Engelbart’s Chord

At the famed “Mother of All Demos, Douglas Engelbart presented the mouse and keyboard that we know, as well as an input device called a chorded keyboard.

A computer input device that allows the user to enter characters or commands formed by pressing several keys together, like playing a “chord” on a piano. The large number of combinations available from a small number of keys allows text or commands to be entered with one hand, leaving the other hand free.

Ah, it’s similar to playing piano chords, that’s probably why the thing never caught on… raise your hand if you bombed out of piano lessons in spectacular fashion. I’m sure with years of practice on a chorded keyboard, you could become a machine. For now, I’ll stick with my keyboard. It may be inelegant, but so is marching around the apartment naked while banging pots and pans together. Sometimes you just need to make music.

If you want to try a simulation of the device, check out Engelbart’s Chord by Paul Tarjan.

Caravaggio the criminal

Old state archives from Rome, show that Caravaggio had somewhat coloured past.

He had frequent brushes with the police, got into trouble for throwing a plate of cooked artichokes in the face of a waiter in a tavern, and made a hole in the ceiling of his rented studio, so that his huge paintings would fit inside. His landlady sued, so he and a friend pelted her window with stones.

Tack on a murderous brawl and you’ve got yourself a fine upstanding citizen.

Dark Ages not so dark

Apparently the Dark Ages weren’t as bleak as we’ve been led to believe.

We have this idea that it was a time of superstition and ignorance when people didn’t look at the world around them and certainly didn’t look at it with a scientific eye. In fact, the Church considered mathematics the highest form of worship. Before you were allowed to study theology, you had to study the seven liberal arts — grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

So the concept that the Church was against learning is wrong. For five or six hundred years after the Fall of Rome, it was the Church that preserved and expanded learning. And in Gerbert’s time they were actively seeking it out among Muslims and Jews. The Crusades were a hundred years later, and the Spanish Inquisition took place two hundred years later. All of the “dark” stuff happened after the Dark Ages.

A 2,550 year old beer recipe

Wired has an article about the resurrection of a 2,550 year-old beer recipe.

Six specially constructed ditches previously excavated at Eberdingen-Hochdorf a 2,550-year-old Celtic settlement, were used to make high-quality barley malt, a key beer ingredient, says archaeobotanist Hans-Peter Stika of the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart. Thousands of charred barley grains unearthed in the ditches about a decade ago came from a large malt-making enterprise.

Stika published his findings in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, where you can find the original paper.

History of rap

A history of rap medley featuring Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake and The Roots. Fun to watch, very well done.

Update: In their infinite wisdom, NBC has decided that videos should “expire” on the internet. So much for legal sources. Do a search, I’m sure you can find a copy.

Civilization at its oldest

A pillar at the Gobekli Tepe temple

The Gobekli Tepe temple near Sanliurfa, Turkey, is thought to predate civilization.

The site isn’t just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago—a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture—the first embers of civilization.