Final Project

December 17, 2012

Here is the link for my Final Project:

Here is the Commentary for my Site:

Computers have literally changed every aspect of our lives and the world around us. 40 years ago computers were literally the size of several rooms and could only make minor calculations. These days nearly all of us carry a computer around in our pockets that have us constantly linked to each other and the rest of the world. Without these machines human existence as we know it would be completely different either for better or for worse.

Modern computers have their roots much father back than the 20th century but for the purposes of this project we will primarily examine the modern computer. Modern computers had their beginnings in military and college labs in the mid 1950s for helping with very complex math equations. At around the same time the beginnings of the what would become the internet were taking formation as these early computers were physically connected to each other to share information between them. The first networked computers that resemble a modern day LAN were invented in the mid 60s while at the same time computer scientists were describing a future in which all the computers in the world would be connected together to share information. Shortly after this the first home calculating “desktop” computers were introduced in the late 1960s. These computers were much larger than desks and it wasn’t until the 1970s that they were true desktop computers.

Computers were starting to interest more and more people by the late 1970s with many groups in California forming computer hobby clubs to share knowledge about computers and build their own custom designs. These clubs were the origins of the hacker culture, where information was not restricted and people looked for backdoor ways to accomplish any task. In one of these groups was Steve Wozniak, who along with his friend Steve Jobs built and marketed their own circuit board for use in a home computer labeled the Apple I in 1976. The late seventies was the period where the average person could buy a computer for their home rather than going to a university or a lab to use one. The Apple I was not a very successful computer but the Commodore PET was the first successful desktop computer and foreshadowed what was to come in the 80s.

The early 1980s is where home computing really took off. With the release of the Macintosh, the TCP/IP protocol for the internet formalized, and Windows 1 released computers were invading the homes of people everywhere. They were beginning to change the way we do things. In the 1980s it was mostly word processing, spreadsheets, and the occasional video game but it was becoming clear that these machines were changing things. While hardware was steadily getting better it was going to take more than faster processors to radically change human existence.

In December of 1990 the World Wide Web was launched at the particle physics lab CERN in Switzerland. Computers could now link to each other from any distance to share information and view webpages. People could now communicate like never before through blog posts and emails. People could also share files, including ones protected by copyright. The debate surrounding the website Napster opened up many questions about the use of the web and still sparks some debate today. The biggest question being should we limit the internet to protect intellectual property rights? The web grew so large and so quickly that sites were developed just to narrow the field of the web and focus on what you were looking for. At fist these search engines were very picky and you had to bend them to you will but with the creation of Google the web became much more easy for people to access and find the things that they need. This was just another step in making computers and the internet more accessible for the world.

The 21st century has truly connected nearly every corner of the world. Smart phones are constantly connected to the internet and can notify us of many happenings in our lives and the lives of others. The iPad has signaled the end of the personal computer and the dawn of the tablet era. Computers have made us much more aware of the world around us and much more capable to accomplishing tasks that were unheard of only a few decades ago. One can look back and think; What would a person from the 1950s say about an iPhone? They might actually call it magic, or think it was something out of a sci-fi novel.

Preserving this website should not prove to be difficult. If there is any lesson that the digital age has shown us it is that it is incredibly hard to loose or forget information on the web. The nature of the web itself preserves this site, even if it is buried under countless other sites it will always be available through its URL. Since there is no central server for the web the internet will never crash. In the event that Wix will no longer host the site then it would be necessary to copy the HTML code for the site to a computer and then back that HTML file up to a hard drive.

Scratch and Script

November 25, 2012

This scratch program is very cool and I think it is a glimpse into the future of computer programming. In a world that is becoming more and more digital it is going to be important for everyone to be able to create things digitally. Right now the majority of people don’t know any programming, even basic HTML. I’ve tried my had at programming in C++ and Objective C and I can fairly say that it is akin to learning a spoken language that incorporates math equations and road maps. Scripts like the ones in Scratch and other applications are great because they allow people who do not know programming to create programs quickly that work. They also make programming more visual which is an aspect of programming that I find difficult.

The real difficulty is creating of these kinds of script making programs because that still requires high levels of coding knowledge. Even if everyone learns coding or uses programs to create other programs there will always need to be those who can push the limits of what computers are capable of or create the programs like scratch that those without the knowledge can use.

What will the future think of us?

November 18, 2012

“Although some historians might object that the Bert Is Evil web site is of little historical significance, even traditional historians should worry about what the digital era might mean for the historical record.”

I believe we discussed a little about this in class the other day on how we might preserve our own history at the dawn of the internet age. The whole concept of wondering how the future will look back and think of us has been a question of societies for a very long time but with the existence of the internet now the situation gets much more complex and quite honestly a little bit hilarious. What will historians in 100 years look back and find? What inferences will they make about our culture from looking at lolcats and youtube videos. They might think that Gungnam Style is a cult following after seeing thousands of people dance to it in Seoul South Korea. The possibilities are endless.

Talking about these kinds of things right now seems like a joke but when time forgets the fads and fashions of today how will people look at and understand them in the future. In the case of Evil Bert historians may think that he was a propaganda machine of Osama Bin Laden to brainwash our children if we were to suddenly loose all record of Sesame Street for whatever reason. Luckily I think we wont be remembered wholly as a society that was obsessed with funny cat pictures thanks to sites like wikipedia. Better yet, if the internet were to suddenly disappear one day all that silly stuff would be almost gone forever.


November 5, 2012

“Slideware may help speakers outline their talks, but convenience for the speaker can be punishing to both content and audience.”

The Gettysburg Powerpoint that we had to read for this week is the living embodiment of this quote. It takes one of the most important and passionate speeches, digitizes it, breaks it down into data, and presents it in an unusually ugly slideshow presentation. Powerpoint presentations and slideshows are great for business meetings or venues where raw data needs to be analyzed but it does degrade the quality of what is being presented. Inspiring employees, or in Lincoln’s case a broken nation isn’t possible by showing them numbers. Most people hate math so I think there is a psychological rejection that occurs when someone is shown a statistic of how they are performing versus a more creative method like a video or speech.

A real world example I can think of where the traditional presentation format is being changed is with Apple’s keynote presentations that they hold whenever they release a new product or product update. in past years there has been a lot of focus on sales numbers during said presentations but recently the keynotes have shifted more towards focusing on the people who build these products and the people who are buying them. Apple now often inserts videos between slides to show off a new iPhone being sold at one of their stores rather than showing the raw data of how many phones they have sold.

Feltron Charts

October 28, 2012

Nicholas Feltron’s life “reports” are quite interesting and strange at the same time to look at. On one hand these are beautifully minimalistic and eye catching graphs and charts that give physical definition to how a man’s life plays out when examined through raw data. On the on the other hand there is something rather dehumanizing and calculating about them. In the 2010/2011 report he simply has an entry that appears several times labeled “Last Day with Dad” or “Dad’s Last Day” that took place during September. This was either the day his father passed away or was the last time he saw him alive yet it is listed in this report as a statistic as if though it has no emotional relevance.

As we are talking about charts and planning the ones that will appear on our final project I find these scatter plots and bar graphs to be absolutely stunning.The second page of the 2010/2011 report is very cool as it has a bar graph for each continent that Nicholas traveled to with the bars placed at the geographical location in the data. This is very useful for what historians do as when we often look at dates and places in research they often loose their real world physicality by simply being placed on a graph or listed. Showing the physical space between two events that are related, such as battles in a war, gives a sense of scope to the subject being discussed.

Slavery Reading

October 21, 2012

“The work is participatory, requiring a physical engagement that traditional reading does not. Readers decide which way to pursue the argument; they may go forward in the analysis or into the material to a depth and with a range a print journal does not permit.”

This quote was used to describe one of the ways that the digital work encompasses the four aspect of information that a computer should according to Vannevar Bush. I found this quote interesting because it represents something I never really thought about when doing research electronically in that the way we conduct research has completely changed in the past two decades. The efficiency that comes along with the way the internet is organized makes it hard to believe that we had to use indexes in the backs of books and encyclopedias to learn about topics.

Being a child of the internet age doing my research on the web comes as second nature but it must have been a revolution for the men and women of past ages who used to have to toil over books in a library for hours to find what I can come up with in 30 min of searching google. I think this is one of the things about the internet that makes it truly the greatest thing to happen to the world in a long time in the fact that it doesn’t change what we do but how we do everything.


Google Tools

October 15, 2012

Google has created some really great tools for accomplishing a number of different tasks through the web that previously required extra software or training to learn. I was already pretty familiar with Google Earth, Maps, Docs, but I hadn’t really played with the chart wizard before. This is a phenomenal tool.

I loathe Excel, I absolutely hate it. I know how to use Apple’s Numbers but its not that much easier to use. This chart maker will make it so much easier for everyone to create the graphs that they previously had to rely on excel to create and is a great example of how to make a great UI to make things simpler.

Google is going to give Microsoft a serious run for their money in the business community if they keep creating things like google docs and this chart wizard thing because it will make things cheaper and easier for businesses to get things done. Its also great for educational institutions, I mean look at how we use open source software to complete nearly everything in this class. Less money will be spent on licensing  software packages like Microsoft Office to businesses and less money will be spent training people on how to use those kinds of complicated programs like Excel. This has wide ramifications across the business and IT world but it is a huge accomplishment for computer users everywhere.


September 30, 2012

I read the article by Mat Honan a few months ago when the story broke. I think it is a shocking example of what the most valuable commodities in the future will be, privacy and security. With so many aspects of our lives now linked in some way to the internet and available to the public it is going to become harder for people to stay disconnected from the rest of the world. Mat Honan’s predicament shows how easy it is for a complete stranger to wipe out all of your personal data. With more and more things moving online your personal data is going to be all that we have at some point. When your data is what your livelihood depends on it becomes easier to see how large of an issue Honan’s situation is.

Security obviously needs to be beefed up with companies that store this information. The ability that Apple provides to erase the information from your machines that are linked to iCloud is great if your device gets stolen. However I think something as serious as that should have another countermeasure in place before erasing all your data. Privacy is going to be just as important in the future. Facebook does everything it can to keep you connected with everyone else by making the ability to block people harder to find with each update to the site. Personally I don’t like this one bit, I feel as though I should control who knows what about me. Just like before Facebook if I didn’t want to know someone I wouldn’t talk to them, I should have that same control in the digital space. This has honestly made me want to delete my Facebook numerous times but I need it to keep in touch with people who I can’t find by other means. I think as the world becomes more digital it is going to be harder and harder to keep your life private and secure.

Internet Ethics

September 27, 2012

The website containing pictures of the historic Highway 49 and the California Gold Rush is the shakiest of the 3 websites that we could review. Many of the pictures contained on the site are pre 1923 and in the public domain so there is no infringement on IP copyright laws. In the ghost stories section they do credit the original authors of the stories. The website is more geared towards tourism and advertising the various historical sites and attractions on Highway 49 rather than providing accurate historical information. I think the site is ethical because it does not claim any historical facts  and is more geared towards showing people who are interested in the area what stuff they can visit as well as the fact the pictures are in the public domain. Even with them selling the photos there are no protections on these photos so they are not breaking any laws. As for this page being a scholarly source it is most definitely not and I would never use it as a source on a research document.

History of the Internet on Wikipedia

September 27, 2012

The wikipedia article on the history of the internet I found was very thorough on covering the complete timeline of the internets development and lifespan since its inception in the late 1950s. It looks at a lot of the precursors of the internet that were developed in the mid 20th century that I have never read about or even heard about in some cases. It seems as though it has been kept up to date and edited thoroughly since its creation with the last edit being only a few days ago (9/20/2012). The last major addition was on September 8th. Since this is a more modern topic it is not surprising that things are constantly being added to this article especially since we are constantly redefining and improving upon the technologies that we see in the internet.

The article contains 109 sources, more than I have personally seen on most wikipedia articles but this is more common for an article on a historical topic. Many sources are from scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, and websites. There are quite a few charts throughout the article as wikipedia likes to do that basically illustrate the same thing, that the internet has been exploding over the past 20 years since it became a public thing.

Link to article: