P.O.V on E.N.I.A.C and M.O.R.E

Enough with the acronyms! It’s hard enough reading late at night. Winston has kept me reasonably engaged in past chapters, but I’m sorry to say 9 & 10 were a little more difficult. I blame the military. It’s interesting to note how much technology comes from public-sector invention. If only education had as much funding… okay, no political tirade tonight. The readings this week dealt with the onset of computer technology. Here’s my Cliff’s notes version of Winston’s chapters:

Bashford beget firing tables
Firing tables beget ENIAC
ENIAC beget electronic long-division
Mauchly claimed dog ate his homework
Goldstine sought lost paper
British beget Colossus to crack German Navel Enigma (haven’t had a navel enigma, but it sounds serious)
Goldstine stops searching for lost paper and writes his own
Concept of program memory
Nuclear arms race fuels IBM
Some things happened regarding ACE, CPC, IAS, EDVAC, USSR, TRE, CRT EDSAC, MADM, NPL, UNIVAC and sine qua non, but this is the point where my brain started to spasm.
Jumping ahead… ECC beget ERA
$$$ beget Henry Straus
UNIVAC predicts elections
IBM beget SSEC, SAGE, GSHQ, ONR and BINAC
Boeing beget BACAIC and charged per initial
A guy named Zuse took the fun out of chess
IBM ruled the world

In conclusion, not only has the onset of computer technology advanced our military, political and social vices, it’s also damaged our ability to read history.

I found the Mediamorphasis article far more compelling. I wrote quite a bit about this in my blog, but a couple of points that stood out to me are the notion of community, and tie of computers to the railroad.

First, Fidler holds that the addition of electricity to communication created an national and then global concept of community. I think this is valid to the point of breaking the boundaries of distance and time, however I think that "community" is far more than sending/receiving messages; it involves contact, inflection, body language and emotion as well. My opinion (subject to change and any moment…) is that the ability to communicate over distance actually led to a break-down in social structure. With these new electronic communication devices, people were as much engaged in the happenings of other communities as their own (this is probably where Fidler would say, "exactly"). However, I think this also made it more appealing to travel and move away from communities to explore other communities (I’ll only be a telegraph away). These devices created a perception of closeness, but could not, nor can they today, provide the same social necessities of person-to-person interaction.

The other point I found interesting is the notion that the railroad created a need for long-distance communication and standardization of time, as did newspapers. Once we broke beyond the walls of our community in rapid travel, it makes sense that time would need to be standard as it Delta more with minutes and hours than days and months. I can see how this would be seen as the beginning of the computer revolution from the standpoint of speed and efficiency.

It was also funny to think about how people reacted to voices from inside the phone. I remember hearing about how people were so shocked by early movies that, in one instance, audience actually thought a train was coming at them when it was simply filmed that way. Interestingly though, I think very little surprises us nowadays. We’ve become so accustom to change and innovation that we’re not as stunned by new advances. That, and are advances seem less ground-breaking as they were in history. Taking pictures on my cell phone seems so slight compared to the first voice carried over long-distance.

-Alex

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