Monthly Archive for October, 2009

IBM's propaganda wars


Right in the middle of  Beyer’s chapter on Howard Aiken, there is this amazing comparison between what Grace Hopper  wrote about Aiken’s role regarding the invention of his baby Mark I  & what was published by IBM at the same time.  IBM, even at the close of WWII set a tone with its propaganda where the company, rather than individuals are responsible for technological innovation.  Will I get in trouble if I compare IBM to The Borge?

This chapter also discusses the parallels between the Aiken/Hopper relationship and the Babbage/Lovelace relationship.  Can you imagine, I had no idea there were all these women involved before I started this project?!  Shame!

Which reminds me,  I owe Rosemarie Reed a letter of support for her PBS documentary about Ada Lovelace.  You should write one too.

Oh, and David Allen was here yesterday from Palo Alto. We caught a beer after my class.  I still look up to him like a 13 year old kid looks up to an 18 year old boy… blink, blink… smile.


Hugh McLeod 'Tried Meaningful'

Hugh’s Trackback


Another new arrival

My new copy of Howard Aiken: Portrait of a Computer Pioneer arrived from Amizon today. Ken Iverson is referenced on pages 193, 205-208, 216-217 & 237.

I was all excited to find it in my door when I got home from work today.  And then I read my mail and found out about Donald.  Now, I’m just sad.

It’s time for me to move it.  Do you get me, folks?


Donald McIntyre

Roger Hui’s post in comp.lang.apl.

I’m sorry.


A truth about stories or what the heck?

The truth about stories is that they exist within a context. 

The truth about documentaries is that they take the perspective of the person writing them.  Of course, we try to be as true to the subject and as objective as possible.   Ultimately, though, when I write a story, it is, by definition, a story told through my eyes. 

As a documentary evolves, more people contribute and the perspective of the film broadens.  To a point.

So, when my dad asked, “What does Homeland Security have to do with APL?”

I flippantly answered, “Me.”


Amazing Grace

I’m still learning from Beyer’s biography of Grace Hopper.  Beyer does a good job of including just enough technical information about Harvard’s first computer (Mark I) and it’s 750,000 moving parts [p.46] to be interesting, but not too much to be incomprehensible or boring.

He also talks about the social context in which the work was being done at Harvard, with Howard Aiken at the helm a decade before Ken arrived.  I’m now wondering what Jean Iverson has to say about Ken’s time at Harvard.  She’ll tell me, but sadly,  not on camera.

Lucky me!

Oh – and…

P.S. I happened to notice that no one looked at the new page I added to this blog: “APL Online”.   It’s a special thanks page to Roger Hui for all the hard work he has done to maintain the volumes of articles published over the years.  And if you don’t know what I’m taking about, you should definitely look at this page.


WordPress spam filter 168, Catherine -4

Damn! I approved 4 sneaky spams!

I was pondering why the heck Roger could post comments when the other guys got caught by my Spam filter.  When *ping* a flash of insight.  Hmmmm, that post sounds just like another…  Hey, it’s the same as another… Duh!

So, I took that spam down.  Sorry folks.

I’m thinking I will Digitise more of the Dyalog conference tonight. Get that done.  And work some on my demo for the film…

Tomorrow I’ll be at Loco Burrito, for just 1 hour at lunch.

As for my visit to US Homeland Security…

My trip to Homeland Security was interesting.  On the American side, everyone was polite and helpful.  I felt  an understanding that there are a lot of reasons a Refugee could get kicked out of Canada, no need to judge or be nasty.

The Canadians on the other hand, were rude as hell, treated me like I was abetting a criminal.  In fact, they wouldn’t let me back into Canada.  No kidding.  So I was stuck in that in between space like that Airport movie with Tom Hanks.  Thankfully, the US let me back in on their side.  When I explained the problem to the US customs agent, he said, Clothing? Weird. I guess he’s not going back.

Not without a fight.

I mailed the stuff to my sister in Ohio.  And on my second attempted to come home, the custom’s man was very nice, What’s wrong?

He asked.  So I told him, refraining from using the B-word.  He just shook his head.

I continued, And they told me, you’re going to check my car, so go ahead.

Do you have anything in your car? He asked.

Nope. Nothing.

Go home, sweetheart. And he waved me through.

Barred from my own country! humph! Fine.  Gasoline on the fire.


My next mission or what a mess

My next mission is to do a complete history interview with Adin Falkoff.

One of the amazing and wonderful things about Kurt W. Beyer’s Grace Hopper biography is that he talks a lot about how he conducted his research.   It turns out there have been three History of Programming conferences in 1978, 1993 & 2001.  And the Smithsonian has a bunch of stuff, as of course does the Charles Babbage Institute.  All very helpful information.

In fact, I’m going to take a hot bath, and then curl up with the book right now.

Tomorrow, at the crack of dawn, I go to the border and pick-up my friend’s stuff from the US Homeland Security people.  I have an appointment to go visit at the Chautauqua County Jail, but he’s being moved to Batavia, so no access until next week. Obviously, this is the mess.

Oh – why do I see so many searches on the late David Steinbrook?


Where the heck is she?

Oh man.  A whole week.  No blogging.  Not much progress on the film. And what a week it was.

My dad sold his house.  He’s moving to the country.   Bye, bye Hotel Lathwell.  I’m sad.  70 Winona Drive has sheltered more than one traveling APLer over the years.

I’ve also been minding the cash register at Loco Burrito every day at lunch.  It’s fun to see the business get off the ground and I’m looking forward to having my days back hopefully this week.  Ah… The things we do for love.

I think I passed my exam on Thursday.  I’ve moved on to Business Law and Administration in Canada.

And here’s the really tough part.

While I was writing that exam, my friend, a genuine Tibetan Convention Refugee, went to help a distressed friend of his here in Parkdale.  The police came, took every one’s name.  My friend is on the deportation list, in spite of ongoing diplomatic efforts to get him off that list. Within 24 hours, he was in jail in the USA.

What is going to happen to a master traditional Tibetan Thangka painter in an American Prison? Now I’m worried sick and working to get him out of that American prison.

traditional Tibetan Thangka painting

detail from My friend's painting

Ironically, while my life lesson of this week is about ruthless brutal bureaucracy; from books, I’m learning all the things, good and wonderful, that we’ve done to civilize our Common Law system here in Canada so that we are NOT cruel in our application of the law.

I want to throw that book at some people at this moment.


A promise to do better

One of the unfortunate side effects of my la-dee-dum-dum-da-let’s-just-jump-right-in-there-and-make-this-film, consequences-be-damned, is that I haven’t properly responded to so many people who have sent me suggestions and ideas and word of encouragement and offers to help.

And so, of course, the dialogue has slowed a little bit…

Many of you have now seen my dazed look at the end of the day on the road, and heard my pleas… seen me scramble frantically for my notebook to scratch down the name you just mentioned.

And the truth is, my smarts are different than your smarts.  My capacity for retaining detail is nowhere close to the average APL/J/K system developer or engineer.

Let’s just hope I can tell a good story.

I’ve learned and incorporated a perpetual state, information overload.

The truth is, I love hearing from everyone. Even when I can’t really take it anymore.

My promise is to do better in the responding and thanking department.

Because thankful to hear from you is how I really, truly, deeply feel.


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