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Kenneth E Iverson | Chasing Men Who Stare at Arrays

Archive for the 'Kenneth E Iverson' Category

Against the odds, APL’s logarithm wins

APL film logo

You probably noticed there were two choices on the voting ballot for the APL film logo, and logarithm wasn’t one of them. In fact, the APL symbol for rotate lead with 71% before we closed the poll – You might ask: What happened?

The first thing that happened immediately was a strong constituency lobbying for the APL symbol lamp.  Lamp is the symbol which denotes a comment in APL, and on the surface this is an obvious choice for a film logo.  In fact, lamp was on the list of possibilities presented to Cris Jaw, our visionary leader in the design process. While lamp simply isn’t badass enough for me, we heard the passion in the voices of our critics.   The discourse opened the door to the possibility that there might be a better choice than the two up for vote.  So, when APL’s logarithm was put forward later in the discussion which followed we had already considered the idea of not going with the vote.

The most compelling reason for going with APL’s symbol logarithm is:

It it denotes a function for which conventional mathematical notation does not have a good symbol (see Roger Hui’s, My Favorite APL Symbol 2013).

What better reminder that Kenneth E. Iverson’s vision was always turned to the future than an APL symbol to remind us that computer languages aren’t perfect, and neither is mathematical notation.   In the continuum of human progress, we’re not done yet.

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Computer History Museum Honours Iverson’s Birthday

Happy Birthday Dr Iverson.

CHM

 

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APL@50 York University – Nov 1, 2012

Ken Iverson with Jean & Eric Iverson & Roger Hui.
June 11, 1998

Right around the time the Silverman Brothers were wrestling with a clandestine copy of the 1966 APL/360 source code, York University bestowed Dr. Iverson with an honorary degree.

Continuing the tradition at the end of this month,  York, in collaboration with its infant Computer History Museum, will host a day long lecture style event aptly titled APL@50 in celebration of the 50th anniversary which marks the publication of Iverson’s seminal book, A Programming Language.  I hope to see you there.

This is a free event & is open to the public.
November 1, 2012,
Doors open at 9am – 4pm See Shedule

York University, Toronto
Lecture Hall B of the Lassonde Building

Please consult the York University maps for the public transit and driving directions as well as for the location of the Lassonde Building.

 

 

 

 

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My hero! Shustek, APL/360 & 10 Years Later

It took Len Shustek, chairman of the board of trustees of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, 10 years to get permission from IBM to publish the APL/360 source code.  Not only has he gone and done it, he’s also written a wonderful companion explanatory essay to go along with its publication. Please see: The APL Programming Language Source Code

Congratulations, Len!  Thank you for your persistence.

(Special thanks to the ever vigilant Christian Langreiter for scooping this story)

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Kx Princess Report #2

Where were we? Oh, yes, my commitment to Simon to find the K-Club in Straffan just outside of Dublin. And to arrive with something to show.

I flew in a day early to relax and see the city. This was enough time to learn that the Irish can give uncomfortably vague directions that miraculously work. For example, “It’s across the road,” did in fact turn out to be true.

The event was a Kx International Users conference. The tricky business about these conferences is that they are TOP SECRET. In fact, one of my new found friends revealed to me all kinds of interesting details about his personal life and when I asked if they were a secret, because… er… I am making a documentary… He said, no. BUT! What he had just explained to me about his work, now THAT, was absolutely secret.

Don’t get too excited. The only people who would understand any possible trade secret I may have learned, are the ultra-geek of geeks. I don’t expect to be kidnapped and held for ransom anytime soon. So, no kiss and tell. That’s how it goes. I can say that the spirit of innovation which began in the 1950’s with Dr Iverson at Harvard carries on. And simple is still the more difficult and best route. Even after all these years.

It was a real treat to finally meet Arthur Whitney. I expect that if I say too much right now, he’ll never talk to me again, which would be tragic. BUT! It was great. And Janet Lustgarten is the sharpest executive I’ve ever met. She’s an awesome role model for anyone, and is especially inspiring for women in tech. It was a pleasure to spend time with these folks.

Next time I’ll tell you about Carlos, Oleg, Peter, Pierre and Tisean. They share first prize for inspiring super ultra-core fans. What I mean by that, is when I ask myself, Why the heck am I doing this anyway? I just need to see their smiling faces and my batteries re-charge.

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Posting from Paris on my iPhone

20120526-142639.jpg

I am having a lazy afternoon in Paris playing with my iPhone before venturing out for dinner with the infamous H&M. Lazy afternoon = sorting out how to get photos from my iPhone directly into this blog post, here. Voila! I adore WordPress!

It has be such an exciting week at the International Kx Conference in Dublin, I don’t know where to start with the story.

I brought a special short video divined from my research material and screened it for about 75 people. The piece was warmly received. Thank goodness. I needed the affirmation because I was feeling overwhelmed and a little discouraged. Documentary film is getting cut from all sides in Canada, grants are getting extremely scarce and at the same time tv airtime is going to reality shows. So even if you scrape together a show, there are fewer opportunities to show it. But never mind. I have received a transfusion of enthusiasm and we have cyberspace… So I am back to my cheery dgaf self.

And finally after all these years… I got to meet… Arthur Whitney. Now that was pretty awesome.

Ok. That’s enough 1 finger blogging From my iPhone. (I am blogging from my iPhone!!!!!)

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Brooks on Iverson

In October of 2011, Dr Fred Brooks agreed to talk to me about when he and Dr Kenneth E Iverson, the father of APL, shared an office at Harvard University in the 1950s.  So, I went to Chapel Hill in North Carolina, USA to speak with him.

Professor Dr Jan Prins, also from The University of North Carolina, assisted with the interview and he thought it would be interesting to know what it was like for Dr Iverson to receive the Turing award in 1979, 17 years after the publication of A Programming Language.  Here is the answer:

– corrected (Thank you Roger.  Again. )

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J, July and Solidarity

I’d like to start today by drawing your attention to what promises to be the APL Array Language Family event of the year – The J Community/Conference 2012 right here in Toronto, this July 23 & 24, 2012.  If you want to rub shoulders with Array Language Rock Stars, this is the conference to attend.

J conference July 23/24, 2012

Eric Iverson 2012

J Conference planning w/ Eric Iverson 2012

Further, 2012 is a special year because it is the 5oth anniversary of the publication of Dr. Kenneth Iverson’s seminal text A Programming Language which ultimately lead to his Turing Award, the “nobel prize of Computing”.  In honour of this important milestone, Eric Iverson and Liz Giddens, the J conference organizer, have asked that I let you know that you are specially invited attend the The J Conference Banquet to celebrate the larger legacy of Ken and his colleagues, even if you choose not to attend the conference. (Note: the early bird ticket price is up now, so I encourage you to get your ticket, while there are still tickets available).

What’s else is happening?

2011 dished out a little more than I could handle but that’s to be expected.  This is, however, why we’ve been so quiet this year on the blog. We’re in the back room, pushing things along quietly…  For example, the interview with Dr. Fred Brooks has been transcribed and the transcriptions are now under review by our subject matter experts.

I also applied for a fellowship grant from the ACM. I didn’t win the fellowship, however the application process connected me with the ACM History group.  And in spite of my extremely awkward and painful debut where I made the biggest public email faux pas I have ever made, the group is warm and welcoming.   Nathan Ensmenger, as one example, is generously sharing some of his articles with me. He has developed an interesting analysis of how computer programming transformed into a male dominated profession, when it didn’t start out this way.   I am writing about this documentary in the context of my own programming career for the ACM-W newsletter which is why I am looking at the research on gender in computing.

As a side note, working on this article is making me miss programming, which is a bit of a surprise.

Nathan Ensmenger also has an interest in film and contributed to Tops Secret Rosies, a documentary film about the women who did the ballistics calculations during WWI and were recruited to program the ENIAC – the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer  in the 1940’2.  This experience gives him a special appreciation of the challenge set before us here with this documentary – how does one visualize an abstract construct like a computer programming language? 

This is just a taste of what’s going on behind the scenes.  Keep the faith. I hope to see everyone in July, if not sooner.

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The Origins of APL – 1974

I shared this video on Myspace on July 20, 2009 where it has received 4604 views as of today.

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Kenneth E Iverson – Toronto Memorial November 18, 2004

Well, hot dang! Youtube decided I get more time.  They sent me a note last week: Congratulations! You can upload videos longer than 15 mins.  This is GREAT news and I’m celebrating by uploading the synopsis of Ken Iverson’s Toronto memorial service I made back in 2004 when I first fell in love with my video camera.
 

 

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