Comp 280: History and Philosophy of Computing, Winter 2009


Here are some interesting online movies on the history of computing, selected and commented by COMP 280 students.

  1. Bill Gates interview (1992) (6:47)
    CBC Archive footage of Bill Gates. This is an interview taking place right before the release of Windows 3.1. It also documents some of the bickering going on at the time between IBM, Microsoft and Apple. (MF)
  2. NFB: Copyright infringement (2:31)
    I am personally a huge fan of the work done by the people over at NFB. This is a short video on how thought is changing over copyright infringement. The NFB has taken a very progressive view on media and I feel that this is a nice piece on how IP should be shared freely. The NFB is one of the most sucessful government sponsored labs in getting its ideas out and commercialized (SoftImage is one of its offshoots) (KDC)
  3. PDP11 in action (1:09)
    A video of a PDP11 user manually switching in his programs into the machine. Very cool. I believe this is what Gary was referring to in his lecture. (KDC)
  4. Microsoft 1978 team
    (If this link doesn't work, just google microsoft team 2008.) This isn't quite a movie, so I don't know if it counts, but to be fair I was coming here to post this just as a curiosity. It's that famous picture of the Microsoft team from 1978, beside the same picture, recreated in 2008. (OR)
  5. 1983 Apple Keynote (6:41)
    Steve Jobs gives quick history lesson about PCs before announcing Macintosh. Kind of overdramatic. Then shows iconic "1984" Mac commercial to a roar of applause. Then, a few months later, he demos the Macintosh:
  6. Macintosh demo (1984) (4:48)
    Look how crazy they go for a little scrolling animation! This guy really had a flair for the dramatic, eh? (OR)
  7. The beginning (2:54)
    This video is a commercial from the 50's about the UNIVAC. It goes through uses, price, speed, basic hardware used, applications, and some other points. (TB)
  8. The present (3:48)
    This is about IBM's Roadrunner, the fastest computer that exists. It is installed in Los Alamos nuclear research facility in New Mexico and used mainly for predicting the effects from a nuclear detonation however, the video makes clear that it has many other more practical applications. (TB)
  9. Compaq commercial (2:09)
    This is a commercial put out by Compaq trying to advertise their portable computer. It utilizes a bit of humor by comparing it to a dead fish, but the real comedy lies in the antiquated capabilities they are advertising (like a "huge" 4 MG memory). An interesting point is that the 22lb "portable" computer runs all of IBM's contemporary software 30% faster than IBM computers. (GMG)
  10. The history of IBM in pictures (1:33)
    This is a short plug for IBM. It uses images to run through history of the company and of computers/innovation. It is short and visually stimulating to watch. I find it takes on deeper meaning knowing as much about the conglomerate as I do today. (GMG)
  11. 1890 to 2009 in pictures (1:26)
    This clip shows the history of computers in a stream of photos from 1890 to 2009. What makes this clip so interesting is that it gives a fantastic visualization of the transformation from the sheer size of computers operated in the past, to the compact version of computers operated and used today. (JL)
  12. Processors from WWII to the 1970s (9:37)
    Glenn Henry, the CEO and founder of Centaur Technology, gives a tour of computing processors from World War II to the 1970s. What is most interesting about this clip is that the gears and motors of the early processors of World War II would take inputs and compute different firing trajectories (for example, shooting bullets at another plane and taking into account the wind and the movement of the two planes). (JL)
  13. Kasparov vs. Deep blue (6:07)
    In 1996, chess legend Gary Kasparov played a match of 6 games against IBM's Deep Blue computer, beating it 4 games to 2. Frustrated, IBM upgraded Deep Blue (and renamed it Deeper Blue) and asked Kasparov for a rematch in 1997. Deeper Blue defeated Kasparov 3 -2 (1 draw). It remains one of the most outstanding and controversial games of chess since Kasparov accused IBM of cheating and asked for a rematch. IBM not only declined but also dismantled Deeper Blue. It is also a pivotal point in the history of AI since it was the first time that a computer was able to defeat a reigning chess grandmaster and world champion. (AV)
  14. The history of Nintendo (5:27)
    The history of Nintendo, beginning with it's 1985 title, Super Mario Brothers, the best-selling video game of all time (over 40 million copies sold worldwide). It then shows the other successful consoles and games made by the famous developer, such as the N64 and GoldenEye. Great video. (AV)
  15. Computers in the 60s (9:15)
    (+ part 2 and 3) This is a British documentary about computers. It is from 1969. It show how computers were used to in the 1960's. It is interesting to see how the public view on computer has changed. (Like the girl at 1:06 says: "Computers what are they?") (JG)
  16. The secret history of hacking
    A fun documentary about The Secret History of Hacking. It contains many interviews with the many of the famous "hobbiests" who helped in the development of the personal computer. e.g Kevin Mitnick. He was at the time of his arrest, the most wanted computer criminal in United States history. (JG)
  17. The Enigma (10:29)
    An explanation of how an Enigma machine works and a demo of it in action. It shows the insane complexity of the code as well as the really stupid and obvious mistake that led to Bletchley Park eventually cracking it (it never encodes a letter as itself). (MM)
  18. Introduction to UNIX (2:19)
    A brief introduction to Unix by the creators of the operating system. I always find it interesting to be familiar with a piece of software and then to hear about the thought process behind how it was made. They go into the basic structure of it as well as their motivations for designing it that way (they wanted simplicity before all else). (MM)
  19. From Babbage to Google (5:13)
    This video is a stream of historical figures in the field of computing over the years. It mentions everything from Charles Babbage to Grace Hopper to Google to the iPod. It's interesting that it won a documentary award. (NL)
  20. Learning for the problems of the future (4:55)
    This video mentions things other than computing, but what is interesting is what it talks about for the future. It says that most of what we learn today in school will be null in the very near future. It talks about how students are being taught to prepare for problems that haven't occurred yet. (NL)
  21. Windows 1.0 commercial (1:01)
    This is a commercial for Windows 1.0 featuring Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer yelling very loudly about Windows 1.0's great features and value. This is probably the first widely released video of Ballmer yelling, but if you look at the related videos you will see it is certainly not the last. He's a very strange personality and one of the main reasons that Windows is so ubiquitous today. (SMB)
  22. Nintendo Virtual Boy commercial (0:43)
    This a commercial for the Nintendo Virtual Boy, which was this really bizarre short-lived portable game system that involved putting on goofy 3d goggles in order to play. It was a huge flop largely because it gave many consumers headaches when they tried to use it. At the time, Nintendo thought that virtual reality 3d games were the wave of the future. (SMB)
  23. Making a computer that works like the brain (17:48)
    Very interesting comparison between computer and brain and how the study of neurons could help develop more efficient computers. (RHL)
  24. Brain control-Monkey (5:36)
    In this overview scientists hook up a monkey brain to a computer and study the firing pattern of neurons. A computer program was able to decode this pattern and recreate the monkey's movement on an elecrtic arm - the monkey was able to move this electric arm by thought only! (ps: the music is very bad and gives headaches) (RHL)
  25. The Machine is Us(ing us) - Web 2.0 (4:32)
    This is a video I actually watching in an Information Systems course, it is a really cool introduction to the Web 2.0. It focuses on advancements from 'Web 1.0' and the implications for the future. (KH)
  26. IBM Mainframe Computer Ops in the 1980s (4:36)
    This a slideshow of photos showing the mainframe computers in operation in the 1980s - documents people actually using them, some of the operations they performed, etc. (KH)
  27. President Obama on computers (1:25)
    This is a interview between Barack Obama and the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt where Obama is asked some computer science questions. (KG)
  28. Sketchpad (Part 1) (10:34) (Part 2) (10:29)
    This is a two part video of Sutherland's demonstration of the Sketchpad. Sketchpad was a computer which used a light pen to create images. It is one of the early HCI ways of interacting with a computer. (KG)
  29. The punch tape reader (2:42)
    This clip shows a punch tape reader built my a modern computing hobbyist. It helps show how punch tape - which used to be ubiquitous - was used as an input device, translating mechanical information to data. (BR)
  30. The IBM token ring network (5:43)
    This second clip isn't the most interesting or artistic video, but it shows the now-defunct IBM token ring network system, which was an alternative to Ethernet in the 1980s. It's a reminder of how many different ways there are to approach a problem, like networking. (BR)

Home Syllabus Overview Schedule Assignments Papers Movies Links (c) Dirk Schlimm   4/04/09