On this day in 1822, Charles Babbage proposed a ‘Difference Machine’ in a lecture to the Royal Astronomical Society of London, ‘Note on the Application of Machinery to the Computation of Astronomical and Mathematical Tables’*
His difference engine is a mechanical calculator that evaluates polynomial functions. The name comes from the method of divided differences, a way to interpolate functions by using a small set of polynomial coefficients. Most mathematical functions commonly used by engineers, scientists and navigators, can be approximated by polynomials. A difference engine can, therefore, compute many useful tables of numbers. Babbage is credited with the concept of a digital, programmable computer.
The errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more numerous and more durable than those which result from unsound reasoning respecting true data**.
*This is the title from the Memoirs, or as we would say today Proceeding, of the Royal Astronomical Society. Later Babbage published the abstract of his talk in a book and used the title, ‘A Note Respecting the Application of Machinery to the Calculation of Astronomical Tables’.
**C. Babbage, ‘Of Price as Measured by Money’, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1st ed., 1832), chap. 17, 112.
Here is a recent conference article, published as an e-book,
D. Williams and P. D. Burns, A Decade of Experience with Digital Imaging Performance Guidelines: The Good, the Bad, and the Missing, IS&T’s Archiving Conference, 2017
No, this is not about KPIs or archery. Upon landing at San Francisco we saw what appeared to be, surveillance camera calibration targets.
This video is the result – based on a true story.
When I was at the Electronic Imaging Conference in San Francisco in February there was a man with a parrot attending. He walked around with it and brought a cage to the conference rooms when he was attending. On the last day of the conference, I was near the back of a room where a speaker was being introduced. The parrot said ‘Hello!’ and it resonated. Everyone turned around for a second then the session continued.
Leaving the room later, I passed the parrot in his cage (he had been taken there by his owner). I talked to the parrot to see if I could record it, but no luck. I just got a squawk.
Later I imagined a BBC radio story, The Parrot at the Conference (audio).
Recently the UK Royal Mint issued a set of ten-pence coins, the A to Z 10p Collection. Below is part of a picture posted by Sharon Henley, head of Marketing at the Mint. Preparing for the Archiving conference (#Archiving2018) next month, this got me thinking about old and new coin circulation. Those we keep and those that return, sometimes unnoticed, after our travels.
First, I am not a collector but I do find stamps and coins interesting. Coin designs are usually meant to celebrate, document, or at least note, the issuer’s history, culture and government in a serious way. The A to Z 10p Collection coins are quite different. They celebrate things British that are both unique and common-place. They are angelic, monstrous, sporting, double-deckered, full-English, ‘henged, oaked, parliamentary, artistic, and the rest.
Please note these are serious matters, and by all accounts the collection is highly successful.
Well, in our private coin ‘collection’ (stored for random-access in dresser drawers) we have quite a few coins from quite a few places. Checking the countries and dates, it is easy to discern an approximate record of family travels. Having extended-family members (whom I have visited) in five countries, and traveling rellies results in a fairly wide net. An approximate sampling of time and place.
Those from the UK show a few that were in circulation when we emigrated, just prior to conversion to decimal currency (1971). Some are much older, of course, and represent the random, or ‘interesting because they are old’ group. Two 1919 pennies are probably from Grandpa. However the 1945 half-penny was recently given by local friend, but could not resist including it. My more recent visits to England are also represented.
We also have Panamanian Bolivars and Australians pennies (and cents), alongside our neighbours’ Mexican pesos and Canadian loonies. Then there are the others,
- Argentina: attributable to a brother-in-law’s trip in the nineties
- French francs (pre-Euro) from a visit to Paris where I presented at an imaging conference early in my career. I still have the paper, which I had translated and typed (yes, typed on paper) in French.
- Peruvian nuevo sols (or is it nuevos sols) from a holiday with friends
- Japanese yen, from another conference in 2002
- Turkish Lira
- Bolivian Boliviano: not sure where this came from, but naming this as I did seems redundant: Boliviano means Bolivian! (noun-adjective duality)
We found lots of others of course, but then …. maybe I am a collector – of connections to family, colleagues and friends, via the things that end up at home. Bet you have few too.
p.s. The Union Flag (I think) is one that was sewn on a backpack that traveled through Europe with my younger brother as a university student. Wonder if he wants it back.
We had all heard that Tito helped the Smithsonian Institution’s research station on an island in Gatun Lake, Panama. My father-in-law, a Kodak man, started his career in his native Panama at their Tropical Labs. A chemist, he became an authority on the preservation and restoration of film products in tropical climates. The primary problem was fungus growth.
Barro Colorado is an island formed when Gatun Lake was created as a water supply for the operation of the canal. The island, thus provided a preserved habitat. In 1924 a natural history lab. was founded. This would later become the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
The photo shows Barro Colorado Island Lab. buildings and dock from Gatun Lake. The tramway to the top of the island is visible.
It was the 1960s and sometimes on Saturdays he and his eldest daughter (and my connection to the family) would visit the island. She remembers these pleasant boat trips to the island, with its Howler Monkey calls in the tropical forest, wandering tapirs, and iguanas taking in the sun.
Descriptions of all this have been aided over the years by photographic slides, projected after family get togethers. Many of the colored photos have faired well, but several have not (although in fairness, they may have been experimental rather than product films).
Well, Tito no longer needs the house, and it naturally fell to the family to clean things up for selling. A common story of a family’s accumulation in a home of fifty-plus years. Among the old text books, pre-prints from his articles (a form of pre-PDF personal archiving for publishing scientists) and patents, was a poster with a picture of two Australian aboriginal men.
Actually, what I saw first was an inscription from the photographer on the folded back of the poster. He thanked Tito for his help with fungus on his film negs.
I want to thank you for all your help with the problem of fungus on my film. It was you more than anyone else who made the present show possible. I am very grateful for what you did.
The photographer, Roger Manley, presented ‘Sullen Landscape, Australia Photographs’ in 1979 at the Davidson College Art Gallery, Davidson, North Carolina. Manley studied at Davidson College, after which he spent two years living in the Australian outback with an Aboriginal* tribe. He is currently director of the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University.
Manley’s gracious note, the photos of Barro Colorado, and Tito’s subsequent visits to the Smithsonian in Wasington are reminders of the (pro bono) contributions made by an industrial scientist. At the time this was not that common, and not often encouraged. Good for him.
In the modern era, I would expect to see the results of such consulting to be more widely known. Perhaps described at IS&T conferences, and local university seminars. I have found such external (non-proprietary) projects, whether for institutions, international standards, or as adjunct faculty, have complemented my primary work. Spice of life, don’t you know.
* Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
P.S. Tito was a member of IS&T, and published in the society journals.
I attended the 2+3D Photography – Practice and Prophecies conference in May, held at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Here is a video postcard, courtesy of Google Photos. The photos are largely unedited, some captured on film. The audio was recorded while walking around with my mobile phone, with simple editing also.
Here is the link to the two-minute video. This will open in Google Photos – when it opens, CLICK to hear audio.
Recently, the material for many of the conference presentations was posted.
For those who attended the IS&T Archiving Conference last month, here is a souvenir postcard-video, courtesy of Google Photos. The photos are largely unedited, and are from my analogue (film) and digital cameras. Many of you will notice the different ‘look’.
The audio was capture while walking around with my mobile phone, with simple editing also.
Here is the link to a 2 min. video. This will open in Google Photos – when it opens, CLICK to hear audio.
English language version – Todas las fotos tomadas en el día
El tema de un reciente programa de radio Latino USA fue el Tucson (Arizona) Rodeo, también conocido como La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros. Escuchar la historia de la familia y la competencia de sus 8 años me recordó una gran experiencia que tuve al asistir a la primera Conferencia de Archivos de IS&T en San Antonio, Texas. Esta serie de conferencias anuales continúa, y el próximo mes estaremos en Riga, Letonia.
Estábamos en San Antonio un par de días antes de la conferencia, e interesado en asistir a un servicio de iglesia mariachi domingo. En consejo de nuestro hotel, fuimos a Mission San José iglesia, 15 min. lejos. Disfrutamos de la música mariachi y masa en español. Durante los anuncios al final un artículo me llamó la atención. Una Charrería, debía celebrarse más tarde ese día cerca. No saber mucho acerca de esta exhibición local / competencia de equitación, decidimos verlo.
Charrería, o charreada, ha sido descrito como el abuelo del rodeo. Se originó con el español en América. Charros, jinetes mexicanos, adaptó las competiciones ecuestres de los españoles para producir un deporte exclusivamente mexicano. Se convirtieron en celebraciones para las comunidades, y las ocasiones de fin de semana para reunir a la familia y amigos.
Después de un par de giros equivocados (navegación por mapas impresos en ese entonces), encontramos la arena circular, con asientos de 7-8 asientos altos. Entrada sin pavimentar, polvorienta – ambiente organizado y amigable – caballos, y competidores en traje tradicional.
Recuerdo pensar que, aunque la congregación en la masa parecía ser alrededor del 30% turistas-visitantes (cámaras, libros de viaje), esta multitud parecía ser principalmente locales. Y qué lujo fue!
Impresiones de memoria,
- Chicos en botas y sombreros ayudando con la puerta de la arena
- Anuncios de eventos y patrocinio de empresas alternando entre lenguas
- Entradas galopantes, paradas rápidas, giros coordinados y trabajo con cuerdas
- Caballos marchando hacia atras
- Competidores como un médico local digno, y muchachos y muchachas jóvenes aplaudidos por sus familias y amigas.
Aprendimos sobre las misiones y el desarrollo temprano de la Hispanoamérica ese día, pero lo que más recuerdo es la diversión en la Charrería. (Para mí, las chicas jóvenes que aparecen abajo robaron el espectáculo – Preciosas!)
El curso corto y el presentación de nosotros en la primera conferencia de IS&T Archiving fue bastante bien también. Además, las imágenes de cámaras digitales de consumo proporcionan una buena medida de las mejoras que a menudo damos por sentado.
Hay cosas aprendidas en el camino