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Comment Started with spaghetti FORTRAN (Score 1) 515

I missed an opportunity to learn coding in 1961 as the computer was 30 miles from campus, I had no car, and was taking semester hours of math and physics. Then I was accepted for graduate school in 1975 and decided that since my goal was to become involved with science and research I should acquire skills to handle data and signed up for FORTRAN.

FORTRAN was offered by the Business department and 'goto' was heavily used. It appeared that only two or three of us in the class of about 30 'got it' but I might have been biased since I was 10 years older than most. Debugging was a bitch. Once the code was key punched the packet of cards was placed in a container embedded in a wall; at some point the computer operator would run the packet through the CDC 6000 series main frame (60 bit words) and then the output wrapped around the card deck and put in a pick-up pile a few hours later. All this to find syntax errors! I wound up doing my coding from 9pm or so until 2am as wait times were substantially shorter. I made friends with the operator and learned how to run the main frame.

About this time a time sharing system using Teletype Model 33 ASR terminals distributed around the science building was installed so I started to use it for my FORTRAN class (slightly different than the CDC) and learned BASIC.

I was given a 6502 computer on a board designed for engineers could learn how to use the 6502 chip and I/O chips. Input was a keyboard, output a paper tape similar to a cash register tape. I learned some assembly on it but had to purchase a couple of tape decks and build an interface to save and load code in the 'Kansas City Format'. I wrote a version of Wumpas using the included BASIC in ROM and used this computer in a data structures class I took.

I did take introductory courses in Pascal and C, for instance, but was self taught in C++ and in the last 4 years Java and Dart.

I read all I could to understand what to do to conceptualize and then start to code projects. Since most the coding I've done is in support of data acquisition and converting raw data into data usable for analysis and display I find that I kind of cherry-pick topics to learn, skip others, and have spotty knowledge of some aspects of the languages I use.

Programming has mostly been a secondary task in my job descriptions. I think requiring primary school students to learn coding is about as sensible as requiring them to take calculus in order to be accepted in University for Humanities majors.

Comment The sewing needle (Score 1) 397

Including the 'needles' made of plant spines other sharp objects. Without this we wouldn't have been able to stitch pelts together to make clothing and clothing allowed us to live in nearly every environment.

My list also includes the knife. Early ones were made from stone, such as flint, by striking the flint with another stone shaping it into a hand held gadget with a cutting edge. It's the direct ancestor of my pocket knife. It provided a simple tool that was used to shape things such as pelts, branches, etc. Must be older than the needle.

Last, but definitely least, I'd say the fire kit which would consist of a stick of hardwood that could be made to rotate fast using the hands or a small bow onto a softer wood. Friction would create hot wood power that was used to start fires. Fire gave access to food which needed to be cooked such as roots and tubers and food which was better cooked such as meat. Our ancestors also used fire to manipulate their environment to their benefit.

Most of the gadgets in the article are not available to many or most of the earth's population but a cutting gadget, sewing gadget, and control of fire shaped provided for our species survival.

Comment How is the energy it absorbs dissipated? (Score 2) 176

The particles absorb photons over a wide band, violet through 'thermal'. Presumably the energy is dissipated as though from a black body unless it is removed by conduction. For example when illuminated by visible light they would radiate mostly in the infrared (unless the absorbed energy is removed by conduction) and would be seen to glow in infrared.

If they could be tweaked to absorb better at a wavelength that is best transmitted by human tissue and attached to an antibody that attaches to cancer cells they might be used as antennae to heat and destroy the cells.

Comment Was predicted in SF 20 years ago or so... (Score 1) 99

I remember that an SF story a couple of decades ago predicted that cruise missiles and the computer technology to direct their swarming would make them inexpensive weapons of choice for some nations. Looks as if that time is upon us.

"...officials note, having this capability will force adversaries to focus on UAV swarm response." I hope that we also have some focus onUAV swarm response; the 'swarm' of Kamikaze attacks on our fleet off Okinawa in WWII inflicted great damage even though we had AA shells with proximity fuzes, early warning radar, and fighter aircraft for interception.

Comment Re:Line Count is Misleading (Score 1) 23

I don't see that Mr | Ms | Mrs Coward's comment is pertinent. I sure don't want to need to code "y = z++" in assembly, much less binary, each time I need it. Computer languages are made up of symbols that translate to several to many lines of code and come with libraries of still more abstract code and the trend of higher abstraction appears to be continuing. It's good have routines coded once that that are used many times. Productivity increases.

Comment Re:A smart phone is rarely convenient (Score 1) 248

I agree with fff.

I suspect that the savings and utility will come with new construction where, for instance, the load carrying copper wires only go to the outlets or lights and the controls, which could control the light, socket, etc. could be wireless but their power would come a separate low voltage, low amperage, circuit this saving quite a bit of copper. The smartphone could control selected or all circuits but would not be the only control.

As an example thermostats control furnaces and air conditioners via low voltage, low amp, wires. New ones may also be controlled by a smartphone or computer.

It's probably not very cost efficient to convert existing homes in most cases.

BTW I get points when I mention that I can't go out as I need to update the firmware in my front door lock.

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