Competing with Computers

dead reckoning

Magnetic deviation, lightning calculators, nomograms and more “lost arts in the mathematical sciences” at Dead Reckonings. Related: Satellite navigation in the 18th century.


Antivirus Software Sucks


“It’s not just AV software. The entire software industry operates this way.

1. Shovel feature-rich bug-ware onto unsuspecting schlubs to build “brand”
(especially in the enterprise/IT market where the person purchasing the
software is often not the person who has to use it, so they make
decisions based on feature list and brand name rather than quality)
2. Wait for hobbyists, researchers, or smaller companies to figure out how to do it right
3. Buy their companies
4. Repeat”

Quoted from the discussion at Slashdot.

One Day We Will All Be Writing and Revising Code

“Computers tend to replace one category of worker with another. There are two ways to get something done. You can find one group trained to accomplish things the old-fashioned way. Or you can pay another group to set up and maintain machines and systems that will do the same work with fewer employees – of the older category of worker. You are not really replacing people with machines; you are replacing one kind of person-plus-machine with another kind of machine-plus-person.

When IBM persuaded corporations to modernize their bookkeeping in the 1950s, businesses were able to get along with far fewer accountants, as they expected, but they had to hire more programmers than they had anticipated. Automatic teller systems also require programmers and technicians paid four times as much as bank tellers.

If things go well, banks need less than a quarter of the staff, and they come out ahead. But it is notoriously difficult to predict all problems, or their levels of difficulty, in advance. And one mark of newer technology is that while it is cheap in routine operation, it is expensive to correct and modify.”

Quoted from: “Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences“, Edward Tenner, p.245 (Amazon link).

Homebrewed CPU

Homebred CPU

“Intel’s fabrication plants can churn out hundreds of thousands of processor chips a day. But what does it take to handcraft a single 8-bit CPU and a computer? Give or take 18 months, about $1,000 and 1,253 pieces of wire.”

Via Wired. More about the project here.