Tech Time Warp: The Curious History of QWERTY

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jun 23, 2017 11:30:00 AM

From time to time, your inner Mavis Beacon might wonder about the seemingly nonsensical arrangement of your keyboard. What’s the story behind QWERTY?

On June 23, 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel Soule filed a patent for “An Improvement In Type-Writing Machines,” the Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter. This early typewriter promised a “better way of working type bars, of holding the paper on the carriage … [and] of holding and applying the inking ribbon” (all vital for successful typewriter function). The Sholes, Glidden & Soule typewriter was pre-QWERTY; it featured only six piano keys.

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Tech Time Warp: The Early Days of IBM

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jun 16, 2017 9:27:27 AM

The monolith we know today as IBM got its start this week in 1911 when the forward-thinking Charles R. Flint merged the International Time Recording Company, Computing Scale Company, and the Tabulating Machine Company—all “computing and tabulating enterprises”—into the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, or C-T-R. With 1,300 employees and revenue “in excess of $950,000,” C-T-R was a sizable enterprise from day one. Rapid change in size and scope following World War I led to C-T-R’s name change in 1924, when it became the International Business Machines Corporation, or IBM.

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Tech Time Warp: Tetris Makes Its Debut

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jun 9, 2017 9:40:00 AM

The hypnotic building-block game Tetris made its debut on June 6, 1984, and the story of its creation is surprisingly filled with Cold War intrigue.

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Tech Time Warp: Happy Birthday, Napster

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jun 2, 2017 9:28:54 AM

Depending on your point of view, June 1, 1999, was either the day the music died or the day it finally came alive. The launch of the peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing network Napster either marked the death of the album, copyright protections, and record stores … or it opened obscure musical genres to a generation of college students. Your pick.

P2P file sharing existed before Napster, but it wasn’t easy until Napster made its debut.

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Tech Time Warp: Making the Case for COBOL

Posted by Kate Johanns on May 26, 2017 11:00:00 AM

COBOL—the stalwart business programming language—turns 58 this week. On May 28–29, 1959, about 40 stakeholders gathered at the Pentagon to create the Short Range Committee of the Conference on Data Systems Languages. Funded by the U.S. government, the committee’s goal was to create a nonproprietary programming language for business data processing.

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Tech Time Warp: The First Case of Ransomware

Posted by Kate Johanns on May 19, 2017 11:30:00 AM

The WannaCry ransomware attack once again brings the need for backup and security solutions into focus, but ransomware is nothing new. The first case of ransomware, chock-full of “truth is stranger than fiction” details, occurred in 1989.

The PC Cyborg Trojan, aka the AIDS Trojan, was created by Dr. Joseph Popp. Whether his motive was Robin Hood-style fundraising for AIDS research (his story) or revenge for a rejected job application at the World Health Organization (per news reports), he wreaked havoc.

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Tech Time Warp: First Public Demonstration of VisiCalc

Posted by Kate Johanns on May 12, 2017 12:01:00 PM

The next time you use Excel to analyze data on the fly, remember the “father” of the spreadsheet: Dan Bricklin.

On May 11, 1979, during the West Coast Computer Faire, the Harvard MBA candidate and his co-creator, programmer Robert Frankston, gave the first public demonstration of a new electronic spreadsheet software called VisiCalc. Journalists were intrigued—suddenly microcomputers could perform the computations once possible only on a mainframe. People (and, more importantly, businesses) began taking microcomputers seriously. Thanks to VisiCalc, the “First Killer App of the Computer Era,” microcomputers were no longer a plaything.

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Tech Time Warp: Did you get bitten by the ILOVEYOU virus?

Posted by Kate Johanns on May 5, 2017 12:00:00 PM

One might say more than 3 million computer users had a bad date on May 4, 2000. That’s the day they downloaded the ILOVEYOU virus, a Visual Basic script that overwrote JPEG and MP3 files, added new files to registry keys, and even executed an application that stole passwords and emailed them to the hacker.

And if that doesn’t sound bad enough, ILOVEYOU automatically sent itself to an infected user’s Outlook contacts.

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Tech Time Warp: World Wide Web Becomes Public Domain

Posted by Kate Johanns on Apr 28, 2017 11:24:00 AM

This weekend, before you pay bills online, order grocery delivery, and stream your latest binge-watch, raise a glass to Tim Berners-Lee and CERN, who made the World Wide Web software public domain on April 30, 1993.

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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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