By David C. Brock

Trust, Differences, and the World’s Largest Democracy

On January 6th, 2021, when the Republican crowd stormed the US Capitol building, I found out about it early on when I checked my Twitter feed. I admit I never did get back to work that afternoon; I was glued to the NBC News feed streaming on YouTube through my living room television set. My reaction was a funhouse mirror version of the Latin phrase attributed to Julius Caesar: I sat, I watched, I worried.

Just shy of a month later, on February 5th, I-another confession-lay in my bed, scanning the New York Times app before…

By Heidi Hackford

Experts Weigh In

Is there more to fear or to hope from artificial intelligence (AI) today and into the future? On February 18, 2021, CHM gathered together a panel of leading experts with a variety of perspectives to answer questions and address concerns about AI technologies and robotics. A first-ever virtual town hall provided information and context to help us all become better informed digital citizens as AI innovations become ever more intertwined with daily life.

The conversation was shaped by real-time polls and questions submitted by the audience before and during the event. Moderated by Tim O’Reilly, founder, CEO…

“Steve Jobs Explaining Ten-Year Technology Development Cycles.” Sonoma, California, 1986. © Doug Menuez/Contour by Getty Images/Stanford University Libraries

From humble beginnings in his family’s garage to CEO of one of the world’s largest tech companies, Steve Jobs revolutionized personal computing, music, photography, apps, and countless other industries and facets of technology. He brought us the Macintosh, iPhone, iTunes, and more. Most importantly, he gave us a glimpse at what can happen when human creativity meets technology-and he put that magic into the hands of many.

In honor of what would have been the Apple cofounder’s 66th birthday, we’re sharing the February 23 Clubhouse conversation with CHM trustees Chris Fralic and Andy Cunningham, journalist Steven Levy, tech media pioneer…

By Marc Weber

And They’ll Do It Again

The machines took over most tasks long ago. We wake to an electrical alarm, sip machine-made coffee from a machine-washed cup and sit on a flush toilet whose hydraulic principles drove precision clocks in ancient Alexandria. Our breakfast cereal is harvested by semi-autonomous combines and processed in factories perfected over 300 years of industrial automation. At a word from us, the terminals in our pockets can show us almost anything we want to know. But we hardly notice any more. We wonder-and worry-about the ever-shrinking pool of tasks machines can’t do well. “Does AI understand emotions?” “Can…

By Emily Parsons

How Dating Apps Decide How We Connect

A few years ago, college student Alice* was browsing through products online when Amazon’s “inspired by your browsing history” recommendation system suggested a book called Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own.

“As if I didn’t already feel bad enough about my dating prospects, the algorithm had to rub it in,” Alice joked. “Not that it’s bad to be single, but I do think the word ‘spinster’ has a sort of negative connotation.”

Alice wasn’t sure what had given Amazon the idea that she was interested in spinsterhood, but it was true that she had never had…

By David C. Brock

In Paris. Exactly Seventy Years Ago.

He likely arrived in Paris from Darmstadt, Germany, by train that January, exactly seventy years ago. At 53, and a full professor of applied mathematics and the founding director of the Institut für Praktische Mathematik at the Technische Hochschule Darmstadt, Alwin Walther was among Germany’s leading figures in computation. The calculational prowess of Walther and his Institut-employing all manner of manual, mechanical, and electromechanical approaches-had attracted the attention, and the support, of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. …

By Dag Spicer

On an April morning in 2003, Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced that, thanks to new powerful computers and software, the human genome-the recipe for creating a human-had been decoded. It was a monumental decade-long effort that pitted two teams against each other in a race to read out the instructions contained in the special molecule that defines life: DNA.

Genes, of course, are only part of the story. The environment you live in will also determine many things about your life, such as how healthy you’ll be and how long you…

By Heidi Hackford

New Year, New Perspective

In the waning days of 2020, a remarkable panel came together for a virtual CHM Live event to share something that felt rare last year: optimism. Steve Davis, an advisor with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke with Keller Rinaudo, CEO and cofounder of Zipline, and Vin Gupta MD, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, about how new technology can improve the lives of millions. …

By Hansen Hsu

48 Years of Smalltalk History at CHM

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the release of Smalltalk-80, the Computer History Museum is proud to announce a collaboration with Dan Ingalls to preserve and host the “Smalltalk Zoo.” Below, computer scientist Adele Goldberg explains the vision behind Smalltalk.

What is Smalltalk, and what is the Smalltalk Zoo?

The Smalltalk Zoo is a collection of historical versions of the revolutionary graphical programming and user environment Smalltalk, originally developed at Xerox PARC, ranging from the 1972 version all the way to the modern “Squeak” version whose development began in 1995. …

By Heidi Hackford

“Do you have integrity?”

With that provocative question, Rob Chesnut, Airbnb’s former chief ethics officer, opened a recent CHM virtual workshop event. Viewers responded to the survey with 93% saying “yes,” but Chesnut pointed out that everyone thinks they have integrity and yet people don’t trust the media, government, corporations, or even their fellow citizens. In a rapidly changing world where everyone is connected, there are immediate and drastic consequences for behavior, and trust and integrity are more important than ever. Had George Washington lived during these times, Chesnut joked, he would have been immediately decried on social media for deforestation…

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