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History

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
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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.

Jon Evans GitHub Blog

GitHub Arctic Code Vault's guide to the Tech Tree

Have you heard of the GitHub Arctic Code Vault? If not, the goal of GitHub Arctic Code Vault is to preserve open source software for future generations. Which means we need thorough docs describing how the world makes and uses software. Which I find completely fascinating!

From the GitHub Archive Program readme:

We are now also opening up the initial compilation of Tech Tree resources to community input. Inspired by the Long Now Foundation’s Manual for Civilization, the Tech Tree is a collection of technical works which document and explain the layers of technology on which today’s open-source software relies, along with works included to provide additional cultural context for the Arctic Code Vault.

From the Tech Tree readme:

What follows, which we call the Tech Tree, is a selection of works intended to describe how the world makes and uses software today, as well as an overview of how computers work and the foundational technologies required to make and use computers. The purpose of the GitHub Archive Program is to preserve open source software for future generations. This implies also preserving the knowledge of other technologies on which open-source software runs, along with a depiction of the open-source movement which brought this software into being.

Jeff Benson decrypt.co

Lawsuits threaten to bankrupt The Internet Archive

Activists are rallying to save The Internet Archive from bankruptcy…

In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of public libraries, the Internet Archive created the National Emergency Library and temporarily suspended book waitlists—the kind that make you cool your jets for 12 weeks to download “A Game of Thrones” onto your Kindle—through the end of June. In doing so, it essentially allowed for a single copy of a book to be downloaded an infinite number of times.

Book publishers weren’t happy. Last Monday, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Wiley—four publishing behemoths—sued the organization.

JavaScript dutzi.party

Userscripts are fun and are still very much relevant

I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment! Customizing your web experience is what the web is all about. Who remember Greasemonkey?! ✋

Here’s the quick how to for today:

Creating a simple Userscript is pretty simple, you simply install ViolentMonkey (on Chrome, use TamperMonkey for other browsers), hit the Create Userscript button and you will be preseneted with a pretty decent code editor showing a userscript template.

Startups blog.taskade.com

Google Wave’s failure is a great lesson for modern real-time collab tools

Google Wave was all the rage in 2009, but interest soon fizzled. This post takes us through that history, answering this question along the way:

With the full weight of Google 💰 behind it, why aren’t we all using Wave today? What caused a revolutionary, real-time collaboration tool to fizzle out in just a few short years?

What can we learn from Wave’s failure? The author has one key takeaway that will serve all of us well to keep in mind.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

How git changed the way we code

The New Stack takes us on a fun trip down memory lane:

Fifteen years ago a number of the Linux kernel developers tossed their hands in the air and gave up on their version control system, BitKeeper. Why? The man who held the copyright for BitKeeper, Larry McVoy, withdrew free use of his product on claims that one of the kernel devs had reverse engineered one of the BitKeeper protocols.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds sought out a replacement to house the Linux kernel code. After careful consideration, Torvalds realized none of the available options were efficient enough to meet his needs:

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