Colourful computer history

I love James Ball’s colourful photographic history of computers.

These machines are grossly under-powered compared to the devices we use today. Still, they’re a wonderful reminder of how far we’ve come, and what lies ahead for us in technological terms. This Telefunken RA770 (circa 1970) is one of my favourites:

Via The Stylish & Colorful Computing Machines of Yesteryear by Jason Kottke

How Humans first walked on the Moon in Apollo 11

Aldrin Looks Back at Tranquility Base during the Apollo 11 mission

Vox has a terrific video that explains how the Apollo 11 mission worked, and how the astronauts that took part in the mission made their way to the Moon and back.

If you’re into old footage of historical events like this, also be sure to check out the CBS coverage of the lunar landing (also courtesy of NASA):

My blog-Twitter stats synchronicity

I just noticed that there is a little synchronicity between my blog stats and my Twitter stats. 4,022 blog posts alongside 40.2k tweets … See? 😁

Blog stats
4,022 blog posts already … boy, where did the time go?
My Twitter stats
40,2k tweets and more than a decade on Twitter. Where did that time go?

I doubt very much that there are any stars and/or planets in alignment for this one. Just the same, it’s a fun little thing for me.

Organ music and roller skating at the Moonlight Rollerway

Dominic, the owner of Moonlight Rollerway, playing organ music
“Dominic, the owner of Moonlight Rollerway, plays the organ there every Tuesday night.” – Lisa Whiteman

I love stories like this one about the Moonlight Rollerway by Lisa Whiteman. Mostly I enjoy the photographs of what seems to be to be fragments of Americana/American nostalgia that speak to a very different time.

Every Tuesday night, Lillian Tomasino laces up her roller skates, puts her arms around her partner, and glides in sweeping circles across the floor of Moonlight Rollerway. Holding each other like ballroom dancers, she and Tom Clayton move effortlessly to the jaunty, classic tunes played live on a Hammond organ above the Glendale, California, rink.

Via “Throwback: LA roller rink still has a weekly organ night” on Kottke.org (one of my favourite blogs).

The camera phone was invented to share a newborn baby photo in 1997

We take for granted that we can take photos with our phones and share them instantly. We don’t really think about it and that this capability is only 20 years old.

Did you know that Philippe Kahn is credited with inventing the first camera-phone and he did it to capture the birth of his daughter? Here is his story:

This is the first photo taken with Kahn’s prototype camera phone:

Philippe Kahn's first camera phone photo, taken in 1997
Philippe Kahn’s first camera phone photo, taken in 1997

As incredible as his creation was at the time, I am even more impressed with his wife. There she was, pregnant and about to give birth, and she encouraged him to build the critical connection he needed to connect his camera to his phone and laptop.

Image credit: Alice Donovan Rouse

The story behind Comic Sans – take a deep breath

We’ve all encountered Comic Sans and probably have mixed feelings about this controversial font. Did you know the history behind it and how it came to be so popular? Great Big Story has a short “origins” video titled “Comic Sans: The Man Behind the World’s Most Contentious Font” that is worth watching if you are as touched by Comic Sans as most of us are:

It turns out he was inspired by two iconic comics at the time: Batman and Watchmen. I’m not sure if that revelation makes much of a difference to those of us who have been traumatised by seeing so much inappropriate use of the font but it is an interesting factoid.

Credit to The Drum for its story that inspired this little share.

Image credit: Snowdog, published on Wikimedia Commons and released into the Public Domain.

Genius – The story of Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein, official 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics photograph.

National Geographic has produced a scripted series about Albert Einstein titled “Genius” that starts in April 2017. I just watched the trailer and I definitely want to watch this.

From Executive Producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the premiere season of National Geographic’s first scripted anthology series, GENIUS, will focus on Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein. Based on Walter Isaacson’s critically acclaimed and best-selling book, Einstein: His Life and Universe, and adapted by writer Noah Pink, GENIUS follows the brilliant scientist through the ups and downs of his life, from failing to get his doctorate to developing the general theory of relativity.

In the meantime, I have slowly been reading Walter Isaacson’s book that became the basis for this series. I think it’s time to return to the book and finish it. Here is the trailer for the series. It looks terrific!

There is so much good stuff available from National Geographic lately. I really want to figure out how to gain access to the channel at home. Our TV supports terrestrial TV but we haven’t connected it to either an antenna or to some sort of cable or satellite service. We basically watch whatever we can on YouTube or Netflix through our Chromecast.

If you’re interested, the Internet Archive has a collection of works about and by him that is worth exploring. One of my favourite photos featuring him and a collection of other top scientists of the time is this colourised version of a group photo taken at the 1927 Solvay Conference.

If I could just go back in time and make better decisions …

Ever wish you could go back in time and make a different choice?

“If I could just go back in time and do that differently …”

If you have ever said those words (or thought them), you probably imagined an alternate timeline when you were able to correct a mistake or make a different decision about something that led to your current situation.

Leaving aside the current reality that time is very much a linear experience in one direction, it is appealing to think we could be living a better life if only we made different choices.

I’ve certainly thought about it. Each time I considered the hypothetical possibility that I could go back in time and change something, I arrived at the same conclusion: I would probably lose the wonderful things I have in my life too.

If I gave a different answer then a relationship would have ended sooner and I wouldn’t have made that [insert adjective here] decision later. Then I could have avoided [insert consequences here] and I would be so much better off now!

Sure, if I had 3 wishes and a genie to grant them I’d probably make a couple changes here and there (I’ve thought about this too!). I doubt they would be as dramatic as you may think.

I’ve come to understand that all my past mistakes also involved a series of decisions that led me to this life with a wonderful wife and children and an opportunity to have the experiences I have today.

More recently, I also realised that this idea that we could make different choices to affect our future lives isn’t just a phenomenon of the past. It is very much part of our present too.

This isn’t quite a “Road Not Taken” realisation. Instead what I realised is that each decision we make could one day become that decision we will wish we could have made differently.

It is easy to wish we could be transported back in time to correct a wrong at some perceived pivotal point in our lives. It is also easy to imagine that, by correcting that wrong and making a different decision, we would place our future selves in a far better position. It’s easy because we know we can’t go back in time.

Unfortunately, that desire to change something we can’t influence also keeps us tied to the past and prevents us from moving forward with the life we have now.

What we can influence, though, is the next decision we make. What if we project ourselves forward a few years and consider what impact a decision may have on our lives? Perhaps we could glimpse a likely future and make a better decision now and save ourselves that future angst.

We all make mistakes. I make mistakes daily. Some are minor, others not so much. Learning from those mistakes is an important step towards greater self-awareness and not repeating them.

I think it is also possible to make better decisions and smaller mistakes with a little imagination and foresight. In the process, perhaps we’ll also find ourselves wondering: “If I could just go back in time and do that differently …” a little less often in the future.

Featured image credit: Pixabay