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Computers touch all most every aspect of our lives today. We take the way they work for granted and the unsung heroes who built the technology, protocols, philosophies, and circuit boards, patched them all together - and sometimes willed amazingness out of nothing. Not in this podcast. Welcome to the History of Computing. Let's get our nerd on!
 
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Before Facebook, there was MySpace. People logged into a web page every day to write to friends, show off photos, and play music. Some of the things we still do on social networks. The world had been shifting to personal use of computers since the early days when time sharing systems were used in universities. Then came the Bulletin Board Systems o…
 
Theophile Bruguier was a fur trader who moved south out of Monreal after a stint as an attorney in Quebec before his fiancé died. He became friends with Chief War Eagle of the Yankton Sioux. We call him Chief, but he left the Santee rather than have a bloody fight over who would be the next chief. The Santee were being pushed down from the Great La…
 
Microsoft had confusion in the Windows 2000 marketing and disappointment with Millennium Edition, which was built on a kernel that had run its course. It was time to phase out the older 95, 98, and Millennium code. So in 2001, Microsoft introduced Windows NT 5.1, known as Windows XP (eXperience). XP came in a Home or Professional edition. Microsoft…
 
Microsoft Windows 2000 was the successor to Windows NT 4.0, which had been released in 1997. Windows 2000 didn’t have a code name (supposedly because Jim Allchin didn’t like codenames), although its service packs did; Service Pack 1 and Windows 2000 64-bit were codenamed "Asteroid" and "Janus," respectively. 2000 began as NT 5.0 but Microsoft annou…
 
R is the 18th level of the Latin alphabet. It represents the rhotic consonant, or the r sound. It goes back to the Greek Rho, the Phoenician Resh before that and the Egyptian rêš, which is the same name the Egyptians had for head, before that. R appears in about 7 and a half percent of the words in the English dictionary. And R is probably the best…
 
The first operating systems as we might think of them today (or at least anything beyond a basic task manager) shipped in the form of Multics in 1969. Some of the people who worked on that then helped created Unix at Bell Labs in 1971. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Unix flowed to education, research, and corporate environments through minicompute…
 
Qualcomm is the world's largest fabless semiconductor designer. The name Qualcomm is a mashup of Quality and Communications and communications has been a hallmark of the company since its founding. They began in satellite communications and today most every smartphone has a Qualcomm chip. The ubiquity of communications in our devices and everyday l…
 
The Go Programming Language Go is an open-source programming language with influences from Limbo, C, APL, Modular, Oberon, Pascal, Alex, Erlang, and most importantly, C. While relatively young compared to many languages, there are over 365,000 repositories of Go projects on Github alone. There are a few reason it gained popularity so quickly: it’s …
 
Programming was once all about math. And life was good. Then came strings, or those icky non-numbery things. Then we had to process those strings. And much of that is looking for patterns that wouldn’t be a need with integers, or numbers. For example, a space in a string of text. Let’s say we want to print hello world to the screen in bash. That wo…
 
One of my first jobs out of college was ripping Banyan VINES out of a company and replacing it with LAN Manager. Banyan VINES was a network operating system for Unix systems. It came along in 1984. This was a time when minicomputers running Unix were running at most every University and when Unix offered far more features that the alternatives. Sha…
 
Our last episode was on Project MAC, a Cold War-era project sponsored by ARPA. That led to many questions like what led to the Cold War and just what was the Cold War. We'll dig into that today. The Cold War was a period between 1946, in the days after World War II, and 1991, when the United States and western allies were engaged in a technical tim…
 
Welcome to the history of computing podcast. Today we’re going to cover a cold war-era project called Project MAC that bridged MIT with GE and Bell Labs. The Russians beat the US to space when they launched Sputnik in 1958. Many in the US felt the nation was falling behind and so later that year president Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed then preside…
 
Dell is one of the largest technology companies in the world, and it all started with a small startup that sold personal computers out of Michael Dell's dorm room at the University of Texas. From there, Dell grew into a multi-billion dollar company, bought and sold other companies, went public, and now manufactures a wide range of electronics inclu…
 
We had this Mac lab in school. And even though they were a few years old at the time, we had a whole room full of Macintosh SEs. I’d been using the Apple II Cs before that and these just felt like Isaac Asimov himself dropped them off just for me to play with. Only thing: no BASIC interpreter. But in the Apple menu, tucked away in the corner was a …
 
As with many a programming language, ruby was originally designed as a teaching language - to teach programming to students at universities. From there, it is now used to create various programs, including games, interfaces for websites, scripts to run on desktop computers, backend REST endpoints, and business software. Although ruby is used for we…
 
With over 2.6 billion active users ad 4.6billion active accounts email has become a significant means of communication in the business, professional, academic, and personal worlds. Before email we had protocols that enabled us to send messages within small splinters of networks. Time Sharing systems like PLATO at the University of Champaign-Urbana,…
 
Teleprinters, sometimes referred to as teletypes based on the dominance of the Tyletype corporation in their hayday, are devices that send or receive written transmissions over a wire or over radios. Those have evolved over time to include text and images. And while it may seem as though their development corresponds to the telegraph, that’s true o…
 
It’s human nature to make everything we do competitive. I’ve played football, ran track at times, competed in hacking competitions at Def Con, and even participated in various gaming competitions like Halo tournaments. I always get annihilated by kids who had voices that were cracking, but I played! Humans have been competing in sports for thousand…
 
The Industrial Revolution gave us the rise of factories all over the world in the 1800s. Life was moving faster and we were engineering complex solutions to mass produce items. And many expanded from there to engineer complex solutions for simple problems. Cartoonist Heath Robinson harnessed the reaction from normal humans to this changing world in…
 
A honeypot is basically a computer made to look like a sweet, yummy bit of morsel that a hacker might find yummy mcyummersons. This is the story of one of the earliest on the Internet. Clifford Stoll has been a lot of things. He was a teacher and a ham operator and appears on shows. And an engineer at a radio station. And he was an astronomer. But …
 
The Friday after Thanksgiving to the Monday afterwards is a bonanza of shopping in the United States, where capitalism runs wild with reckless abandon. It’s almost a symbol of a society whose identity is as intertwined with with rampant consumerism as it is with freedom and democracy. We are free to spend all our gold pieces. And once upon a time, …
 
In the previous episodes, we looked at the rise of patents and software and their impact on the nascent computer industry. But a copyright is a right. And that right can be given to others in whole or in part. We have all benefited from software where the right to copy was waved and it’s shaped the computing industry as much, if not more, than prop…
 
Perl was started by Larry Wall in 1987. Unisys had just released the 2200 series and only a few years stopped using the name UNIVAC for any of their mainframes. They merged with Burroughs the year before to form Unisys. The 2200 was a continuation of the 36-bit UNIVAC 1107, which went all the way back to 1962. Wall was one of the 100,000 employees …
 
John Von Neumann was born in Hungary at the tail end of the Astro-Hungarian Empire. The family was made a part of the nobility and as a young prodigy in Budapest, He learned languages and by 8 years old was doing calculus. By 17 he was writing papers on polynomials. He wrote his dissertation in 1925 he added to set theory with the axiom of foundati…
 
Fitbit was founded in 2007, originally as Healthy Metrics Research, Inc, by James Park and Eric Friedman. They had a goal to bring fitness trackers to market. They didn’t invent the pedometer and in fact wanted to go far further. That prize goes to Abraham-Louis Perrelet of Switzerland in 1780 or possibly back to da Vinci. And there are stories of …
 
Jay Miner was born in 1932 in Arizona. He got his Bachelor of Science at the University of California at Berkeley and helped design calculators that used the fancy new MOS chips where he cut his teeth doing microprocessor design, which put him working on the MOS 6500 series chips. Atari decided to use those in the VCS gaming console and so he ended…
 
Gene Amdahl grew up in South Dakota and as with many during the early days of computing went into the Navy during World War II. He got his degree from South Dakota State in 1948 and went on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for his PhD, where he got the bug for computers in 1952, joining the ranks of IBM that year. At IBM he worked on the icon…
 
DTSS, or The Dartmouth Time Sharing System, began at Dartmouth College in 1963. That was the same year Project MAC started at MIT, which is where we got Multics, which inspired Unix. Both contributed in their own way to the rise of the Time Sharing movement, an era in computing when people logged into computers over teletype devices and ran computi…
 
We talk about a lot of immigrants in this podcast. There’s the Hungarian mathemeticians and scientists that helped usher in the nuclear age and were pivotal in the early days of computing. There are the Germans who found a safe haven in the US following World War II. There are a number of Jewish immigrants who fled persecution, like Jack Tramiel - …
 
Ross Perot built two powerhouse companies and changed the way politicians communicate with their constituents. Perot was an Eagle Scout who went on to join the US Naval Academy in 1949, and served in the Navy until the late 1950s. He then joined the IBM sales organization and one year ended up meeting his quota in the second week of the year. He ha…
 
The Osborne Effect isn’t an episode about Spider-Man that covers turning green or orange and throwing bombs off little hoverboards. Instead it’s about the impact of The Osborne 1 computer on the history of computers. Although many might find discussing the Green Goblin or Hobgoblin much more interesting. The Osborne 1 has an important place in the …
 
Chess is a game that came out of 7th century India, originally called chaturanga. It evolved over time, perfecting the rules - and spread to the Persians from there. It then followed the Moorish conquerers from Northern Africa to Spain and from there spread through Europe. It also spread from there up into Russia and across the Silk Road to China. …
 
The Soviet Union detonated their first nuclear bomb in 1949, releasing 20 kilotons worth of an explosion and sparking the nuclear arms race. A weather reconnaissance mission confirmed that the Soviets did so and Klaus Fuchs was arrested for espionage, after passing blueprints for the Fat Man bomb that had been dropped on Japan. A common name in the…
 
IBM is the company with nine lives. They began out of the era of mechanical and electro-mechanical punch card computing. They helped bring the mainframe era to the commercial market. They played their part during World War II. They helped make the transistorized computer mainstream with the S360. They helped bring the PC into the home. We’ve covere…
 
Today's episode on spam is read by the illustrious Joel Rennich. Spam is irrelevant or inappropriate and unsolicited messages usually sent to a large number of recipients through electronic means. And while we probably think of spam as something new today, it’s worth noting that the first documented piece of spam was sent in 1864 - through the tele…
 
The simple story of Yahoo! Is that they were an Internet search company that came out of Stanford during the early days of the web. They weren’t the first nor the last. But they represent a defining moment in the rise of the web as we know it today, when there was enough content out there that there needed to be an easily searchable catalog of cont…
 
What is the nature of innovation? Is it overhearing a conversation as with Morse and the telegraph? Working with the deaf as with Bell? Divine inspiration? Necessity? Science fiction? Or given that the answer to all of these is yes, is it really more the intersectionality between them and multiple basic and applied sciences with deeper understandin…
 
Once upon a time, people were computers. It’s probably hard to imagine teams of people spending their entire day toiling in large grids of paper, writing numbers and calculating numbers by hand or with mechanical calculators, and then writing more numbers and then repeating that. But that’s the way it was before the 1979. The term spreadsheet comes…
 
Microsoft went from a fledgeling purveyor of a BASIC for the Altair to a force to be reckoned with. The biggest growth hack was when they teamed up with IBM to usher in the rise of the personal computer. They released apps and an operating system and by licensing DOS to anyone (not just IBM) and then becoming the dominant OS they allowed clone make…
 
The amount published in scientific journals has exploded over the past few hundred years. This helps in putting together a history of how various sciences evolved. And sometimes helps us revisit areas for improvement - or predict what’s on the horizon. The rise of computers often begins with stories of Babbage. As we’ve covered a lot came before hi…
 
Investors have pumped capital into emerging markets since the beginning of civilization. Egyptians explored basic mathematics and used their findings to build larger structures and even granaries to allow merchants to store food and serve larger and larger cities. Greek philosophers expanded on those learnings and applied math to learn the orbits o…
 
Author Albert Cory joins the podcast in this episode to talk about his new book, Inventing the Future. Inventing the Future was a breath of fresh air from an inspirational time and person. Other books have told the story of how the big names in computing were able to commercialize many of the innovations that came out of Xerox PARC. But Inventing t…
 
Roy Allen opened his first root beer stand in 1919, in Lodi, California. He’d bought a recipe for root beer and boy, it sure was a hit. He brought in people to help. One was Frank Wright, who would become a partner in the endeavor and they’d change the name to A&W Root Beer, for their names, and open a restaurant in 1923 in Sacramento, California. …
 
The Internet is not a simple story to tell. In fact, every sentence here is worthy of an episode if not a few. Many would claim the Internet began back in 1969 when the first node of the ARPAnet went online. That was the year we got the first color pictures of earthen from Apollo 10 and the year Nixon announced the US was leaving Vietnam. It was al…
 
Nearly everything is fine in moderation. Plastics exploded as an industry in the post World War II boom of the 50s and on - but goes back far further. A plastic is a category of materials called a polymer. These are materials comprised of long chains of molecules that can be easily found in nature because cellulose, the cellular walls of plants, co…
 
The largest global power during the rise of intellectual property was England, so the world adopted her philosophies. The US had the same impact on software law. Most case law that shaped the software industry is based on copyright law. Our first real software laws appeared in the 1970s and now have 50 years of jurisprudence to help guide us. This …
 
Once upon a time, the right to copy text wasn’t really necessary. If one had a book, one could copy the contents of the book by hiring scribes to labor away at the process and books were expensive. Then came the printing press. Now, the printer of a work would put a book out and another printer could set their press up to reproduce the same text. M…
 
Texts are sent and received using SMS, or Short Message Service. Due to the amount of bandwidth available on second generation networks, they were limited to 160 characters initially. You know the 140 character max from Twitter, we are so glad you chose to join us on this journey where we weave our way from the topmast of the 1800s to the skinny je…
 
Java, Ruby, PHP, Go. These are web applications that dynamically generate code then interpreted as a file by a web browser. That file is rarely static these days and the power of the web is that an app or browser can reach out and obtain some data, get back some xml or json or yaml, and provide an experience to a computer, mobile device, or even em…
 
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