Margaret Hamilton, Lead Software Engineer of the Apollo Project, Stands Next to Her Code That Took Us to the Moon (1969)

Photo courtesy of MIT Museum

When I first read news of the now-infamous Google memo writer who claimed with a straight face that women are biologically unsuited to work in science and tech, I nearly choked on my cereal. A dozen examples instantly crowded to mind of women who have pioneered the very basis of our current technology while operating at an extreme disadvantage in a culture that explicitly believed they shouldn’t be there, this shouldn’t be happening, women shouldn’t be able to do a “man’s job!”

The memo, as Megan Molteni and Adam Rogers write at Wired, “is a species of discourse peculiar to politically polarized times: cherry-picking scientific evidence to support a pre-existing point of view.” Its specious evolutionary psychology pretends to objectivity even as it ignores reality. As Mulder would say, the truth is out there, if you care to look, and you don’t need to dig through classified FBI files. Just, well, Google it. No, not the pseudoscience, but the careers of women in STEM without whom we might not have such a thing as Google.




Women like Margaret Hamilton, who, beginning in 1961, helped NASA “develop the Apollo program’s guidance system” that took U.S. astronauts to the moon, as Maia Weinstock reports at MIT News. “For her work during this period, Hamilton has been credited with popularizing the concept of software engineering." Robert McMillan put it best in a 2015 profile of Hamilton:

It might surprise today’s software makers that one of the founding fathers of their boys’ club was, in fact, a mother—and that should give them pause as they consider why the gender inequality of the Mad Men era persists to this day.

Hamilton was indeed a mother in her twenties with a degree in mathematics, working as a programmer at MIT and supporting her husband through Harvard Law, after which she planned to go to graduate school. “But the Apollo space program came along” and contracted with NASA to fulfill John F. Kennedy’s famous promise made that same year to land on the moon before the decade’s end—and before the Soviets did. NASA accomplished that goal thanks to Hamilton and her team.

Photo courtesy of MIT Museum

Like many women crucial to the U.S. space program (many doubly marginalized by race and gender), Hamilton might have been lost to public consciousness were it not for a popular rediscovery. “In recent years,” notes Weinstock, "a striking photo of Hamilton and her team’s Apollo code has made the rounds on social media.” You can see that photo at the top of the post, taken in 1969 by a photographer for the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. Used to promote the lab’s work on Apollo, the original caption read, in part, “Here, Margaret is shown standing beside listings of the software developed by her and the team she was in charge of, the LM [lunar module] and CM [command module] on-board flight software team.”

As Hank Green tells it in his condensed history above, Hamilton “rose through the ranks to become head of the Apollo Software development team.” Her focus on errors—how to prevent them and course correct when they arise—“saved Apollo 11 from having to abort the mission” of landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon’s surface. McMillan explains that “as Hamilton and her colleagues were programming the Apollo spacecraft, they were also hatching what would become a $400 billion industry.” At Futurism, you can read a fascinating interview with Hamilton, in which she describes how she first learned to code, what her work for NASA was like, and what exactly was in those books stacked as high as she was tall. As a woman, she may have been an outlier in her field, but that fact is much better explained by the Occam’s razor of prejudice than by anything having to do with evolutionary determinism.

Note: You can now find Hamilton's code on Github.

Related Content:

How 1940s Film Star Hedy Lamarr Helped Invent the Technology Behind Wi-Fi & Bluetooth During WWII

How Ada Lovelace, Daughter of Lord Byron, Wrote the First Computer Program in 1842–a Century Before the First Computer

NASA Puts Its Software Online & Makes It Free to Download

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Apple’s Hypercard Software, the Innovative 1980s Precursor to Hypertext, Now Made Available by Archive.org

Archive.org is on a bit of a roll lately. After recently making available 25,000+ digitized 78rpm records from the early 20th century, they've turned around and put online Apple Hypercard software. When Hypercard was released in 1987, The New York Times published an article entitled "Apple to Introduce Unusual Software," which began:

Apple Computer Inc. will introduce an unusual database and management information program Tuesday that the company hopes will help it maintain its lead in technology for making computers easy to use.

The new software, known as Hypercard, will enable users of Apple's Macintosh computers to organize information on computerized file cards that can be linked to other file cards in intricate ways. The program will be included for no charge with each Macintosh sold, starting this month.

Hypercard made its appearance precisely when Apple also released "a communications device, known as a modem, that will enable the Macintosh to send documents to and from facsimile machines." Some of us still use modems today. Hypercard, not so much. At least not directly.

As Hypercard's creator Bill Atkinson indicates above, Hypercard started working with the hypertext concept that's now prevalent on the web today. Think those links you find in HTML. On Archive.org, you can find and play with Hypercard software, or what they call emulated Hypercard stacks. (They also host a library of emulated software for the early Macintosh computer). Read more about Archive.org's Hypercard project on their blog here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Free Online Computer Science Courses

Free: You Can Now Read Classic Books by MIT Press on Archive.org

How Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive Will Preserve the Infinite Information on the Web

Run Vintage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Software in Your Web Browser, Thanks to Archive.org

The Internet Arcade Lets You Play 900 Vintage Video Games in Your Web Browser (Free)

Learn Python with a Free Online Course from MIT

The programming language Python takes its name from Monty Python (true story!), and now courses that teach Python are in very high demand. Last December, we featured a free Python course created by Google. Today, it's a free Python course from MIT.

Designed for students with little or no programming experience, the course "aims to provide students with an understanding of the role computation can play in solving problems. It also aims to help students, regardless of their major, to feel justifiably confident of their ability to write small programs that allow them to accomplish useful goals." Beyond offering a primer on Python, the course offers an introduction to computer science itself.




The 38 lectures above were presented by MIT's John Guttag. On this MIT website, you can find related course materials, including a syllabus and software. And if you're interested in taking this course as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), you can sign up for the version that begins on May 27th over at edx.

The course will be added to our list of Free Computer Science Courses, a subset of our collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Learn Python: A Free Online Course from Google

Learn How to Code for Free: A DIY Guide for Learning HTML, Python, Javascript & More

Download 243 Free eBooks on Design, Data, Software, Web Development & Business from O’Reilly Media

Hayao Miyazaki Tells Video Game Makers What He Thinks of Their Characters Made with Artificial Intelligence: “I’m Utterly Disgusted. This Is an Insult to Life Itself”

For a young person in an animation-based field, the opportunity to share new work with director Hayao Miyazaki must feel like a golden opportunity.

This may still hold true for Nobuo Kawakami, the chairman of Dwango, a Japanese telecommunications and media company, but not for the reasons he likely anticipated at the start of the above video.

The subject of their discussion is a computer generated animated model whose artificial intelligence causes it to move by squirming on its head. Its creators haven’t invested it with any particular personality traits or storyline, but its flayed appearance and tortuous movements suggest it’s unlikely to be boarding Miyazaki’s magical cat bus any time soon.




Even without an explicit narrative, the model’s potential should be evident to anyone who’s ever sat through the final-reel resurrection of a horribly maimed, presumed-dead terrorizer of scantily clad young ladies.

The model’s grotesque squirmings could also be an asset to zombie video games, as Kawakami excitedly points out.

Let us remember that Miyazaki’s films are rooted not in gross-out effects, but redemption, a reverence for nature, and respect for children and all living things.

The master watches the demonstration without comment, then dispenses with traditional Japanese etiquette in favor of some strongly worded medicine that leaves no doubt as to what he really thought of Dwango's artificially intelligent wretch:

“I am utterly disgusted… I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself.”  

(At this point, you really should watch the video, to hear Miyazaki's opening statement, about a disabled friend for whom even a simple high-five is a painful physical exertion.)

Poor Kawakami-san! Unceremoniously shamed in front of his colleagues by a national treasure, he doesn’t push back. All he can offer is something along the lines of “We didn’t mean anything by it”---a statement that seems credible.

The American president may be into dehumanizing those with disabilities, but the Dwango crew’s heads were likely occupied with boyish visions of a thrillingly gruesome zombie apocalypse.

It’s a harsh, but important message for Miyazaki to have gotten across. Dwango is responsible for creating a lot of online games. In other words, they hold considerable sway over impressionable youth.

Studio Ghibli co-founder Toshio Suzuki grants Kawakami and his colleagues an opportunity to save face, asking what the team’s goals are.

“We’d like to build a machine that can draw pictures like humans do,” one shellshocked-looking young man responds.

What, like, Henri Maillardet's automaton from 1810? While I can imagine such a contraption showing up in one of Miyazaki’s steam-punk-flavored adventures, the hush that greets this statement all but screams “wrong answer!”

What will this encounter lead to?

The release of an online game in which one scores points by hideously dismembering the animated form of director Hayao Miyazaki?

Or a newfound sensitivity, in which cool technological advances are viewed through a lens of actual human experience?

Only time will tell.

Related Content:

The Essence of Hayao Miyazaki Films: A Short Documentary About the Humanity at the Heart of His Animation

Software Used by Hayao Miyazaki’s Animation Studio Becomes Open Source & Free to Download

Hayao Miyazaki Meets Akira Kurosawa: Watch the Titans of Japanese Film in Conversation (1993)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

NASA Puts Its Software Online & Makes It Free to Download

A quick heads up: NASA has just announced that it has released its "2017-2018 software catalog, which offers an extensive portfolio of software products for a wide variety of technical applications, all free of charge to the public, without any royalty or copyright fees."

More than 30% of NASA innovations are software-based, and by making its software available to the public, it helps give a boost to entrepreneurs, small businesses, corporations and academics. Ah, the benefits of Technology Transfer.

Available in both hard copy and online, the software archive is divided into numerous categories, including Business Systems and Project Management, Vehicle Management, Data Servers and Process Handling, Data and Image ProcessingDesign and Integration Tools, and more. See all available software here.

h/t goes to OC reader, Kunal

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Free NASA eBook Theorizes How We Will Communicate with Aliens

NASA Puts Online a Big Collection of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Download and Use

Download 14 Free Posters from NASA That Depict the Future of Space Travel in a Captivatingly Retro Style

Download Free NASA Software and Help Protect the Earth from Asteroids!

Download 243 Free eBooks on Design, Data, Software, Web Development & Business from O’Reilly Media

Stanford University Launches Free Course on Developing Apps with iOS 10

Stanford University Launches Free Course on Developing Apps with iOS 10

Whenever Apple releases a new version of iOS, Stanford University eventually releases a course telling you how to develop apps in that environment. iOS 10 came out last fall, and now the iOS 10 app development course is getting rolled out this quarter. It's free online, of course, on iTunes.

You can now find "Developing iOS Apps with Swift" housed in our collection of Free Computer Science Courses, which currently features 117 courses in total, including some basic Harvard courses that will teach you how to code in 12 weeks.

As always, courses from other disciplines can be found on our larger list, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

 

Download 243 Free eBooks on Design, Data, Software, Web Development & Business from O’Reilly Media

Last week we highlighted for you 20 Free eBooks on Design from O’Reilly Media. Little did we know that we were just scratching the surface of the free ebooks O'Reilly Media has to offer.

If you head over to this page, you can access 243 free ebooks covering a range of different topics. Below, we've divided the books into sections (and provided links to them), indicated the number of books in each section, and listed a few attractive/representative titles.

You can download the books in PDF format. An email address--but no credit card--is required. Again the complete list is here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Download 20 Free eBooks on Design from O’Reilly Media

Read 700 Free eBooks Made Available by the University of California Press

A New Free eBook Every Month from the University of Chicago Press

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

More in this category... »
Quantcast