Web links related to the Back of the Book program of May 14, 2001
It's Sunday afternoon 5/20/2001 15:02:11 and I'm finally getting this page done. It's the usual mix of past, present and future tenses, but it's done. I spoke on the air about the 50th anniversary of UNIVAC and I've given some background on that as well. On the air, of course, there were the usual digressions and we can't track all of those or this Web page would never get finished. I also talked a little bit about the death of Douglas Adams and the appeal of the ruling on the DeCSS case. And of course there's Dracula Land. I made a dent in the mail backlog, although some of that was conventional mail that doesn't get put up here. I think this web page is finally finished.
Here is the latest on the theft of Pacifica.
Here's my take on the current WBAI and Pacifica crisis.
And remember, there's still a gag rule at WBAI.
Okay, so our colleagues from Off the Hook probably have a RealAudio streaming web cast going. At 11:22 PM last night it was working, so good luck. At that time the new, permanent MP3 stream was also working. So you now have two ways of getting WBAI over the Web
Sadly, Douglas Adams has died. The New York Times has an obit on him. He had his own web site. The Binary Freedom Project wants to have a day of tribute to Mr. Adams on Friday, May 25, 2001.
I've spoken about the ridiculous rulings regarding DeCSS on previous programs. The case involving our WBAI colleagues from 2600 has progressed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit where one hopes that reason will prevail, for a change. Whatever the appeals court ruling, this case is obviously going to the Supreme Court.
Speaking of the courts, I read a piece on the air about how Romania is planning a theme park named “Dracula Land.” Will it cost more than a pint to get in? I can see one of the rides already: kids are impaled on good old fashioned wooden stakes and are then whirled around on the end of a chain. Ah, family values.
UNIVAC turned 50 this past fortnight. I was a kid when the word UNIVAC came into the popular parlance. If you could do your basic arithmetic right those who couldn't would assert that you were “a regular UNIVAC!”
UNIVAC was the brainchild of two physicists named J. Presper Eckert and John W. Mauchly. They had worked on the U.S. government's ENIAC computer during World War II, and finished it in 1946. They figured that there ought to be civilian uses for the enormous computing power of such a machine. ENIAC was a monster which weighed 30 tons and used 17,468 vacuum tubes to do its work. It was the largest practical computer that could be built based on vacuum tubes because in order to make it more powerful you'd have to add significantly more vacuum tubes and the mean time between failure (MTBF) of the vacuum tubes used was such that if you ran much more than 17,468 vacuum tubes some would always be “blown out,” as we used to say of light bulbs and vacuum tubes, so you'd never be able to use the bigger machine.
A few years ago a group of University of Pennsylvania students, under the direction of their professor, built an ENIAC on a chip that measured 7.44 mm by 5.29 mm. That's right, today you could fit the power of two of the 30 ton monsters under a single postage stamp.
Due to a patent dispute Eckert and Mauchly quit their university jobs in 1946, and started their own company. Apparently their brilliance in the realms of physics, engineering and information technology didn't translate well into business because they couldn't calculate break-even numbers on contracts, much less show a profit!
But before they had to sell their computer manufacturing business to Remington Rand, Inc. they made several UNIVAC computers. Those 1940s, vintage machines are hard to compare to today's computers because they were composed of many different components, each of which had a job to do on its own. Many of the benchmarks we take for granted today were just being invented on those machines. So you can't really speak of how much RAM (Random Access Memory) ENIAC had, but its big feat was adding 5,000 numbers in one second, and it ran at a speed of 60-125 KHz. UNIVAC, being an improvement, had 1 kilobyte of RAM and ran at the blistering speed of 2.25 MHz. The computer I'm typing this on has 256 MB of RAM and runs at 800 MHz.
The first UNIVAC built was sold to the United States Census Bureau, to the usual science-and-technology-ignorant press blurbs about “electronic brains” and all. But UNIVAC really got its reputation among the public when it successfully predicted the landslide Presidential election victory of Dwight D. Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson on November 4, 1952. (Ah, remember those bygone days when the voters actually elected the President of the United States?)
Here's a page of reminiscences from an end user who worked on later versions of UNIVAC.
UNIVAC is a bit of technological nostalgia for those of us who even remember it now, but it was an important stride forward in the realm of information technology and it, and its inventors, certainly did their part in changing the world.
And, as usual, we got mail. There's still a mail backlog, as you can see below, but I am getting through it all, both E-mail and the other sort of mail. We'll be caught up eventually.
Our first E-mail comes from Seth, who's written before but who is different from the other Seth who writes a lot. Is that clear? Different Seths. Unfortunately, I don't have the facilities to run streaming audio of my programs. I'd like to put the latest program up here in MP3 format, but even that has some difficulties associated with it. Some day, perhaps.
Hmm, maybe “Pope Yes” will spin off a new business named Cardinal Olive Oyl's, I think there's already a burger joint named Archbishop Wimpy's.
As an old stick in the mud I think I'm not going anywhere for a while, so the fish are safe. Pickles of the North and I went to Las Vegas in January, and that should do me in terms of traveling for another decade or more.
The next E-mail from another regular listener and correspondent came the day after a giant snow storm was predicted to be about to paralyze the entire Northeast U.S. The snow storm turned out to be a complete joke. The only things that paralyzed the Northeast were the erroneous weather predictions and herd mentality news coverage. The reference to Houston is to the Pacifica National Board meeting there in late February.
And, as Mungous says, our Saddle Pal Max Schmid also has Jean Shepherd tapes available from his Web site. And Max even spells ol' Shep's name right!
Long time listener and correspondent Susan From Long Island sent us a St. Patrick's Day greeting, which unfortunately has timed out since we got this E-mail a couple of months ago.
There are a lot of issues that we can't talk about on the air at WBAI. But there is an Internet list called “Free Pacifica!” which you can subscribe to, and these issues are discussed there. If you subscribe to it you will receive, via E-mail, all of the messages which are sent to that list. You will also be able to send messages to the list.
If you want to subscribe to the “Free Pacifica!” list just click on this link and follow the instructions, and you'll be subscribed. Could open your eyes a little bit.
The above list has occasionally produced a high volume of E-mail because of the attention that these issues have drawn. If you would prefer to subscribe to a low volume list that only provides announcements of events related to these issues then subscribe to the FreePac mailing list.
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