Today, 75 years ago, at 9am Tokyo time, the Japanese government and military signed the articles of surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri. Marking the end of the most deadly war in the history of the world. Lost lives are estimated to be at least 91,000,000 from all causes, military and civilian. This represents 3-3.7% of the world's population in 1939.

9/2 '20 1 Comment
"This represents 3-3.7% of the world's population in 1939."

Holy shit, that is staggering.

Thank you for posting these historical reminders. They are good.

Have you ever wondered where your industry got its start? Since a lot of us are in IT, I bet you're thinking WW2 and the codebreakers at Bletchley Park, Alan Turing and all the rest.

Would you be surprised if I told you it was the loom? Or even further back, the water wheel?

In the 1970's the BBC produced an absolutely brilliant documentary series call Connections, hosted by James Burke. It had a wonderful way of showing technology advancing, not by a solitary inventor, but by taking the work of someone else, often in a completely different field and applying it to the problem they were working on. It's absolutely mind blowing.

Fortunately the internet archive has all three series available to stream, for free. Each episode is about 45 minutes long. There's a lot of anachronisms, the World Trade Center towers make a frequent appearance, for those touched by the events of 9-11, be warned. But, if you have the time, I promise that it will not be wasted.

And if you want to see the origin of IT.

7/8 '20 2 Comments
Right, the punch cards for patterns in the loom. I had forgotten that, thank you!

We saw a punch card loom in ... the Smithsonian, I think.
Thank you for that - I'll definitely be checking it out!

I seem capable of running out of worthwhile streaming content despite its seeming endlessness....

75 years ago today, one theater of the largest war in history ended. Linked below is the official radio anouncement read by Winston Churchill at three o'clock in the afternoon, in London.

5/8 '20

We look back at the Apollo 11 mission and see a triumph of human will, technology and daring. But at the time there was a chance that it would all end in disaster. Setting aside the prior Apollo 1 deaths of three astronauts, Gus Grissom, Roger White and Ed Chaffee, in a "plugs out test" of the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo Command and Service Modules. There was a single, critical piece of equipment that could not be tested until it was time to use it. Specifically, the Lunar Excursion Module's ascent engine. The LEM descended with a more powerful engine on it's descent stage. But rather that tow all the weight of the descent stage, NASA engineers decided to leave it behind and only ascend to rendezvous with the Command and Service modules with a much lighter ascent stage carrying the astronauts and the moon rock samples.

Of course, Murphy also had to intervene. In the tight confines of the LEM, either Aldrin or Armstrong's life support pack broke off the push button that would activate the ascent engine. Aldrin used a pen nib to push the button and the engine activated, but I can't help but imagine that the atmosphere in the LEM was pretty tense as they approached lunar liftoff.

Tension in the White House was also pretty high. As William Safire wrote this speech for President Nixon to read;


Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dare to send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern time, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

7/20 '19 3 Comments
Heavy stuff. A pen nib. I love it.

Did you read that white-knuckle article in Wired about the Apollo 11 error messages of doom? It is a brilliant read. The last paragraph or two was also neat, serving as a who's who of "who went on to do what." (It'll make sense when you read it.)
I did read that article. Only nerds would find it horrifying. Fortunately, I'm a nerd. Imagine the first moon landing nearly borked by user error.
Ray Conrad 7/21 '19
Both you and Jill might be interested in listening to this. It's an audio drama/ audio fiction podcast episode speculating about what it would have been like to be on Apollo 11, had everything gone Tango United.

Today in history, the Forty-Seven Rōnin, under the command of Ōishi Kuranosuke, avenged the death of their daimyō, Asano Naganori. Asano had been compelled to perform seppuku for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka.

After they lost their positions as samurai, the forty-seven made themselves appear to have lost all honor by posing as drunkards and thieves. After waiting and planning for a year, the rōnin avenged their master's honor by killing Kira. In turn, they were themselves obliged to commit seppuku for committing the crime of murder. 

Their story has been fictionalized several times, but always at the expense of the actual story.

12/14 '18 2 Comments
I didn't know this.

"Their story has been fictionalized several times, but always at the expense of the actual story."

Sadly, that often seems to be the way of things.