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Posts Tagged ‘IBM

“Don’t believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.”*…

 

Just a month ago, it was revealed that Facebook has more than two billion active monthly users. That means that in any given month, more than 25% of Earth’s population logs in to their Facebook account at least once.

This kind of scale is almost impossible to grasp.

Here’s one attempt to put it in perspective: imagine Yankee Stadium’s seats packed with 50,000 people, and multiply this by a factor of 40,000. That’s about how many different people log into Facebook every month worldwide.

The Yankee Stadium analogy sort of helps, but it’s still very hard to picture. The scale of the internet is so great, that it doesn’t make sense to look at the information on a monthly basis, or even to use daily figures.

Instead, let’s drill down to just what happens in just one internet minute…

More at “What Happens in an Internet Minute in 2017?

And for a cogent consideration of what all this might mean, see “You Are the Product.”

* Douglas Adams

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As we retreat behind the firewall, we might recall that it was on this date in 1980 that The Project Chess team at IBM showed a prototype microcomputer to their corporate management. Management gave approval– and a one-year deadline– for the team to build an operational computer to compete in the rapidly emerging personal computer market. One year and 4 days later, the IBM PC was introduced to the world… and the rest is history.

 source

 

Written by LW

August 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“In any field, it is easy to see who the pioneers are — they are the ones lying face down with arrows in their backs”*…

 

The story of Vector Graphic, a personal computer company that outran Apple in their early days: “How Two Bored 1970s Housewives Helped Create the PC Industry.”

* Anonymous

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As we try to remember what “CP/M” stood for, we might recall that it was on this date in 1991 (on the anniversary of the issuing of IBM’s first patent in 1911) that  Microsoft Corp. for the first time reported revenues of more than $1 billion for its fiscal year (1990), the first software company ever to achieve that scale.  While in this age of ‘unicorns,” a billion dollars in revenue seems a quaint marker, that was real money at the time.

As readers who followed the link above will know, Microsoft, founded in 1975, was an early purveyor of the CP/M operating system on which the Vector ran; but (unlike Vector) Gates and Allen embraced IBM’s new architecture, creating DOS (for younger readers: the forerunner of Windows)… and laying the foundation for Microsoft’s extraordinary growth.

Bill Gates in 1990

 source

 

Written by LW

July 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

I for one welcome our new computer overlords…

source

In the aftermath of Watson’s triumph over humanity’s best, your correspondent thought it wise to remind readers (and himself) that this is not the first time that we mortals have faced the onslaught of astounding new technology.

The good folks at Dark Roasted Blend have compiled a nifty through-the-ages recap of attempts to create “life” in new-fangled ways; from Leonardo’s “robot” and John Dee’s “flying beetle” to an “steam-powered hiker” and an “electric milk man” from Victorian England, there’s quite a selection in “Amazing Automatons: Ancient Robots & Victorian Androids.”

It’s all fascinating; but the sweet spot is surely the selection of creations from the 18th (and early 19th) centuries, when the then-highly-developed crafts of metal working and watchmaking were turned to automata.  Consider, for example…

Jacques Vaucason created numerous working figures, including a flute player, which actually played the instrument, in 1738, plus this duck from 1739. The gilded copper bird could sit, stand, splash around in water, quack and even give the impression of eating food and digesting it.

Pierre Jaquet-Doz created three automata, The Writer, The Draughtsman and The Musician, which are still considered scientific marvels today. The Draughtsman is capable of producing four distinct pictures, while the Writer dips his pen in the ink and can write as many as forty letters. The Musician’s fingers actually play the organ and the figure ends her performance with a bow.

More, at Dark Roasted Blend.

As we remind ourselves to re-read Kevin Kelly’s excellent What Technology Wants and then to retake the Turing Test, we might stage a dramatic memorial dramatist and scenic innovator James Morrison Steele (“Steele”) MacKaye; he died on this date in 1894.  He opened the Madison Square Theatre in 1879, where he created a huge elevator with two stages stacked one on top of the other so that elaborate furnishings could be changed quickly between scenes. MacKaye was the first to light a New York theatre– the Lyceum, which he founded in 1884– entirely by electricity. And he invented and installed overhead and indirect stage lighting, movable stage wagons, artificial ventilation, the disappearing orchestra pit, and folding seats. In all, MacKaye patented over a hundred inventions, mostly for the improvement of theatrical production and its experience.

Steele MacKaye

Let’s get small…

Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer, inventors of the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (source: IBM)

Twenty years ago, technicians at IBM’s Almaden Research Lab pulled a nifty stunt with their scanning tunneling microscope (STM).  IBM scientists had invented the STM nine years earlier in IBM’s Zurich Lab (and received a Nobel prize for it in 1996); while the STM was originally intended simply to create visualizations of things very, very tiny, the folks at Almaden realized that the technique used– it “felt” the atoms in question with similarly-charged particles, then mapped the object– could be reversed:  the STM could change it’s charge, “pin” an atom, and move it…  The first illustration– and, some argue, the first example of “practical” nanotechnology– was this IBM logo, “written” in xenon atoms:

source: IBM

Over the last two decades, the STM has become a critical tool for chip makers, enabling them to perfect  current DRAM and flash memories.  Now, the folks at Almaden, still pushing the limits of their gear, they’ve turned their STMs into slo-mo movie cameras, and captured the atomic process of setting and erasing a bit on a single atom– that’s to say, of the operation of a single-atom DRAM.

Practical applications- atomic memories, better solar cells, and ultimately, atomic scale quantum computers– are, of course, some way off… but Moore’s Law seems safe for awhile.

Read all about it in EE Times.

As we drop the needle on that Steve Martin album, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that the Model T went on sale; it cost $825 (roughly equivalent to $20,000) today.  Ford’s advances in the technologies used both in the car and in its manufacture, along with economies of scale,  resulted in  steady price reductions over the next decade: by the 1920s, the price had fallen to $290 (equivalent to roughly $3,250 today).

1908 advertisement

Where’s the Beef?…

Photographer Dominic Episcopo is a man of ecumenical enthusiasms– fashion, reportage and editorial, portraiture… and food.  Not content with simple still life, “The United Steaks of America” makes his meat do double duty…

As we proclaim “well done,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that the first test program in FORTRAN ran.  FORTRAN (The IBM Mathematical Formula Translating System) was the first successful general purpose programming language, the first real alternative to assembly language.  It reduced the number of programming statements necessary to operate a machine by a factor of 20, so quickly gained acceptance.  It’s still in use, especially in high-performance computing.

FORTRAN coded on a punch card

Your correspondent is headed to parts distant, where connectivity is likely to be an issue.  So these missives won’t resume, at least at anything like their normal rhythm, for a week or so

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