The John Batchelor Show

Sunday 25 November 2012

Air Date: 
November 25, 2012


(Photo: Johnny von Neuman at Princeton Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) with the 1952 MANIAC: "In late 1945, von Neumann initiated a new project at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton to create an electronic computing instrument. As first conceived, the Institute, Princeton University, and the Radio Corporation of America [RCA] would jointly collaborate on the project."

During the testing of the arithmetic unit in 1948, the team tested it against von Neumann himself.  As  they entered in more and more complicated terms, von Neumann finally erred, proving to their collective satisfaction “the power of matter over mind.” 

Sunday 905P Eastern Time: . Misha Glenny, author, Dark Markets: Cyberthieves, Cybercops, and You.  1 of 4.

Misha Glenny is a former BBC Central Europe correspondent. Glenny covered the fall of Communism and the wars in the former Yugoslavia. He is the author of McMafiaThe Rebirth of History; The Fall of Yugoslavia (which won the Overseas Press Club Award in 1993 for Best Book on Foreign Affairs); and The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999. He has been regularly consulted by U.S. and European governments on major policy issues. Misha Glenny lives in London.

Sunday 920P Eastern Time: . Misha Glenny, author, "Dark Markets: Cyberthieves, Cybercops, and You.  2 of 4.

“Misha Glenny tells us that cyber crime is right here and has been for years—hiding in plain sight. . . . Required reading." --The New Yorker

Alan Turing ,born on June 23, 1912, in London. In his seminal 1936 paper, he proved that there cannot exist any universal algorithmic method of determining truth in mathematics, and that mathematics will always contain undecidable propositions. That paper also introduced the "Turing machine." His papers on the subject are widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence.

Sunday 935P Eastern Time: Misha Glenny, author, Dark Markets: Cyberthieves, Cybercops, and You.  3 of 4.

Sunday 950P Eastern Time:  Misha Glenny, author, Dark Markets: Cyberthieves, Cybercops, and You.  4 of 4.

Sunday 1005P (705P Pacific Time):  . George B. Dyson, author, Turing's Cathedral: The Origin of the Digital Universe; 1 of 4

Robert Oppenheimer and Johnny Von Neuman, at Princeton Institute with the MANIAC.  Von Neumann was a founding figure in computer science. Von Neumann's hydrogen bomb work was played out in the realm of computing, where he and Stanisław Ulam developed simulations on von Neumann's digital computers for the hydrodynamic computations. During this time he contributed to the development of the Monte Carlo method, which allowed solutions to complicated problems to be approximated using random numbers.

Sunday 1020P (720P Pacific Time):  .George B. Dyson, author, Turing's Cathedral: The Origin of the Digital Universe; 2 of 4

“An expansive narrative . . . The book brims with unexpected detail. Maybe the bomb (or the specter of the machines) affected everyone. Gödel believed his food was poisoned and starved himself to death. Turing, persecuted for his homosexuality, actually did die of poisoning, perhaps by biting a cyanide-laced apple. Less well known is the tragic end of Klári von Neumann, a depressive Jewish socialite who became one of the world’s first machine-language programmers and enacted the grandest suicide of the lot, downing cocktails before walking into the Pacific surf in a black dress with fur cuffs. Dyson’s well-made sentences are worthy of these operatic contradictions . . . A groundbreaking history of the Princeton computer."  --William Poundstone, The New York Review of Books.

Robert Oppenheimer with Johnny von Neumann and MANIAC.

Sunday 1035P (735P Pacific Time):  George B. Dyson, author, Turing's Cathedral: The Origin of the Digital Universe; 3 of 4

“The most powerful technology of the last century was not the atomic bomb, but software—and both were invented by the same folks. Even as they were inventing it, the original geniuses imagined almost everything software has become since. At long last, George Dyson delivers the untold story of software’s creation. It is an amazing tale brilliantly deciphered.”

—Kevin Kelly, cofounder of WIRED magazine, author of What Technology Wants

Below: By 1944, eager to find speedier ways to compute, von Neumann was a regular visitor at the Moore School at the University of Pennsylvania. At the Moore School, a group of engineers constructed the ENIAC [Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator], the first electronic digital computer. ENIAC was the first computer to use vacuum tubes rather than electro-mechanical relays.

These first-generation computers used vacuum tubes for circuitry and magnetic drums for memory. They were enormous, taking up entire rooms.  ENIAC stood nearly 10 feet high, 100 feet long, 3 feet deep, occupied a room about 300 square meters in size, and weighed thirty tons .

ENIAC was very expensive to operate, in part because it used considerable electricity and generated a great deal of heat. Its 18,000 vacuum tubes were very prone to failure, had to be replaced every two to three days, and gave rise to a popular field of academic inquiry, fault tolerant computing. Punched cards and paper tape provided the machine language input into the computer, and the machines could solve only one problem at a time. Print-outs were used for output.   

ENIAC continued in operation until September, 1955, when it was disassembled.   Parts of it now form an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C..

Sunday 1050P (750P Pacific Time):  .George B. Dyson, author, Turing's Cathedral: The Origin of the Digital Universe; 4 of 4

“Dyson combines his prodigious skills as a historian and writer with his privileged position within the [Institute for Advanced Study’s] history to present a vivid account of the digital computer project.  . . .  A powerful story of the ethical dimension of scientific research, a story whose lessons apply as much today in an era of expanded military R&D as they did in the ENIAC and MANIAC era . . . . Dyson closes the book with three absolutely hair-on-neck-standing-up inspiring chapters on the present and future, a bracing reminder of the distance we have come on some of the paths envisioned by von Neumann, Turing, et al..” —Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Alan Turing stands beside the Ferranti Mark 1 Console, the world's first commercially available, general-purpose computer.

Sunday 1105P (805P Pacific Time): Bob Lutz, author, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business; 1 of 4

Sunday 1120P (820P Pacific Time): Bob Lutz, author, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business  2 of 4

"Lutz's common-sense lessons, combined with a generous helping of fascinating anecdotes, will inspire readers in any industry. As he writes:

'It applies in any business. Shoe makers should be run by shoe guys, and software firms by software guys, and supermarkets by supermarket guys. With the advice and support of their bean counters, absolutely, but with the final word going to those who live and breathe the customer experience. Passion and drive for excellence will win over the computer-like, dispassionate, analysis- driven philosophy every time.' "

Sunday 1135P (835P Pacific Time):  .Bob Lutz, author, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business 3 of 4

Sunday 1150P (850P Pacific Time):  .Bob Lutz, author, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business 4 of 4

At Princeton IAS with MANIAC, 1952, the Meteorology Team: Jule Charney, Norman Phillips, Glenn Lewis, N. Gilbarg, George Platzman.

Friday/Sat 1205A (905 Pacific Time):  .Jim Motavali, author, High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug in the American Auto Industry 1 of 2

Sunday/Monday  1220A (920 Pacific Time): .Jim Motavali, author, High Voltage: The Fast Track to Plug in the American Auto Industry  2 of 2

Sunday/Monday 1235A (935P Pacific Time): .Rebecca MacKinnon, author, Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom 1 of 2

Sunday/Monday  1250A  (950P Pacific Time): Exeunt. Rebecca MacKinnon, author, Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom  2 of 2

PHOTO: FROM THE SHELBY WHITE AND LEON LEVY ARCHIVES CENTER, INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY, PRINCETON, NJ, USA With MANIAC on dedication day in 1952 were Gerald Estrin (third from left), atomic physicist Robert Oppenheimer (fifth from left), and von Neumann (far right)