York University's Jim Austin, a teacher of neural computing, has accumulated some 1,000 machines across 30 years of collecting obsolete computers. He keeps them in four sheds at the top of of a hill
behind his farmhouse in Yorkshire.
The London Review of Books visited Austin and learned some fascinating things about hardware depreciation:
‘This IBM mainframe was $8.7 million in 1983,’ he told me when I went to see them. ‘Which in today’s money is $24 million. I mean, that’s astronomical. And they’re scrapped after four years. That’s it. Scrap.’ He points to another. ‘The Fujitsu supercomputer, I think it depreciated at £16,000 a week for three years. Then it was zero.’ Behind the IBM and the Fujitsu are more machines: DECs, Wangs. ‘I just take them all home. I preserve them. I just collect them, because I like them. And I’ve got the sheds, so I just put them in.’
The visit to Austin's shrines to obsolescence makes for almost poetic reading -- especially the story of 2005's 64th-fastest machine in the world, whose former owner traded away half its processor boards for chocolate bars.
Courts have appreciated that even distributed denial of service attacks can be legitimate form of public protest. Molly Sauter on the insane U.S. law used to criminalize them and other forms of online activism.
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NVIDIA made an interesting video to market their graphics processing tech by showing how it can be used to debunk conspiracy claims that the 1969 lunar landing was faked. (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)
Rob Beschizza found a copy of one of his favorite childhood books about computers. And now you can enjoy it too!
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Above, video evidence of my short presentation "Just Say Know: A Cyberdelic History of the Future" at the recent Lift Conference 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland. Albert Hoffman first synthesized LSD in 1938 in Switzerland so this felt like the right set and setting to share stories about the intersection of psychedelic culture and computer technology from the 1960s to the present and beyond!
Leigh Alexander recalls her adventures working with porn spambots in the 1990s, and the strange mixture of nostalgia and disappointment that remains.
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Ptak Science Books reprints a helpful article from the journal Computers and Automation
, meant to help early computer shoppers make sure they're wisely spending their
hundreds of thousands of dollars (in 1953 dollars, that is). You don't want to end up with a gigantic, room-sized piece of machinery that doesn't meet your needs or, worse, is a lemon.
Jeffrey Stephenson's most elegant handmade PC yet comprises 167 handcut veneers, made of quilted maple, mahogany, lacewood and "aircraft grade birch plywood." Inside is a Gigabyte Thin Mini-ITX motherboard with an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM and a 60GB SSD, but specs hardly matter when the chassis is so beautiful. [Slipperyskip]
It's watching us, and this is what it sees. Mike Pelletier explores quantified emotions in software, in collaboration with Subbacultcha! and Pllant / Marieke van Helden [Video Link]
With a new trailer out to promote Kutcher-starring biopic Jobs, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has new thoughts on the movie—not all of them negative. [Jesus Diaz / Kinja]
Charlie Warzel: "THIS is what google's self driving car can see. So basically this thing is going to destroy us all." [via Matt Buchanan]
Time was, we used to recycle old cathode ray tubes from TVs and computer monitors into new ones. Obviously, though, there's no longer a demand for new CRTs — or the specialized leaded glass they're made of. As a result, the last generation of CRTs is piling up into a "glass tsunami"
, filling storage units and swiftly becoming a liability to the recyclers who used to make money off them.
Sometime between 1956-1958 an unknown IBM employee wrote a punchcard program that displayed the above pin-up girl on the screens of the US military's two billion dollar Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) computers. Some say that the program was a diagnostic tool that showed the pin-up as a data transfer test. Others contend that it was just geek fun. The Atlantic's Benj Edwards tells the story of what was one of the first pieces of figurative computer art. "The Never-Before-Told Story of the World's First Computer Art (It's a Sexy Dame)"