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Comment Enough about us old farts. What about millennial? (Score 1) 515

I first learned to code by being a guinea pig at a Stanford University educational research lab and a volunteer at a Silicon Valley community computer center, then self-taught on "luggable" computers and programmable pocket calculators lent to me on weekends by a generous Hewlett Packard employee, and ultimately on my high school's PDP-8. I learned about computer science, again self-taught, while working as a "research specialist" (read: peon) at the MIT AI Lab.

Notice I didn't talk about my undergraduate education, which mostly involved placing out of CS classes, so not exactly a formal education. I learned more from independent projects than anything else. Professional programming I learned on the job--you almost have to, where else are you going to collaborate with other programmers and make things bulletproof? Absolutely, there's GitHub and open source projects. For me, that came about well after I earned my "sea legs."

But enough about us old farts (and there seem to be a lot of us on Slashdot). How did you millennials learn to program? Where did you find and figure out how to use programming tools/environments? What were your first projects about: The Web, Robotics, Games, something else?

Submission + - The Intel 4004 microprocessor turns 44

mcpublic writes: Today is the 44th anniversary of the Intel 4004, the pioneering 4-bit microprocessor that powered the first electronic taxi meters. According to the unaffiliated (and newly renamed) Intel 4004 45th Anniversary Project web site, they have just re-created the complete set of VLSI mask artwork for the 4004 using scalable vector graphics, and
updated their Busicom 141-PF calculator replica aimed at collectors and hobbyists. Included is some interesting historical perspective:
Back in the early 1970s, there was no electrical CAD software, design-rule checkers were people, and
VLSI lithographic masks were hand-crafted on giant light tables by unsung "rubylith cutters."

Comment Progressive lenses now exist for the computer age (Score 1) 464

You can all rest assured that this discussion is safe from the prying eyes of optometrists, otherwise one of them would have piped up that...

...there are a number of progressive lenses designed specifically for computer work. These have a larger center sweet spot focused at "monitor distance." My optometrist also taught me an additional trick: If you limit the focal range so infinity is not included, progressive lenses work even better for computer work. These are designed specifically for indoor "office" work. You'd wear another, less expensive, single prescription "distance" glasses for driving, etc. (keep them in your glove compartment).

Comment Visit on-line robot hardware parts vendors (Score 2) 166

There has never been a better time in history to dive into robotics from where you are coming from. There are a solid handful of really high quality, on-line vendors that sell individual parts and complete robot kits. For many items there is extensive documentation and a community of hobbyists who help each other get over the growing pains.

My three favorite "robot stores" are

  • Pololu Robotics and Electronics
  • SparkFun Electronics
  • RobotShop (based in Canada)

I don't work for any of these companies, but in the spirit of full disclosure, I did go to school with one of Pololu's founding partners.

Comment VCs don't respect NDAs, focus on your biz plan (Score 1) 205

When you are pitching to venture capitalists, it will be the rare exception where you can expect any sort of confidentiality. VCs will act in their own interests, and if they think that leaking/sharing something you told them will help make them money, they will do it. They don't care about the details of your algorithms. They probably won't understand what you say anyway. They only care about what your technology will do for them (i.e. make them piles money). More important than any technical details is the assurance that you can protect yourself from copycats. And of course they also want some assurance that you can be trusted to make money with their money, should they give it to you. Use your PowerPoint deck to tell them about your past successes, your credentials, your well researched business plan, how you are uniquely qualified to make their investors money, and how much interest you've been getting from competing sources of funding.

Comment Cached securityblog.verizonbusiness article (Score 1) 457

In case you are finding that is refusing your connections, here is a cached version of the source article:

Submission + - Computer History Museum gets the attention it deserves ( 1

mcpublic writes: "For years the Computer History Museum has been quietly collecting and displaying the computational relics of yesteryear. Now, finally the New York Times Arts Section shines the spotlight on this most nerdy of museums. Speak Steampunk? You can find a working replica of Babbages Difference Engine in the lobby of the Museum's Mountain View, California home. Of course the vast majority of the collection is electronic, and though 'big iron' is king, that hasn't stopped dedicated volunteers from bringing back to life pioneering 'mini' computers like the 1960 PDP-1 and the first video game software ever: Spacewar!"
Hardware Hacking

Submission + - Everything you wanted to know about the MOS 6502

mcpublic writes: The MOS 6502 microprocessor is famous among the vintage computing and classic gaming crowds. It was used inside the Apple II, the Commodore 64, the Atari 2600, and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Need I say more? In 2010, the chip's 35th anniversary year, reverse engineers came out in droves and published more details about the 6502 than ever before—yes, really! For the assembly language crowd there is Michael Steil's excellent 50 minute talk on the 6502's architecture and instruction set delivered at 27C3, the video posted just yesterday. Or maybe you just want a quick read on 6502 history and some awesome reverse engineering efforts? Check out Russ Cox's blog. But if you are looking for the original 6502 netlist, accurate down to the last undocumented instruction, or want to run an animated 6502 chip simulation in your browser, you'll definitely want to visit Greg James, Barry and Brian Silverman's web site. These pied pipers have attracted an enthusiastic following of like-minded engineers who are now photographing and disecting even more classic chips.

Comment Flash is a serious battery waster on laptops too (Score 2, Informative) 443

I'm not surprised Apple doesn't support Flash on the iPhone and iPad. I can personally testify that Flash is a serious battery-life waster on laptops too. One morning I was using a web site that had an animated banner ad at the top of each and every page, and I got only 2.5 hours out of my unibody 13" MacBook Pro's "9 hour battery." Without Flash running I can get at least six hours. Then I found the BashFlash app, and realized how often Flash takes 30+% of the CPU. Now I regularly use it to kill the Flash plug-in. Too bad Adobe doesn't give you tools to manage irresponsible Flash adds. A second or two of animation would be fine, after that Flash should "dial it down," but no... continuous attention-grabbing is what the advertisers seem to want, at the expense of my hard-earned battery life!

Comment Re:Awesome! -- here are some process detalis (Score 1) 124

The 4004 family was fabbed using a 10um pMOS process. Single metal, single poly, self-aligned gate. No depletion. Buried contacts were only used in the 4004 due to density requirements. Pretty sure the rest (4001, 4002, and 4003) used the same process as Intel's SRAMs of the day (e.g. the 1101). Not sure how the diff layer was made. I can ask. Bootstrap loads were used for high-side of push-pull inverters needed to drive big loads. Much to my surprise, diff was used instead of poly for interconnect that couldn't be done in metal.

Submission + - Intel allows release of full 4004 chip-set details (

mcpublic writes: When a small team of reverse engineers receives the blessing of a big corporate legal department, it is cause for celebration. For the 38th anniversary of Intel's groundbreaking 4004 microprocessor, the company is allowing us to release new details of their historic MCS-4 chip family announced on November 15, 1971. For the first time, the complete set of schematics and artwork for the 4001 ROM, 4002 RAM, 4003 I/O Expander, and 4004 Microprocessor is available to teachers, students, historians, and other non-commercial users. To their credit, the Intel Corporate Archives gave us access to the original 4004 schematics, along with the 4002, 4003, and 4004 mask proofs, but the rest of the schematics and the elusive 4001 masks were lost until just weeks ago when Lajos Kintli finished reverse-engineering the 4001 ROM from photomicrographs and improving the circuit-extraction software that helped him draw and verify the missing schematics. His interactive software can simulate an ensemble of 400x chips, and even lets you trace a wire or click on a transistor in the chip artwork window and see exactly where it is on the circuit diagram (and vice-versa).

Comment SI: Stop harassing SparkFun, it makes you look bad (Score 1) 219

Dear SPARC International, Inc,

If you want lots of current and future tech professionals to hate you, keep hassling small businesses like SparkFun. Your trademark case against them borders on frivolous. It is a battle that you are unlikely to win in court, and that you will certainly lose in the court of public opinion. Stick with your bread and butter mission: championing the SPARC architecture. Leave popular "Davids" alone, unless the goal is to smear your own brand name.

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