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You think that you understand technology but when you arrive at The Known World, you discover a land where software pirates sail the seven seas, Derek the Rocket Scientist holds a communal barn raising to install his solar roof, and the future of technology policy is perpetually debated by the Society for the Promotion of Goodness and its rival, the Association for the Prevention of Bad Things.  These are some of the people and institutions that populate The Known World and help explain the nature of society and technology.

This blog contains the essays of David Alan Grier, which appear each month to discuss the ideas, the culture and the stories of the digital age. These blog postings and podcasts come from the column of the same name in Computer.

This podcast is brought to you by Computer magazine, the flagship publication of the IEEE Computer Society.

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Entries with tag computing profession.

The Habit of Change

We know about change.  We have Moore's Law for hardware or at least we are used to the idea that chips improve on an 18 month regime.  The plans for software are not as well defined but we do know that vendors regularly release new systems that will ultimately require us to reorganize our lives on regular schedules.  What do we do for data?  Increasingly, our work is not only data drive but data controlled.  We work with systems that learn our needs from a stream of data.  The problems of how we consider data updates is considered in this month's essay, the Habit of Change.

 

Leisure Science

The ideas of industrialization have long influenced other fields including that of leisure.  We have long been used to organized liesure activities that involve large amounts of a capital and the coordiated actions of works.  Afterall, major league sports are nothing more than industrial games.  

We have spent much time looking at the influence of liesure on industry but that influence has been growthing through the medium of computer games in all their forms.  Hence we have a podcast on the subject of Leisure Science or the Leisurization of Industry.

 

The Chicken Bus

Inspiration can strick at odd places.  It opens you to new ideas and, of course, shuts the door on old concepts and approaches.  It mirrors, in some ways, the innovation process itself.  With innovation, you get a new tool, a new way addressing problems.  Once an idea solidifies, and that hard concrete term "solidify" probably best captures the concept, it has a way of limiting certain kinds of innovation while encourages others.  After we develop a tool and mastered the skill of using it, we become reluctant to build a new tool.  Switching costs.  

At a recent IEEE meeting, I stumbled across a most unusual tool, a highly decorated Italian sports car. During breaks in the meeting, I had been re-reading Codd's early work on databases, including his classic paper on the relational database.  Somehow the two meshed giving us an essay on the Chicken Bus. 

 

Stories of Readers

 This is not a blog that generates a lot of public comments.  Scroll down and you will see only a few.  The comments come as private emails directly to me.  They remark on some theme or incident.  The a new spin to my view of events.  Most of all, they tell me a story, a story of a life in technology.

Of course, I want to do everything I can to encourage them.

I received one note this week from a reader commenting on some of the earlier essays.  In particular, he know one of the characters in the essay, a big baudy man named Bohannon.  Bo was a lot like many of my characters.  He was a veteran of WWII.  He stumbled into technology.  He was a character a mile wide and had a heart twice as big.  He loved the technology community.  He loved to work with others.  He loved to think that he was somehow changing the way that business was done, if not changing the world at large.  

Bo was of the hardware generation, the first leaders of the field.   He was followed by the software generation.  Since then we have seen the internet generation and now we are in the midst of the social computing generation.  There are stories in all of them and those are the stories that I need to tell.  

The most recent comments from a reader told of a family involved in technology.  A father who ran a reagional sales office.  A brother who did some work while he was studying in college.  In their age, computing had certain family feel, as the number of workers simply was not that big.  We're now at the point where the number of workers is quite large but that number is broken into smaller units that can hold themselves together in smaller units.  The family does prove to be a basic model for our society with all that is good and bad about it.  If you have some story about the family of technology, I would love to hear it.  Put a comment below.  Send an email to me.  This a bolg about stories.  

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David Alan Grier

David Alan Grier is a computer scientist, an established observer of the technology industry and a writer on issues of science and society.  In addition to producing The Known World, he has written two books,  When Computers Were Human, (Princeton University Press, 2005), which is the story of the workers who did scientific calculation before we had electronic computers.  In addition he has published Too Soon to Tell: Essays for the End of the Computer Revolution, (John Wiley/IEEE Computer Society, 2009).  A video of When Computers Were Human can be found here while a brief talk about Too Soon to Tell is found here. 

He is currently an associate professor at the Center for International Science and Technology Policy at the George Washington University.  

Despite sharing a common hometown and a common birth year with David Alan Grier the actor, he is an entirely different person.