Chock-A-Block was a computer-themed educational TV show for young children that was shown on the BBC in 1981. What I still love about it is that it's an early example of retrocomputing nostalgia, depicting a room-sized magnetic-tape mainframe to youngsters who owned their own ZX81s.
Chock-A-Block was surreal and a bit druggy, like a lot of British kids' TV. It uttered strangely satisfying noises when its strangely satisfying buttons are pressed and strangely satisfying media are inserted. This show is to blame for my love of computers, but also for my love of the strange relationship we have with old technology, and also my love of being high. Read the rest
HP's Spectre is thinner than all the others, and the company says that it is "more artisan than manufactured" in a promo video that touts its slim, jewelry-like design. The $1,170 laptop has an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of memory and a 13" display. It's 2.5 pounds: heavier than the 12" MacBook and Lenovo Yoga, but lighter than pretty much anything else and much more powerful than those machines. Read the rest
The Raspberry Pi got a major upgrade. The third revision of this tiny, $35 Linux computer is 50% faster than the Raspberry Pi 2 and has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE. Alasdair Allan of MAKE has a good first look at the board.
MAKE: Meet the New Raspberry Pi 3 — A 64-bit Pi with Built-in Wireless and Bluetooth LE
Here's Eben Upton, founder of Raspberry Pi, talking to MAKE about the Pi 3:
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John Markoff reports on an important area of research: how to make a talking computer sound friendly and approachable to humans? The trick, as exemplified by IBM's Jeopardy-winning Watson and Apple's Siri: you want it to sound slightly robotic, thereby avoiding uncanniness.
Most software designers acknowledge that they are still faced with crossing the “uncanny valley,” in which voices that are almost human-sounding are actually disturbing or jarring. The phrase was coined by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970. He observed that as graphical animations became more humanlike, there was a point at which they would become creepy and weird before improving to become indistinguishable from videos of humans.… “Jarring is the way I would put it,” said Brian Langner, senior speech scientist at ToyTalk, a technology firm in San Francisco that creates digital speech for things like the Barbie doll. “When the machine gets some of those things correct, people tend to expect that it will get everything correct.”
The article has some of the Watson test voices. A masculine one was chosen to sound "objective and natural" and "like a trusted colleague." Rejected feminine voices can be heard at the article, as well as a childlike voice deemed too "creepy." Read the rest
At The Malware Musuem you can enjoy the experience of DOS-era viruses, trojans and other digital beasties without any of the risk. Many of them manifested as wild graphical tricks and other spectacular coding feats, distracting you as they formatted hard drives or corrupted files.
The Malware Museum is a collection of malware programs, usually viruses, that were distributed in the 1980s and 1990s on home computers. Once they infected a system, they would sometimes show animation or messages that you had been infected. Through the use of emulations, and additionally removing any destructive routines within the viruses, this collection allows you to experience virus infection of decades ago with safety.
Pictured above is LSD.COM Read the rest
The Oldschool PC Font Resource is your one-stop shop for the fonts bundled with classic PC-compatible computers of the 80s and early 90s. It even has little reviews!
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The rebadged Olivetti M24, with its enhanced CGA-compatible video, introduced 400-line text and graphics modes for increased resolution. These supported a 8x16 character set, which was similar to the IBM MDA font, but with more of a slab serif style on the uppercase letters, and more consistent metrics for the lowercase and accented Latin characters.
This is the text mode version - in the 640x400 graphics mode, the only difference is a more rounded 'h' (identical to the IBM MDA one). The 8x8 BIOS font, on the other hand, was exactly the same as IBM's.
Sensitive electronic files from America’s biggest police union were posted online this week after a hacker breached the Fraternal Order of Police website. The ill-gotten dump includes officers' names and addresses, message board posts bashing Barack Obama, and details of eyebrow-raising contracts made between the union and city authorities.
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Lenovo is on top of a shrinking market; only Apple is shipping significantly more machines this year than last, according to trade group numbers. HP is sinking fastest among the big players, but still in #2. The rest of the market ("Other") seems to be evacuating the bowels of modern life entirely, losing 20% its size last year.
Both analysts blamed the drop in PC sales on a combination of factors: an economic slowdown in China; a strong US dollar; and the continuing growth of smartphones and other mobile devices. IDC also noted that free Windows 10 upgrades may have hurt PC vendors as consumers chose to upgrade their OS without forking out for new hardware. However, both analysts expect sales to pick up in 2016 as businesses—by far the largest market for PCs—start to upgrade to Windows 10. Read the rest
It might not be a huge surprise, in the big scheme of things, but Dell's return to private ownership brought focus to its laptop designs and it is seeing growth in places formerly filled only with doom.
Mark Walton explains:
Going private, Dell claimed, would help the company plough more money into R&D, and create better products for consumer and business alike. Three years on, and Dell's strategy may finally be coming to fruition. At this year's CES it unveiled a new line of business notebooks and tablets under its Latitude brand. They sport premium materials like carbon fibre tops and magnesium alloy chassis, and much thinner and lighter designs. Crucially, they continue to feature the strong encryption, wireless tech, and remote management services demanded by IT managers. Finally, Dell has a desirable set of business notebooks.
If you're in the market for a Windows laptop, Dell's thin-bezel models are my faves right now. Check out the new Latitude 7370, a work-harder version of last year's lighter but slighter XPS 13. Their monitors are excellent. too. Read the rest
This delightful-looking deck of cards, featuring classic computers, is yours for $15 from the already-successful Kickstarter campaign.
The selection is good and each card has the right stats: CPU model and bit-width, clock frequency, RAM, display resolution, maximum number of on-screen colors, and the year it was launched.
There are already over 30 retro computers in the deck. As well as 8-bit classics there are a few early 16-bit and 32-bit machines too (e.g. Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Acorn Archimedes). The machines we have so far:
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Dell's "business class" Chromebook is almost perfect, writes Wired's Scott Gilbertson. The release of this 13-inch model marks a shift from the low-end zone most ChromeOS laptops occupy, to the middle ground of "real" computers. It's $400-$900 and has all the trimmings, yet is more practical than flashy flagship models like Google's Pixel.
The Dell comes as close to the ideal Chromebook as anything I’ve tested. The catch is that you’ll pay for it. It’s probably best compared directly to the only Chromebook that’s more powerful and pricier—the Pixel. If you want a high-end Chromebook and don’t mind spending $900 for it, the Dell bests the Pixel in many ways, including battery life.
At Computerworld, JR Raphael prefers it to Toshiba's similar Chromebook 2
Dell's Chromebook 13 is a different story. The laptop has a carbon-fiber cover and an aluminum-magnesium body that work together to make the system stylish and approachable, as well as exceptionally sturdy. It's by no means at the level of build quality or design of a high-end system like Google's $1,000 Chromebook Pixel, but it's a really nice laptop -- and a meaningful step above every other system in the sub-$500 class.
Engadget's Nathan Ingraham says it has outstanding battery life and is the ChromeOS computer to beat.
Dell's Chromebook 13 costs a little more than the competition, but for that extra money, you get: hardware that feels like it's from a much more expensive machine, excellent performance, fantastic battery life and one of the best screens you'll find on any Chromebook. Read the rest
Such things usually come with beautiful and pointless greebling, but this one is a simple 5-inch cube made from three choices of finish: white ash, brown ash, and elm.
The Kubb has an i3 or i5 CPU, SSD storage, up to 16GB of RAM, and Intel HD onboard graphics. There are 4 USB ports, miniDisplay, miniHDMI, Wifi, Bluetooth, and an actual honest-to-God ethernet port. Bring 'yer own peripherals. (There are plenty of wooden ones on Amazon)
Prices start at 459 Euros for the cheapest model. It's already available in steel, too.
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In 1972, Frederic Ira Parke, while a grad student at the University of Utah, created the first computer graphics animation, above, of a human face, and with fellow student (and Pixar co-founder) Ed Catmull made the groundbreaking computer animation, below, of a human hand. Read the rest
Back then, the women themselves were sometimes called “computers.” They used these machines to compute.
Enjoy ogling these broads' gams, and get a load of those ginormous mainframes.
"His stuff was beloved, but it wasn't that he was beloved." Read the rest