Monthly Archive for March, 2010

Sharp people

The notice of  Paul Jackson’s presentation concerning his “set of .Net classes which provide APL functionality for the .Net programmer”  to APLBUG April 1st, 2010 crossed my desk the same day I was flipping through a random selection of old I P Sharp newsletters.   The last time I remember seeing Paul was about 20 years ago.  I happened upon IPSA’s newsletter from 1980 where they announced Paul had climbed on board!

He still looks the same to me.

Of course, most APLers in Palo Alto are not affiliates of IPSA, Curtis Jones writes of Paul Jackson and Joey Tuttle back in the day,

Paul was the host to APL BUG meetings at the IPSA offices in Palo Alto for a large part of the 1980s, probably into the early 1990s.  Joey probably remembers when the IPSA offices in Palo Alto closed.  The scheme of getting takeout food to eat in the meeting room comes from the great assortment of restaurants along California Avenue.  The offices were on California Avenue, then moved a couple of blocks away – but still an easy walk from the restaurants.

Nothing demonstrates the unique enthusiasm of the array language community like APLBUG, The APL Bay Area Users’ Group (The Northern California SIGAPL of the ACM).  In fact, they jumped right in and gave me a momentous push when this project was an idea with no real substance.

Bread Crumbs

In 1974, IBM moved its APL group to Palo Alto.  Ken Iverson and Adin Falkoff stayed in Philadelphia, as did my father, Richard Lathwell.  Ken and Richard were later to join I P Sharp Associates up here in Toronto.


Bread, roses and women

It’s long past time I came clean.  I’m not making a film.

Well, that’s not really true either.  I’m not just making a film.

In the lingo of the day, I’m making multi-platform digital properties. Say that 10 times, fast.  And what the heck does it  mean, anyway? The short story is that I have a distribution strategy which involves cyberspace and I am working on a business model that embraces innovations in technology.  The nice part about this is that I’m not trying to cram myself into an old TV/Film model that is in its death throes. My challenge is to be innovative in this space.   This is difficult, but I’m OK with that.

And there really is a film. It’s part of the plan.  In fact, I signed a development funding agreement with the Toronto APL SIG around Valentines Day to push this baby to the next level.  Development in the film world really means something closer to Research in the software development world.  This is the phase where I come up with the script, budget and demo for the show.  The Toronto APL SIGs contribution is convertible to equity in the final product.  It’s not equity now, because I’m designing the final product.

Getting back to the rest of the, hem, big picture, I extremely pleased with what I learned last week when I participated in  the international Ada Lovelace Day of blogging by posting a story about our Audrey Sharp.

Before I show you my stats and I expose my turtle like ascension – I’m going to tell you where all this traffic came from, because it didn’t come from our sites (APL/A/J/K/Q) and it didn’t come from Most of the referrals came from Lambda the Ultimate by a huge margin.  I believe, also, that this site is behind the 3,592 people who have taken a look at Origin of APL since I posted it July 20th, 2009.  HA.

Happy Valentines everyone!  I know it’s Nowruz, Passover and Easter but it’s still Valentines for ME!


Ferranti’s Woman for Ada Lovelace Day

She says that she didn’t have much to do with the formation of I. P. Sharp Associates back in 1964.  She was pregnant, after all, and planning to “retire.”  I didn’t actually believe this because I always remember her being a programmer there.  And besides, behind every one of our big stars, there is a whole legion of folks who do more than their part.

And then I read the proof.   An article co-written by Audrey P. M. Williams, Time-Sharing on the Ferranti-Packard FP6000 Computer System in 1963[1]. This article is a clear “how-to” get many computer programs sharing one computer, step one to getting many people using one computer.  The computer is the Ferranti-Packard’s FP6000, another Canadian contribution to computer history that even the CBC knows about. 

The article is written in great technical detail.  At the time, magnetic tape was an innovation for storing information and you really did need to understand what “one character every 15 microseconds” really, truly, deeply means to make a computer do anything.

What I mean by saying this is that you needed to know math.

Audrey’s father convinced her to study Mathematics because it was “more suitable for a girl”  after she decided at age nine that she wanted to be an Engineer.  As she was born in Liverpool, England on July 3, 1934, I guess this was a legitimate fatherly concern.  Incidentally, Audrey is still in touch with her girlhood math teacher, Enid Briggs, from the Merchant Taylors’ School for Girls.  Miss Briggs is now 98. Wow!

Audrey writes about the first time she saw a computer in her memoirs:

I had seen my first computer at the Festival of Britian in 1951.  A single-purpose machine was set up to play the game of Nim against a human.  I had been intrigued.

Audrey on Ferranti's Pegasus

Audrey’s math degree from Bedford College, University of London lead to a programming job at Ferranti Ltd. in London and her subsequent transfer to Canada.

Ms Williams, a programmer at Ferranti-Packard in Toronto, later married Ian Sharp, took his surname, and voila, Audrey P. M. Sharp.  Our Audrey!

[1] M.J. Marcotty, F.M. Longstaff and Audrey Williams, “Time Sharing on the Ferranti-Packard FP6000 Computer System”, Proceeding – Spring Joint Computer Conference, 1963, of the American Federation of Information Processing Society, pp. 29-40.
This post is part of an international celebration of women in science and technology in honour of Ada Lovelace Day.

Some Bread Crumbs

Roger Moore was later to write an ALGOL60 compiler for Ferranti-Packard’s FP6000.  This is one of the winding tendrils that connects us to John Backus, a designer of ALGOL and the father of FORTRAN.

Roger, Ian Sharp and some others went on to create I. P. Sharp Associates (IPSA) while Audrey raised the kids.  The historical financial data that IPSA collected on its time-sharing APL system is alive and well today and is still available from Reuters, as far as I know. 

And all of this information (except maybe the bit about Reuters) is available on Wikipedia.  Bless cyberspace.



Perhaps feeling a twinge of remorse for publicly taunting that poor, stodgy journalist yesterday… Oh my, what an easy target… I made my Ada pledge.  That means I have 8 days to figure out what to write about a woman amongst us.

I don’t need to belabour the point that the pick’ns are slim because I’ve already made my choice. She’s retired  but she retired as a programmer. 

I think I should give a prize the first person who can name 6 female array programmers who are still programming and then post it here on Ada Lovelace Day, March 24th, 2010.  All array languages count, even the ones I don’t know about.

You better start cracking because it’s going to be HARD to find a half dozen!


Watch OUT! Sneaky Canadian Reporters

I’ve received an inquiry from a sneaky reporter who is writing a book and wants information about IPSA, but he won’t say what for!

So obviously there must be a conflict of interest!!!!  Isn’t that great!

ps Let’s talk before you help him – if you feel moved to help him.


The marriage of greed and stupidity

My copy of The Quants arrived on the 10 year anniversary of the dot com bubble burst.   I might not have noticed, but Hal posted it in Facebook.

10Mar – < < P O P > > Goes the Bubble: The Dot.Com Bubble burst 10 years ago today (in retrospective clear vision) when the NASDAQ Composite index peaked at 5048.62. 2010-03-10

It seems that some of us are putting thought into the ethical questions that should naturally arise in a climate of one economic crisis after another. This is good. We have some smart minds out there. Go put on you’re thinking hat! I’m all for it.

I’m reminded of a post I read today. It was from someone in Toronto who works for a company that benefits substantially from the grants available in Canada for new media projects. I was struck by the passivity of what he said,

will we apply? well, until either the business models are more sustainable or there are more alternatives available for production financing – then, yup.

I read this and thought, who’s gonna do it? Make the business models sustainable? Who’s in charge? Who’s responsible? Aren’t WE supposed to be doing that?

Now I am pondering the first economic crisis I remember, Black Monday, October 19, 1987. But wait… I remember the oil crisis in 1979. And, oh yeah… 1973. I remember that one too.

I did learn something significant in 1987, however. I learned that some companies benefit quite a bit during times of financial turmoil. And at the time, I was working for one of them. If you sell numbers and suddenly everyone is anxious about those numbers, they look more, you sell more.  Maybe a lot more.  It’s not that simple when self-interest intercedes.

And no, Rick, I haven’t met any of the players featured in The Quants.  In fact, I don’t expect to, given that I’m not really the sort of woman they go for.


Plus two times two

I just caught Bob Therriault animating array processing.  Excellent!



Good Night Moon, Good Night Chris

I’m a terrible stalker.

Maybe it’s because when I told my next door neighbour, we’ll call him Bill to protect the innocent…  When I told Bill, in jest, that I was stalking Chris Landreth, Bill replied with complete unadulterated disgust, He HAS a girlfriend.

I got shy.  That’s not quite what I had in mind. OK, more shy… I’m already shy, for a stalker…

So, my smashing stalking success came a couple of weeks ago when I spotted Chris! in! the! cafe! so I gave him and his buddy a free piece of banana bread to share.  Cranberry, my own invention, nice and pretty on a plate.

But it wasn’t really Chris.  It turns out that Chris has a slightly heavier doppelganger in the neighbourhood!

And though I have failed, so far, to capture the attention of one of Canada’s finest animators, and I have failed as a stalker when he lives not more than a! five! minute! walk! from! me!  I very proud to pass on that his latest film has been nominated for a Genie Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Sadly, he’s made his last post to his blog… so I will be removing it from my sidebar.  Good Night, Chris.  Maybe I’ll send you another post card.


World Domination

World domination requires a steady climb.  In my case, a very slow and steady climb.  And you just never know when someone will give you an unexpected boost.  That’s all I’m going to say about my picture.

Did you figure out my puzzle from last week?  What is Jeffrey Shallit’s Erdos Number? To be perfectly honest, I’m more impressed with his blog recursivity which rocks and his loyal readership who flocked here to see the eulogy he gave.

Should I tell?  It’s 1.  Jeffrey Shallit’s Erdos Number is one.

Changing the subject slightly, I was completely inspired at TEDxWaterloo last week.  Fellow Canadian, Terry O’Reilly woke up the sleepy devil inside of me.  His thesis, in the realm of marketing, is that we’re attracted to friction even when this defies logic. 

We’re so EASY to get all riled up… (by we, I mean array language programmers) I’m mulling over the plausibility of programmer bating…

Oh – yeah… for those of you going to Helsinki, be sure to ask, ‘Where the heck is Catherine?

And… Finally… My answer to Mark Allen is,  NO.  Sorry.   Not if you mean programmer.  Story teller, yes.  Programmer, no. But thanks for thinking of me. (What is she talking about?) But the good news is, that when I take off my clothes, there is, in fact, a female underneath.  And through out the course of history, we like looking at females better than males.  And I have evidence that this is still true.


A spinal surgeon, on the right, explaining the risks of spinal surgery.

What’s this got to do with array programming languages?

Check out the surgeon and patient on this it’s Daniel Baronet and the woman helping Gitte at the Dyalog 2009 conference! I posted these photos on Flikr under GPL as “Attribution Creative Commons” which means people can use them, can’t sell them, but have to put my name there… I did this thinking you guys could use them… Little did I know… You’d become spinal surgeons!

Everything is possible in cyberspace…

ps Another exam Monday night *&%%$^&#$#!@ Drat!


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