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Showing posts from September, 2017

YOU KNOW MY NAME, LOOK UP THE NUMBER

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As someone who has owned a scientific calculator since school, I am very aware on how I don’t need to use most of what one can do any more – in fact, the simpler sums I need could often be done by my phone’s calculator app instead. However, the vestigial memories of trigonometry and matrices still in my mind from my Maths A-Level mean the need may come back, so I may as well be ready. The scientific calculator was invented by Hewlett-Packard in 1968, with the HP9100A, a cash register-sized machine with a TV screen, no integrated circuits, and a five thousand-dollar price tag. Four years later, the HP-35 was designed to co-founder Bill Hewlett’s brief to fit the 9100A into his shirt pocket, becoming the first scientific calculator as we know it. In 1976, a later pocket model, the HP-65, became the first such calculator in space, in case the guidance computer on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project failed (it didn’t). With more programming ability than most will ever need, explorin

THAT’S A BEAUTIFUL SPEECH, BUT NOBODY’S LISTENING

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One hundred and one years ago, the Swiss writer Hugo Ball, with artists Hans Richter, Tristan Tzara, Jean Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck, Sophie Taeuber and others, inaugurated the art movement known as “Dada,” at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich. Some Dada exponents found their way to Switzerland due to the upheaval of the First World War, and it was the horror of this conflict that fomented a rejection of the logic and values that led to it. Dada, purportedly taking its name from the word reached when a knife was plunged into a dictionary, aimed to effectively start again, making new connections with language, context and understanding, using collage, cut-up writing, poetry, sculpture, theatre – anything can be Dada-fied, right down to Marcel Duchamp putting a urinal on its side, putting it on a plinth, signing it, and calling it “Fountain.” Now, it is a little bit of a stretch to extrapolate this extreme version of rejecting one form of looking at the world in favour of another,

DON’T SIT UNDER THE APPLE TREE WITH ANYONE ELSE BUT ME

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The new Steve Jobs Theater may be, more than all the products Apple Inc. has made in the last forty-one years, the truest statement of its ethos as a business, embodied by its co-founder Steve Jobs. Above ground, it is a glass temple, inviting you into a gallery-like space – functional, designed with precision and simplicity, both organic and natural. The theatre appears similar to those Apple previously hired for its product launches, but it houses the most advanced technology to be found in a theatre. Like its products, Apple’s theatre is not the first of its type, but is the best, the benchmark, the definitive experience: it is why, instead of competing with others in unveiling its products at technology shows around the world, Apple can be sure that, when they unveil a phone with face recognition and an all-over screen, the world will come to them. Watching Apple’s launch last Tuesday, I could spot eternal Apple fanboy Stephen Fry in the audience, along with Pixar’s Joh

WHEN I WAS YOUNG P.C. MEANT POLICE CONSTABLE

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Straight away, I can tell you I am not interested in exploring whether “political correctness,” from the name to the concepts involved, is a good thing or not. I predict that you may have already made your judgement upon hearing those words, in that order, based on the information, experience and opinions you have personally. Instead, I am more intrigued about how the definition of “political correctness,” originally meant to signify something positive, has turned sour, both over time, and when anyone has reason to use it. For a term that tends to mean what the user wants it to mean, no wonder “political correctness” needs inverted commas around it. There is no surprise that “political correctness” was born in the home of culture wars, the United States. Originally entering common usage to reflect how Communists were viewed as thinking their ideology was, politically, the correct one, it became co-opted sarcastically in the 1970s by the “New Left,” who looked at sexism, rac

THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND, THIS LAND IS MY LAND

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Never having lived under an authoritarian, nationalist regime, it is easy for me to say, as a British person, that I am not a fan of fascism. In modern history, Britain has never had a regime that took itself seriously enough for anything remotely fascist to work - the British national character, or our idea of one, likes to take overly successful or self-important people down a peg, so the personality cult found around many fascist leaders cannot materialise. I need not go over (again) the shortcomings of Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin because they are both apparent, and well known to all of us, but those shortcomings mean they do not make the grade as a fascist leader – no, they’re not good enough for that either. Replacing the existing British political system with fascist control would be too radical, and far too much work. Groups like the British National Party are tiny, but no “centre ground” party exists either, because the Conservative and Labour part