Monday, September 16, 2013

Computers, time and the "cloud"

Charles Babbage built a version of the computer in 1849.  There was an abacus much, much earlier and there have been increasingly complex and capable machines since.  Just before grad school, I read about the new wave of computers.  That was in the 60's.  During that same decade, I first "used" a computer and the Fortran computing language.  "Used" in the sense that I prepared a deck of cards that would supposedly make the machine do what I wanted.  I gave the deck to the operator and retrieved it along with a printout on paper about a day later.

I heard a little about the Texas Instrument machines, the Radio Shack machines, the Atari and the Commodore.  I was interested but the invention of the spreadsheet for math and finance and the word processor for typing lifted me beyond mild interest to the serious level.  It was the software program Appleworks that really nailed me.  I could write, calculate, and sort.  This was a program I didn't want to live without.  One way and another, I haven't had to do so since 1984.

Until email and networking, the computer was a machine that enabled me to do things I wanted to do faster and better with less error but everything was right there with me.  The World Wide Web and the browser changed the nature of what could be done and with whom.  But the history of getting the machine and the software applications to run on them continued and of course, still does.  

However, computing has gotten more cooperative and less stand-alone.  Google Docs (see the Google home page and use "More" to find the beginning of Docs) and Open Office (search for this term) provide free software to do the things we have come to associate with computers.  YouTube for vision, motion and sound and podcasts for sound show the added possibilities of sound, music, speech and vision which were not possible in the 60's for the ordinary person like me.  There is so much out "there" in space that the popular term "cloud computing" is being used to depict the services and possibilities available somewhere out there in the cloud of the internet.

Just as an example of what is available, I am typing today's post in Google Docs.  I used to using Microsoft Word but I don't want to depend on Microsoft any more and I don't want to spend money I don't need to.  I like to make my posts around 300 to 500 words.  Word has a feature that will continuously tell you how many words there are in a document or a selection.  Now I see that in Google Docs
, too.  So, to the internet! (Using Firefox of course
, or Chrome once in a while

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