Computing pioneer Paul Niquette's memoir begins with the tale of how he came to coin the term "software" in 1953, to the ridicule of his colleague, and how the idea of a computer whose code was separate from its machinery took hold and changed the way we think about computation forever.
When I first said 'software' out loud, people around me said, "Huh?" From the very beginning I found the word too informal to write and often embarrassing to say. Nevertheless, with smirking trepidation I did occasionally feature the word 'software' in speeches and lectures and media interviews throughout the fifties.
It was just a throw-away thing. The word 'software' was hardly my most notable invention, even back then. Nothing to write home about (I was only 19 years old and still living at home). The word 'software' did not belong in a technical paper (besides, an undergraduate is but a ghostwriter for principal researchers). Then too, I had a reputation at UCLA as a practical joker. Colleagues and friends simply shrugged, no doubt regarding each utterance as a tiresome prank or worse, another offbeat neologism, for which I was also becoming noted.
Nobody in 1953 would have guessed that the silly word would take hold, that within a few decades 'software' would enter the general vocabulary for products and for professions -- that a worldwide industry would wear it as a solemn name. You can be sure that if my ego and I had harbored any such glorious visions, then... then, what?
Introduction: The Software Age [Paul Niquette]
(via Beyond the Beyond)
China Mieville is an unabashedly political science fiction writer, an avowed Marxist whose fiction is shot through with politics in the very best way; however, Mieville’s politics are generally kept below the surface, influence rather than central fact — that is, until the publication of October: The Story of the Russian Revolution, a masterful, novelistic nonfiction history of the year preceding the Russian revolution one century ago.
The American Civil Liberties Union has released a brief overview of the transgender rights movement, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s, beautifully illustrated by Molly Crabapple.
Could Russia teach us something about how to deal with difficult aspects of our national history? Many places in the South – from New Orleans to Louisville – are in the process of bringing down statues that glorify the Confederacy. That process raises questions about what to do with these remnants of the past. Do […]
Toaster ovens are the perfect appliance for small things like toasted sandwiches and roasted garlic (try it!), but anything more involved usually requires a full-sized conventional oven.However, despite its small size, the Wolfgang Puck Pressure Oven can handle anything from baked pastries to broiled meats. This kitchen appliance has a minimal countertop footprint, and cooks […]
The Pry.Me Bottle Opener holds tens of thousands of times its own weight, and you can pick one up now from the Boing Boing Store.This remarkable keychain is considerably smaller than any of your keys, but don’t let that fool you: it can easily open any bottle, and could even tow a trailer full of […]