Smartphones, Except Landlocked
> Phone lines, while not initially designed to transfer binary data, turned out to be a good enough way to do so—up until the 2000s, at least. From sending faxes to browsing the Internet, people relied on effectively the same copper wires they used with Ma Bell-leased telephones. But while most of the personal tech evolved towards greater connectivity, landline phones mostly got better only at the ergonomics of calling and dialing. Today’s Tedium is dedicated to the few ones which dared to be smarter.
Plus this great anecdote:
> The mild criticism (“not proving the success that Sir Alan Sugar had hoped” was all that was ever written about the phone) pushed Sugar to send a message to all 95,000 service subscribers, asking them to send an email to Charles Arthur, the newspaper’s tech editor.
ASCII table and history
> To understand why Control+i inserts a Tab in your terminal you need to understand ASCII, and to understand ASCII you need know a bit about its history and the world it was developed in. Please bear with me (or just go the table).
> Most teleprinters communicated using the ITA2 protocol. For the most part this would just encode the alphabet, but there are a few control codes: WRU (“Who R U”) would cause the receiving teleprinter to send back its identification, BEL would ring a bell, and it had the familiar CR (Carriage Return) and LF (Line Feed).
Spacewar - Fanatic Life and Symbolic Death Among the Computer Bums
> 7 December 1972
An account of the first computer game tournament.
> The trend owes its health to an odd array of influences: The youthful fervor and firm dis-Establishmentarianism of the freaks who design computer science; an astonishingly enlightened research program from the very top of the Defense Department; an unexpected market-Banking movement by the manufacturers of small calculating machines, and an irrepressible midnight phenomenon known as Spacewar.
> Reliably, at any nighttime moment (i.e. non-business hours) in North America hundreds of computer technicians are effectively out of their bodies, locked in life-or-death space combat computer-projected onto cathode ray tube display screens, for hours at a time, ruining their eyes, numbing their fingers in frenzied mashing of control buttons, joyously slaying their friend and wasting their employers’ valuable computer time. Something basic is going on.
Plus the beginnings of Xerox PARC.
> “You get just a few more agates in that group and you’ll have all the marbles.”
> The chief marble collector is - well, well - Bob Taylor. When he left the newly restricted ARPA he spent a year at Utah decompressing from the Pentagon and then went to Xerox and there continued his practice of finding and rewarding good men for doing pretty much whatever they considered important work. Freedom to explore in the company of talent is an irresistible lure. In two years Xerox had twenty of the best men around working. Toward what? Well, whatever.
A followup from 2016: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/stewart-brand-recalls-first-spacewar-video-game-tournament-187669/
The Internet's Old Guard
> So we gathered around a circle of old timers and listened to them reminisce. The man who’d called the gathering guided the conversation. It slowly dawned on me that he was Lee Felsenstein, who’d set up the first public-access computer in Berkeley and helped start the Homebrew Computer Club, which incubated Apple and the personal computer. He was managing this conversation with the skills he’d learned from moderating the HCC meetings for years. I’d read about his story in Steven Levy’s book Hackers. Sometimes you’re reminded that history isn’t something that happened elsewhere, it’s an ongoing story we’re still living in.
Plus some other characters.
Survey of Alternative Displays
> The purpose of this article is to collect and consolidate a list of these alternative methods of working with displays, light and optics. This will by no means be an exhaustive list of the possibilities available — depending on how you categorize, there could be dozens or hundreds of ways. There are historical mainstays, oddball one-offs, expensive failures and techniques that are only beginning to come into their own.
There’s more to life than the LCD.
Interview with Bill Joy
> The following interview is taken from the August 1984 issue of Unix Review magazine.
A lot of text editor history here, featuring of course, vi.
> I think it killed the performance on a lot of the systems in the Labs for years because everyone had their own copy of it, but it wasn’t being shared, and so they wasted huge amounts of memory back when memory was expensive. With 92 people in the Labs maintaining vi independently, I think they ultimately wasted incredible amounts of money. I was surprised about vi going in, though, I didn’t know it was in System V. I learned about it being in System V quite a while after it had come out.
Plus some commentary on other topics.
> The point is that you want to have a system that is responsive. You don’t want a car that talks to you. I’ll never buy a car that says, “Good morning.” The neat thing about UNIX is that it is very responsive. You just say, “A pipe to B” - it doesn’t blather at you that “execution begins,” or “execution terminated, IEFBR14.”
> The trouble is that UNIX is not accessible, not transparent in the way that Interleaf is, where you sit down and start poking around in the menu and explore the whole system. Someone I know sat down with a Macintosh and a Lisa and was disappointed because, in a half hour, he explored the whole system and there wasn’t as much as he thought. That’s true, but the point is in half an hour, almost without a manual you can know which button to push and you can find nearly everything. Things don’t get lost. I think that’s the key.
The AI of GoldenEye 007
> GoldenEye 007: one of the most influential games of all time. A title that defined a generation of console gaming and paved the way forward for first-person shooters in the console market. In this article I’m winding the clock back over 20 years to learn the secrets of how one of the Nintendo 64’s most beloved titles built friendly and enemy AI that is still held in high regard today.
A literary appreciation of the Olson/Zoneinfo/tz database
> What I didn’t appreciate, until I finally unzipped and untarred a copy of ftp://elsie.nci.nih.gov/pub/tzdata2009o.tar.gz, is the historical scholarship scribbled in the margins of this remarkable database, or document, or hybrid of the two.
Zelda Screen Transitions are Undefined Behaviour
> The vertical scrolling effect in the original “The Legend of Zelda” relies on manipulating the NES graphics hardware in a manor likely that was unintended by its designers.
Adventures In Interactivity
> That book was Creating Adventure Games on Your Computer by Tim Hartnell. The book taught me how to make rudimentary text adventure games on my Apple ][ as a kid and prompted a recent adventure of revisiting the classic text adventures of the past. So grab a torch and get your map making tools ready because today’s Tedium is an exploration of text adventures through the years. Try not to get eaten by a grue along the way.
New Emails, Old Tech
> What makes an email different from a web page? Depending on how it’s presented, not a lot—but they also might be miles apart. Things that might have taken a few minutes to lay out for a website can take significantly longer to do when targeting an email client, and with a lot of pain in the middle. With that in mind, I felt like it was good to talk a little bit about the process that goes into email, and where it’s really falling short. Today’s Tedium is an email … about email. Particularly where it needs a little modernizing.
Why was Windows for Workgroups pejoratively nicknamed Windows for Warehouses?
> Windows for Workgroups came with a network card, instructions for installing it, and even a screwdriver to assist with the installation. Now, there were two network cable standards at the time: BNC and 10Base-T. The network card that came with Windows for Workgroups 3.10 used BNC, which turned out to be the loser in the standards battle.
GeoWorks GEOS History - The Other Windows
> Back in the early ’90s, it wasn’t a sure thing that Microsoft Windows was going to take over the market, even though they had a clear lead over many of their competitors, thanks to MS-DOS. In fact, one of the iconic GUI-based experiences of the era, AOL, hedged its bets for a while, creating and maintaining a DOS version of its iconic pseudo-internet software using an GUI platform few were familiar with: GeoWorks. It was an operating system for an era when it wasn’t even a sure thing we’d have a modem. Today, we do a dive into the world of GEOS. It’s a pretty fascinating place.
Reading the Manual for ENIAC, the World’s First Electronic Computer
> It seems like the machine was temperamental. For example, it warns that the DC power should never be turned on without first turning the operation switch to “continuous.”
> “Failure to follow this rule causes certain DC fuses to blow, -240 and -415 in particular.”
> But the consequences are even worse if you opened the DC fuse cabinet when the D.C. power was turned on. “This not only exposes a person to voltage differences of around 1,500 volts but the person may be burned by flying pieces of molten fuse wire” (if one of the fuse cases suddenly blew). In fact, the ENIAC was actually designed with a door switch shunt that prevented it from operating if one of its panel doors was open, “since removing the doors exposes dangerous voltage.” But this feature could be bypassed by holding the door switch shunt in its closed position.
From Punched Cards To Flat Screens
> When I retired at the end of September 2007, I knew I would be expected to make a speech at the retirement lunch. Looking back over the 40 years that I had been part of the computing community in Cambridge, it struck me again just how much change there had been, and also how many different areas of computing I had worked in. For the younger colleagues who listened to my speech, the early years must seem like ancient history.
How OS/2 Powered the NYC Subway
> Vintage technology has powered the innards of the NYC subway system for decades—and sometimes, it surfaces in interesting ways. This one’s for you, OS/2 fans.
Vintage TV Test Patterns
> As you might expect, the BBC test card with the girl and clown has both a backstory and a cult following.
A history of S_IFMT
> The question I’m going to answer in this post is not why 4 bits are used, but why they’re used the way they are. If you have a look at the standard file types, their values seem pretty arbitrary, when you might expect a simple count upwards.
Quake II gets free real-time raytracing updates on June 6
> Windows and Linux users will be able to download the first three levels of the graphically updated game as shareware starting at 6am Pacific Time on June 6. You can play the remaining levels and multiplayer if you point the installer to a legit copy of the full game on your hard drive. The source code for the Vulkan-based update will be posted on Github as well, though Quake II expansion packs will not be supported without extra effort from the community.
Buying an IBM Mainframe
> This post is about buying an IBM z114 mainframe (picture 1) but should translate well to any of the IBM mainframes from z9 to z14.
> Buying a mainframe takes time. I never spent so much time on a purchase before. In fact - I purchased my first apartment with probably less planning and research. Compared to buying an apartment you have no guard rails. You are left to your own devices to ensure the state of whatever thing you are buying as it likely is sold as-is. Unless you are buying refurbished the seller will likely have no idea of how to verify the item and might even lack the equipment to power it on.