A magazine about programmers, code, and society. Written by humans since 2018.


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Gary Hustwit

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English (second edition, revised 2005), the word "Grotesque" comes from the mid 16th century French word "crotesque". This is confirmed by Le Robert Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Française, by Alain Rey et al. The word derives from the Italian adjective grottesca, related to grotto, or cave. It was first used to designate a certain type of art found in ancient Roman basements that apparently hurt some sensibilities. The Oxford Dictionary gives the following two meanings to the word: first, "comically or repulsively ugly or distorted". Second, "incongruous or inappropriate to a shocking degree".


In our 50th issue, we reviewed some of the greatest classics in the field of programming and computing humor. Before that, we had reviewed the work of Kathy Sierra, a pioneer in the art of making computer programming books accessible and fun. Today, we will review a YouTube channel that combines the best of both.

Linus Torvalds

The tech industry is a fertile ground for anecdotes starred by individuals qualifying as brilliant jerks, psychopaths, and other atrocious types of personality. Suffice to say that, from the height of their positions of supposed leadership, many chose the easy path of advancing a twisted agenda that feeds into their hubris, in the detriment of the wider advancement of society.

Niklaus Wirth

It is challenging to summarize the influence of Niklaus Wirth in the daily lives of otherwise unsuspecting programmers worldwide. The more one digs into videos, papers, books, and obituaries, the more information surfaces and fights for a place in the spotlight. There are, however, at least two major guidelines that drove his passion for software. One was simplicity through clear understanding and lack of ambiguity; the other, closely related to the first, was teaching.

Stewart Cheifet

The same way kids are addicted to TikTok nowadays, I was addicted to TV as a kid. In the place and time of my teenage years, that is Argentina during the 1980s, it was the times of hyperinflation and eternal crisis (which begs the question: has anything changed in forty years?) Such a tense situation also meant that there was not much content on the telly about a subject that I was definitely interested in since a young age: computers. I mean, you could barely afford food, so, understandably enough, computing was scarce. Maslow's pyramid, yadda yadda.

Margaret Hamilton

On Sunday, July 20th, 1969, at precisely 20:14:19 UTC, just a mere three minutes before touchdown, the voice of Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. confirmed the "Go for landing" order received from Mission Control together with a phrase nobody wanted to hear at that moment: "Program alarm - 1201."

Jim Henson

There is so much content about IBM online that it became quite complicated to pick an entry for the Vidéothèque section this month. We are talking about a company with monthly marketing budgets bigger in absolute numbers than the average yearly payroll of a small or medium enterprise; and with more than 100 years of history, there are quite a few stories to be told about it.

Michael Stonebraker

Since the first Turing Award in 1966 (Alan J. Perlis) until the last one at the time of this writing (Robert Metcalfe), there have been four laureates related to database technology. First, Charles W. Bachman in 1973, for "his outstanding contributions to database technology." Then, Ted Codd in 1981, for "his fundamental and continuing contributions to the theory and practice of database management systems." Third, Jim Gray in 1998 for "seminal contributions to database and transaction processing research and technical leadership in system implementation." Finally, Michael Stonebraker in 2014, for "fundamental contributions to the concepts and practices underlying modern database systems."

Bertrand Russell

Philosophy is a weird subject. Many of us have had to learn some of it in high school, but we quickly dismissed it as we move forward in life, only to rediscover it as soon as we hit some midlife crisis along the way. Or, at least, that was the experience of this author. Yet philosophy is the only real bridge uniting all sciences, and as such deserves a much brighter spot on it. In particular, the road that led us to the computer was primarily built by philosophers, and in particular, by Bertrand Russell, whose 1959 interview is the subject of this month's Vidéothèque article.

Dartmouth College

In August 2014, Dartmouth College published a video commemorating the 50th anniversary of the BASIC programming language, the subject of this month's Vidéothèque section. It features original footage from the 1960s and interviews of former students and team members, including Professor Thomas Kurtz, who was 85 years old at the time. But the heart and soul of the video is, without any doubt, Professor John Kemeny himself; not only his technical contributions, which were outstanding by every standard, but also his open personality and progressive spirit.

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