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This is a photo of a painting I commissioned from Blair Bradshaw last year. It shows the final crushing move of the Immortal Game, circled in red. I chose Blair because I have a print of one of his other pieces and had been to his studio so was familiar with his style. I thought he would do a great job of the immortal game, which I had been thinking about getting painted for some time. The piece is 5ft square and is comprised of 64 small square mini-canvases. Blair and I spoke at length about how to visually show the history of the game. I think he did a great job and am very pleased with what I got.
Charles Babbage and Howard Aiken. How the Analytical Engine influenced the IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator aka The Harvard Mk I
In 1936, [Howard] Aiken had proposed his idea [to build a giant calculating machine] to the [Harvard University] Physics Department, … He was told by the chairman, Frederick Saunders, that a lab technician, Carmelo Lanza, had told him about a similar contraption already stored up in the Science Center attic.
Intrigued, Aiken had Lanza lead him to the machine, which turned out to be a set of brass wheels from English mathematician and philosopher Charles Babbage’s unfinished “analytical engine” from nearly 100 years earlier.
Aiken immediately recognized that he and Babbage had the same mechanism in mind. Fortunately for Aiken, where lack of money and poor materials had left Babbage’s dream incomplete, he would have much more success
Later, those brass wheels, along with a set of books that had been given to him by the grandson of Babbage, would occupy a prominent spot in Aiken’s office. In an interview with I. Bernard Cohen ’37, PhD ’47, Victor S. Thomas Professor of the History of Science Emeritus, Aiken pointed to Babbage’s books and said, “There’s my education in computers, right there; this is the whole thing, everything I took out of a book.”
[The Harvard University Gazette. Howard Aiken: Makin' a Computer Wonder By Cassie Furguson]
Ontology Review 2: The International System of Units (SI). US Resistance to Adoption of the Metric System
The International System of Units (SI) [72 page pdf Brochure] is maintained by the Bureau International des Poids et Measures at it’s headquarters in Sevres near Paris, France. The Metric System as it is often known has a long history; supposedly invented in 1670 by Gabriel Mouton, a French clergyman, It was adopted by France in 1795 and by the United States in 1866. The system gained international status with the signing of The Convention of the Meter in Paris on 20th May 1875. The U.S. was one of the original seventeen signatory nations and is the only industrialized nation that still does not use the system.
This is the first of an occasional series of reviews I intend to write to illustrate some important general traits of ontologies. In each review I will dissect an ontology and examine why it succeeded or failed. In this essay I mention concepts that are defined in my previous essay. Judging the likely success of an ontology. This first review covers an ontology called the Common Basic Specification (CBS) that was designed in the late 1980s to bring much needed standardization and rationalization to the fragmented information management processes of the British National Health Service (NHS). It persisted in various forms until the late 1990′s when it was finally abandoned. This is my explanation of why it failed.
In July 1851 two mathematics teachers, Prof. Adolf Anderssen (1818 -1879) from Breslau, and Lionel Kieseritzky (1806-1853) from what is now Estonia, played a game of chess at Simpsons on the Strand, a London chess Salon. The game was so startling in its brlliance that in 1855 it was named The Immortal Game by the Austrian player Ernst Falkbeer. The chess Canon contains very few named games. This game is considered by some to be the greatest ever played. It has been been studied and replayed for over 150 years.
There is a class of design problem that can mislead the unwary systems designer, myself included, although I am getting better at identifying the warning signs. These design problems require the designer to base the solution on a conceptual model of a real world system or process. It often appears that a simple conceptual model that approximates to the real world system will suffice. In practices solutions based on these simple, low fidelity, models fail to handle the problem completely and often causes a whole series of new problems. Redesigning the solution to handle these exceptions only produces more problems that require more redesign and so on. If the hapless designer persists s/he will often go through several complete redesigns before getting to a solution that finally solves the problem by modeling the real world system with a high degree of fidelity. This iterative redesign process is typical of this class of design problem. Some might say that only poor designers are ever trapped in this way, others will say these solutions are anti patterns. But I think there is more too it.