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.)

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