Category Archives: History

Growth by Experimentation

Source: NY Post, Nov 2015

 Al Gore and Barack Obama brag that the government created it. The truth is that it wasn’t until government got out of the way that what was once the Arpanet, a Pentagon creation, evolved into the Internet. “If you really want to see the Arpanet as the origin of the Internet,” Ridley asks, “please explain why the government sat on it for 30 years and did almost nothing with it until it was effectively privatized in the 1990s, with explosive results.”

Until 1989, the government actually prohibited Arpanet from being used for private or commercial ends. Ridley quotes a handbook distributed to MIT users of the Arpanet that read, in the 1980s, “sending electronic messages over the Arpanet for commercial profit or political purposes is both antisocial and illegal.”

As for the involvement of Internet pioneers such as Paul Baran, Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee, what they devised was bound to be created by somebody because of the simultaneous nature of invention and innovation.

The reason the Internet became what it is now is its decentralized, non-hierarchical, almost unregulated character — the exact opposite of how governments usually operate.

Consider the divergence of South Korea and Ghana, two countries that had about the same per capita income as recently as 1950. One chose trade, the other picked aid. Aid creates lots of fun jobs for central planners who use people like chess pieces and figure out how to distribute the wealth from the top, whereas trade simply allows for wealth to rise up from the bottom. Aid, it turns out, is simply an unsustainable solution to poverty, and today South Korea has about 10 times the per-capita income of Ghana.

Babbage’s Difference Engine

Source: Computer History Museum, date indeterminate

In 1985 the Science Museum in London set out to construct a working Difference Engine No. 2 built faithfully to Babbage’s original designs dating from 1847-9.

The project took seventeen years to complete. The calculating section was finished in 1991 in time for the bicentenary of Babbage’s birth.

Related Reading: IEEExplore, Oct-Dec 2000

The engine performed its first automatic error free calculation on 29 November 1991, twenty-seven days before the 200th anniversary of Babbage’s birth, which had been the original target


Ada Lovelace – the 1st Programmer

Source: The New Yorker, Oct 2013

On January 5, 1841, she asked, “What is Imagination?” Two things, she thought. First, “the combining faculty,” which “seizes points in common, between subjects having no apparent connection,” and then, she wrote, “Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently. It is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of Science.”

 Related Resource: PsychCentral, Oct 2014

“Mathematical science shows what is. It is the language of unseen relations between things… Imagination too shows what is … Hence she is or should be especially cultivated by the truly Scientific, those who wish to enter into the worlds around us!”

believed that intuition and imagination were critical to effectively applying mathematical and scientific concepts.


Steve Jobs: Contribute; it’s not just about passion …

Source: Business Insider, Mar 2015

“Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion,” Jobs reportedly said, “but we’re all part of the flow of history.”

Jobs continued:

You’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people …

so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.

100 Year-old Companies, Sep 2014

logo - alibaba

Ma’s vision was for the company he founded in 1999 to grow while helping China’s small and midsize companies conduct business around the world using the Internet, and to endure for 102 years so that it could straddle three centuries., date indeterminate

logo - evernote

We wanted to make a company that was durable, that would be around for 100 years, and did a little research about that. There’s a little bit over 3,000 companies in existence right now that are more than 100 years old, and the vast majority of them are in Japan.

We wanted to do that; we wanted to make something that would be long-term, that was going to be sustainable, but it wasn’t enough to just make a 100-year-old company. Just because they’ve been around for a long time doesn’t necessarily make them great places to be. We said, 100-year startup, we still want to be a startup in 100 years.

Da Vinci: Shaping the Future Exhibit

Just visited the Da Vinci: Shaping the Future exhibit in Singapore.  Awesome!

For Leonardo da Vinci, mathematics was the ultimate key to understanding nature and could be applied in both art and science.


HR Perot Rescues the 1st Computer

Source: Wired, Nov 2014

Perot’s people decided to acquire a more singular prize: a big chunk of ENIAC, the “Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer.” The ENIAC was a 27-ton, 1,800-square-foot bundle of vacuum tubes and diodes that was arguably the world’s first true computer. The hardware that Perot’s team diligently unearthed and lovingly refurbished is now accessible to the general public for the first time, back at the same Army base where it almost rotted into oblivion.

… the machine could execute 5,000 instructions per second, a capability that made it a thousand times faster than the electromechanical calculators of the day. (An iPhone 6, by contrast, can zip through 25 billion instructions per second.)