Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Computing History Tours of Melbourne

The next Computing History Tours of Melbourne are: 1 May, 15 May and 18 July 2010. The tours take in:
  1. CSIRAC: Australia's first computer
  2. Melbourne's first Computer Room
  3. Melbourne's Babbage connection
  4. Site of Australia's first supercomputer
  5. Monash's first computer
  6. Former Melbourne Computer Centre near Albert Park.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Apple iPad in 1996

In 1996 I wrote a future history talk "Australia: The Networked Nation" featuring a hypothetical PADD (named after the devices in Star Trek). My device was to be 176 × 250 x 10 mm. The Apple iPad comes close at 190 x 243 x 13 mm. I had in mind a 3:4 format screen, whereas the iPad has a wider screen.
"Personal Access Display Devices (PADDs) are the ... successor to the primitive Personal Digital Assistants, notebook PCs, radio pagers and mobile phones of 1996. ...

Larger PADDs ... dimensions of a B5 sheet of paper, by 1 cm thick ... touch sensitive screen covering the whole upper surface, which is also a high resolution (2000 x 2000 pixel by 16 million colour) screen. All PADDs have video and audio built in and can operate as what a 1996 person would know as a mobile phone, radio, TV and video cam-corder. ...

The QWERTY keyboard, in its virtual form is still in use for data entry. ..."

From: Australia: The Networked Nation, Tom Worthington, 7 February 1996
However, in retrospect I think a smaller device with a screen about twice the size of an iPhone would be better (the size of smaller PADDs in Star Trek). This is the size of the screen on the smaller Amazon Kindle. It would be about 125 × 88 mm and make a passport (ISO B7) size device which would be easier to hold in one hand. Apple might be reluctant to make a device this small, as it would compete with the iPhone. Kept in a large pocket or handbag, it could be used as a phone via a Bluetooth device (resembling a Star Trek communicator).

My prediction for resolution of the screen was a bit high at 2000 x 2000 pixels and the iPad lacks a camera. The prediction it would run Linux was almost right, with the iPad using a version of Unix (but Linus Torvalds has not got the Nobel prize yet).

I got the bit about online storage right: "Data is stored safely on servers, either owned by the employee's company or a contracted service provider. Data is downloaded as required over the network." My prediction for processing power was a bit low: "equivalent to about four 1996 era Intel Pentium processors", but memory was far too low: "(64 megabytes) to hold the data the user needs immediately".

Apple are a bit late with the iPad as I predicted it would be released in 2005. Some other predictions went better, with Senator Helen Coonan, when Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts commenting on the telecommunications predictions. One prediction which is now coming true, and the current government will be less happy with, is that fibre optic cable to households will prove uneconomic and be overtaken by wireless.

The bit about "Politicians have learnt to be careful about heavy handed attempts at net regulation." is about to come true with the predicted "Internet Party" forming as the Australian branch of The Pirate Party.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Historical Tour of Computing in Melbourne

At the ACS Victorian Branch 2009 Conference someone mentioned there was an Historical Tour of Computing in Melbourne. Unfortunately I missed the tour as I was at the conference. The next one is Sunday 31 May 2009. The tours are run by Caulfield School of Information Technology (Monash University) and are free, apart from your tram ticket. Many of the sites on the tour are accessible without the tour and the tour guide web page provides a useful self-guide. The highlight of any such tour has to be CSIRAC at the Melbourne Museum, the fourth computer in the world and the best preserved.

The Tour:

  1. Monash Museum of Computing History
  2. Site of Albert Park Barracks and DSD
  3. Melbourne's Silicon Mile: St Kilda Road and Fitzroy Street
  4. Stanhill
  5. Melbourne Observatory: Melbourne's first computer room
  6. Victoria Barracks: Australia's first supercomputer
  7. St Paul's Cathedral: the Babbage connection
  8. National Mutual: Smalltalk-80's Australian debut
  9. ICI House
  10. Melbourne Museum: CSIRAC
  11. Physics Museum, University of Melbourne
  12. Old Physics, University of Melbourne: CSIRAC's first Victorian home

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Neither Microsoft nor Netscape started the web revolution

NCSA Mosaic logo"Bill Gates: How A Geek Changed The World" a BBS interview with Bill Gates was broadcast by SBS 8 July 2008 (online video from SBS). This was a more than a puff piece with some criticisms of Gates included.

One point made was that Microsoft was late embracing the Internet. Microsoft had to scramble to create a web browser in response to Netscape. But not mentioned was that it was the Mosaic web browser developed by the non profit National Center for Supercomputing Applications which popularized the web. Both Netscape and Microsoft then licensed Mosaic to make their Navigator and Internet Explorer browsers. Early versions were little different from Mosaic or from each other. And I must be about the last person in the world who paid for a copy of Netscape Navigator, shortly before they decided to give it away. ;-)
Program Synopsis
TV Show Name:
Broadcast Date: Tuesday 8 July 2008
Channel: Free to Air / SBS
Broadcast Time: 8.30 pm
Classifications: Other, (CC)
Timeslot Duration: 60 mins
Official title / weblink if available: CUTTING EDGE: BILL GATES

How A Geek Changed The World - After two years of negotiations, BBC filmmaker Fiona Bruce pulled off a rare coup: a candid full-length interview with Bill Gates. For many years the richest man in the world and the founding genius of Microsoft is set to step down from his company and get on with the business of giving away £12 billion through the charitable foundation he runs with his wife Melinda and father William Gates Sr. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people in the US and around the globe, with a focus on tackling health problems in the developing world and improving access to drugs. Bruce's interview and her meetings with Gates' friends and rivals uncover a sometimes irascible character, who has long prided himself on corporate aggression and is only recently said to have begun mellowing. (From the UK, in English)

From: ebroadcast.com.au

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