Showing posts with label computer programming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label computer programming. Show all posts

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Grace Hopper Documentary Released Today

A long time ago in a data center far, far away, the word "computer" was a job title. For a person. One of those people was Grace Hopper.

Grace Hopper, Josh Wieder
Grace, h@xing on a sweet laptop in the 40's
Grace worked her way up to Rear Admiral in the US Navy; no small feat for a woman of any time, but even more amazing as she started her career in the 30's with a PhD in math from Yale.

In the Navy, she would go on to work on the Harvard Mark 1 (the first modern computer), and she headed the team that wrote the first compiler. Her contributions to computer science are immense. They are also largely glossed over by a science and an industry that is, let's face it, a bit of a sausage fest.

It wasn't always that way. When computers were people, the industry was dominated by women, who tended to have better typing skills than men, and were cheaper to hire. Their contributions to the industry have been forgotten for decades, but thankfully there is a bit of a renaissance in uncovering the contribution of women to the history of computing (and cyptography).

Today's documentary is called The Queen of Code and is directed by Gillian Jacobs. You can read a bit more about the film on re/code, as well.

You can check out this Youtube video of Grace on Letterman in the mean-time: 



Monday, December 22, 2014

University of Sydney Uses XTF to Index 60's Sci-Fi Comics

I grew up reading pulp science fiction. There was a time when I would never had admitted something like that in public. But times have changed. Computer programming is now a career instead of a bizarre waste of time that might get you arrested. People wear and fiddle with mobile computers; displaying them at coffee shops like peacock plumage. When I was a kid and told adults I liked computers they assured my parents it was a phase I would grow out of.

As bitter as I may be of the past, I was delighted to find that the University of Sydney Library had combined my youthful passion for computers and science fiction comics into one mammoth project of love. They digitized the Frontiers of Science, a comic strip which was a big deal in Australia in the early 60's by way of the Sydney Morning Herald.

But they did more than just scan the damn things. Any unpaid intern can do that. Instead, they relied on the eXtensible Text Framework (XTF) in order to provide contextual search capabilities for the comic strip. XTF is designed to allow you to work with heterogenous media sources, and index them based on disparate types of metadata. It comes in handy, if say you want to build a database of comics that have already been scanned, and say the knucklehead that did the scanning saved some images as BMPs, others as JPGs and the rest as PDFs. All of these images contain usable metadata, and XTF is clever enough to grab it all and re-index it into a consistent format.

So bear this in mind for future projects, and go check out the Frontiers of Science at the University of Sydney Library's web site.

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