haigh, Janet Abbate, Paul Ceruzzi, David A.

IBM Turns 100, and Creates a Stir

The IBM Personal Computer

Journalists across the Web (mostly) celebrated the 100th birthday of IBM last week, on June 16th. See for instance, coverage at The New York Times, Wired, and Forbes. My history of computing colleagues at the IT History blog also covered the story, with a business history perspective from Joel West. As a former IBMer, I can't help but feel a small twinge of pride at this milestone.

Preserving individuals' on-line efforts at capturing bits of computer history

There are many excellent individually maintained websites that give bits of computer history, for instance,

E3 Gets Historical

Gamers Playing Atari at Classic Gaming Expo

The annual Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) is where video game companies have congregated since 1995 to show off their forthcoming gadgets and games to the press. It is a bombastic celebration of the latest and greatest, the newest and shiniest. Any attention to the past is, for the most part, uncomfortably out of place there.

Filming the History of Computing

Triumph of the Nerds (DVD)

Next month, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View is screening a new documentary called Something Ventured. To my knowledge, this is the first documentary on the history of computing intended for theaters. Okay, technically it is a history of venture capital, not computing. But the primary focus is on entrepreneurial firms in computing or closely related industries: Intel, Atari, Apple, and Cisco are featured prominently. This has inspired me to consider the state of history of computing documentaries. Most of them that I'm aware of have been made for television.

SIGCIS Photo Galleries

Paul Edwards delivers the workshop keynote at SHOT 2010 - Tacoma

Tom Haigh has begun putting photo galleries from the SIGCIS meetings up on this very site. You may find them here. Thanks to Tom for putting in the work to make this happen. Like any blog post (hint-hint!) these images are open for comment. So if you have a funny story, thoughtful recollection, or just a complaint about Tom's repeated photographs of the back of your head, please post away! Also, if you have any photos from any SIGCIS event that you'd be willing to share, Tom would love to hear from you.

Remembering Mike Mahoney

Mike Mahoney

Tom Haigh's recent announcement of the completion of his edited volume of Mike Mahoney's work seems a good time to put down some brief thoughts about the brief time that I knew him.

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