Mahoney's Histories of Computing is published

Histories of Computing by Michael Sean Mahoney (Book Cover)

Earlier this week I received a full set of authors copies of Histories of Computing, the edited works of Michael S. Mahoney on the history of computing. These were shipped from the Trilateral warehouse, which handles Harvard distribution, so I assume the book can now be ordered. I’ll be sure to set aside one or two copies for the SIGCIS book auction in Cleveland later this year.

A Light-Hearted Interlude with Clippy

Clippy: Sometimes I popup for no particular reason, like now.

The Atlantic's James Fallows posted recently on the 10-year anniversary of the demise of Microsoft Office's "Clippy" (officially the Office Assistant), the cartoon paperclip helper that would pop up to offer advice and suggestions while a user was creating a document.

Frictions in the Cloud, Part 2

Abort, Retry, Fail?

Details have finally begun to emerge in the past few days regarding exactly what caused the Amazon cloud-computing-service shutdown. Amazon's own account is rather dense and chewy, but Ars Technica has provided a more digestible explanation.

Movie Night at the Museum

Computer History Museum

I know I promised more on the cloud; that will come later. Right now I want to plug another excellent resource for the history of computing, the Computer History Museum (CHM)'s YouTube channel.

Frictions in the Cloud

This image, poking fun of the universal claims of cloud computing, is replicated in hundreds of places across the web. I don't know its original source.

In light of the recent failures of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud service, Paul Ceruzzi has pointed out the very grounded reality of the cloud. It all comes down to real data centers in real physical locations that can suffer from real failures.

N-Grams and the History of Computing, Part 2

Leave it to Beaver

I was fiddling around some more with n-grams, and I came across a surprising result. So surprising, in fact, that I am deeply suspicious of it. As you can see from the graph, I searched for "radio," "television," "computer" from 1920 to 2000. The oddity is the powerful surge of "computer" in the 1950s and 60s. If n-grams are supposed to be a tool for the quantitative study of culture, surely there is something badly off here.

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).


Subscribe to SIGCIS RSS