What would happen if computers never got any faster?

by @edent | # # # | 11 comments | Read ~6,596 times.
The crappy 2D graphics of Alex Kidd.

My first computer was a BBC Micro. It could do basic graphics at a resolution of 640×256 – with 8 different colours. Not a typo. Eight! The mono speaker produced bleeps and bloops. It was basic, in all senses of the word. Eventually, talented hackers found a way for it to do simplistic 3D graphics…

Continue reading →

Rituals and Milestones in Developer Life

by @edent | # | 2 comments | Read ~338 times.
Binary code displayed on a screen.

Most human societies have rituals. One popular ceremony is of the young person being made a member of the tribe. For some, it is at the start of life – a Baptism or Christening. For others, it is when the child becomes an adult – Bar Mitzvah or Ritusuddhi. Most societies have marriage ceremonies –…

Continue reading →

There’s nothing I hate more than text config files

by @edent | # # # | 8 comments | Read ~363 times.
A GUI for creating webhooks.

I’m going to revisit an argument I had in… Ooooh… 2001ish? I wanted to make some edits to my university’s fledging student union website. In order to do this, I needed to learn the arcane art of SSH. This was one of my first introductions to text based config files. I was horrified! A single…

Continue reading →

No software licence will save you from hyperbolic doubt

by @edent | # # | 2 comments

Imagine that you’re a spotty 16 year-old. You’ve just discovered philosophy. You will almost certainly have a conversation like this… Dude… DUDE! What if… What if, like, we’re all just brains in a jar and, like, a machine is projecting reality around us…? Whoa…! I bet you’ve had that conversation with someone. Probably after you…

Continue reading →

Programming Languages – look how far we’ve come!

by @edent | # # | Read ~105 times.
List of computers.

Back in the 1980s, when my family first got a micro-computer, there were only limited ways to program your machine. The Internet was basically non-existent for domestic users. You could buy thick computer manuals, swap cassettes with other enthusiasts, or build a light pen and point it at a flashing square on your TV (Really!)…

Continue reading →

Why do we have different programming languages?

by @edent | # # | 6 comments | Read ~3,117 times.
Pencil protrail of William Shakespeare - as though he were a Klingon from Star Trek.

I made a little girl cry recently. “But why do I have to learn Python?” She wailed, “I like Scratch!” “I know,” I said, “But there are different programming languages for different sorts of tasks.” “That’s stupid” she said, with all the perception of 6 weeks Code Club experience. “You can do everything in Scratch.”…

Continue reading →

“Please interrupt me if I use an acronym or term you don’t understand”

by @edent | # # # | 1 comment | Read ~193 times.

This isn’t a new speaking tip – and it is one I’ve stolen from several other speakers on the conference circuit – but I want to explain how it made me feel to use it. I started my talk at Hackference Birmingham with an impassioned plea to the audience. If you don’t understand something I’ve…

Continue reading →

Artificial Intelligence is a Horseless Carriage

by @edent | # # | 1 comment | Read ~263 times.

I’ve been thinking about words. The Chinese word for “train” – the mode of transport – is 火车. Which literally translates as “fire chariot”. Long gone are the days when trains were pulled by a fire-breathing engine at the front, and yet this linguistic skeuomorph hangs around. English is not immune from this. The television…

Continue reading →

How bad is Scotland's Computer Science Exam?

by @edent | # # # | 7 comments | Read ~2,612 times.

Oh noes! The computer science exams taken by 16 year olds may contain errors! Computer science exam had coding errors https://t.co/hljJetFSbf — BBC News Technology (@BBCTech) October 17, 2016 As a professional computerist, I was intrigued to see what our fine young minds are being tested on. My memories of “computing” at school was being…

Continue reading →

Disappearing Computer (2002)

by @edent | # # # # # # | 1 comment | Read ~152 times.

In 2002, I wrote this dissertation as part of my B.Sc. at UEA. I’ve kept this edition as close to the original as possible. I’ve added in links (where they still survive) and inserted a few comments where I was ludicrously wrong or unexpectedly right. This paper is not especially well-written and, if memory serves,…

Continue reading →