Old School Tech

Ada Lovelace Day: Support Matters

Transient

Ada Lovelace (1815 - 1852) is widely regarded as the world's first computer programmer, and this was in the 1840s! From today's Washington Post: 

Lovelace's friend Charles Babbage designed a concept for a machine he called the "Analytical Engine" -- essentially a mechanical computer that would have relied on punch cards to run programs. He recruited Lovelace to translate some notes from one of his lectures, but while Lovelace was translating she added to the notes herself. The notes grew to  three times their original length, as Lovelace described what many call the first computer program. Because of funding issues, the machine was not built during her and Babbage's lifetimes. But Lovelace's published article on the Analytical Engine later became a source of inspiration for Alan Turing’s work to build the first modern computers in the 1940s.
There are several articles and websites celebrating Ada Lovelace day. I found a particularly interesting article in Australian Science, which speaks about two other women in STEM with different support structures. Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie was encouraged to study by her father, grandfather, and husband.  Unfortunately, Clara Immerwahr lacked the same level of support, even though she was the first woman to get a Ph.D. from the University of Breslau. In fact, her husband Fritz Haber was involved with developing poison gas for use in World War 1. From the article:

Immerwahr was repulsed by Haber’s growing obsession with the development of poison gas. She confronted him numerous times but her pleas fell on deaf ears. On May 2nd 1915, she quarreled violently with Haber when she found out that he had come home for just the night and was leaving again in the morning to direct more poison gas attacks on the Eastern front. In the early hours of the morning, Immerwahr walked into the garden with Haber’s army pistol and shot herself in the chest. Haber of course did not let this inconvenience him, and left as planned the next morning without even making any funeral arrangements.

Support systems make a difference. It's critical that everyone within science feels supported, especially underrepresented folks that face additional pressures. To read more about Curie and Immerwahr, check out the Australian Science article here.

NASA Shut Down, But We Still Celebrate 55 Years

(Editors Note: Most of the NASA links are inactive because of the government shutdown. Yay Congress.) 

In the midst of the Cold War, the US government created NASA in 1958 to gain an edge in space exploration. It was partially a defensive move agains the Soviet launch of the first Earth satellite, Sputnik, in 1957.  NASA superseded the existing National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which was formed in 1915 to pursue aeronautical research.

In the past 55 years, NASA has grown beyond its iniitial goals to be part of a global initative in support of space travel and harnessing its benefits for Earth. Check out the following infographic to get a sense of accomplishments as well as future endeavours. My hope is that this blog will be around long enough to cover each of the "things to come"! For more info, click on the infographic or visit this site.

 

Some more detail is available on NASA's site:

We’ve sent 12 humans to walk and work on the moon, sent four rovers and four landers to explore Mars and sentVoyager into interstellar space.
We’ve studied our home planet, every other planet in the solar system, and the sun at the center of it all.
We’ve peered deep into the distant past of the universe with Great Observatories like HubbleSpitzer and Chandra.
We’ve built an International Space Station larger than a five-bedroom house and sent humans to live and work off the planet continuously since November 2000. 
We've flown 30 years of space shuttle missions to launch and repair Hubble, build the space station and perform science in Earth orbit.
We've developed experimental aircraft and tested technologies that make today's airplanes safer and greener
We’ve produced hundreds of innovations that enable current and future NASA missions and improve the daily lives of everyone on Earth, from life-saving medical technologies to advances in telecommunications, weather forecasting, robotics and emergency response.
There’s way too much to list it all … and we’re not done yet.
We plan to land humans on Mars in the 2030s. We're getting set to send MAVEN to Mars and OSIRIS-REx to an asteroid, and we'll be watching as Juno arrives at Jupiter and New Horizons arrives at Pluto. We’ll launch the James Webb Space Telescopeto follow Hubble in the quest to understand our universe, looking all the way back to the first luminous glows after the Big Bang.   We’ll continue looking at the home planet from our unique perspective in space, improving air travel and developing cutting-edge technologies for the benefit of all mankind.

Yeah They Still Work #4: '96 Tech

This is the latest post in my Yeah They Still Work (YTSW) series, where I review my old tech that still works and brings me joy.  

In December of 1996, I was a skinny, optimistic high school junior, ready to take on the world!  I kept one of my high school papers because I wrote a front page article and I'm a packrat. Little did I know that 17 years later, it would serve as a perfect time capsule for some of the technology of the day.

Check out the video below for a journey into the ridiculous TVs, CD players, and phones of the past! 

Forbidden Tech #6 - Fridges

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Forbidden Tech is my video series where I talk about pieces of technology that I was not allowed to have as a kid, scarring me forever. Check out the earlier Forbidden Tech videos here.

Why didn't my mom let me have a fridge has a kid? We investigate the case.  Check out the video! If you can't see the video below, click here.