Two Longs and a Short

By Dick Pence This story appeared in The Washington Post in 1991, shortly after a computer glitch caused a "long-distance blackout" on the East Coast. Those big phone outages of the past couple of weeks have had me feeling a bit guilty over what's been happening. You see, I remember exactly how all this started.... Continue Reading →

A Yank at Bletchley Park

A friend and colleague introduced me to a 94-year-old gentleman with a rare tale to tell. John McCallister was recruited during World War II to be a US Army liaison officer at "Station X," the UK's highly secret codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park. Station X collected intercepted German radio messages, all encrypted with the supposedly-unbreakable Enigma cipher,... Continue Reading →

Which cables to keep, which to discard?

CNET recently published a list of cables to keep and cables to discard. I like to keep things for historical interest as well as for practical reasons. Historical examples allow me to show students different ways of doing the same thing. The picture on the left illustrates "serial vs parallel" and I use a similar... Continue Reading →

Pragmatic Security: the history of the Visa card

I've been looking at the evolution of electronic funds transfer (EFT) and payment systems recently. My research uncovered a gem: about two years ago, David Stearns completed a dissertation that looks at the early evolution of the Visa card (originally "Bank Americard") in the context of other evolving electronic payment systems. Stearns' work is both... Continue Reading →

Files using Classic FORTH

(circa 1970-85, maybe later) The Forth programming system was developed in the late 1960s by Chuck Moore. It provided a very powerful, text based mechanism for controlling a computer and writing programs when RAM and hard drive space were extremely tight. Early implementations were routinely restricted to 8KB of RAM. Some early implementations relied exclusively on diskette... Continue Reading →

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