Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

Gordon Foster

Monday, January 30th, 2012

1921 - 2010

Pioneering figure in the worlds of informatics and computing
- The Irish Times
Saturday, February 26, 2011
(mirrored here)

Gordon Foster moved through the 20th century like a lost character from Cryptonomicon.

He worked as a code-breaker in Bletchley Park, met Alan Turing, studied cybernetics, helped develop operations research, invented ISBN, became a professor in Statistics at TCD, connected remote areas to the internet and communicated with doctors attending the Ebola epidemic in Zaire.


Coding in the great outdoors

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

Cottage Computer Programming

Paul Lutus (above) has sailed solo around the world, in a 30-foot yacht, worked for NASA, designing electronics for the Space Shuttle and modelling the solar system for the Viking Mars mission and written one of the most popular word processors ever, Apple Writer.

The story of the writing of the initial version of Apple Writer is the subject of his article above, how he dropped out of college, and out of NASA, and moved into a cabin in the forest (see below). He tells us how he began developing software in almost total isolation. It is inspiring, one man's private exploration of the inner space of the microcomputer.

I was particularly struck by the third section, disputing the death of the individual programmer, who seems to have been dying since about 1965. One man can still write a program. If I wanted to, I could still write an entire operating system from the metal up. This might not be the best use of my time, by normal measures, but as Lutus says, it doesn't matter.

Programming need not just be a mechanical means to an end. It can be an almost philosophical exercise, creating something from tiny bricks of pure logic. Like the carpenter or mason, a programmer chips away at the program until only the desired form remains, sometimes surprising even its own creator.

I don't want to build atop the tottering hierarchies of libraries and objects and APIs, conforming and compromising my way to mediocrity.

I want to write my own tiny operating system, for a small computer, with a minimal programming language of my own devising, and I want to live in the mountains. Just for a while.

Watch the memory of a Commodore 64 in real-time

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

ICU64 in action, watching the memory map

ICU64 in action, watching the memory map

This is one of the most impressive emulation-related releases I've seen in quite some time. ICU64 is a hacking tool which lets you visualize the various memory banks of the Commodore 64 in real-time, as the emulator (VICE or Frodo) runs the game, demo or other program.

You can even interact directly with the memory, changing values with immediate effect. The demonstration video below shows the user editing the level of the game he's playing, or changing the number of lives left. For me, the most impressive part is the zoomed-out view of the C64's memory, watching the dancing pixels which show the memory actually changing.

Here's the link to the site:
First public release of ICU64 and Frodo Redpill

And the video:

ICU64 in action, watching the memory map