Tech Time Warp: The Osborne Effect

Posted by Kate Johanns on Apr 21, 2017 11:30:00 AM

Next time you watch a meticulously planned product launch, remember one of the most infamous—the April 18, 1983, announcement of the successor to the Osborne 1, the first commercially successful portable computer.

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Tech Time Warp: Microsoft says farewell to Clippy

Posted by Kate Johanns on Apr 14, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Before the dawn of the new millennium, you never felt lonely when you opened a Word doc, thanks to a pesky little character named Clippy. Remember him? You couldn’t describe him any better than Microsoft: “the little paperclip with the soulful eyes and the Groucho eyebrows.” Love him or hate him, Clippy was always popping up to say, “It looks like you’re writing a letter. Do you need help?”

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Tech Time Warp: IBM System/360 Pioneers Compatibility

Posted by Kate Johanns on Apr 7, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Let’s face it: We’re spoiled by our plug-and-play world. We expect peripherals to work on any device—Mac or PC—and if the newest smartphone isn’t compatible with our old charger, then you’re going to hear about it. We can thank IBM for this life of ease. On April 7, 1964, IBM President Thomas Watson Jr. announced the creation of the IBM System/360, the first mainframe computing system designed for hardware and software compatibility.

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Tech Time Warp: Google, King of April Fools’ Day

Posted by Kate Johanns on Mar 31, 2017 12:00:00 PM

No doubt those Google tricksters are planning extra-special surprises this year, so consider this fair warning not to believe anything online April 1. In honor of April Fools’ Day, here’s a look at some of Google’s most memorable pranks.

2000: Mentalplex

Google’s first April Fools’ joke was Mentalplex, the “only search engine that accurately returns results without requiring you to enter a query,” designed to be “safer than traditional searching because it eliminates the need for typing.” (The Mentalplex FAQs are worth a read.)

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Tech Time Warp: Happy Birthday, Jean Sammet, developer of FORMAC!

Posted by Kate Johanns on Mar 24, 2017 10:44:25 AM

A very happy birthday to Jean Sammet, born March 23, 1928, in New York City. Although not a household name, Sammet’s work paved the way for the technological innovations we all enjoy today—she originated and developed FORMAC, the first widely used programming language for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions.

(The name FORMAC came from FOrmula MAnipulation Compiler. The language is a cousin to FORTRAN, which you might know from Hidden Figures; it’s the language Dorothy Vaughan, portrayed by Octavia Spencer, teaches herself from a library book.)

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Tech Time Warp: First domain name registered in 1985

Posted by Kate Johanns on Mar 17, 2017 12:00:00 PM

File this away for your next pub quiz: The first domain name ever registered was Symbolics.com, registered on March 15, 1985, by Symbolics Computer Corporation, a company that specialized in single-user machines running the Lisp programming language.

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Tech Time Warp: The Great Michelangelo Scare

Posted by Kate Johanns on Mar 10, 2017 11:33:00 AM

Twenty-five years ago, PC users around the world were left saying “Huh?” after the much-hyped Michelangelo virus turned out to be, well, not much. The virus’ enduring legacy might say more about the media than about a security risk, as attested in a 1992 post-mortem from the American Journalism Review and this recent YouTube video.

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Tech Time Warp: Netscape slips into the night

Posted by Kate Johanns on Mar 3, 2017 11:02:00 AM

While you were busy surfing the Web using Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, or even a nascent Chrome on March 1, 2008, decision makers at AOL quietly discontinued support for the pioneering browser Netscape Navigator. By the time of its demise, Netscape’s market share was less than 1 percent of browser users, a remarkable decline for such an influential product.

At age 22, Marc Andreessen—a University of Illinois student—invented Mosaic, the first graphical Internet browser. Mosaic changed the “face of the Internet” (h/t to this “Glossary of Geek” video), making the Internet accessible outside the walls of academia. (Read this 1993 New York Times article for a fascinating look at how mysterious the Internet once was.)

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Tech Time Warp: Alan Turing contemplates artificial intelligence

Posted by Kate Johanns on Feb 24, 2017 12:14:54 PM

Seventy years ago this week, English mathematician Alan Turing gave a speech to the London Mathematical Society that’s as fresh in concept today as it was Feb. 20, 1947. The Bletchley Park alumnus—having cracked the Enigma code, a key breakthrough in Allied efforts to defeat the Germans—had turned his attention to the field of digital computers and what we now know as artificial intelligence.

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Tech Time Warp: Long Live the Computerized Bulletin Board System

Posted by Kate Johanns on Feb 17, 2017 12:00:00 PM

What did you do on your last snow day? Watch Netflix in your pajamas? Next time the weather is bad, remember Ward Christensen and Randy Suess, who spent the Great Blizzard of 1978 developing plans for the first Computerized Bulletin Board System (known as a CBBS, or, more commonly, as a BBS). Christensen and Suess launched their creation on Feb. 16, 1978, using a computer, a modem, and a phone line.

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