kottke.org posts about IBM

IBM centennial filmsJan 24 2011

IBM is celebrating 100 years of business with a pair of videos; the following is a 30-minute film by Errol Morris (music by Philip Glass) on the history of the company.

A second film, 100 x 100, shows 100 people each presenting an IBM milestone that occurred the year they were born; not sure if Morris did this one as well. (via df)

What is a Jeopardy playing supercomputer?Jun 22 2010

After pretty much solving chess with Deep Blue, IBM is building a computer called Watson to beat human opponents at Jeopardy. It's not quite at Ken Jennings' level, but it's holding its own versus lesser humans.

Deep Blue was able to play chess well because the game is perfectly logical, with fairly simple rules; it can be reduced easily to math, which computers handle superbly. But the rules of language are much trickier. At the time, the very best question-answering systems -- some created by software firms, some by university researchers -- could sort through news articles on their own and answer questions about the content, but they understood only questions stated in very simple language ("What is the capital of Russia?"); in government-run competitions, the top systems answered correctly only about 70 percent of the time, and many were far worse. "Jeopardy!" with its witty, punning questions, seemed beyond their capabilities. What's more, winning on "Jeopardy!" requires finding an answer in a few seconds. The top question-answering machines often spent longer, even entire minutes, doing the same thing.

The original IBM ThinkPadOct 02 2009

A promotional notepad given away by IBM was the inspiration for the computer giant's popular ThinkPad.

Think. Pad.Update: And inspired directly by the brown leather cover of the notepad, the ThinkPad Reserve collection. (thx, saket)

You know what's dumb about the "SoAndSoFeb 25 2008

You know what's dumb about the "SoAndSo Company is the Next Google" headlines. But do you know what's *really* dumb about the "SoAndSo Company is the Next Google" headlines? Before Google became the company whose success everyone was chasing, it was Microsoft. Before that, it was IBM. That's it, three companies since 1960. What are the chances it's going to happen again anytime soon? (Nothing against Etsy, but this is the one that set me off.)

Following up on why HAL sings "Daisy,Apr 28 2006

Following up on why HAL sings "Daisy, Daisy" in 2001: A Space Odyssey", Lee Hartsfeld found a 1961 record with the Bell Labs recording on it at a junk shop for $10.

Why does HAL sing "Daisy, Daisy" in 2001: A Space Odyssey?Apr 25 2006

In 1962, Arthur C. Clarke was touring Bell Labs when he heard a demonstration of a song sung by an IBM 704 computer programmed by physicist John L. Kelly. The song, the first ever performed by a computer, was called "Daisy Bell", more commonly known as "Bicycle Built for Two" or "Daisy, Daisy". When Clarke collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey, they had HAL sing it while Dave powered him down.

A clip of a 1963 synthesized computer speech demonstration by Bell Labs featuring "Daisy Bell" was included on an album for the First Philadelphia Computer Music Festival. You can listen to it (it's the last track) and the rest of the album at vintagecomputermusic.com. (via mark)

Update: A reader just reminded me that HAL may have been so named because each letter is off by one from IBM, although Arthur C. Clarke denies this. (thx, justin)

Justin reports on his family's results ofFeb 21 2006

Justin reports on his family's results of a neat project called the Geneographic Project, co-produced by National Geographic and IBM. If you purchase a testing kit, they'll trace the specific genetic markers of your ancestors back to (possibly) our common African root.

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