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Dartmouth Computing Wasn’t Basic
Once upon a time Dartmouth led the nation in academic computing. Other schools logged into the Dartmouth Time Sharing System (DTSS), and during freshman fall we were all required to play three hours of Space War. You’d log in using in a rotary dial telephone and a 300 baud acoustic coupler, enter your ID and password on a teletype terminal, go to the game, and lo and behold, a Klingon vessel was trying to destroy you. You’d shoot a photon torpedo at it and change your quandrant, and a minute or so later (depending on how many users were on the system) the terminal’s printer would clatter into action to let you know that you’d missed, the Klingon had moved, and it had also fired a phaser at you. The game was on. And so was your familiarity with computers.
The architect of all this progress was our President, Math Professor and Los Alamos veteran John Kemeny, whose license plate was a beloved feature on campus. He, Professor Tom Kurtz, and a group of Dartmouth students had written BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), the first accessible language of the modern computer age. BASIC grew fast, and a Harvard kid named Gates even took the program and adapted it to the Altair 800, one of the first personal computers. It was his little company’s first product.
BASIC’s 50th anniversary is fast approaching, and the celebrations are on. The College is putting on a pretty good show. See the details here. For geeks, Code Project has a deeper description of BASIC’s impact.
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
August 23, 2009
Fare Thee Well, Tom Crady
And now Dean Tom Crady has precipitously announced his departure from the College after only 20 months on the job. How to read this? By way of background, prior to coming to Dartmouth, Crady had…
May 31, 2009
Kangaroo Court, Indeed
In an interview with The Dartmouth, alumni-elected trustee T.J. Rodgers ‘70 explained his reasons for declining to participate in future evaluations of trustees up for “re-election,” namely the “kangaroo court” nature of such discussion in…