Tech Time Warp: Enigma encodes its first message

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jul 14, 2017 12:10:15 PM

On July 15, 1928, the Enigma machine encoded its first message, setting the stage for encrypted German communications and secret heroism at Bletchley Park during World War II. The portable Enigma machine, which looked like a typewriter, offered an astounding 150,000,000,000,000,000,000 combinations thanks to an intricate system of rotor wheels and patch cables.

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Tech Time Warp: Happy Birthday to the Walkman

Posted by Kate Johanns on Jul 7, 2017 11:30:00 AM

We’ve all found sanctuary in our headphones, hands down the best way to power through a workout, tune out fellow shoppers, or (admit it) neutralize co-workers. Thank Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka for the concept of portable music.

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Tech Time Warp: The Pikachu virus is not your friend

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

It sounds so innocent: An email appears in your inbox, subject line “Pikachu Pokemon.” The message speaks of friendship and invites you to visit Pikachu on his website. And the attachment (warning bells going off yet?) features an animation of a bouncing Pikachu.

Yeah. As children discovered during summer 2000, Pikachu is not always your friend.

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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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