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Ordering pizza with a computer, 1974

December 4, 1974: Donald Sherman, who lives with the neurological disorder Moebius Syndrome that results in impaired speech among other challenges, used a computer to order a pizza over the telephone. The system was developed by computer scientists Jerome (J.J.) Jackson and John Eulenberg, director of Michigan State University's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Domino's hung up on Sherman and the computer. Several tries later, Mr. Mike's Pizza patiently took the order for a 16" pie with mushrooms, pepperoni, ham, and sausage, and this "high-tech sociolinguistic experiment," as Eulenberg described it, was deemed a success. (Thanks, David Steinberg!)

Working computer made out of Minecraft blocks

YouTube's TheInternetFTW shows off this arithmetic logic unit (ALU) that he's built out of blocks and chunks in the game Minecraft. It's part of a larger "Hack" computer (as described in Elements of Computing Systems).

So basically, this is a computer subcomponent that you can run around on, physically moving around and watching as it does its thing. It's the 21st century equivalent of the wonderful Bell Labs Cardiac Computer that I played with as a child -- a cardboard computer that got me interested in computing when I was six or seven. It is the virtual made visceral, an unpacked microscopic mystery. It is sheer genius, better than any ten boring lectures on ALUs, computing theory, Boolean math, etc. It's the kind of thing that makes me wish I was a kid today, and glad that I have a kid of my own.

16-bit ALU in minecraft (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)