RIP John McCarthy the father of LISP and modern AI

The American scientist invented the computer language LISP.

It went on to become the programming language of choice for the AI community, and is still used today.

Professor McCarthy is also credited with coining the term “Artificial Intelligence” in 1955 when he detailed plans for the first Dartmouth conference. The brainstorming sessions helped focus early AI research.

via BBC News – Artificial intelligence community mourns John McCarthy.

What Steve Jobs means to me – part I

One of the most important technology story of the last couple of  weeks was the passing of Steve Jobs. Over that time media has been commenting on how this one man’s vision changed how  our relationship with computers. Even if you never owned an Apple product you have benefited from his vision because Apple has been setting the standard for design since the second generation of iMacs came out about 10 or so years ago. Design is the legacy of Steve Jobs (though several news outlets make a point to say that this man invented stuff), moving it from an after thought to a core function of the product. He understood that useful, desired even needed  technology was not being adopted because it was hard to use, and there was not a common vocabulary for interacting with it. Before Apple, technology had to come with HUGE manuals that had to be studied to learn and understand the features. Key strokes had to be memorized. Navigation was not obvious. Remember the keyboard template that came with Word Perfect software? Now a days most tech come with relatively thin manuals if any. Any marginally computer literate person can open most software packages, even ones he isn’t familiar with and “figure out” how to use the major features. Apple did that with its “user-friendly” interface. Microsoft’s ubiquity only aided in this effect  when it copied this as part of Windows 3.1 and even more so as part of Windows95.

This is all to say, that if you LOVE your computer, you have this man to thank. As leader of Apple he made decisions that ONLY a man who dropped out of an Ivy League University so he could take calligraphy would make. On the face of it that seems insane but that is how the Universe works sometime. Serendipitous connections are made to produce wildly beautiful results.

Thanks Steve

RIP Dennis Ritchie

After a long illness, Dennis Ritchie, father of Unix and an esteemed computer scientist, died last weekend at the age of 70.

Ritchie, also known as “dmr”, is best know for creating the C programming language as well as being instrumental in the development of UNIX along with Ken Thompson. Ritchie spent most of his career at Bell Labs, which at the time of his joining in 1967, was one of the largest phone providers in the U.S. and had one of the most well-known research labs in operation.

via Father Of C And UNIX, Dennis Ritchie, Passes Away At Age 70 | TechCrunch.

 

Dennis Ritchie is not a house hold name, he did not build a company that made revolutionary products. But he was one of the few people that you can say who’s  work was necessary for there to be a Steve Jobs, an Internet, a World Wide Web, a Linus Torvalds, a Linux, and basically all of the cool tech we enjoy in the 21st century.