Thursday, March 20, 2008

A few days ago, my friend Michael Letterle (the artist formerly known as Michael.NET) twat the following tweet:

MichalL-20YearsToLate

The story Michael referred to is Landon Dyer's "Donkey Kong and Me" blog post, which chronicles his conversion of the Donkey Kong arcade game to the 8-bit Atari 400/800 systems. (Screenshots and a review of the port can be found here.) A fascinating yarn, Dyer's post evokes a feeling of nostalgia for the swashbuckling coder days of more than two decades ago. His recent post about the development of the Atari ST is equally enjoyable.

I've often shared Michael's sentiment. Sometimes, I feel like I was born a bit too late. At the advanced age of 0x20, I am fascinated by stories of the Herculean coding efforts of those who came before me—the original early adopters. (Although, there's a strong argument that the present day is just as, if not more, exciting.) Perhaps the most interesting aspect of tech history is how our forefathers were forced to invent creative solutions for just about everything. For me personally, that's what makes "Donkey Kong and Me" so much fun. The same appeal can be found in the early-Macintosh hardware-tweaking stories at Andy Hertzfeld's Folklore.org.

To fuel my interest in computer tech history, I've recently begun re-reading its bible: Programmers At Work.

ProgrammersAtWork2

Published in 1986, this book features interviews with an amazing array of programmers, including figures like Gary Kildall, Charles Simonyi, Jaron Lanier and even Bill Gates. It's out-of-print but can still be purchased used. (I "borrowed" my water-damaged copy from my father's bookshelf). Thankfully, Susan Lammers, the author, has recently started a "Programmers At Work" blog where she's posting the original interviews. So, if you can't find the book, these classic interviews should all be available soon.

What interesting tech history articles or books have you read recently?

posted on Thursday, March 20, 2008 9:39:47 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [0]

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 Tuesday, March 20, 2007
John Backus, inventor of FORTRAN, has passed away at 82. Among other things, Backus was also the inventor of the BNF (Backus-Naur form) commonly used to express context-free grammars. A revolutionary thinker has passed from our midst.

The New York Times has an obituary here.

posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007 4:12:13 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Comments [0]

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