The birth of computer networking

I had arrived at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) in the summer of 1971, knowing of the important work there in artificial intelligence, computer simulations in psychology, and natural language understanding. But I understood only vaguely the explosive potential of the work on computer networking.

Computer Networks – The Heralds of Resource Sharing was a movie made to accompany the public demo of the ARPANET at the 1st International Conference on Computer Communications in Washington DC in October, 1972, about a year after my arrival. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t finished in time for the demo, but it was released before the end of that year. I didn’t have anything to do directly with the movie or the work described, but knew many of the people and projects that are featured.

The movie represents both a thoughtful account and a primary source itself for the general history of computing and communication. It also tells us about successful collaboration–how participants at the time themselves described it. I think it also gives a good account of the motivations behind the ARPANET, forerunner of the Internet, and a good basic description of how it works.

Hidden Her-story: The Top-Secret “Rosies” of World War II

leann_ericksonNorma Scagnoli referred me to a wonderful podcast by LeAnn Erickson, Associate Professor of Film and Media Arts at Temple University. Erickson is an independent video/filmmaker, whose work has appeared on public television, in galleries, and has won national and international awards.

Entitled, Hidden Her-story: The Top-Secret “Rosies” of World War II, it was recorded in January at the EDUCAUSE 2009 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Philadelphia. I expected to listen for a minute and then go on to more pressing things, but after listening a little I decided that those things weren’t so pressing after all. It’s a fascinating story for anyone who has an interest in history, computers, women, education, mathematics, warfare, politics, Philadelphia, science, workplace equity, morality, or life in general.

In 1942, only months after the United States entered World War II, a secret military program was launched to recruit women to the war effort. But unlike recruiting “Rosie” to the factory, this search targeted female mathematicians who would become human “computers” for the U.S. Army. These women worked around-the-clock shifts creating ballistics tables that proved crucial to Allied victory. “Rosie” made the weapons, but the female computers made them accurate. When the first electronic computer (ENIAC) was invented to aid ballistic calculation efforts, six of these women were tapped to become its first programmers. “Top Secret ´Rosies’: The Female ‘Computers’ of WWII” is a documentary project currently in postproduction that will share this untold story of the women and technology that helped win a war and usher in the modern computer age.

Controls for the podcast appear beneath the description on the EDUCAUSE page.

Copernicus and Erasmus

genealogy1The Mathematics Genealogy Project and its cousins, the AI [artificial intelligence] Genealogy Project, and the Philosophy Family Tree are attempts to compile information about scholars in various fields, including where they received their degrees and the titles of their dissertations. The information is organized in an academic family tree, in which one’s adviser is one’s parent.

Here’s the mission statement for the Mathematics Genealogy Project:

The intent of this project is to compile information about ALL the mathematicians of the world. We earnestly solicit information from all schools who participate in the development of research level mathematics and from all individuals who may know desired information.

Please notice: Throughout this project when we use the word “mathematics” or “mathematician” we mean that word in a very inclusive sense. Thus, all relevant data from statistics, computer science, or operations research is welcome.

I’m actually in all three of these trees. My PhD is in Computer Sciences, specifically in AI; the core of the dissertation is in mathematical logic; and my adviser, Norman Martin, was a philosopher. His work was in the area of logic, as was that of a committee member, Michael Richter, a mathematician.

One of the best Christmas presents I received was a depiction of this tree made by Emily and Stephen (above, click to enlarge). There is so much detail, that you need to see the full-scale poster to read it all, but you may be able to make out the names of my adviser, and co-adviser, Robert F. Simmons, as well as early ancestors, Copernicus and Erasmus. It’s fun to explore the connections, which ultimately show how interconnected we all are.

Dissertation: The logical structure underlying temporal references in natural language

Bruce, B. C. (1971). The logical structure underlying temporal references in natural language. Ph.D. dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin, Computer Sciences Department. [Note: The archival file is very large; here’s the content in a smaller file size.]

Committee: Norman M. Martin (Co-Chair), Robert F. Simmons (Co-Chair), Michael Richter, Terrence W. Pratt

From the Introduction:

Temporal reference in natural language include tenses and other time relations, references to specific times, and a variety of phrases such as “present”, “later”, “when”, “how often”, and “never”. Their high frequency of occurrence reflects the importance of time to the users of natural language. Although the structure underlying temporal references may appear complicated, it is a working assumption of this thesis that a sound logical explanation of its characteristics can be made.

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