Computers


Did you know that the iPod is basically a ripoff of a German transistor radio from the 1950s? Via the Atlantic, selections from Bill Buxton’s collection of little-known gadgets (such as early…






Ripping a move from the playbook of German auto manufacturers Volkswagen (the Beetle) and BMW (the Mini), the new owner of early home computer staple the Commodore 64 is revamping the brand but…




HAL 9000Via the The Economist:

The treatment, in the early 1880s, of an Austrian hysteric called Anna O is generally regarded as the beginning of talking-it-through as a form of therapy.

But psychoanalysis, as this version of talk therapy became known, is an expensive procedure. Anna’s doctor, Josef Breuer, is estimated to have spent over 1,000 hours with her.

Since then, things have improved. A typical course of a modern talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, consists of 12-16 hour-long sessions and is a reasonably efficient way of treating conditions like depression and anxiety (hysteria is no longer a recognised diagnosis).

Medication, too, can bring rapid change. Nevertheless, treating disorders of the psyche is still a hit-and-miss affair, and not everyone wishes to bare his soul or take mind-altering drugs to deal with his problems. A new kind of treatment may, though, mean he does not have to.



Sketch To Mug ShotReports Michigan State University:

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The long-time practice of using police facial sketches to nab criminals has been, at best, an inexact art. But the process may soon be a little more exact thanks to the work of some Michigan State University researchers.

A team led by MSU University Distinguished Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Anil Jain and doctoral student Brendan Klare has developed a set of algorithms and created software that will automatically match hand-drawn facial sketches to mug shots that are stored in law enforcement databases.

Once in use, Klare said, the implications are huge.

“We’re dealing with the worst of the worst here,” he said. “Police sketch artists aren’t called in because someone stole a pack of gum. A lot of time is spent generating these facial sketches so it only makes sense that they are matched with the available technology to catch these criminals.”


liveanim8In 1996, Warner Brothers was on the cutting edge by building a “web site” to promote its new blockbuster film Space Jam. Since then, the site has been neither updated nor removed, but remains gloriously preserved, a fascinating museum piece showcasing what the internet looked like in its dark days fifteen years ago. There’s GeoCities-style web design, a slightly hallucinogenic swirl of animated graphics, goofy audio clips, garish patterns, screen savers, and difficult-to-navigate frames within frames — it’s amazing to think it was created for a billion-dollar, multinational media conglomerate. Gather any nearby teenagers for a history lesson and explore one of my favorite recent online discoveries, the Space Jam homepage.












The Crime of Our TimeI came across this topic while working on the Disinformation-published The Crime Of Our Time, written by Plunder filmmaker Danny Schechter. To me, this is one of those topics, the media should be more concerned about, (60 Minutes did report on this last night), but I wonder if the fear of massive manipulation destroying confidence in the entire system is causing many to look the other way. 60 Minutes reports:

It may surprise you to learn that most of the stock trades in the U.S. are no longer being made by human beings, but by robot computers capable of buying and selling thousands of different securities in the time it takes you to blink an eye. These supercomputers — which actually decide which stocks to buy and sell — are operating on highly secret instructions programmed into them by math wizards who may or may not know anything about the value of the companies that are being traded.

It’s known as “high frequency trading,” a phenomenon that’s swept over much of Wall Street in the past few years and played a supporting role in the mini market crash last spring that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunge 600 points in 15 minutes. Most people outside of the industry know very little, if anything, about it. But the Securities and Exchange Commission and members of Congress have begun asking some tough questions about its usefulness, potential dangers, and suspicions that some people may be using computers to manipulate the market.


DARPA and Google seemed to be joined at the hip these days… From the New York Times: Give a computer a task that can be crisply defined — win at chess, predict…