07 November 2014

Soft tech

Paul Ford runs emulators of old PCs and ponders sitting on the porch.
The Alto was arguably the first modern general-purpose computer — a big screen, modern software, and you used a mouse to point. It was never generally available but it was the Velvet Underground of computers, in that everyone who saw it went on to make their own computer industry.
things magazine

05 November 2014


Wendy DuBow introduces the National Center for Women & Information Technology in a short piece (paywalled, alas) for IEEE Computer Society's Computer. One focus of the Center's activity is an interesting one: helping employers to retain women who otherwise would drop out of the computing work force mid-career.
It's important not to underestimate the power of simply saying... "You did well on this project."

27 October 2014

Any color is a good choice, so long as it's black

Nicolas P. Rougier et al. offer "Ten Simple Rules for Better Figures." The one that I tend to forget: Captions Are Not Optional. And the TL;DR version of the paper is captured by the first two rules: Know Your Audience and Identify Your Message.

24 October 2014

Blame Charlie Chaplin

Steve Henn makes a provocative hypothesis. He notes the time-correlation between the dropoff in women majoring in computer science, which began in about 1984, and the rise of home PCs, marketed predominantly to men and boys.
In the 1990s, researcher Jane Margolis interviewed hundreds of computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University, which had one of the top programs in the country. She found that families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls — even when their girls were really interested in computers.

This was a big deal when those kids got to college. As personal computers became more common, computer science professors increasingly assumed that their students had grown up playing with computers at home.

20 October 2014


A nice interactive visualization of how basic logic gates work, and how they can be combined to make a simple computer. And now I think I understand why we call it a latch.