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Advent of Computing

History • Technology

Welcome to Advent of Computing, the show that talks about the shocking, intriguing, and all too often relevant history of computing. A lot of little things we take for granted today have rich stories behind their creation, in each episode we will learn how older tech has lead to our modern world.

Popular episodes

Episode 70 - The oN-Line System, Part 2

Nov 29 • 01:05:11
NLS, or the oN-Line System, is often looked at as a mile marker in the development of modern computing. It was the first system to use a mouse, one of the first functional examples of hypertext, pioneered remote collaboration, and so much more. But how much do you know about NLS itself? In this series of episode I'm picking apart the system behind the legend. In Part 2 w...

Episode 69 - The oN-Line System, Part 1

Nov 15 • 01:02:44
NLS, or the oN-Line System, is often looked at as a mile marker in the development of modern computing. It was the first system to use a mouse, one of the first functional examples of hypertext, pioneered remote collaboration, and so much more. But how much do you know about NLS itself? In this series of episode I'm picking apart the system behind the legend. Part 1 deal...

Episode 68 - Zork

Oct 31 • 01:06:35
Make sure you have some extra batteries for your lamp, this episode we are delving into the depths of Zork. Written in 1977 Zork would quickly become the epitome of text based adventures, pushing aside all competitors. A lot of this comes down to it's simple gameplay, and the simple fact that Zork is fun to play. But lurking deeper into the game is a hidden treasure. Ya se...

Episode 67 - Debug!

Oct 17 • 01:03:45

This episode I face my greatest fears: computer bugs. We are going to dive into the origin of the term, and examine the origins of debugging. The simple fact is that as soon as computers hit the scene we start finding bugs. Debugging follows very soon after. That part's not too surprising, it's the specifics that get interesting. Modern debugging methods we still use today...

Episode 66 - Viruses and the PC

Oct 3 • 01:02:53
It's Spook Month on Advent of Computing! Every October we cover the more spooky, scary, and frustrating side of computers. To kick off this year we are looking at viruses again, this time with a special eye to the first infections for IBM PCs and compatible systems. Besides the technical changes, this drops us into an interesting transitionary period. Up to this point vi...

Episode 65 - Teletype, Teleprint, and Telegrams

Sep 19 • 56:07
In today's episode we take a long hard look at the telegraph, and try to see how character encoding developed. We are dealing with 100% pre-computing technology, but there are some shocking similarities to later digital systems. Selected Sources: https://archive.org/details/electrictelegrap00highrich/page/2/mode/2up - Early history of the electric telegraph http://...

Episode 64 - Gemini's Tiny Machine

Sep 5 • 01:02:59

Today we are talking about computers in space! 1964 saw the launch of Gemini I, the first spacecraft to carry an onboard computer. The aptly named Gemini Guidance Computer was responsible for guidance, navigation, and safe reentry. Built by IBM it weighed in at a tiny 59 pounds. For 1960's technology there just isn't any comparison to make, it was an amazingly small machin...

Episode 63 - What's With The Wedge, Part 2

Aug 22 • 56:45
This concludes my series on the distinctive shape of early home computers. In this episode we finally cover the Sol-20 itself, the first system on the market to be shaped like a wedge. More generally, we try to figure out if the Sol-20 was the progenitor of hundreds of machines that followed, or if the wedge was inevitable. For such a simple question, this has become a sur...

Episode 62 - What's With The Wedge? Part 1

Aug 8 • 58:59
Early home microcomputers have a very distinctive shape to them. From the Apple II and the ZX Spectrum, to the Commodore 64 and the Amiga, wedged were the order of the day. I've always wondered why that shape became so popular, and where it came from. Today we start a deep dive into that question, slowly tracing the origins of the first wedge shaped computer. Selected So...

Episode 61 - FRESS and Practical Hypertext

Jul 25 • 01:01:45
Hypertext has really become a core offering of daily life, and defined the face of the Internet for decades. But the links and formatting we know so well only make up part of the story. Today we are looking at FRESS(the File Retrieval and Editing SyStem), a hypertext system developed at Brown University at the tail end of the 60s. What makes FRESS so crucial in the history...

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