TOR Dot Com didn’t do a full month of Steampunk this year, but they are doing a Steampunk Fortnight. Besides the many articles they have posted in the 42 or so hours since they started, they have also posted two excellent stories: Clockwork Fairies by Cat Rambo, and The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder. And if you can’t get enough Steampunk there, consider becoming a part of the project to Build the Charles Babbage Analytical Engine, as posted by the BBC. As someone who has ranted about Ada and Charlie, inventor of computer programming and the computer respectively back in the 1830’s, you probably already know I am supporting this one!
It started life as a tweet from the Flynn Lives movement, with the link http://xdqlrpgmqivgca9tfjcqddnbxt.com/. When you went there, you were faced with a set of puzzles to solve, and according to Coming Soon the folks over at the Unfiction message boards/forum solved them in record time. The results were yet another URL, this time to TRON Night 2010, a site that will let you register to see 20 minutes of TRON Legacy on October 28th for free. Registration opens on Tuesday the 12th at 1PM EST, and there is a link that allows you to see if it will be in your area. It is only granular down to the state level at the moment, but it will also only be at IMAX 3D theaters, so that should give you a rough idea of where it will be relative to you. There can never be too much TRON!
Everyone here does remember that Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the poet Lord Byron, invented computer programing? Her good buddy Charles Babbage invented the Difference Engine, but couldn’t get it to do much more than the obvious add, subtract, multiply, and divide. When Ada invented the computer algorithm, she merged the algebraic mathematical procedures structure (to achieve a result, you have a sequence of steps to preform with a specific order, each of which does a small segment of the complete task, and holds the results for final assembly) with Babbage’s mechanical analytical engine.
She also created the concept of the non-volatile storage medium in which you could save your programs or results for reuse later, which from the day she invented it in the 1830s until a better method was devised in the 1970s meant punch cards. Just like the Algorithm, it wasn’t a new idea; punch cards had been used to control mechanical processes for several hundred years at that point, specifically looms. In fact, the first punch cards were only used to channel the thread you wanted to the spindle you wanted it to be processed by, using a notch on the edge of the card to guide it to its destination.
But like all technologies, it evolved; and by the 1880s census the punch cards as modified by Ada were being used to tabulate how many of who lived where more efficiently than ever. That cut the governments processing time down to a fraction of what it had been, and ushered in the first real taste of what would later be described as Big Brother when Huxley got around to writing. It also encouraged the government of the time to dump a lot of money into the whole mechanical tabulating industry, since they saw a reduction in their costs for statistical gathering and processing of census data in the regions where such tools were available. While not exactly the first worm that fed on its own tail, the cycle of calculation improvements (from both hardware and software improvements), generating better results faster than before, and resulting in additional funding to improve the hardware and software, was one of my favorite early examples of a positive feedback loop.
PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, happens this weekend in Seattle to counterbalance DragonCon on the East Coast. PAX is a major Gamer Con and festival put together by Penny Arcade (the WebComic), but more than that it is the premiere Nerdcore event each year. Nerdcore artists from all over North America converge on this event, and put on a show that has to be seen to be believed. I need to be there next year.
What is Nerdcore? Just like Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover Brown and the technology to develop it, Nerdcore is what happens when Computer Programmers discover Rap and record a video. These are a few good Nerdcore examples. But first, the explanation; which of Us are Nerds?
Pac-Man Paranoia is the name of the first song, by the Swedish band Bondage Fairies. This Giant Robot Kills follows it, the new MC Lars tune, from a Tweet by MC Frontalot. The next song is Galvanize the Empire; I got the link for that one in a tweet from @_mcchris. And then comes the theme song: Penny Arcade itself, where the lyrics give you the password. If you are a true classic gamer, you will have no problems recognizing the original MMO game, Zork, in the following song (You Might Get Eaten By A Gru).
If you are going to be at DragonCon this weekend, make sure to pick up your Dragon Con App for your iDevice, or for your Android. This is not the first App I have heard of built specifically for a Sci-Fi Con, but I don’t think SkepTrack counts, since it just a specialized App for a specific DragonCon track. And yes, the main App has full browse by track support, as well as the ability to break events out by day, time, people, and more. This may just be the new face of Sci-Fi Cons, and for a full list of all things digital at DragonCon just follow the link. Earlier Con Apps include the famous Tron App from this years SDCC. Also at DragonCon this year, BAR2D2, the droid that gets you drunk. It caries 15 kinds of beer and a variety of fixings, and is programmed to build 5,000 different mixed drinks when you put in your order via laptop; and yes, they are building an app for that so you don’t need the clunky laptop.
These two songs, Go Go Maniac and Listen are from the anime K-On!, all about a high school music club going for girl-band rock and roll fame. But there were these guys who liked the series and made their own instruments out of whatever came to hand… test tubes, rulers, plumbing supplies, pots and cans, you name it. And they are actually pretty amazing, as you can hear. Sadly, I don’t yet read squiggly, so I can’t tell you anything about the band except I like them and the horse they… something. Thanks to Japanator for the heads up on that one.
I don’t know if the video was taken down, or if it is just temporarily unavailable as I write this. So I will post a blip on Vocaloid, which is a software application that allows you to build your own singing idol, and hope the other video magically reappears.