Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: history (page 2 of 3)

Links from May 25th

Jason Scott wants to save GeoCities

Jason Scott (of Textfiles.com fame) is leading an effort to archive GeoCities before Yahoo takes it offline:

Already, little gems have shown up in the roughly 8000+ sites I’ve archived. Guitar tab archives. MP3s that surely took the owners hours to rip and generate. GIF files, untouched for 13 years. Fan fiction. Photographs and websites of people long dead. All stuff that, I think, down the line, will have meaning. It’s not for me to judge. It’s for me to collect.

I can’t do this alone. I’m going to be pulling data from these twitching, blood-in-mouth websites for weeks, in the background. I could use help, even if we end up being redundant. More is better. We’re in #archiveteam on EFnet. Stop by. Bring bandwidth and disks. Help me save Geocities. Not because we love it. We hate it. But if you only save the things you love, your archive is a very poor reflection indeed.

This is a truly awesome thing to do.

The question you wish you’d asked

How would the Romans handle the financial crisis? Tom Ricks has the answer.

Guy Kawasaki on the original Mac team

Guy Kawasaki wraps up a set of photos of the 25th anniversary party for the members of the original Macintosh team with the following:

I hope that everyone gets at least one chance to work on such a great project with such great people as the Macintosh Division.

Unlikely. But we can dream.

Has Flight Simulator met its end?

James Fallows reports that Microsoft has laid off the team that works on Flight Simulator. I was never much of a player of Flight Simulator, but it should be recognized as one of the most important games in the history of personal computing. It was one of the very first games to offer a first person perspective on the action, it was one of the first games for the IBM PC platform, and I think it’s likely that it’s the oldest continually developed computer game on the market.

Wikipedia has a lengthy article on Microsoft Flight Simulator.

PC Magazines has further details.

I can’t help but wonder if the better choice would have been to spin off ACES Studios and give them the Flight Simulator intellectual property to try to make it on their own.

Experts agree: Mac SE/30 was the best

MacWorld surveyed a panel of Mac experts on which model was the best in the 25 year history of the Macintosh. Three out of five voted for the Macintosh SE/30. It looked like the original Mac but was blazingly fast in comparison. It also happens to be the first Mac I used on a day to day basis, when I had a job writing thank you letters to donors to the University of Houston.

My favorite passage from the inauguration speech

I thought the speech was great, and this was my favorite bit:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

There were many great passages, though. I very much appreciated his full throated renunciation of torture and his offer of friendship to everyone in the world. I really liked that he made it clear that economic policy is a tool to increased shared prosperity rather than a moral end unto itself.

Here’s a link to the full text.

Context is everything

I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t appreciate context.

I write that sentence after reading Andrew Brown’s post on how the failure to appreciate history on its own terms clouds the thinking of fundamentalists. (In this case, he’s talking about fundamentalist atheists.)

This is the paragraph that grabbed me:

Thinking about the ignorant, angry atheists who infest the Guardian’s comment pages I realised one thing they have in common with scriptural fundamentalists: they have no idea of history. They live in an eternally dazzling present and they can’t imagine that there is anything outside it. Oh, sure, they have legends — the inquisition, the crusades, the middle ages — but within these legends the actors move, as they do in renaissance paintings, entirely in contemporary dress. There is no sense of the strangeness and difficulty of the past; no sense that many things have been tried and failed; no sense that words once meant things entirely different and possibly inexpressible now.

It’s impossible to properly appreciate anything without understanding, to some degree, where it came from. Failure to appreciate things in their own context is a problem I often find when people talk about software development. I read arguments about the superiority of Ruby on Rails to J2EE without any appreciation of the fact that Ruby on Rails is built upon many lessons that were learned the hard way as Java frameworks evolved. Without the 1999 article Understanding JavaServer Pages Model 2 architecture, Struts, and plenty of other lessons learned along the way, there would be no Rails as it exists today. Without Active Server Pages there would have been no Java Server Pages. Without CGI there would have been no ASP. Without Perl and Lisp and Scheme there would have been no Ruby.

Whether the topic is programming, history, politics, or music, attempting to explain or criticize things without judging within their own context is waste of time and energy. The only upside is that when someone persists in doing so, it’s a good signal that their analysis can be safely dismissed without further consideration.

The New York Times endorses Willkie

In 1940, the New York Times endorsed Republican Wendell Willkie after having endorsed Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and 1936. They went back to endorsing Roosevelt in 1944, when he won his fourth term.

Why Willkie? From the endorsement:

We give our own support to Mr. Willkie primarily for these reasons: Because we believe that he is better equipped than Mr. Roosevelt to provide this country with an adequate national defense: because we believe he is a practical liberal who understands the need of increased production; because we believe that the fiscal policies of Mr. Roosevelt have failed disastrously; because we believe that at a time when the traditional safeguards of democracy are failing everywhere it is particularly important to honor and preserve the American tradition against vesting the enormous powers of the Presidency in the hands of any man for three consecutive terms of office.

Roosevelt went on to win 449 electoral votes to Willkie’s 82. (He won by 10 points in the popular vote.)

Links for April 7

  • Scott Horton: Worst. President. Ever. What interests me most about the list is that every President other than Bush (43) who could be described as the worst ever was a single termer. Bush’s main competition, Millard Fillmore, was not elected in the first place (he took over for Zachary Taylor, who died after 16 months in office) and did not receive his party’s nomination when his term expired. With Bush, we’ve had two terms and the Republican nominee wants to continue all of his worst policies.
  • Bruce Schneier: The Liquid Bomb. Some details of the liquid bomb plot are revealed. Could the plan have actually worked? Based on an extremely interesting stream of comments, I’d say that the particular plans hatched by the would-be terrorists could not have worked in a million years (they didn’t even test the explosives they planned to use), but that the general plan could have potentially worked (maybe) in the hands of terrorist masterminds.
  • The College Board has eliminated one of the advanced placement tests for Computer Science. There are two exams, and the more difficult of the two is to be discontinued. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia has a lengthy article that describes the composition of both exams.
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