Hungary to Host Conference on History of Computer Science

MOSCOW, September 19 (RIA Novosti) – The 8th IT STAR Workshop on the History of Computing will take place on September 19 in Szeged, Hungary.

The conference will be dedicated to the history of computer science in the countries of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. It will feature more than 10 speakers, from Poland, Italy, Russia, Hungary and other countries.

Petri Paju, Ph.D., a Post-Doc Researcher from the Department of Cultural History at the University of Turku in Finland, will make a report on IBM in Eastern Europe. Kiril Boyanov, A Full Member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, will speak on the history of computer science in Bulgaria. Vladimir Kitov, a lecturer from the Department of Computer Science of Russia’s Plekhanov University of Economics, will make a report on Development and using of the three first Soviet computers.

The conference is an annual event which is dedicated to the different aspects of information technology.

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What’s Happening: Living history, Tech talk, free computer classes



A trial lawyer and Montana Tech professor will debate on the U.S. Constitution from 7 to 9 p.m. in Montana Tech’s University Relations Center. They are Shane Krauser, of Chandler, Ariz., and John Ray, Ph.D., a Montana Tech political science and public policy professor. Krauser is the director of the Academy for Constitutional Education and an adjunct professor of Constitutional law. It’s sponsored by the Montana Tech College Republicans and Montana Citizens for Truth.


Millicent Firestone of Los Alamos National Lab will talk at 4 p.m. in Montana Tech’s ELC 202. Firestone expertise includes the design and synthesis of amphiphilic molecules and monomers.


Bannack State Park’s third annual Living History event will be held Sept. 18-21. Times are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. This depicts the first 20 years of Bannack’s history. Details or to schedule a school visit, 406-834-3413.


The Butte Public Library offers free “Super Basics” computer classes, where students start at the beginning — turning on the computer — and go from there at 6 to 8 p.m., Uptown Library, 224 W. Sign up: 406-723-3361, or visit the library.


Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, 17 W. Quartz St., will be closed from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday. It reopens at 9 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 19. 


Anaconda Community Market, which features area food, produce, jewelry, handmade soaps, crafts and wares, runs 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Friendship Park, adjacent to the Copper Village Museum and Art Center. Admission is free.


An open house at East Middle School, 2600 Grand Ave., runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Parents and students also will have a chance to visit booths hosted by community organizations.



  • Butte Camera Club meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Butte Plaza Mall meeting room. Ken Herrly will present a program on his wildlife photos Details: 406-494-3648, 406-563-7518
  • Butte Rotary Club meets at noon Thursday, Sept. 18, at the Butte Country Club. Prospective member are always welcome.
  • Belly Dance Class, Thursdays 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Butte-Silver Bow Public Library basement. No experience necessary; $5 per class Details: 406-723-3164
  • Silver Bow Kiwanis meet at noon Tuesday, Sept. 23, at Perkins, 2900 Harrison Ave. Guest speaker is Jim Greene, incoming Kiwanis lieutenant governor.
  • Elk Park Ladies Luncheon is 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Butte Country Club. Graduates of Franklin, Holy Savior and Harrison schools are invited. Reservations due by Sept. 24 by calling Gerry, 406-494-4410; Esther, 406-494-4013; or Millie, 406-494-3135.
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics meet at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Atherton Apartments community center room, 4500 Continental Dr. Details: 406-396-4112.

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A history of misses haunt RadioShack

In an alternate universe, RadioShack Corp. would rule the world, supplying all of your electronics needs from computers to cellphones, and even making them. But in this world, RadioShack is almost bankrupt, having missed almost every opportunity to be the centre of the technology revolution.

Last week, the electronics retailer announced its latest quarterly loss – $119.4 million (U.S.) – and said that it might not have enough capital to continue as a “going concern.” The announcement was a surprise to no one. RadioShack, despite some terrific marketing, has been in turnaround mode for almost two decades. Now, with 10 consecutive unprofitable quarters and a stock worth a little over $1, RadioShack is a battery running out of charge.

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RadioShack would be yet another tale about a business failing to adapt to the times, if it were not RadioShack. This is the retailer that sat at the heart of the electronics revolution and had many paths to glory, most of which it took. Yet, in what should be a Harvard Business School case study, it executed all of them badly.

The story of RadioShack begins with failure. The company, founded in 1921, sold radio parts and surplus supplies by outlet and catalog. But it was almost bankrupt when it was purchased in 1963 by Tandy Corp., a leather retailer.

At the time, RadioShack had just nine stores. But it expanded rapidly to become a hobbyist’s dream. RadioShack became a mythical place for all things related to electronics, catering not just to the do-it-yourselfers but also to anyone in search of the latest gadgets.

RadioShack also knew how to ride a wave. During the CB radio craze of the 1970s (you had to be there to understand), RadioShack was the leading retailer of CBs. It was doing so well that at one point, it was opening about three stores a day.

RadioShack entered the 1980s poised to be the centre of the computer revolution. Indeed, in 1977, the company had introduced one of the first mass-produced computers, the TRS-80, and initially outsold Apple using the power of its retail channel and its thousands of locations.

But from that perch, RadioShack went nowhere. RadioShack’s computer business lost traction and was eventually made obsolete as companies like IBM and Dell delivered more powerful computers through different channels.

Failures abounded. RadioShack phased out its computer business in 1993 along with its circuit board business. That year, too, the company sold its cellphone manufacturing business.

Instead of concentrating on RadioShack and building up its offerings, the company tried new concepts with new stores: Computer City to sell computers, Energy Express Plus to sell batteries, Famous Brand Electronics for refurbished electronics, McDuff and Video Concepts for audio and video, and the Incredible Universe, which became the company’s Best Buy knockoff.

None of these worked, and all were either closed or sold off by the late 1990s.

Still, RadioShack had a terrific reputation as the place to go for gear. In the Internet bubble, the stock closed at a high of $78.50 a share.

But the company had already lost its focus. The big box stores like Best Buy began to capture the bulk of the electronics business. RadioShack remained largely your local stop for electronics gear. The problem was that most of the equipment became cables and ancillary things to make the computers go.

Looking yet again for a new business model, RadioShack seized on mobile. But this merely made RadioShack a pawn in the cellphone wars as it tried to profit from selling a commodity.

RadioShack had some initial successes with sales in kiosks in Sam’s Clubs, but when RadioShack became too successful, Sam’s Club’s owner, Wal-Mart, took away the contract. And an attempt to sell phones at Target failed. The move to smartphones squeezed RadioShack’s margins, as did cellphone companies’ move to have their own stores.

In short, mobile has not panned out.

Now, RadioShack is trying again – it tried to rebrand itself in February with a slick $4 million Super Bowl commercial as not the store from the 1980s that you remember. But if RadioShack is not your 1980s store, what is it?

Best Buy may survive because it is so important to retailers and it finally has figured out how to sell in and around the Web.

But what is RadioShack’s purpose? It may make money selling headphones or computer cables, but that business model seems unsustainable. After all, how many cable cords can you sell to sustain 4,000-plus stores?

The company’s cash is evaporating. A plan to close about 1,100 stores was halted by RadioShack’s current lenders. And while RadioShack’s biggest shareholder, the hedge fund Standard General, is rumored to be in talks to provide new financing, the question would then become whether RadioShack’s latest attempt to leverage its name by adopting cleaner and brighter stores could be pulled off.

That question remains unanswered, but you have to shake your head at the missed opportunities.

RadioShack could have been Best Buy. It could have been Amazon. It could have become Dell. The paths that RadioShack could have taken are numerous. But instead of choosing one, it chose them all, walking away from its place as a hobbyist’s dream.

So what can we learn? RadioShack suffered from poor, often overpaid, leadership, which could not focus on a single plan and then was left grasping for a rescue strategy.

We can see echoes of this in the current mad dash by the Silicon Valley giants to become conglomerates. Google, Facebook and others also fear that their original mission will become obsolete and so they are buying anything new for billions of dollars to avoid a fate like RadioShack’s.

But perhaps the tech giants are missing one thing from the RadioShack story. RadioShack tried many paths. But going in all directions without a full commitment is not enough, particularly when the core brand is not sustained. RadioShack has branded itself well, but it led itself too far from its strengths.

It’s a cliché but true that retailers do not fare well in bankruptcy. Some bankruptcy experts have said the reason may be that the bankruptcy code forces the retailer to decide within nine months whether to confirm leases – too short a period to decide what will succeed or fail. But the problem with retailers is usually not that they have too much debt – something bankruptcy can solve – or even that they cannot decide on their locations. The problem is that bankrupt retailers cannot attract new customers or create a new survival plan.

It’s not an enviable place to be. RadioShack sits waiting for its new financiers to find some new path. As someone who bought a CB radio back in the 1970s, I hope they make it, but I wonder if such a path exists.

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History of the Personal Computer: Leading up to Intel’s 4004, the first …

The personal computing business as we know it owes itself to an environment of enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and happenstance. Before PCs, the mainframe and minicomputer business model was formed around a single company providing an entire ecosystem; from building the hardware, installation, maintenance, writing the software, and training operators.

The invention of the microprocessor, DRAM, and EPROM integrated circuits would spark the widespread use of the BASIC high-level language variants, which would lead to the introduction of the GUI and bring computing to the mainstream. The resulting standardization and commoditization of hardware would finally make computing relatively affordable for anyone.

This is the first installment in a five part series. Over the next few weeks we’ll be taking a look at the history of the microprocessor and personal computing, from the invention of the transistor to modern day chips powering our connected devices.

Read the complete article.

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h+ Magazine | Future Ancestry Research

Technology, and particularly computing, is essential to family history. Without it, we could still tell family stories to our children, but we certainly couldn’t substantiate those stories from billions of historical records into millions of family trees, as web applications like FamilySearch and do today.

In the 1960s, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed that the ratio of computing capacity to cost was doubling predictably, every couple years or faster. In other words, a computer built in 1969 had twice as much capacity as a computer built at the same cost in 1968, and over a hundred times as much capacity as a computer built at the same cost in 1962; a computer built in 1969 would also reliably have half the capacity of a computer built at the same cost in 1970, and less than a hundredth the capacity of a computer built at the same cost in 1976.

That trend, known as Moore’s Law, has continued to the present. Today, a $150 smartphone can store about a million times more data and process that data about a thousand times faster than the $150K Apollo Guidance Computer that took astronauts to the moon in 1969. The smartphone also has wireless access to extended computing capacity on the Internet, including powerful systems such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo and eBay, as well as gigantic troves of family history data.

Suppose Moore’s Law continues. Within decades, whatever replaces smartphones would have millions, billions and then trillions of times the overall computing capacity at the same cost. Within a century, $150 would purchase more computing capacity than that of all human brains combined. If that were to happen, what might the intersection of family history and technology look like? What might FamilySearch or be like? Of course we don’t really know, but let’s imagine.

One of the things we might do is tell stories about our family and ancestors at a much more massive scale and at a far deeper level, by computing highly detailed family history simulations. Maybe they would be something like a mix of Google Earth enhanced with a full history of maps derived from geological and astronomical research; Oculus Rift enhanced with brain-computer interfacing for an immersive tactile experience; and Second Life enhanced with avatars generated from family trees, photos, journals, and DNA, and abstracted to sub-neuronal degrees of detail to enable artificial intelligence. In deeper more meaningful ways, we could understand and even feel our family history, as the characters, settings, plots and conflicts unfold before us – as our stories come to life, and we walk in our ancestors’ shoes (literally?).

As it turns out, if ever we compute such family history simulations, detailed to the point of enabling the characters with fully immersive consciousness, there would be a rather shocking philosophical ramification.

Imagine a family history simulation sophisticated enough to enable the characters with artificial intelligence and full awareness and consciousness. If something like $150 could purchase more computing capacity than that of all human brains combined, we might run many thousands, millions, or more family history simulations, for education, entertainment, research and innumerable other purposes.

Now imagine further that you actually live in such a future. version 42 has just been released, and all your friends are using it to run family history simulations. One day, while you and a friend are watching some of your ancestors, your friend turns to you and asks, “Are we living in a family history simulation?” You laugh of course, but your friend insists.

“Seriously! Are we living in a family history simulation? Think about it. probably runs at least a million family history simulations. Each of them includes billions of artificial intelligences that, so far as I can tell, experience their world like we experience ours. That’s something like, oh, let’s just say eight quadrillion artificial intelligences. What are the chances that you and I happen to be among eight billion natural intelligences instead of eight quadrillion artificial intelligences? … one in a million, or less because that’s assuming a non-simulated world simulated the others. I’d say we’re almost certainly living in a family history simulation.”

Your friend would be right. If there are a large number of worlds verified to be inside family history simulations, and no worlds verified to be outside family history simulations (despite common assumptions about our own world), the laws of probability entail that any given world, including our own, is most likely to be inside a family history simulation, and worlds outside family history simulations are merely an improbable hypothesis. In other words, if we run many family history simulations, we probably already live in one. Fellow tech-philosophy fans should take a look at a formal development of this idea, known as the Simulation Argument.

Now this philosophical argument doesn’t purport to prove that we’re actually living in a family history simulation. It only purports to prove that at least one of two possibilities must be true: either (1) we will never compute many family history simulations to a degree of detail that enables characters with artificial intelligence and fully immersive consciousness, or (2) we probably already live in such a family history simulation. However, both possibilities present us with some challenges.

The first suggests various probabilistic or hard limits to our technological progress. Maybe we’re likely to destroy ourselves with powerful new weapons or succumb to natural global catastrophes before attaining the ability to run detailed family history simulations. Perhaps we’re destined for some form of totalitarian control that would stifle such innovations. It may even be the case that the complexity or nature of consciousness is such that completely immersing or embedding it in a simulation is impossible or progress toward it would be asymptotic – indefinitely progressing slower and slower while requiring more and more resources.

Of course, if the first possibility is not true then the second must be, and it entails that reality is not what most of us usually suppose it to be. So what do you think? Are we living in a family history simulation? Could and would we simulate our ancestors to the point of artificial intelligence and immersive consciousness?


This article originally appeared in a somewhat different form on Lincoln’s blog here:

And a somewhat different variation originally appeared on the Tech Roots blog.

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  • Digital Physics vs. The Simulation Argument [updated]

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History Lesson: Dragon 32, the Welsh computer

What, you naturally assumed Wales had no role in the history of home computers? That’ll teach you.

Take a look at the Dragon 32, Swansea toy company Mettoy’s knee-jerk attempt to get some loving as the ZX81 and VIC-20 started cascading into British homes.

They don’t make ads like this any more. Um, which is probably for the best

Mettoy’s source of inspiration was an odd one: Tandy’s American TRS-80 Color Computer, or CoCo to some of its fans.

Using the same chipset and language as the CoCo would, for better or worse, make the Dragon 32 unique in the UK market.

After a feisty start over Christmas 1982, Mettoy set up Dragon Data as its own company at a new site in Port Talbot. You’d expect that to be pretty big news in a low-key town, but… well, not so much.

That first 32k model (upgraded from a 16k prototype to take on the 48k Spectrum) landed cheap and early. It could run cassettes, cartridges and even disks, but games usually had to be built from scratch (or CoCo ports) as most developers who hadn’t already shacked up with Sinclair, Commodore, BBC or Acorn just weren’t cut out to work with Dragon tools.

Sluggish support and ugly graphics kept Dragon 32 sales in check after the first surge. Still, it did well enough for a Dragon 64 follow-up and American distribution through the Tano Corporation of fabled US party city New Orleans, a natural match for Wales’ premier party town Port Talbot.

Dragon Data went through sales and receivership within the next couple of years, but the Dragon remains Wales’ only mainstream market entry. Some may also count the ‘super-Spectrum’ SAM Coupe, but as it was even less successful then the Dragon, we wouldn’t. We’re harsh that way.

Enter the Dragon (32)

The Dragon 32 may not have been packing much in the power department and it may have been a pain in the tail to develop for, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t home to a number of great games.

If you fancy having a dig through the best of what Wales’s main hardware offering had to offer, here are the essential titles you should look out for.

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Blogging History: Arizona teen exorcists; Philadelphia Free Library is …

One year
Teen exorcists from Arizona take on the UK and Harry Potter: Brynne Larson and Tess and Savannah Scherkenback, teenage girls from Arizona who happen to be exorcists just like Brynne’s dad, visit the UK! I bet they were a huge hit there. After all, Harry Potter author JK Rowling is British and, as Tess Scherkenback says, “The spells and things that you’re reading in the Harry Potter books, those aren’t just something that are made up, those are actual spells. Those are things that came from witchcraft books.”

Five years
Philadelphia Free Library System is shutting down: The Philadelphia Free Library system is broke, and they’re shutting it down, including cancelling “all branch and regional library programs, programs for children and teens, after school programs, computer classes, and programs for adults” and “all children programs, programs to support small businesses and job seekers, computer classes and after school programs” and “all library visits to schools, day care centers, senior centers and other community centers” and “all community meetings” and “all GED, ABE and ESL program.”

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Are you a child of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s? Your computer use history has …

It’s always nice to take the occasional stroll down memory lane, reminiscing over past experiences and the things you used to like or grew up with.

Our first computers, or game consoles, are usually something of an important milestone in our lives as we discover the possibilities they offer. I had my first computer at the very start of the 1980s, and even to this day I share a slight bond with other users of the same system, due to that shared experience.

When you grew up, where you lived, and when you first got into computers, will define the system you first used and it might be the same as your peers, or something entirely different. has put together an infographic that will tell you if you’re a child of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, or ’00s, based on your computer history. It’s a broad brush picture, naturally, but it offers a fun look back in time, with mentions of CompuServe, Apple II, and, er, Teddy Ruxpin.

What decade were you a child of?

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Broadcom Foundation, Computer History Museum to support US STEM education

California-based communications chip maker Broadcom Corp´s (NASDAQ: BRCM) Broadcom Foundation non-profit and the Computer History Museum have announced a partnership to introduce underserved middle school students to coding and applied math through an innovative new community outreach initiative called Broadcom PresentsDesign_Code_Build.

Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build is a series of interactive STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) events at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View designed to introduce more than 400 Bay Area middle school students to the basic concepts involved in coding, such as logic, structure, space and change.

Through activities that emphasise problem solving, teamwork and project-based learning, students will gain hands-on experience by programming a Raspberry Pi, which uses a Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-a chip, navigating a maze using logic and investigating historical technologies to learn how computers were programmed in the past.

Each event is keynoted by a high-tech “Rock Star,” an industry luminary who will share his or her personal story to inspire students to learn the math and coding skills they need to hold 21st century jobs in computer-driven STEM fields such as technology, engineering, medicine, finance and design.

Broadcom Presents Design_Code_Build will partner with major corporations in Silicon Valley and leading organizations such as Engineers For Tomorrow, Raspberry Pi Foundation, Society for Women Engineers, and Broadcom´s own Women´s Network and Multicultural Network.

Collaborating community partners include organizations such as Aim High and SMASH Prep/Level Playing Field Institute, which provide services to middle school minority students.

Find out more at

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Who is the best defensive tackle in OSU history? Voting ends Friday

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2014 12:00 am

Updated: 2:35 pm, Thu Sep 11, 2014.

Who is the best defensive tackle in OSU history? Voting ends Friday

By Staff Reports

1 comment

This fall, you get the chance to crown the kings of Oklahoma State football.

Each Monday, we’ll announce five candidates for the best defensive player in Cowboys history. You have until 1 p.m. Friday to vote for your favorites. Each Sunday, we’ll announce the winners, culminating Nov. 23 when we unveil your selection for the best OSU defensive player of all time.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014 12:00 am.

Updated: 2:35 pm.

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