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History

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
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Gaming lunduke.substack.com

The computers used to do 3D animation for Final Fantasy VII

There’s a lot going on in that picture. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what computers and gear they were using to do the 3D animation for this game.

Why? Because, Final Fantasy 7 is a true classic. When the game was first released in early 1997, for the Sony PlayStation, it took the RPG gaming world by storm. To this day, many consider it the greatest entry in the franchise.

I remember getting this game for Christmas and playing it nearly non-stop until school started again after the new year. Greatest entry in the franchise? Easily!

The computers used to do 3D animation for Final Fantasy VII

The Changelog The Changelog #484

Wisdom from 50+ years in software

Today we have a special treat. A conversation with Brian Kernighan! Brian’s been in the software game since the beginning of Unix. Yes, he was there at Bell Labs when it all began. And he is still at it today, writing books and teaching the next generation at Princeton.

This is an epic and wide ranging conversation. You’ll hear about the birth of Unix, Ken Thompson’s unique skillset, why Brian thinks C has stood the test of time, his thoughts on modern languages like Go and Rust, what’s changed in 50 years of software, what makes platforms like Unix and the web so powerful, his take as a professor on the trend of programmers skipping the university track, and so much more.

Seriously, this is a must-listen.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

Margaret Hamilton recalls her life as a programming pioneer

The New Stack overviews a recently published 2017 (3-hours long) interview with the living legend, who rarely speaks publicly about herself:

Hamilton remembered being the only woman in her college physics class — “And at the time, I think the professor thought women should not be taking physics because he … well, you have to know the times.”

She added, “That was the only time somebody in college questioned that that might not be something I would be able to make use of.”

But Hamilton remained undeterred: “I just said, ‘Because I want to take it,’ you know.”

Ars Technica Icon Ars Technica

A brief tour of the PDP-11, the most influential minicomputer of all time

Ars Technica takes an epic stroll down memory lane:

In their moment, minicomputers were used in a variety of applications. They served as communications controllers, instrument controllers, large system pre-processors, desk calculators, and real-time data acquisition handlers. But they also laid the foundation for significant hardware architecture advances and contributed greatly to modern operating systems, programming languages, and interactive computing as we know them today.

We were just discussing this machine on our upcoming episode with Brian Kernighan.

A brief tour of the PDP-11, the most influential minicomputer of all time

Smashing Magazine Icon Smashing Magazine

Thoughts against Markdown

Knut Melvær with a thoughtful attack on one of my all-time favorite tools:

Markdown is a signifier for the developer and text-tinkerer culture. But since its introduction, the world of digital content has also changed. While Markdown is still fine for some things, I don’t believe it’s should be the go-to for content anymore.

There are two main reasons for this:

  1. Markdown wasn’t designed to meet today’s needs of content.
  2. Markdown holds editorial experience back.

Now, I did say it’s a thoughtful atttack and it’s also a long one (30 minute read). Knut does the work, diving deep into Markdown’s history and John Gruber’s desires for it:

I want to build my advice against Markdown by looking back on why it was introduced in the first place, and by going through some of the major developments of content on the web. For many of us, I suspect Markdown is something we just take for granted as a “thing that exists.” But all technology has a history and is a product of human interaction. This is important to remember when you, the reader, develop technology for others to use.

Microsoft b13rg.github.io

The life of MS-DOS

A brief (6 minutes to read) history of MS-DOS:

First released on August 12, 1981, MS-DOS became the foundation for business computing for almost two decades. MS-DOS stood for Microsoft Disk Operating System and was often referred to simply as “DOS”. It is the software that helped build Microsoft, becoming the foundation Microsoft built the Windows operating system on. It went through 8 (and a half-ish) major revisions, with the final version being shipped with Windows ME in September, 2000.

The life of MS-DOS

History blog.archive.org

Reflections as the Internet Archive turns 25

Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive:

As a young man, I wanted to help make a new medium that would be a step forward from Gutenberg’s invention hundreds of years before.

By building a Library of Everything in the digital age, I thought the opportunity was not just to make it available to everybody in the world, but to make it better–smarter than paper. By using computers, we could make the Library not just searchable, but organizable; make it so that you could navigate your way through millions, and maybe eventually billions of web pages.

See also the website they made to virtually celebrate their 25th anniversary. I love the tagline: From Wayback to way forward

History whyisthisinteresting.substack.com

The history of regular expressions

Buzz Anderson lays out the history of one of the most beloved/hated tools in every developer’s tool belt:

The concept of a regular expression has a surprisingly interesting history that dates back to the optimistic, mid-20th Century heyday of artificial intelligence research.

The term itself originated with mathematician Stephen Kleene. In 1943, neuroscientist Warren McCulloch and logician Walter Pitts had just described the first mathematical model of an artificial neuron, and Kleene, who specialized in theories of computation, wanted to investigate what networks of these artificial neurons could, well, theoretically compute.

History matthewgerstman.com

History of the web: part 1

Matthew Gerstman:

I’ve been tasked with leading frontend. As a result, I’ve been teaching a whole lot of people about the web.

Knowing where we came from can help us figure out where we should go. It’s also a mountain of technical debt, and we’re collectively building on top of it.

Forgive me if I skip the wonderful stories of Macromedia Flash, Java in the browser, or whatever other detour you can think of. While those were important to development of the web, most of us will never run into them again.

The first Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) spec was released in 1993 as a way to represent web pages, then documents….

A sweeping history (replete with screen shots) that ends with a peek into the potential future.

Data visualization schleiss.io

Plotting the source code "TODO" history of the most popular open source projects

It’s fun seeing the proliferation of TODO comments over time on these bastions of open source. One not-surprising (but still unfortunate) trend: they all pretty much move up and to the right 📈, but a few have had some dramatic reversals 📉 at certain points in time. Go had a crazy month in April 2018 & TypeScript’s TODOs exploded in the Spring of 2018.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

Remembering Dan Kaminsky

David Cassel, on The New Stack:

Widely-respected security expert Dan Kaminsky passed away on April 23 from diabetic ketoacidosis at the age of 42. His considerable legacy went beyond expertise with a rare and memorable kindness.

I met Dan very briefly at ShmooCon back in 2004. His kindness was memorable, for sure, but the thing I remember most was just how larger-than-life he was to me at the time. The guy contributed so much to the infosec community and yet remained humble and kind despite it all. It was striking.

By the age of 22, he was giving talks at Black Hat himself, as well as at other tech conferences around the world. Kaminsky told the site he was thrilled to be interacting “with the smartest people I’d ever met in my life.”

Oddly enough, that’s how I felt when I interacted with Dan. It’s a tragedy that he died so young.

Remembering Dan Kaminsky

Miroslav Nikolov webup.org

The Emerging Ship

Miroslav Nikolov:

I want to tell you the real story behind an ambitious two-month project my team completed, with a huge impact on our organization. A very stressful, challenging, and full of surprises journey, marked by developers being the leaders. I intend to reveal why things went bad and how with a proper smart set of decisions the front-end team managed to navigate its boat.

Stick around to the end for his best practices summary.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

Microsoft Excel is now Turing-complete

Microsoft’s researchers believe they’ve now finally transformed Excel into a full-fledged programming language, thanks to the introduction of a new feature called LAMBDA. “With LAMBDA, Excel has become Turing-complete. You can now, in principle, write any computation in the Excel formula language,” a Microsoft blog proclaimed.

Two questions:

  1. What’s the most influential consumer application history and why is it Excel?
  2. Can we please stop naming things Lambda?

Jeff Lindsay linkedin.com

Lost potential of personal computing

I really appreciate the perspective Jeff shares in this post on what we know of as personal computing and making tools that improve our lives.

Do you remember when computers were fun to explore? Perhaps you’ve always thought computers were fun to explore, but there was a time before the Internet at the dawn of personal computing when people were excited at the potential of computers. Surely, they’ve probably exceeded most of our expectations today, but at the same time … it’s different. Did we get what we hoped for? Do we still get hope from computers now?

Ars Technica Icon Ars Technica

“A damn stupid thing to do" (The origins of C)

Ars Technica goes long form for this (abridged) history of the C programming language.

In one form or another, C has influenced the shape of almost every programming language developed since the 1980s. Some languages like C++, C#, and objective C are intended to be direct successors to the language, while other languages have merely adopted and adapted C’s syntax. A programmer conversant in Java, PHP, Ruby, Python or Perl will have little difficulty understanding simple C programs, and in that sense, C may be thought of almost as a lingua franca among programmers.

But C did not emerge fully formed out of thin air as some programming monolith. The story of C begins in England, with a colleague of Alan Turing and a program that played checkers.

If you have some downtime this week[end]… find a comfy spot, a hot drink, and enjoy a history lesson on one of the most influential and still extant programming languages of all times.

Increment Icon Increment

What the history of HTTP status codes can tell us about the future of APIs

Darius Kazemi writing in Issue #14 of Increment magazine:

HTTP status codes are largely an accident of history. The people who came up with them didn’t plan on defining a numerical namespace that would last half a century or work its way into popular culture. You see this pattern over and over in the history of technology.

Because technology isn’t immune to historical contingency, it’s important for us as engineers to remember that long-lasting technical inflection points can occur at any time. Sometimes we know these decisions are important when we’re making them. Other times, they seem perfectly trivial.

The Changelog The Changelog #411

Inside GitHub's Arctic Code Vault

Earlier this year on February 2nd, 2020 Jon Evans and his team of archivists took a snapshot of all active public repositories on GitHub and sent it to a decommissioned coal mine in the Svalbard archipelago where it will be stored for the next 1,000 years.

On this episode, Jon chats with Jerod all about the GitHub Archive Program and how they’re preserving open source software for future generations.

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