Welcome to Advent of Computing, the show that talks about the shocking, intriguing, and all too often relevant history of computing. A lot of little things we take for granted today have rich stories behind their creation, in each episode we will learn how older tech has lead to our modern world.
Aaron Reed Interview, 50 Years of Text Games
In this episode I talk with Aaron Reed, author of 50 Years of Text Games. We discuss the history of computer games, interactive fiction, business "gaming", and why we all love Adventure.
You can find Aaron's work here:
Juggling Jobs with OS-9
Multitasking: we all do it. For a feature of modern computing multitasking has surprisingly old roots. It started out as timesharing on vacuum tube based machines, reached ubiquity on large computers, then hit a wall: the microcomputer. Multitasking didn't smoothly transition over as soon as home computers hit the scene. It took some time, and it took some adaptation. Today we are looking at what made timesharing work, early changes to microprocessors that paved the way for multitasking, and one of the first operating systems to support timesharing in the home.
https://www.roug.org/soren/6809/os9sysprog.html - OS-9 System Programmer's Manual
https://archive.org/details/byte-magazine-1979-01/page/n15/mode/2up - Article on the development of the 6809
https://sci-hub.se/10.1109/TEC.1962.5219356 - The One-Level Storage System
A Ballad in 2600 Hertz
There's power in music, but not all tones are created equal. During the reign of Bell Telephone there was one tone in particular that opened up a world of possibilities: 2600 Hz. The devotees of this note were called phreakers, and in some cases they knew the telephone system better than Bell employees themselves. This episode were diving in to the early history of phreaking, how a bag of tricks was developed, and why exploring the phone grid was so much fun.
http://explodingthephone.com/ - Phil Lapsley's book and website of the same name
https://archive.org/details/belltelephonemag09amerrich/page/205/mode/2up - All about the Holmes Burglar Alarm system
http://explodingthephone.com/docs/dbx0947.pdf - FBI's records on Barclay and the Blue Box
The Analytical Engine
When people talk about early computers Babbage's Analytical Engine is bound to come up. Designed back in the 1830's it's definitely older than any other example of the art. But it also has a lot of strikes against it. The machine was purely mechanical. It only really did math. It stored numbers in decimal instead of binary. Worst of all, it only ever existed as designs on paper. So should we call this beast a computer? Or is it something else entirely?
https://www.fourmilab.ch/babbage/sketch.html - Sketch of the Analytical Engine, and Lovelace's Notes
https://web.archive.org/web/20210226094829/http://athena.union.edu/~hemmendd/Courses/cs80/an-engine.pdf - Bromleys low level description of the engine
https://sci-hub.se/10.1007/978-3-642-61812-3_2 - On the Mathematical Powers of the Calculating Engine, by Charles Babbage
https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_Oi3IhTZyVCAC/mode/1up - The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Babbage
ZOG: Military Strength Hypertext
We're getting back to my hypertext series with a big of an obscure tale. ZOG is a hypertext system what was first developed in 1972 at Carnegie-Melon University. It then stagnated until the latter half of the 1970s when it was picked back up. By 1983 it was cruising on a US Navy aircraft carrier. ZOG presents a hypertext system with some very modern notions. But here's the part that gets me excited: ZOG was developed after Doug Engelbart's Mother of All Demos. So, in theory, ZOG should take ques from this seminal event. Right? ... right?
https://www.campwoodsw.com/mentorwizard/PROMISHistory.pdf - History of PROMIS
https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA049512.pdf - 1977 ZOG Report
https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA158084 - 1984 USS Carl Vinson Report
INTERCAL and Esoterica
Programming doesn't have to be a very serious discipline. In fact, sometimes it's better if it's a little silly. Today we are talking about INTERCAL, the first esoteric programming language. Is it a joke? Is it a form of hacker folk art? Is it even a good language? To answer those questions we need to asses what makes a programming language "good" in the first place.
Program INTERCAL online today! (https://www.tutorialspoint.com/compile_intercal_online.php)
https://archive.org/details/intercal-ref/mode/1up?view=theater - 1973 INTERCAL Manual
https://esoteric.codes/blog/don-woods - Interview with Don Woods
https://sci-hub.se/10.1145/800197.806048 - 1965 TRAC paper
Very well researched podcast
This is the best computer history podcast I’ve found. The host really does his research for each episode. He also does a good job conveying why each topic is important to the development of computers.
Very informative look at computings roots in history. Well researched and presented!
Interesting topics, well-researched, enjoyably presented
An enjoyable computer history podcast covering well chosen topics presented in a lively and interesting style. The content is well researched, well organized, and places its topics in context. Episodes include enough technical content to cover key points, but don’t require a technical background to appreciate the history and relevance to how things work today. Highly recommended.