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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 databases.

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. 


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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.