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Computer graphics circa 1968

posted by Tim Carmody   Sep 14, 2015

“The Incredible Machine” (not to be confused with the 1975 film) is a 1968 documentary about experiments at Bell Labs focusing on graphics, voice, and other art and media applications. Technicians draw circuits using an electric stylus, animate titles for a movie presentation, and look at sound waveforms of different words trying to replicate speech.

It’s a treat to see the state-of-the-art the year of 2001: A Space Odyssey, especially when one of the Bell Labs computers sings “Daisy Bell”/”A Bicycle Built For Two”.

Also, mind the rabbit hole: the related links bar on YouTube leads to dozens of similar vintage computing videos.

(Via @katecrawford)

We Work Remotely

Naming the machines

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 29, 2014

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

Not everybody gives their computers, smartphones, or wireless networks distinctive names. You’re more likely to see a thousand public networks named “Belkin” or some alphanumeric gibberish than one named after somebody’s favorite character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

But many, many people do name their machines — and ever since we slid into the post-PC era, we’re more likely to have a bunch of different machines of every different type living together on a network, each needing a name. So, how do you decide what to call them? Do you just pick what strikes your fancy at the moment, or do you have a system?

About three years ago, I asked my friends and followers on Twitter this question and got back some terrific responses. I don’t have access to all of their answers, because, well, time makes fools of us all, especially on Twitter. But I think I have the best responses.

Most people who wrote back did have unifying themes for their machines. And sweet Jesus, are those themes nerdy.

As for me, I’ve switched up name systems over the years, mostly as the kinds of devices on my network have changed. I used to just have a desktop PC (unnamed), so I started out by naming external hard drives after writers I liked: Zora, after Zora Neale Hurston, and then Dante. The first router I named, which I still have, is Ezra.

Years later, I named my laptop “Wallace”: this is partly for David Foster Wallace, but also so I could yell “where the fuck is Wallace?!?” whenever I couldn’t find it.

Without me even realizing it, that double meaning changed everything. My smartphone became “Poot.” When I got a tablet, it was “Bodie.” My Apple TV was “Wee-Bay,” my portable external drive “Stringer.” I even named my wi-fi network “D’Angelo” — so now D’Angelo runs on Ezra, which connects to Dante, if that makes sense.

As soon as it was Wallace and Poot, the rules were established: not just characters from The Wire, but members of the Barksdale crew from the first season of The Wire. No “Bunk,” no “Omar,” no “Cheese.” And when the machines died, their names died with them.

The first one to go, fittingly, was Wallace. I called the new machine “Cutty.” I was only able to justify to myself by saying that because he was a replacement machine, it was okay to kick over to Season 3. Likewise, my Fitbit became “Slim Charles.”

Now, for some reason, this naming scheme doesn’t apply at all to my Kindles. My first one was “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” and its replacement is “Funes the Memorious.” I have no explanation for this, other than to say that while all my other devices commingle, the Kindles seem to live in a hermetic world of their own.


posted by Ainsley Drew   Sep 30, 2009

Kasey McMahon decided to combine an interest in taxidermy with her PC. Fearing that the natural world is being replaced by technology, the artist installed a working computer inside of an idle beaver. First, she crafted a computer from the motherboard up, tested it, then hollowed out a stuffed beaver and molded the two together using spandex spray, resin, and fiberglass. After three months of work, the result was Compubeaver, followed up by its accessory, Text-o-Possum, a stuffed possum that’s equipped with a laser in its back leg that projects a virtual keyboard. McMahon was generous enough to provide a 29-step guide for the rest of us, in the hope that we’ll each case mod a beaver and create our own animal-based data processor. Just imagine using a raccoon laptop at Starbucks. Perhaps that would inspire them to provide free WiFi.

Update: See also installing Linux on a dead badger. (thx, michael)

Man trades computer tech support (spyware &

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 30, 2005

Man trades computer tech support (spyware & virus removal mostly) for sexual favors from damsels in distress (via ads on craigslist, of course). One wonders if he’s receiving sexually-transmitted viruses in exchange for his computer virus removal services. NSFW if your boss is offended by tshirts with bad puns on them.

An old Powerbook and new Powerbook meet

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2005

An old Powerbook and new Powerbook meet.

A brief history of NeXT

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 06, 2005

A brief history of NeXT.