Outline of a female executive assistant seated at the front desk of a retro office, with a smiling male executive in a business suit waiting for her to finish her phone call so he can ask her something.

How 15 minutes I spent with a laptop in 1991 created 2 FT jobs and a promotion

In a section of my dissertation, I dove into office gender politics of in the late 1940s, in order to explore just what Arthur Miller’s original audiences would have thought about the wire recorder that appears in Death of a Salesman. In the play, Willy Loman’s boss Howard thinks of the wire recorder as a domestic plaything, but at the time it was marketed as more reliable for taking dictation…

How Artists on Twitter Tricked Spammy T-Shirt Stores Into Admitting Their Automated Art Theft

Yesterday, an artist on Twitter named Nana ran an experiment to test a theory. Their suspicion was that bots were actively looking on Twitter for phrases like “I want this on a shirt” or “This needs to be a t-shirt,” automatically scraping the quoted images, and instantly selling them without permission as print-on-demand t-shirts. Dozens of Nana’s followers replied, and a few hours later, a Twitter bot replied with a link…

My Freshman Comp Student Didn’t Recognize the Term ‘Word Processor’

Most of my students use MS-Word, but maybe a third use Google Docs (that’s a big increase lately) and a handful (but a bigger handful) use Pages. Today during a writing conference, a freshman comp student blinked in confusion when I asked her to “take me to your word processor.” I tried again. “Open up a blank page so I can write something.” That made perfect sense to her, and…

Big Calculator: How Texas Instruments Monopolized Math Class

My math education predated the widespread use of graphing calculators. I remember writing my own BASIC programs to graph simple functions, but that was in a summer school programming class during middle school, not part of my high school curriculum. I’m amazed these old calculators cost this much. Bulky and black, with large, colorful push buttons and a low-resolution screen, TI graphing calculators resemble top-of-the-line design from the 1990s and…

Logo (large, bold capital "J")

In November 1999, I was blogging about books, camomile tea and Skylon 4, the death of Star Trek, and the “active user paradox”

In November 1999, I was blogging about John’s Book Pages (by a CS grad student who had recently read Gene Wolfe and Anthony Bourdain, among many others) What camomile tea has in common with the attack squadron over Skylon 4 (rec.humor newsgroup reference to a disastrous “tandem story” assignment) “Nimoy is, to say the least, amused by the notion that ‘Star Trek’ is on its death bed.” The paradox of…