23 December 2011

So long for now

The car for D.S. would pull up hereMy engagement here is complete, but they haven't asked me to return my badge just yet.

20 December 2011

Quick with a Sharpie

This is why I have loved working with this client for nearly three years: everyone here lives at the intersection of unstinting accuracy (I am acquainted with the copy editor who marked up the milk carton) and the willingness to share a joke. This is what Russell Baker called being serious, not solemn.

19 December 2011

Links roundup 2

More interesting links in the read-and-file pile.

16 December 2011

Soft launch

We're rolling out a new look for live events (music now, but next year, who knows?). The Tiny Desk Concerts are in the process of being migrated to this new wide-screen theater-like experience. As usual, my contributions were down in the gritty works, rather than up front. But I was very happy to be on the team.

13 December 2011

Links roundup

Lots of interesting material accumulating in my Instapaper account that I need to read and/or shuffle into my bookmarks repository and/or link to here.
  • Swizec Teller and his commenters have been working on coding a Turing machine in JavaScript in as little source code as possible. (I was about to write "as compactly as possible," but optimization in space and time of this little beastie is a project for another day.)
  • Man, I need me a Directive 1.
  • Wonderful vintage video of LEO, Lyons Electronic Office, placed into service 17 November 1951. LEO was built, not by a business machines manufacturer, but by J. Lyons & Co., a large British baking firm and chain of tea shops.
    LEO was such a success that Lyons set up a commercial subsidiary to sell spare time on LEO to other businesses, including the Ford Motor Company, which used it to process the payroll for the thousands of workers at its U.K. plant. Later, Lyons also built entirely new LEOs and sold them to other blue-chip companies of the era. In total, more than 70 LEOs were built, with the last remaining in service until the 1980s....
  • Peter Norvig gives a balanced appraisal of Christopher Strachey's "System Analysis and Programming," written for the September 1966 issue of Scientific American. In the original article (available online), Strachey walks through the process of analyzing, designing, and coding a program to play checkers. Unfortunately, Strachey probably never compiled (by hand: at the time, his high-level CPL language had no compiler, nor even a complete formal description) and executed his demonstration program, as it has typos and bugs. But the trick (borrowed from Arthur Samuel) that he uses to number the squares of a checkerboard is quite clever.
(Links via @NPRTechTeam, The Code Project, and others.)

07 December 2011


Nice recap by Warren Toomey of the genesis of the ultimate under-the-radar project, Unix.
But [Ken] Thompson and the others helping him knew that the PDP‑7, which was already obsolete, would not be able to sustain their skunkworks for long. They also knew that the lab's management wasn't about to allow any more research on operating systems.

So Thompson and [Dennis] Ritchie got crea­tive. They formulated a proposal to their bosses to buy one of DEC's newer minicomputers, a PDP-11, but couched the request in especially palatable terms. They said they were aiming to create tools for editing and formatting text, what you might call a word-processing system today. The fact that they would also have to write an operating system for the new machine to support the editor and text formatter was almost a footnote.