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CS Roots | Chasing Men Who Stare at Arrays - Part 2

Archive for the 'CS Roots' Category

Page 2 of 2

The Design of Design

This is how Friday went down:

I’m running late, tearing through the house in a where the heck is my bag, sort of way, and then… up pulls the UPS truck.

My books!

Late or not, my Amazon instinct kicks in… luckily the boxes are perfectly designed, they rip open with no struggle at all.  It’s Fred Brook’s new book, of course, The Design of Design. I drop the packaging and immediately flip to the People Index and search for Iverson (p. 72, 124 & 378). Wow.  Twice Brooks juxtaposes Ken Iverson with Google’s Marissa Mayer.  I make a mental note to ask Matt & Susan Gorbet if they know her.

Then I repeat with the subject index and look up APL (p. 72, 124, 141 348). They’re different.  Why?

Well, don’t you know it,  I find an example of not elegant design (pp 141-142) that echos a similar criticism made by Richard Bookstaber in A Demon of Our Own Design. Man oh man are we easy targets! And I’m completely floored – because I believe it is an urban myth.  Not so much that it has never happened, but I don’t believe it has been significant.  But, I guess it makes a good anecdote.  AND sorry folks, I’m not even going to say it because I don’t want to perpetuate its existence in cyberspace.  If you’re burning to know, buy the books!

And just to be extra clear, this is my opinion. And Fred Brooks rocks, so I’m… well… I guess I’m in the dog house again.

Bread Crumbs

In the early 1960’s, Brooks led the IBM System/360 hardware and software project which gave birth to a family of machines with interchangeable software that lead to IBM’s domination of the computer industry for the next 25 years.

Out of Their Minds page 158

Fred Brooks and Ken Iverson were together at Harvard in the 1950’s.   Iverson was hired by IBM in 1960 to develop his special mathematical notation into a programming language for the IBM/360.  And that’s how APL and its family of Array Processing Languages were born.

So…  Guys… I have the best job in the world. It’s terrible form to boast but I just can’t help myself today. After a difficult and trying summer not one, but a few people from the APL Array Language community have stepped up to steady my ship and blow some wind in my sails.  And this feels great.

We rock on!


Resurgence of Parallelism

Who’s your top “information” pioneer? I voted for Ken Iverson, of course.  And also, of course, I arrived at the polling station through a winding route.

For those of you who don’t know me, if I’ve mastered anything in this life, it’s the art of wandering.

So, I’m reading this article that I have on actual paper.  I’m fairly certain it was given to me by Alex Bochannek at the Computer History Museum when I was down there last year.  I’m a little confused by its title, but the ACM published it in 1981* and I’m reading it because I’m getting ready to talk some more with Adin Falkoff.  I bought one of those phone recording things, so we’ll see how that goes.

So, I went to sleep last night having just read that:

The first use of the Language [APL] to describe a complete computing system was begun in early 1962 when Falkoff discussed with Dr. W.C. Carter his work in the standardization of the instruction set for the machines that were to become the IBM Systems/360 family.  Falkoff agreed to undertake a formal description of the machine language, largely as a vehicle for demonstrating how parallel processes could be rigorously represented.

Page 663

My Translation for the folks who just can’t swallow that quote: Adin Falkoff used APL to describe parallel processes, an important problem in computing that people are still working on today – back in 1962!

So, of course I get all excited when I read my rss feeds this morning and notice the Lambda the Ultimate folks are discussing an article the ACM just published about the  Resurgence of Parallelism.

We gotta watch those ACM guys, though.  They put out an article about the history of parallelism that mentions IBM’s System/360, Haskell, disruptive innovation – AND NOT US?  Anyway, this is what got me surfing about APL & Parallelism, and lo; I get to vote for Ken as my favourite information pioneer.

And I’m quite confident there’s a Jedi Knight among us who can work up and post a clever comment for those ACM guys. Go to: Resurgence of Parallelism.

*It’s called APL Session and credits Chairmen: JAN Lee; Speaker Kenneth E. Iverson; Discussant: Frederick Brooks and then has a secondary title: Paper: The Evolution of APL, Adin D. Falkoff;Kenneth E Iverson. ISBN 0-12-745040-8.


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