76 episodes

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.

Advent of Computing Sean Haas

    • History
    • 4.9 • 34 Ratings

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.

    IPL, AI, and Linked Lists

    IPL, AI, and Linked Lists

    I'll let you in on a secret: I've never understood why LISP is so closely associated with artificial intelligence. I've decided to fix this. In this episode, and the next, I'm tracing the early roots of AI and why list processing is important in the field. This episode we dive into the Information Processing Language, a strange programming language that predates LISP . Along the way we discuss the origin of linked lists, chess playing machines, and a program that could solve logic proofs.

    Selected Sources:

    http://bitsavers.org/pdf/rand/ipl/P-620_The_Chess_Machine_Dec54.pdf - The Chess Machine

    https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/papers/2008/P1929.pdf - IPL V introduction

    http://shelf1.library.cmu.edu/IMLS/MindModels/logictheorymachine.pdf - Logic Theorist

    • 1 hr 10 min
    Viatron Topples IBM

    Viatron Topples IBM

    Viatron's System 21 was the computer of the 1970s! ...At least that's what their marketing claimed. Started in 1967 Viatron was set to be one of the most exciting companies of the coming decade. They were offering a desktop sized computing machine, the System 21, that promised to break IBM's domination of the office. The System 21's heart, the so-called "micro-processor", was slated to be built from cutting edge LSI chips. It could automate data processing, replace bulky IBM hardware, and do away with the punch card. And this marvel could be yours for just $39 a month. Sounds like a good deal, right? Maybe too good. According to some Viatron was strait up stock fraud.

    Selected sources:

    http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/viatron/ViatronSystem21Brochure.pdf - 1969 Viatron Brochure

    http://vintagecomputer.ca/viatron-system-21-model-2111-restoration/ - The beast itself

    https://archive.org/details/CIA-RDP80-01794R000100200043-2/mode/2up - CIA review of System 21

    • 1 hr 11 min
    6502, The Mini-Microprocessor

    6502, The Mini-Microprocessor

    No matter how you cut it the MOS Technology 6502 is an important chip. The chip was cheap, simple, and plentiful. This made it perfect for the home computing boom of the late 1970s. But how was this classic created? Today we are looking at Motorola's earliest attempts to seize the microprocessor market, how economic factors impact history, and how trends and forces can conspire to create better technology.

    Selected sources:

    https://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/access/text/2015/06/102702020-05-01-acc.pdf - 6800 Oral History Panel

    https://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/access/text/2014/08/102739939-05-01-acc.pdf - Check Peddle Oral History

    • 1 hr 2 min
    The oN-Line System, Part 2

    The oN-Line System, Part 2

    NLS, or the oN-Line System, is often looked at as a mile marker in the development of modern computing. It was the first system to use a mouse, one of the first functional examples of hypertext, pioneered remote collaboration, and so much more. But how much do you know about NLS itself? In this series of episode I'm picking apart the system behind the legend.

    In Part 2 we are looking at the development of NLS itself. Along the way we talk timesharing, strange custom hardware, and complex programming practices. Does NLS live up to the hype? You'll have to listen to find out.

    Selected Sources:

    https://dougengelbart.org/content/view/374/ - Go watch the Mother of All Demos

    https://www.dougengelbart.org/content/view/140/ - 1968 NLS progress report

    http://web.archive.org/web/20160210002938/https://web.stanford.edu/dept/SUL/library/extra4/sloan/mousesite/EngelbartPapers/B2_F5_ARNAS1.html - 1966 progress report

    • 1 hr 5 min
    The oN-Line System, Part 1

    The oN-Line System, Part 1

    NLS, or the oN-Line System, is often looked at as a mile marker in the development of modern computing. It was the first system to use a mouse, one of the first functional examples of hypertext, pioneered remote collaboration, and so much more. But how much do you know about NLS itself? In this series of episode I'm picking apart the system behind the legend.

    Part 1 deals primarily with the early roots of NLS, Augmenting Human Intellect, and Doug Engelbart's vision of hypertext. Surprisingly, a lot of this episode has to do with punch cards and a more obscure related technology: the edge notched card.

    Selected Sources:

    https://dougengelbart.org/content/view/138 - Augmenting Human Intellect

    https://americanhistory.si.edu/comphist/englebar.htm - Engelbart Oral History, with the Smithsonian

    • 1 hr 2 min
    Zork

    Zork

    Make sure you have some extra batteries for your lamp, this episode we are delving into the depths of Zork. Written in 1977 Zork would quickly become the epitome of text based adventures, pushing aside all competitors. A lot of this comes down to it's simple gameplay, and the simple fact that Zork is fun to play. But lurking deeper into the game is a hidden treasure. Ya see, the other huge part of Zork's success was it's portability. That was made possible thanks to some sick programming tricks, and a virtual computer called the Z-machine.

    Selected Sources:

    https://sci-hub.se/10.1109/MC.1979.1658697 - Early article from IEEE

    https://web.archive.org/web/20060427000213/http://www.csd.uwo.ca/Infocom/Articles/NZT/zorkhist.html - Tim Anderson's Zork history

    https://archive.org/details/a2woz_Zork_I_1981_Infocom_r75 - Go play Zork

     

    • 1 hr 6 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
34 Ratings

34 Ratings

Ripjetski ,

Informative!

Very informative look at computings roots in history. Well researched and presented!

GregLloyd ,

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.

Potato Lady Bex ,

Fascinating Content

A fastening journey through the history of some of the most prevalent and important technology we use today. The information is interesting and is presented in such a way as to be easily digestible. I learned a lot. It’s clear a lot of hard work and research go into this show, and it’s done with love.

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