Bookmarked MSX History: The Platform Microsoft Forgot (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

The MSX computer standard was big in both Japan and Brazil. But despite a sizable cult, it may be the most obscure part of Microsoft’s history. Here’s why.

This investigation of lost attempts at standards is another reminder of why the history of (ed)tech is so important. We have arrived at where we are based on the foundations and failings of the past.

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It might seem strange, given what we know about MSX, to compare this system to Windows Phone, which was an American product through and through (albeit with the help of a failed Finnish acquisition).

To an outside observer, it might seem like the better comparison point for the MSX platform might be the Xbox, which like the MSX, is best known for its games.

But if you look a bit more closely at the structure of the platform, it becomes clear that MSX and Windows Phone actually share much more in common than at first glance. Each was an also-ran in its given market—MSX, while successful in Japan, was a relatively small player even there, with machines from NEC, Fujitsu, and Sharp proving more successful, even though these competitors were often proprietary. MSX was ultimately an early version of what Microsoft would later do on its more tightly controlled platforms, Windows Phone in particular.

Bookmarked What the earliest fragments of English reveal (bbc.com)

The earliest fragments of English reveal how interconnected Europe has been for centuries, finds Cameron Laux. He traces a history of the language through 10 objects and manuscripts.

This collection of historical artefacts is insightful both from the perspective of language, as well as the origins associated with each. It seems that every piece involves some element of luck as to how it survived that it makes you wonder the texts that have been lost over time and how this may impact our appreciation of the past.
Liked The Mapping of Massacres (The New Yorker)

Place names can be damning evidence of colonial history. On a map of Australia, you’ll see Murderers Flat, Massacre Inlet, Haunted Creek, and Slaughterhouse Gully.

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 – A project by Lyndall Ryan and her team at Newcastle University are digitally documenting the frontier massacres that occurred in the settlement of Australia. There have been calls to have these conflicts recognised in the War Memorial in Canberra as an example of frontier warfare. The Guardian have used this dataset to create an interactive map as a way of telling stories long silenced. For a history of maps themselves, Clive Thompson’s has written a post for the Smithsonian.
Bookmarked The Rise and Demise of RSS by an author (Motherboard)

Before the internet was consolidated into centralized information silos, RSS imagined a better way to let users control their online personas.

Sinclair Target unpacks the history associated with RSS, including the parts played by those like Dave Winer and Aaron Swartz. This includes the forking to ATOM. Having come to RSS during the demise I was not aware of the background, especially in regards to ATOM, associated with the standard. (Although Cory Doctorow argues that Target focuses too much on the micro rather than macro.) Its interesting to consider that its demise stems from the rise of social media. Ironically, I came to RSS dissatisfied with social media. Also, I wonder what happens if social medias promise fails? A return to RSS or is there something else again in the development of the web?

I response, Colin Devroe argues that we need to stop talking about RSS and instead call it subscribing. Here I am reminded of Doug Belshaw’s work with ‘dead metaphors‘.

Doug Belshaw on dead metaphors

Chris Aldrich highlights SubToMe as a means of subscribing, while Jeremy Cherfas shares the way in which News Blur allows users to train the algorithm associated with multiple subscriptions.

Liked Opinion | The Writer Who Destroyed an Empire (nytimes.com)

All this would give the writer great satisfaction. But though feted and exploited by questionable allies, Solzhenitsyn should be remembered for his role as a truth-teller. He risked his all to drive a stake through the heart of Soviet communism and did more than any other single human being to undermine its credibility and bring the Soviet state to its knees.

Listened Ep. 107 Fred Turner “Beyond the Master Plan” – Team Human by an author from Team Human

In this conversation, Fred and Douglas use these works as a jumping off point to a wide range of topics including a provocative discussion on the ways those early utopian visions of technology were subsumed into an ideology of individualism and ultimately, consumerism.

Fred Turner covers a range of topics in this conversation. Some of the points that stood out was the sense of awe provided by place and the importance of the past in appreciating the present. For Brand this comes through the work of Stuart Brand and the connections with the theorists from the 40’s.
Bookmarked Anatomy of an AI System by an author (Anatomy of an AI System)

We offer up this map and essay as a way to begin seeing across a wider range of system extractions. The scale required to build artificial intelligence systems is too complex, too obscured by intellectual property law, and too mired in logistical complexity to fully comprehend in the moment. Yet you draw on it every time you issue a simple voice command to a small cylinder in your living room: ‘Alexa, what time is it?”

This dive into the world of the Amazon Echo provides an insight into the way that engages with vast planetary network of systems in a complicated assemblage. This includes the use of rare metals, data mining, slavery and black box of secrets. These are topics touched upon by others, such as Douglas Rushkoff and Kin Lane, where this piece differs though is the depth it goes to. Through the numerous anecdotes, it is also reminder why history matters.

Marginalia

Put simply: each small moment of convenience – be it answering a question, turning on a light, or playing a song – requires a vast planetary network, fueled by the extraction of non-renewable materials, labor, and data. The scale of resources required is many magnitudes greater than the energy and labor it would take a human to operate a household appliance or flick a switch.

Smartphone batteries, for example, usually have less than eight grams of this material. 5 Each Tesla car needs approximately seven kilograms of lithium for its battery pack. 6

There are deep interconnections between the literal hollowing out of the materials of the earth and biosphere, and the data capture and monetization of human practices of communication and sociality in AI.

Just as the Greek chimera was a mythological animal that was part lion, goat, snake and monster, the Echo user is simultaneously a consumer, a resource, a worker, and a product.

Media technologies should be understood in context of a geological process, from the creation and the transformation processes, to the movement of natural elements from which media are built.

According to research by Amnesty International, during the excavation of cobalt which is also used for lithium batteries of 16 multinational brands, workers are paid the equivalent of one US dollar per day for working in conditions hazardous to life and health, and were often subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation. 16 Amnesty has documented children as young as 7 working in the mines. In contrast, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, at the top of our fractal pyramid, made an average of $275 million a day during the first five months of 2018, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 17
A child working in a mine in the Congo would need more than 700,000 years of non-stop work to earn the same amount as a single day of Bezos’ income.

The most severe costs of global logistics are born by the atmosphere, the oceanic ecosystem and all it contains, and the lowest paid workers.

In the same way that medieval alchemists hid their research behind cyphers and cryptic symbolism, contemporary processes for using minerals in devices are protected behind NDAs and trade secrets.

Hidden among the thousands of other publicly available patents owned by Amazon, U.S. patent number 9,280,157 represents an extraordinary illustration of worker alienation, a stark moment in the relationship between humans and machines. 37 It depicts a metal cage intended for the worker, equipped with different cybernetic add-ons, that can be moved through a warehouse by the same motorized system that shifts shelves filled with merchandise. Here, the worker becomes a part of a machinic ballet, held upright in a cage which dictates and constrains their movement.

As human agents, we are visible in almost every interaction with technological platforms. We are always being tracked, quantified, analyzed and commodified. But in contrast to user visibility, the precise details about the phases of birth, life and death of networked devices are obscured. With emerging devices like the Echo relying on a centralized AI infrastructure far from view, even more of the detail falls into the shadows.

At every level contemporary technology is deeply rooted in and running on the exploitation of human bodies.
The new gold rush in the context of artificial intelligence is to enclose different fields of human knowing, feeling, and action, in order to capture and privatize those fields.

At this moment in the 21st century, we see a new form of extractivism that is well underway: one that reaches into the furthest corners of the biosphere and the deepest layers of human cognitive and affective being. Many of the assumptions about human life made by machine learning systems are narrow, normative and laden with error. Yet they are inscribing and building those assumptions into a new world, and will increasingly play a role in how opportunities, wealth, and knowledge are distributed.

via Doug Belshaw

Liked The Crusades: Consequences & Effects – Ancient History Encyclopedia by an author (Ancient History Encyclopedia)

The crusades of the 11th to 15th century CE have become one of the defining events of the Middle Ages in both Europe and the Middle East. The campaigns brought significant consequences wherever they occurred but also pushed changes within the states that organised and fought them. Even when the crusades had ended, their influence continued through literature and other cultural means and, resurrected as an idea in more modern times, they continue today to colour international relations.

Bookmarked How Fish and Chips Migrated to Great Britain | Atlas Obscura by an author (Atlas Obscura)

But the Friday-night tradition was likely chipless until the late-19th century. The general popularity of the potato bloomed late in Europe, and it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the tuber was accepted, due especially to the promotional efforts of a French scientist. Though there are several theories of how the potato came to England—and how it became the “chip” we know and love today—one historical account credits a tripe vendor by the name of Mrs. “Granny” Duce with selling the first fried cut potatoes to the public.

This was an intriguing thread associated with an Australian cultural institution. Seems ironic to consider that Pauline Hansen could be a part of such a multi-cultural legacy.
Bookmarked Android: a 10-year visual history by an author (The Verge)

Ten years later, here’s a deep dive into every version of Android.

The team at Verge look back on 10 years of the Android operating system. With a focus on the stock open sourced code it is interesting to consider what has been developed outside of this. It is also interesting to compare this with Mozilla’s efforts to enter the mobile market with Firefox OS.
Bookmarked The Autocracy App by Jacob Weisberg (The New York Review of Books)

Facebook is a company that has lost control—not of its business, which has suffered remarkably little from its series of unfortunate events since the 2016 election, but of its consequences. Its old slogan, “Move fast and break things,” was changed a few years ago to the less memorable “Move fast with stable infra.” Around the world, however, Facebook continues to break many things indeed. In Myanmar, hatred whipped up on Facebook Messenger has driven ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. In India, false child abduction rumors on Facebook’s WhatsApp service have incited mobs to lynch innocent victims. In the Philippines, Turkey, and other receding democracies, gangs of “patriotic trolls” use Facebook to spread disinformation and terrorize opponents. And in the United States, the platform’s advertising tools remain conduits for subterranean propaganda.

In a review of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy
by Siva Vaidhyanathan and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now
by Jaron Lanier, Jacob Weisberg provides a useful history of Facebook. This touches on fake news, data breaches and revolt from within. Weisberg gives some interesting critiques about where to next, including responses such as leaving Facebook and the push for antitrust movement.

via Boing Boing

Liked What James Baldwin and J.M. Coetzee Tell Us About History and Home by an author (The Offing)

Baldwin and Coetzee, with their lives and their novels, help to illustrate the unburiedness of national trauma, the ways that collective wounds trickle into the individual psyche, and ultimately just how essential it is to come face to face with history in order to enable true, sustaining reconciliation. It is impossible to divorce ourselves from history; but perhaps our intertwining with its painful legacies keep us committed to altering its course for posterity’s sake

Bookmarked The Making (and Unmaking) of Paul’s Boutique by an author (Vulture)

The Beastie Boys made a masterpiece. And then they were foiled by Donny Osmond.

In this excerpt from a book about the Beastie Boys, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz reflect on the making of Paul’s Boutique. It is always interesting seeing behind the curtain. Sadly, there was no mention of the saga around the samples. I guess I will need to buy the book.

Marginalia

Anyway, back to the (re)recording of our album. After we got through a couple of songs — “Shake Your Rump” and “Car Thief” — we listened to what we’d done and realized, Fuck — what we had from Matt’s house was better. Yeah, some of the new vocals were stronger on the new versions, but overall we were disappointed. We went more “pro” and lost some of the grit. This happens often when bands rerecord their demos — they get a more polished recording but lose some of the magical essence of the demo. Yeah, that’s right: magical essence.

Not long after Paul’s Boutique came out, I ran into our old friend Dante Ross. He told me that he had just heard our new record. He said (in a positive way), “Yo, I just heard your new record, it’s all right. It’s got like two songs on there.” There’s actually 15 songs on the track list, so I assumed that he meant that only two of those 15 were anything that anyone would want to listen to. We’ve used this quote about a thousand times since. “Yo, you heard that new Radiohead joint? It’s got like one and a half songs on there.”

So we sit down, and before we can ask our whats and whys, he’s like … “Look, guys. I’m a Dead Head, so I know where you’re at. The company’s just really busy right now. We’re all just focusing and working really hard on the new Donny Osmond album, so, next time. Okay?” Wait … What?! What he had just said to us, the multiplatinum fight-for-your-right-to-party guys, is … Forget about the record you just spent the past couple years making. Forget that you made a huge and bold move severing ties with Rick, Russell, Rush, and Def Jam. Forget all this life-changing shit that’s happening to you as a band, people, and friends. Because … Donny Osmond’s new record is just a little more important than yours. Just go back, make another record, and we’ll see what happens when that happens. Everything’s gonna be fine.

Industry rule No. 4080: Record-company people are shaaady. The teeny-ponytailed/phony-baloney hippie-costume/looking-like-an-undercover-cop guy was replaced soon after by … some other middle-aged-white-guy record executive. To quote the great Donny Osmond … “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.”

via Katexic/

Listened Product Hunt Radio | The dark side of the web w/ Anil Dash and Allison Esposito | Episode 134 by an author from Product Hunt Radio

On this episode we’re joined by Anil Dash and Allison Esposito. Anil is CEO of Glitch, a friendly community where developers build the app of their dreams. Allison founded Tech Ladies, a community that connects women with the best jobs in tech.

We reminisce about the good ol’ days of IRC, Friendster, AIM, and MySpace. A lot has changed since then, yet they continue to exhibit some of the same dynamics and challenges of today’s massive social networks. We also talk about the challenges of building a healthy community on the internet in a time when careers and reputations can be destroyed in an instant. Of course, we’ll also cover some of our favorite products that you might not know about.

Ryan Hoover speaks with Anil Dash and Allison Esposito about the web. They discuss some of the history, what their involvement has been and thoughts moving forward. Some of the interesting points discussed were:

  • The Challenge of community verses team
  • Going to where the people are (Facebook) verses creating a new space

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There’s something about community that if you’re doing it right, it should feel like a mix of it just happened and it’s natural. – Allison

It turns out the hosting of the video wasn’t the thing, the community is the thing and it has a value. Whether you create an environment that you feel people can express themselves in is a rare and special and delicate thing. — Anil

via Greg McVerry

Bookmarked Why History Matters (Hack Education)

No doubt, the pedagogical practices associated with the blackboard have shifted over the course of the past two hundred years. Now it’s more likely to be a device used by a teacher (a female teacher, a shift facilitated by Horace Mann’s normal schools) and not the student. Increasingly, I suppose, it’s a whiteboard, perhaps one with a touchscreen computer attached. But it is still worth thinking about the blackboard as a disciplinary technology – one that molds and constrains what happens in the classroom, one that (ostensibly) makes visible the mind and the character of the person at the board, whether that’s a student or a teacher.

In this talk to design students from Georgetown University, Audrey Watters unpacks a history of educational technology often overlooked. Too often when we talk about EdTech we rush to talk about the computer. The problem with this is that it overlooks so many developments and decisions that led to that point. To explain her point, she discusses the origin of the blackboard. What I found interesting were the pedagogical practices associated with its beginnings. A reminder of how technology is a system. I think that too often we choose narrative and convenience over complexity within such conversations.
Played

If you listen to the first few seconds of Bruno Mars’ “Finesse” (hint: listen to the Cardi B remix) you’ll hear a sound that immediately creates a sense of 80s hip-hop nostalgia. Yes, Cardi B’s flow is very Roxanne Shante, but the sound that drives that nostalgia home isn’t actually from the 1980s.

Robert Fink and the inventor of the Fairlight CMI, Peter Vogel, help me tell the story of the orchestra hit – a sound that was first heard in 1910 at the Paris Opera where the famed 20th century Russian composer Stravinsky debuted his first hit, The Firebird.

The video above is, in short, a history of the original orchestra hit sample from The Firebird Suite to the 1982 hit “Planet Rock” to “Finesse.” And as a treat, here’s a playlist of way more songs with orchestra hits than you probably wanted.

Liked A philosopher explains how our addiction to stories keeps us from understanding history (The Verge)

historical narratives seduce you into thinking you really understand what’s going on and why things happened, but most of it is guessing people’s motives and their inner thoughts. It allays your curiosity, and you’re satisfied psychologically by the narrative, and it connects the dots so you feel you’re in the shoes of the person whose narrative is being recorded. It has seduced you into a false account, and now you think you understand.

The second part is that it effectively prevents you from going on to try to find the right theory and correct account of events. And the third problem, which is the gravest, is that people use narratives because of their tremendous emotional impact to drive human actions, movements, political parties, religions, ideologies. And many movements, like nationalism and intolerant religions, are driven by narrative and are harmful and dangerous for humanity.