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Technology

The first supercomputer, IBM’s 305 RAMAC from 1956

In September 1956 IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the world’s first supercomputer with 5 MB of data.

The machine weighed over a ton — it took a team of people to transport it.

To put the computer size and storage in perspective, our pocket-sized phones contain 256GB of storage. A grain of rice dwarfs the world’s smallest computer.

The world’s smallest computer next to a grain of rice

120 Years of Moore’s Law

Like fire and farming techniques before it, the ubiquity of computers and the exponential processing speed of chips, also known as Moore’s Law, changed the course of history. But even Moore’s Law is dying in exchange for brain-inspired chips.

Writes venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson who updated Ray Kurzweil’s visualization of Moore’s Law:

The fine-grained parallel compute architecture of a GPU maps better to the needs of deep learning than a CPU. There is a poetic beauty to the computational similarity of a processor optimized for graphics processing and the computational needs of a sensory cortex, as commonly seen in neural networks today.

Stephen T. Jurvetson

Dare we say it, the next supercomputer is not only artificially intelligent, but it also melds the mind and the machine.

Forget Google. Imagine having already downloaded all the relevant knowledge directly to your mind and using it expeditiously.

Here’s how IBM’s Director of Research Dario Gil sees the fusion of chips, neurons, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing wiring together.

“We’re beginning to see an answer to what is happening at the end of Moore’s law. It’s a question that has been the front of the industry for a long, long time.

And the answer is that we’re going to have this new foundation of bits plus neurons plus qubits coming together, over the next decade [at] different maturity levels – bits [are] enormously mature, the world of neural networks and neural technology, next in maturity, [and] quantum the least mature of those. [It] is important to anticipate what will happen when those three things intersect within a decade.”

Dario Gil
Categories
Culture & Society Technology

Christopher Reeves explains what Superman represents

In this video, the late Christopher Reeves who played Superman explains what the fictional superhero represents.

In a world of selfishness ushered in by smart devices and social media, Superman as a friend metaphor is a subtle reminder of the power of relationships.

It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who’s willing to offer a hand and be a friend regardless of supposed differences, whether that be in race or politics.

Big thinking, small fragile world — such prescient words from Superman in the tribal world that is today.

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Technology

The original Apple Watch: Seiko’s TV Watch from 1982

In what was amazing technology for its day, the Seiko TV watch (Model T001-3) from 1982 is still one of the smallest TVs ever made with a 1 1/4″ screen.

With a Liquid Crystal Video Display (LVD), the images would only appear when exposed to light. So the brighter the light, the better the screen pixels looked.

The watch made its big-screen debut in 80s movies James Bond Octopussy and Dragnet.

It’s easy to see how the Model T001-3 served as a precursor to the Apple Watch, which made its debut three decades later in 2015.

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Architecture & Design Culture & Society Health Technology

Why pirates actually wore an eye patch

Eye patch, parrot, and wooden leg, and a limp. Those are the essential ingredients to becoming a pirate.

But did you know that pirates wore an eye patch, not because of a missing eye, but because the patch increased their sight instantly inside low lit areas?

Early technology to avoid temporary blindness

During raids, pirates needed the ability to flip up the eye patch so they could quickly snag a cannonball faster below the deck of the ship.

So one eye was trained to see in daylight, the other in dark. The pirate patch was an early technology to solve the issue of temporary blindness caused by going to a dark room from a brightly lit space.

Why pirates actually wore an eye patch
Categories
Architecture & Design Technology Travel

The musical road in the Netherlands that sings Frisian national anthem

There’s a road in the Netherlands that starts to sing the Frisian Folk Song when cars hit the right speed of 60 kph/40 mph limit.

The musical road resides in the village of Jelsum in the north part of Holland.

The structure of the strategically laid “rumble strips” was built in 2018 to celebrate the unique language and culture of the Friesland region. But the special ‘singing road’ also served as a warning to slow down speedy drivers.

However, the musical experience struck a chord (literally) with the locals who grew tired of hearing the notes 24 hours a day.

According to Dutch News, the €80,000 custom-built pavement markers were finally removed for driving (see what I did there) ‘psychological torture’.

Categories
Architecture & Design Technology

Dual head-mounted listening devices

This dual-mounted listening device served as an aircraft detection device before the invention of radar in 1935.

The Dutch military used the elephant-looking ears to detect approaching enemy aircraft by listening afar for engine sounds.

There were various iterations of the acoustic locators.

The Germans created a dual sight and sound system in 1917 that combined sound-ranging capabilities with binoculars to scope out aircraft.

The Imperial Japanese army used massive war tubas (resembling the musical tuba instrument) in World War I to detect the sound of incoming aircraft.

Imperial Japan massive war tubas in World War I

The Dutch also created personal horns in 1935 that were double the size of the personal sound locator.

England built concrete acoustic mirrors around its coasts up until 1935.

Learn more about pre-radar objects here.

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Architecture & Design Technology

Pablo Picasso’s “light drawings”

“Everything you can imagine is real,” said the legendary painter Pablo Picasso.

In 1949, photographer Gjon Mili captured the painter using a small electric light in a dark room to paint the artist’s iconic centaurs, bulls and greek figurines.

The chaotic images vanished as soon as they were created but thanks to Mili’s two separate cameras, Picasso’s timeless “light drawing” live on.

Thanks to today’s advancements in virtual reality, one can replicate Picasso’s moves using Google’s Tilt Brush application on the Oculus Rift. The app lets your paint in 3D space with virtual reality.

Photos by Gjon Mili for TIME, 1949

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Architecture & Design Technology

RIP Gary Starkweather, inventor of the laser printer

The inventor of the laser printer at Xerox, Gary Starkweather, has died at the age of 81.

When Starkweather first proposed the idea of a laser printer to his boss at Xerox, they shut his idea down. But curious and determined, Starkweather persisted because he was convinced of the possibility of making precise copies.

Starkweather developed the printer at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center beginning in 1969 before completing it in November 1971

Even more interesting his how the genius inventor did it. Writes the Wall Street Journal:

To avoid blurry prints, Mr. Starkweather had to find ways to direct laser pulses precisely. He devised a cluster of revolving mirrors and a lens to guide the light. One of his breakthrough ideas came while he was mowing the lawn; he turned off the mower and drove to the lab to test it out.

Xerox created the first-ever laser printer in 1969

The Xerox printer found itself in nearly every office and home eventually, making the company an absolute fortune.

We often forget how people we’ve rarely heard of impact our lives. Gary Starkweather was one of them, as was Evelyn Berezin who developed the world’s first processor.

The prescient Starkweather also issued a warning about the negative effects of our over dependency on technology. The WSJ writes:

Though he never lost his fascination with technology, Mr. Starkweather worried about some of the consequences. “We talk about productivity,” he said, “but I’ve watched people go from 40-hour weeks to 60-hour weeks.”

He disliked the pressure to stay digitally connected at all times. “A big question about the future of information technology,” he said, “is, ‘Do I get to stay human in the process?’ ”

RIP Gary Starkweather
Categories
Architecture & Design Nature Technology

A robot designed to take care of your plants

For $949, you could own a robot that chases the sun to keep your plants alive.

Technology company Vincross created the spider-like HEXA as a multi-functional robot. It turns out one of those functions is for the six-legged robot to take care of your plants for you.

With blueprints downloaded from the Vincross website, any HEXA owner could program their device to move around when the plant’s leaves need sun — plants grow toward the light — and shade.

The bot can even warn owners when the plants need to be watered.

Yet another reason for millennials to turn their apartments into “house jungles.” 

Categories
Architecture & Design Technology

The cake server by Joseph’s Machines

Brooklyn-based inventor Joseph’s Machines makes comical DIY contraptions. His latest video shows a chain-reaction machine deliver him a piece of cake. It also includes a baby poking an iPhone, a string of melting butter, and a chandelier.

The video took 3 months to make. Piece a cake!

Joseph’s gadgets are inspired by the cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg who built complex, interconnected machines in the early 1900s. Today, people use the expression Rube Goldberg machine. to describe anything convoluted, from machines to politics.

Rube Goldberg’s Self-Operating Napkin (1931)