Archive for the “History” Category

After years of work by many people, we’ve finally published my mother’s memoirs. “My Short Century” by Lorna Arnold is now available from Lulu. A Kindle version is on the way, and both of them should show up on Amazon quite soon.

My Short Century by Lorna Arnold
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

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Here’s Jonathan’s allsun@ email announcing the Oracle acquisition of Sun.

“To me, this proposed acquisition totally redefines the industry,” wrote Jonathan Schwartz this morning to Sun’s employees in a company-wide email announcing the acquisition of Sun by Oracle. Among other remarks, Schwartz adds: “Let me assure you [Oracle is] single minded in [its] focus on the one asset that doesn’t appear in our financial statements: our people.”

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Here’s a wonderful intro to a collection of videos and instructional materials from the 1970s on how to program and operate a DEC PDP-11. First, toggle in your loader, then boot from paper tape…. Very cool, in a retro way. I did a lot of PDP-11 stuff back in the mid-70s.

[The videos are accessible on YouTube; the website with the other materials appears to have been brought to its knees as a result of being mentioned in Boing Boing…]

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I’ve been digging into my American family roots, and came up with a couple of amusing nuggets. My father was American, and his mother was named Kate Denig. This seemed like a fairly easy name to trace, so we worked back through the US Census records at There was one significant element of confusion, of which more anon, but eventually I reached my great great great great grandfather, Ludwig Denig, b. 1755. There’s a fair amount of documentary material available: he was a shoemaker, and later an apothecary, in Pennsylvania. He was also a leading light in his local church, and an amateur artist, and I was delighted to discover that a facsimile of a book of his was available: The Picture Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book. I ordered a copy through Amazon, and it just arrived (from Powells in Portland). It’s in perfect, and beautiful condition.

The Picture Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book

The Picture Bible of Ludwig Denig: A Pennsylvania German Emblem Book

And the bit of confusion? As we searched the census records for Ohio and Wisconsin, we kept coming across references to members of the “McDenig” family. This seemed odd: I’d never seen a hybrid German-Scottish name before. Eventually light dawned. One of Ludwig’s sons was George Denig, a physician. He married an Eliza McClintock, and their children all took the names of both parents. The next family member in my lineage was his son, Robert McClintock Denig, born in 1813, and a physician like his father. When the census taker recorded his family information, he wrote Robert’s name as “Robert Mc. Denig”. And 150 years later, whoever computerized the census records dutifully transcribed the family name as “McDenig”.

Thus history is made and remade….

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Kate, Hannah and I spent the morning on a guided tour around the Wing Luke Asian Museum, just a couple of blocks from the apartment. It’s a really great place to visit, but don’t just go to the museum. Take a tour. It costs a dollar more, but you see many additional exhibits, including the painstakingly restored rooms of the old hotel that once occupied the top two floors of the building.

Rather than trying to give my impressions of the museum, let me refer you to this excellent review from the New York Times which describes it much better than I could.

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When I was planning to visit Iasi in Romania, I looked at a map, saw that it was in the northern part of the country, and casually assumed that this meant that it was in Transylvania. Well, no. I’ve spent the last hour reading up in Wikipedia on the history of Iasi, Romania, Transylvania, and Moldavia, and I think I have it sorted at a superficial level. And calling someone from Iasi (Jassy) a “Transylvanian” would seem to be a bit like calling someone from Durham a Scot…

Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania at the end of the XVIth century

Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania at the end of the XVIth century

Another thing I’m sorting out is geography. I had looked at Google Maps images like this, and had assumed that Iasi was in a mountainous region – part of the Carpathians. Well, no. If I’d zoomed out a bit, like this, I’d have seen that it’s well to the east of the mountains, in what looks like a prime agricultural region.

Speaking of agriculture, can someone explain why all of the fields show this fine-grained irregular striping pattern. The link’s to a Google map zoom-in satellite view of fields just to the east of the Iasi airport, but I saw this pattern all over the country. (Here’s the same kind of thing just outside Bucharest.)

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I’m planning to celebrate my birthday, The Mekonand the 50th anniversary of the Windscale nuclear accident1, by going to see the Mekons at Town Hall Seattle tomorrow. I vaguely remember them as a highly-political punk band, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of their “post-modern country” work. However, as a loyal reader of Dan Dare in my childhood, how could I pass up an opportunity to see a band that was named after his arch-enemy?2

  1. Speaking of which, Palgrave has just issued a new edition of my mother’s book Windscale 1957: Anatomy of a Nuclear Accident.
  2. Bizarrely, the write-up at the Town Hall website states that “they took their name from a classic British science fiction comic hero”. Hero?! That leader of a bunch of green jackbooted Venusian thugs? Hardly…

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Terry just posted a piece about UUCP, blogging, and digging back in Google Groups for early signs of life…

The first UUCP posting that I can find of mine is dated November 20, 1985 – but that was just an administrative posting, announcing the addition of “suneast” to the UUCP network. My first real posting was to net.unix on December 4, 1985, asking if anyone knew of an unencumbered version of the Unix “crypt” command – even then, source code licensing was an issue. And my first contribution on a non-work topic was to net.followup, on April 27, 1986, about Reagan’s decision to bomb Libya.1

  1. Re-reading this, I’m struck by how close it is to the piece I just posted about “No End in Sight”. As Terry put it, “While one can’t step twice in the same river, from the banks it looks much the same.”

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David Hume
David Hume, of course.

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Back in February of 2006 I visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and posted a few photographs to my gallery. Time to make way for the professionals: Scoble is reporting that a beautiful coffee-table book of photographs from the museum has just been published: Core Memory: A Visual Survey of Vintage Computers. What’s more, Scoble’s included links to several video clips: an interview with the book’s photographer, Mark Richards, and an earlier tour of the Museum with the legendary Gordon Bell (here and here).1

Conveniently, I have a coffee table of exactly the right size….

  1. Note that I’ve had problems with the Gordon Bell clips on my Mac; I think Flip4Mac and VLC are getting in each other’s way, trying to handle this weird Windows Media stuff.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.