An unforced mistake of Stalin's Soviet Union: to condemn the computer as a capitalist tool and pour scorn on "cynernetics", dooming official work to the shadows.
Working with computers required special care: One had to avoid using any suspicious cybernetic terms. Even the phrase "logical operations" was risky, because it might be interpreted as implying that machines could think. Instead of "computer memory," researchers used the more neutral, technical term, "storage." "Information" was replaced by "data," and "information theory" by the convoluted expression "the statistical theory of electrical signal transmission with noise." A joke about Stalin's henchman, Beria, who was responsible for the nuclear weapons program, became popular. Beria comes to his boss and asks permission to use the notorious field of cybernetics for military purposes. Stalin puffs on his pipe and says, "Okay, but just please make sure the other Politburo members don't find out."
Bonus: Now you know what the deal was with Dune. Despite Stalin's death improving matters for the thinking machines, everyday users in Russia were still puttering along on rickety clones 25 years later.
Back in 2009, Dark Roasted Blend rounded up a truly wonderful gallery of ancient, hulking computers, called The Cutting Edge of Retro Tech . Given that retro-tech only gets finer with age, it's fitting to link to it now, especially given this magnificent beast, identified as the 1968 Control Center of the JINR's (Joint Institute […]
You don't play the ANS synthesizer with a keyboard. Instead you etch images onto glass sheets covered in black putty and feed them into a machine that shines light through the etchings, trigging a wide range of tones. Etchings made low on the sheets make low tones. High etchings make high tones. The sound is […]
Via the BB Submitterator, Boing Boing reader Yenisei says, Three years before Photoshop 1.0, Soviet computer engineers were already retouching old, damaged images using this amazing piece of technology. Rotary scanner! Magnetic tape! Trackball! "Z for zoom"! And, of course, Didier Marouani, the hippest electronic music available in the USSR at the time. Video Link: […]
One million Americans use American Sign Language as their primary means of communication. But as you'd expect, even though ASL is the sixth-most used language in the US, it isn't just any old language like English or Spanish or French. According to Communication Service for the Deaf, 98 percent of Deaf people don't receive education […]
After a successful round of funding on Kickstarter, Fluster: The Social Card Game is now ready to help turn a party or game night into the engaging, surprising, and enlightening social affair you always hoped it would be. A deck of 100 cards, Fluster is chock full of unusual, funny, and thought-provoking questions inspired to […]
Physics may have been that class you sleepwalked your way through in high school. But while it might have just slipped under your radar throughout your academic career, you probably shouldn't have given it such shallow attention. Sure, we could focus on the immediate pluses of a career as a physicist, like the more than […]