Getting ready for tomorrow! Cool old cameras on display at Joe Sutherland Rentals
Well… It looks like the short video I am showing next week in Toronto will contrast how both APL and J got started. This audience already understands the connection between J and APL and will get a little more depth and a little less closure.
The intricacies of this APL story, a story of epic proportions, with richness, contradictions, irony, paradox and most importantly brilliant characters provides everything a storyteller could hope for. This is the perfect story. Except…well, a slightly less ephemeral subject would be easier to visualize, but never mind.
The dashing Pierre Kovalev and Oleg Finkelshteyn (left) take after their mentor, Arthur Whitney and are men of few words, big brains and deep hearts. They are working on performance optimization, a field where those trained in Array Programming Language thinking have an advantage, a mental edge. Seriously, Professor, take note.
The up and coming Peter Bell, Carlos Butler and Tisean Jeffers (right) from Loughborough University are all bright stars ready for action with poise and affability which indicates there are great things in their future reminiscent of APL’s Brat Pack. Peter, by the way, gets extra points for recognizing me from YouTube, which means, folks, he is out there exploring and paying attention. Go easy and think about what this says about him, rather than me.
Fintan Quill (left) radiates a calm competence with just a hint of characteristically Irish charm. He’s a bit like Simon, although Simon isn’t Irish. Fintan has a long history with Array Programming and recently joined the Kx team in New York. Lucky Kx!
And if I really WERE a Princess, and to be candid, I’m certainly not. And in actuality, I get along better with Queens than Princesses, but if I were a Princess, I would give David Katz (below) my scarf, any day.
He has the ultimate, you just never know with APL, story. Having written his Master’s thesis on APL a relatively long time ago, and then finding not much APL action in Michigan back in the day, he went on to more mainstream Software Engineering. And then, several years later his resume was plucked out of the pile because of that APL thesis. AND that’s why I had the pleasure of meeting him in Ireland. Incidentally, he half volunteered and was half drafted to help me with the next phase of this project, which is getting it financed.
Where are all the women? Well, it turns out that Janet, Victoria, Alla and Holly are all running around faster than the speed of light keeping everyone in business. So far, I haven’t caught them sitting still long enough to grab a picture. But they’re there. You can bet on it. And guess what I’m learning? If they weren’t, these guys wouldn’t be here either.
In conclusion, the support, encouragement and congeniality from all the people I met in Ireland, pictured and not pictured, have left me burning a little brighter. The realization of a documentary about APL is far from a sure thing, but these folks just nudged it one step further along.
(PS I’m still showing everyone who will tolerate listening to me, J on my iPhone. I mean everyone. )
I love my iPhone. It was the best Christmas gift ever, even better than the filing cabinet on Valentines day. So, I am interrupting the princess report to mention I now have J on my iPhone. Of course, many in the Community already know from twitter that I was interviewing Eric Iverson yesterday so that I can make a video to show at his J conference in July.
Thanks to Liz Giddons, I have live action shots of my first experience trying out J on a computer.
I am proud to report that the demographics on my Youtube channel have shifted in the last month to where the female readership has climbed to 16% up from many too many months at 2%. I don’t really understand why, but it sure makes me smile.
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.
Documentary filmmaking is an uncertain, messy, un-businessy business and that’s why so many documentaries never get made. The sheer impossibility of the endeavor can grind a person down. And I was feeling it at the end of March; a little worn down; a little tired from the countless hours that have gone into this project since 2009; a little scared at the opportunity cost of my own labour gone; a little bit doubtful that I had anything to say.
It sounds like self-pity, but it’s actually just exhaustion.
Those of you who know me or have worked with me know that in the parlance of business, I’m a finisher. What this means is, that since I made a commitment to Simon Garland last summer, it doesn’t matter what obstacles were in the way. I would find the K Club, a castle in Ireland. And I would bring a show.
Now, I’m really glad and so I will tell you about why over the next couple of posts.
Thank you, everyone, for tuning in. And may the Force be with you always.
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!!!!!)
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. )
The year is 2036. Decades after the global nuclear war, an American soldier named John Titor is assigned to travel back to 1975 and retrieve an IBM 5100 computer. During this mission, John makes an unexpected stop in 2000 “for personal reasons.” He connects with his family — and his 2-year-old self! And he interacts online with a group of time travel enthusiasts, sharing information about the future and a detailed description of how his time machine works.
Please IGNITE ‘How to Build a Time Machine’! Now is the time!!! Seven days left!
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.
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.