Links for July 30, 2016

How to Write a History of Writing Software

He had a regular Selectric that he used, then he would hand his drafts to Ellenor Handley, the secretary. She would retype them on the MT/ST, and do all of the subsequent editing, revisions, correcting there, because it made it so easy to do that revising and to produce clean copy on demand.

There are three things I really like about that story and why I feel like it’s the best candidate for quote-unquote “first.”

One, it defamiliarizes our sense of what word processing is. It’s not a typewriter connected to a TV set. The key thing turns out to be the magnetic storage layer. The other thing I like about it is—there’s a term I use in the book, “suspended encryption.” That captures that dynamic of word processing: You’re writing, but there’s a kind of suspended animation to it. The text remains in its fluid, malleable state, until such time as you commit it to hard copy.

The other thing I like about the story is that it captures that gendered dynamic, that social dimension of writing. It’s not just the author alone at his typewriter. It’s really a collaborative process, there is a gender dimension to it, and there’s something very human about it, I think.


Heavy Metal and Natural Language Processing - Part 1

Once we have the data, there are a huge number of ways to represent it in numerical form. For example, taking 100 of the more popular band from the dataset, we look at all the lyrics for the band and ask what fraction of the words are swear words? We can also look what the readability of there lyrics, giving us a measure of how complex the language used is, defined in terms of the number of syllables each word has.... As you can see, Five Finger Death Punch have the highest number of swear words in their lyrics, and Pig Destroyer have the most complex wordplay. It also suggests that bands that swear more seem to use more complex words.


Why did ancient Egypt spend 3000 years playing a game nobody else liked?

This and yet is the start of another mystery about Senet - perhaps the greatest mystery of all. Namely: The ancient Egyptians played this game throughout the entire lifespan of their empire, but nobody else did. Senet didn’t travel. And that doesn’t make any sense at all.... Dr Finkel states the case with weary precision. “I think the fact is that this is an Egyptian game par excellence and one of the reasons that nobody else wanted to play it was that it wasn’t very interesting.”