Posts tagged “MIT”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Did My Brother Invent E-Mail With Tom Van Vleck? [] – [Errol Morris' series is a fascinating. personal history of computer technology.] Batch processing…was like taking your clothes to the laundromat. You’d take your job in, and leave it in the input bins. The staff people would prerecord it onto these magnetic tapes, they would be run by the computer. The output would be printed. This cycle would take at best, several hours. It was maddening, because when you’re working on a complicated program, you can make a trivial slip-up ­ you left out a comma or something ­ and the program would crash. You would try very hard to be careful, but you didn’t always make it…A process that could take a week, weeks, months. People began to advocate a different tactic called time-sharing. Have people at typewriter-like terminals. It certainly seemed feasible. But no manufacturer knew how to do it. And the vendors were not terribly interested, because it was like suggesting to an automobile manufacturer that they go into the airplane business.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices [] – [This review of Frank Moss's new book about the MIT Media Lab includes commentary on Moss's exaltation of "undisciplined" and "antidisciplinary" methods and their single-minded application of science in the service of developing devices and machines, at the expense of more traditional research methods.] Everything looks promising and possible at the demonstration and prototyping stage, when even sponsors may be willing to excuse the recalcitrant model hastily assembled to meet a deadline. But what will be the long-term implications of antidisciplined and undisciplined new technology that might be loosed upon the world? Do either sorcerers or apprentices caught up in the rush of casting spells have the time to ponder the consequences of their magic? Frank Moss appears to be aware of the potential problems with rapidly expanding technology. He has said that "today, society is awash in digital affordances" but admits that "paradoxically, we feel less in control of our lives."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Waldo Hunt, 88, dies; repopularized pop-up books in 1960s – "He was such an important publisher of pop-up books who really advanced them technically. The pop-up designers who worked for him were amazing creative engineers," said Cynthia Burlingham, director of the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum of UCLA.

    The first golden age of movable books began in the late 1800s, when European publishers crafted elaborate books for children, and ended with the onset of World War I. With Mr. Hunt's epiphany, the second golden age was about to begin.

    "I knew I'd found the magic key," Mr. Hunt said. "No one was doing pop-ups in this country. No one could afford to make them here. They had to be done by hand, and labor was too expensive."

    He started Graphics International, and produced a series of pop-up ads featuring zoo scenes as part of a magazine campaign for Wrigley's gum. Soon, his company was creating pop-up table decorations and greeting cards for Hallmark.

  • Electronic Popable Books from MIT – Electronic popables integrate paper-based electronic sensors that allow amazing interactivity — turning on lights and moving images at the touch of a finger. Will it catch on or will the line between printing on paper and electronic media become so blurred that consumers will opt to watch the story on a screen?
  • StoryCorps: National Day of Listening – On the day after Thanksgiving, set aside one hour to record a conversation with someone important to you. You can interview anyone you choose: an older relative, a friend, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood.

    You can preserve the interview using recording equipment readily available in most homes, such as cell phones, tape recorders, computers, or even pen and paper. Our free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide is easy to use and will prepare you and your interview partner to record a memorable conversation, no matter which recording method you choose.

    Make a yearly tradition of listening to and preserving a loved one’s story. The stories you collect will become treasured keepsakes that grow more valuable with each passing generation.
    (via BoingBoing)

  • London 2009 – a set on Flickr – My London pictures from our recent visit
  • Every year, The Harris Poll asks a cross-section of adults whether they think about 20 leading industries do a good or a bad job of serving their consumers. – Note that the cable industry regularly appears on this poll as doing a bad job.
  • Time Warner insincerely and manipulatively asks customers to "vote" if it should "get tough" or "roll over" – Facing expiring deals with a number of key programmers, the nation's second-largest cable operator is launching a Web site,, which it says is designed to give its subscribers a voice in what it calls unfair price demands by content suppliers. Time Warner says those who operate broadcast and cable networks are asking for "incredible price hikes," as much as 300%. Customers will be able to vote on whether the operator rolls over, or should get tough, about price increases.

    "You're our customers, so help us decide what to do. We're just one company, but there are millions of you. Together, we just might be able to make a difference in what America pays for its favorite entertainment."

I love memes

I heart memes license plate, California, 2009

And who doesn’t. We all want to belong somewhere. Even if it’s in an alternate subcultural universe, it’s comforting to know that your thoughts are connected somehow to the hive mind.

For anyone wanting a walk down short-term memory lane, The Internet Meme Database should suffice. And for those who want it live and in-concert, MIT will be hosting the second ROFLCon Internet culture conference in April 2010.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Universities reject Kindle over inaccessibility for the blind – The National Federation for the Blind said Wednesday that while it appreciates the Kindle's text-to-speech feature, the "menus of the device are not accessible to the blind…making it impossible for a blind user to purchase books from Amazon's Kindle store, select a book to read, activate the text-to-speech feature, and use the advanced reading functions available on the Kindle DX."

    "The big disappointment was learning that the Kindle DX is not accessible to the blind," Ken Frazier, the University of Wisconsin-Madison director of libraries, said in a statement. "Advancements in text-to-speech technology have created a market opportunity for an e-book reading device that is fully accessible for everyone. This version of the Kindle e-book reader missed the mark."

  • ‘Sesame Street’ Responds to Dispute – An executive for Sesame Workshop said a segment on the show that upset political conservatives was “equal-opportunity parody” that made fun of both CNN and Fox News. The skit featured Oscar the Grouch as a reporter for the Grouch News Network (or GNN). When his work upsets a female viewer and fellow Grouch, she tells Oscar: “From now on I am watching Pox News. Now there’s a trashy news show!” Some conservative bloggers called the comment a veiled shot at Fox News, and Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, wrote that “Sesame Street” producers should have avoided the joke. Miranda Barry, an executive vice president at Sesame Workshop, responded that “no political comment or comment about Fox News, subtle or overt, was intended.” Having the “grumpy, grouchy, contrarian Oscar” on “Sesame Street,” Ms. Barry wrote, “shows kids that you can listen to someone with a very different worldview, and even be friends with them, without losing your own perspective.
  • The Media Lab | Center for Future Storytelling – Storytelling is fundamental to being human: it's how we share our experiences, learn from our past, and imagine our future. With the establishment of the Media Lab's Center for Future Storytelling, the Media Lab, together with Plymouth Rock Studios, is rethinking what "storytelling" will be in the 21st century. The Center will take a dynamic new approach to storytelling, developing new creative methods, technologies, and learning programs that recognize and respond to the changing communications landscape. The Center will examine ways for transforming storytelling into social experiences, creating expressive tools for the audience and enabling people from all walks of life to embellish and integrate stories into their lives, making tomorrow's stories more interactive, creative, democratized, and improvisational.

Robot Redux

Given my recent post about robots, I thought it worth a mention that today is the birthday of Karel Capek, the Czech writer who first introduced the term “Robot” to the world in his 1921 play R.U.R. (Although Karel is widely credited as the inventor of the word, it was actually his brother Josef who coined the term.)

For all you fans of artificial intelligence–if you’re ever in the Boston area, be sure to check out the MIT museum’s ongoing Robots and Beyond exhibit. It’s a fascinating collection of A.I.-related artifacts, films and actual machines.


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