Archive for the 'IPSA' Category

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Average on my Mind

I mentioned to Gary Berquist when I saw him again last month in DC that I am using him as my poster-boy.  If you remember the old blog, he was on the side bar for quite a long time with his Did Ken Iverson Invent APL? slide.  Gary is a good APL citizen, this means he does heaps for the community, and  I like this.  And more to the point, he’s a very entertaining speaker and is good looking and puts good APL ‘sound bites’ up in Powerpoint.  Ha. A perfect post-boy.

Don’t worry folks, he signed a release, so this doesn’t count as stalking.  Not that I’m above stalking.

Anyway, to Menander to my point, I happen to notice last week that Hot Docs and CanWest are calling for submissions for documentary film development funding due by 5pm tomorrow.  Development in film lingo means research.

I don’t have all the pieces together yet for a rock solid application, but I’m going to apply anyway.  I’m sure it will take a lot of practice with these applications before I get my pitch perfect, so let the judging begin!

This means I’m working all night tonight, most probably… That’s OK, I can take it.

So, what I’m contemplating right now, is average.  I believe it was Andrew MacLeod who administered my very first official APL test.  He asked me to do averageAverage has the added advantage because most people know what is means.

At least they sort of know what it means.  To be honest, one of my shocking discoveries since I’ve launched myself into world outside of programming is how little people know about math. In fact, out here, I know a lot about math.  This is really PATHETIC.

Anyway today, I need to explain how the heck I’m going act as a translator or tour guide of the world of array programming.

The truth is, I do know how. And that’s why I’m thinking about average. 🙂

Now I’m off to do the explaining.


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.


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.


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