computer science jargon from the past

How old do you think these two phrases sound? “Reified void” “Access denied” (Hint: They are older than they sound to a computer nerd.) They sound like 21st-century computer jargon, but they both happen to predate even the 20th century. I told Chuar that he was a great traveler, and that I knew of two other great travelers among the seers of the East, one by the name of Hegel, and another by the name of Spencer, and that I should ever remember these three wise men, who spoke...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 | General | Read More

two thoughts about career excellence

I love Dickens, warts and all. Sometimes he is sententious, and (like the mediocre modern I am) at such points I am willing to listen non-ironically. This bit here struck me hard enough to stop and write it down: I mean a man whose hopes and aims may sometimes lie (as most men's sometimes do, I dare say) above the ordinary level, but to whom the ordinary level will be high enough after all if it should prove to be a way of usefulness and good service leading to no other. All...

Thursday, June 5, 2014 | General | Read More

sweet numerology keyfob

(...Being a ramble through mnemonics, phonetics, information theory, pi, absolute zero, and cosmology, also touching on rutabagas and conches.) Sometimes we need to commit a number to short-term memory, such as an street address or parking garage berth. More important numbers (for phones or credit cards, PINs or birthdays) call for long-term memorization although smart phones increasingly fill that gap. But even with a smart phone it is pleasantly useful to have the option to...

Sunday, January 29, 2012 | General | Read More

Feynman's inbox

Here is Richard Feynman writing on the ease of criticizing theories, and the difficulty of forming them: The problem is not just to say something might be wrong, but to replace it by something — and that is not so easy. As soon as any really definite idea is substituted it becomes almost immediately apparent that it does not work. The second difficulty is that there is an infinite number of possibilities of these simple types. It is something like this. Youare sitting working...

Saturday, June 25, 2011 | General | Read More

bloom filters in a nutshell

Bloom filters are a charming data structure. A predecessor idea dates from pre-electronic days, when decks of Hollerith punch cards would be queried in the 1940’s by inserting a rod into one of M holes along the top of the deck. Only cards with notches at the selected position would then drop out of the deck for further processing. Repeating the procedure K times would select only cards with notches at all K positions. A false drop occurs when a card happens to have the...

Monday, February 23, 2009 | General | Read More

words of power from the ancient world

Hammering my way through a posting on the JVM and continuations, I realized again how oddly poetic are some of our terms of art. Some of them seem to have been with us from the dawn of the single-threaded stored-program computing machine. Terms like “continuation”, “closure”, “thunk”, even “call” and “loop” are metaphoric, evocative, polyvalent, elusive of final definition. What I mean is, they are poetic. These terms name basic ideas and patterns that we, as programmers, do...

Saturday, March 29, 2008 | General | Read More

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