November 3rd, 2007

Of weird obscure shit there is no end

Reading 'Information and Secrecy - Vannevar Bush, Ultra and the other Meme' by Colin Burke...

'Rolph Hofgaard was a very innovative and prolific Norwegian inventor whose work had the potential to yield a memory based machine for inventory and similar data heavy chores. Hofgaard's experimental devices were very advanced for the time and pre-dated the use of relays for large-scale calculations by men such as Stibitz and the now famous Konrad Zuse of Germany'.

And indeed, if you search on Google (for Rolf Hofgaard rather than Rolph which yields no hits), he is clearly very obscure indeed. There are a few references to patents - as the notes in Burke's book suggest - but that's it.

The thing about these books, or browsing university presses websites, is that there are so many interesting looking books on obscure subjects. Since the Burke book is about information science, strange devices and cryptography there are plenty of references to books on cryptography, a subject which seems to me to have a disproportionate number of books about it compared to many related subjects - one could clearly spend ones entire life reading about the history of cryptography. I have adopted the rule of not ordering any books referenced by A until I have finished A. This is obviously not a true breadth-first search but does moderate things somewhat and has avoided any more cases where I have ordered a couple of books on a subject and stopped caring before they arrived.

Irksomely, one of the books Burke recommends highly is very rare, over 75 quid for a copy, I will have to see if I can get it via library loan.

In parallel with the Burke, I am reading a thick tome entitled IBM's Early Computers. One of the charms of these books are the names, a 'Ralph Mork' was mentioned in the section I read this morning. Definite shades of Happy Days, which, come to think of it, had a Ralph and a Mork. You can see Potzie's father working at IBM on the 7070 (I use the name Potzie arbitrarily, I have no idea what job if any Potzie's father was supposed to have). The late days of the tabulator, and the early days of 'The Pill', for married women only of course.

The past was definitely another country, another techno-economic paradigm.

In other news, we have ordered a new mattress to replace the one that Nellie '90% bladder' peed on. I quite like sleeping on the air mattress but we ought to have a proper one for future dog-sitters. That sounds like an organisation - 'Future Dog-Sitters of America' - maybe also a novel title.

And now, off to buy a few things and get a healthy(ish) take away.

They call me mellow weasel

Whilst getting Nellie's bandage changed, we also got some dog appeasing pheromone, which you plug into an electricity socket in the manner of an annoying air freshener advertised on TV. We have given her the cardboard box the new dishwasher was shipped in, and she is sitting in that. She doesn't seem too bad, though things have been relatively quiet this evening for suitable values of relatively. The Catholics are being burnt in effigy quietly this year.
I too feel slightly mellow, or maybe that's just tired.