Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I'll take two semaphore flags and a 16X Powered Riser Adapter Card


     Once, the challenge was writing the new year on your checks.
     A few days into 1994 you'd still be writing 1993.
     Darn this relentless change!
     Ah, hahahahaha.
     Now we've got new devices and concepts flung at us like overripe tomatoes while the stalwarts crumble.
     I had one of those moments last week when you can almost feel the howling winds of change.
     Friday night, a friend asked my wife and me to stop over for dessert.
     Tea. Christmas cookies. Doesn't sound like the prelude to challenging your concept of the monetary system, does it?
     So we're sipping tea, nibbling cookies. Enter the son, back from college. Up from the basement where he's . . . doing what? Guess! Running a train set? No. Mining crypto-currency? Yes. All the kids are doing it. We adults troop downstairs to watch.
     A metal shelf. And a dozen or so black slabs of video cards, electronics. Glowing red lights. A flat screen spitting strings of numbers.
   
To continue reading, click here.

20 comments:

  1. I love your pictures of old computer gear. Where did you take those?

    ReplyDelete
  2. A few summers ago at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the annex to the National Air and Space Museum. Now closed, alas. The CDC 3800 was from the Consolidated Space Test Center in Sunnyvale, California, used to monitor Air Force satellites in the 1960s.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I'm told news of its closing is premature. It is indeed open and well-worth the effort of visiting.

      Delete
  3. Reading your column reminded me of the old story about Joseph Kennedy who exited the stock market when his shoeshine boy was giving our stock tips. He figured that when even kids are into it that the market was was too popular and due for a correction. Ditto for bitcoin and other varieties of cryptocurrency.

    What most people don't realize is that if someone steals your bitcoins that you have no legal recourse. It's gone and no one is going to make good your loss. If you want to put your money into cyberspace where hackers can rip you off, that's a silly choice in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I can't see bitcoin having any real future whatsoever. It's pure speculation, pure gambling. The only goal to sell at a higher price than you bought.

    john

    ReplyDelete
  5. Maybe I'll change my mind if I take the course offered by the Federal Bar Association on January 30:

    This course explains what virtual currency is, how it works and the legal and regulatory issues surrounding its use. The course also discusses the possible uses of the Blockchain/distributed ledger beyond recording virtual currency transactions and the possible legal and regulatory issues. Finally, the course introduces the concept of the “smart contract” and how it could be used to change the world of financial transactions

    ReplyDelete
  6. A cyberspace anything doesn't inspire much confidence in me at the moment....
    Happy 2018, everyone!

    SandyK

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remember reading an essay in high school, early 80s, on possible future inventions. One of them was a new kind of TV that would be flat, like a painting, and you'd be able to hang it right on your wall. Seemed far-fetched at the time.

    One other future item I remember from that article was an incredibly efficient new kind of hand grenade. It had to do with a high tech way of dispersing the shrapnel evenly so that it would hit everything around. Don't think that one is real yet.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't understand bitcoin and never will. Who makes it? Where does it come from? Who guarantees it? And why is it preferable to real money?

    Bitcoin advocates seem invariably to respond to these questions by slagging on real money (which they call "fiat money" or "government money"--slapping "government" in front of something as a pejorative is the sign of a conservative or libertarian pinhead). To me it's either, as John says above, a weird investment in something utterly unproductive, or a way for criminals to get untraceable payments.

    I took a college programming class that involved punch cards. When I mention that to younger colleagues, they look at me as though I came West in a covered wagon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everything becomes obsolete, and the speed of that process is increasing every day, it seems. When we finally get used to the concept of"Bitcoin, it will be replaced by something else.

      Delete
    2. I agree,Sandy. I finally got a Twitter account a couple of weeks ago. It should be going belly up any day now.

      Delete
  9. I've been reading The Grouchy Historian by Ed Asner and Ed Weinberger. They say the wrote it to counter the dishonest appropriation of America's early history by the political right. In the book they notate the agenda each of the founding fathers brought to the Constitutional Convention. It turns out that many of them were holding notes and financial instruments issued by their states. They were panic stricken that, in the wake of financial pressures caused by the Revolutionary War, the notes and instruments they held would lose value or be worthless. Their participation in creating the Constitution was in large part to make sure a strong federal government would exist to guarantee those notes. So surprise, surprise, our founders, a wealthy and heavily leveraged lot, were protecting themselves from financial disaster.

    I mention this as a reminder that the federal government hasn't always had a monopoly on printing financial instruments. Bitcoin can work. More likely, as the speculative process plays out - people with lucky timing or inside information will make out like bandits, and a whole lot of people will get ruined.

    Or - they could have a Constitutional Convention and make sure that bitcoin is protected by the government - it worked once.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interestingly (to me at least), a lot of sharpies who knew that Alexander Hamilton was going to steer America into redeeming all such debts at par went around lying about how America was about to default on that debt, snatching it up for pennies on the dollar and redeeming it at full value. Many of their victims were Revolution veterans owed back pay.

      Delete
  10. Predicting with any precision where technology will take us is always a somewhat fraught enterprise. In his 1982 novel "The Fixed Period," Anthony Trollope had the inhabitants of his mid-20th Century society going about on steam powered bicycles. That said, there are visionaries like Leonardo Da Vinci and Alan Turing, who seem to embody the distinction Schopenhaur made between talent and genius: "Talent is the marksman who hits targets others cannon reach; genius is the marksman who hits a target others cannot see."

    Tom

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trollope must have crafted "a satirical dystopian novel," indeed, as Wikipedia calls it, to have anticipated mid-20th century society from the vantage point of 1982, Tom. ; ) On a more serious note, I can see why you found that quote worthy of inclusion in the mish-mash book; it's a keeper.

      Delete
  11. Tom:

    Your spellcheck overcorrected you with "cannon," I think. And I just noticed "1982," which was about 100 years after Trollope's own "fixed period."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I must have been recovering from holiday over-indulgence. On the other hand, what's a century or two between fellow Trollopians. "The fixed Period," by the way, was about government imposed euthanasia and was the only on of his fifty some novels that didn't sell.

      Yes, I like the Schopenhauer quote. Came across it in a recent bio of Leonardo.

      Tom

      Delete
  12. Did the Carol Moseley Braun piece end up requiring the reinstated moderation of comments, Neil? Other than that, it seemed like a string of non-controversial posts...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, I've had it for a while. I have one persistent poster who puts up inappropriate stuff at all hours, and I'm trying to train him not to. Sometimes I forget and just leave it up.

      Delete

Thanks for commenting. As soon as I vet your remarks, they'll be posted.