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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Tech Time Warp: Hooray for Hollywood—and the Cinématographe

Posted by Kate Johanns on Feb 10, 2017 10:30:00 AM

With the 89th Academy Awards just two weeks away, it’s only fitting to recognize brothers Louis and Auguste Lumière, who patented the name “Cinématographe” in France on Feb. 13, 1895. The Cinématographe improved upon Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope, a motion picture viewer; the Lumière brothers’ three-in-one invention could not only record film but also develop and project it.

The lucrative Lumière family business was the production of photographic plates—Louis had invented a dry plate process for developing film—so it was only natural that father Antoine would attend an exhibition of the Kinetoscope in Paris. Fascinated by what he saw, Antoine issued his sons a challenge: Develop an alternative to the Kinetoscope, which could only be viewed by one person at a time.

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Tech Time Warp: The Truth About the Polygraph

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

We cannot tell a lie: The polygraph has a fascinating history.

On Feb. 2, 1935, Leonarde Keeler had his first opportunity to use a polygraph in a criminal trial. Keeler had devoted nearly a decade to perfecting the machine—first invented by his mentor John Larson—before putting it to the test before a jury.

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Tech Time Warp: Steve Jobs Lets the Macintosh Out of the Bag

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jan 27, 2017 10:00:00 AM

You might not immediately think of January 1984 as a period of sweeping change, but since that’s when we were introduced to both modern computing as we know it and blockbuster Super Bowl commercials, you probably should. We have one man to thank: Steve Jobs, of course.

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Tech Time Warp: Wikipedia Celebrates Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jan 20, 2017 10:30:00 AM

Internet juggernaut Wikipedia turns 16 this week, and it’s a website that’s truly come of age. Launched Jan. 15, 2001, Wikipedia is the fifth-most visited site worldwide and the sixth most-popular website in the United States, according to Alexa. (Page one search results on Google can’t hurt.)

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