Buying a ticket onboard a NJ Transit train, the conductor returns a punched ticket/receipt – a present-day reminder of early computer programming and data storage.
A quick test today capturing the EMF output of my laptop. Thanks to Chris Manzione for helping with the motion capture.
If you cannot calculate, you cannot speculate on future pleasure and your life will not be that of a human, but that of an oyster or a jellyfish.
– Plato in Philebus
There is considerable evidence of the mainframe era, the rise of the PC, and the early internet, but the more mundane details of computing history are often lost to software updates and hardware trends. The era before digital computers, when “computer” meant a human performing calculation, has left considerable records of the “how” of this work: where it was done, for what purpose, and by whom. The work of scholars studying human computing, notably Grier and Campbell-Kelly, focuses on the social, political, and scientific aspects. We know the details of William Samuel Stratford’s Nautical Almanac in England and the long narrative of the Mathematical Tables Project in New York City, but little has been written on the physical infrastructures of human computing such as office layouts and furniture, or the ephemera like the worksheets used to complete calculations. Because most of the physical infrastructure exists only in snippets of written material or in the background of photographs, I will only sketch some of the physical objects used in human computing, and mostly focus on 20th-century projects.
This account omits discussion of mechanical, electronic, and digital computing aides for human computers. Those devices are well researched, and many artifacts and detailed descriptions exist. Instead, this essay focuses on the lost fragments of physical infrastructure, namely worksheets, offices and furniture, and posters and other ephemera.
Emails often contain 1×1-pixel, transparent, or tiny hidden images used to track that the email has been opened. Using a Python script, I gathered all 12,383 of them in my inbox and deleted mail folder into the image above. The black pixels on the bottom are the remainder of the pixels in the final row.
The above version is scaled up; see the pixel-accurate 111x112px version here.
Some random notes from Ted Nelson’s 1974 book Computer Lib/Dream Machines:
- “Computing has always been personal. By this I mean that if you weren’t intensely involved in it, sometimes with every fiber in your mind twitch, you weren’t doing computers, you were just a user.” (Computer Lib, page 3)
- “People talk about the “depersonalization” of computers. I want to emphasize the personalization of computers – that they, their programs, and languages, are designed by individuals, each with his or her own obsessions.” (Computer Lib, page 4)
- Mentions Ken Knowlton’s On the Frustrations of Collaborating with Artists – A Programmer’s Reflections (Computer Lib, page 399)
- “When you first sit at a computer terminal, the feeling is one of sheer terror. Sweat and chills, jumpiness and sudden clumsy nervous motions, lunatic absentmindedness, and stammering fear and awkwardness interfere with your ability to function or understand the person who is helping you. It’s perfectly normal.” (Dream Machines, page 11)
- “The computer display will be mankind’s new home.” (Dream Machines, page 13)
"Azimut" Production Association JSC
"RPC "Energoautomatika" Ltd
100fio networks technology llc
11wave Technonlogy Co.,Ltd
1394 PRINTER WORKING GROUP
1394 Trade Association
2 Save Energy Ltd
2001 Technology Inc.
2276427 Ontario Inc
27M Technologies AB
2C - Trifonov & Co
Read the full list of 16k OUIs here: https://gist.github.com/jeffThompson/619bc8612bbd03fa22c3
Cross-sections of various “micrometeorite” classifications.