Sep 192013

Here’s the next in our series of not-quite-quarterly-because-we-are-running-as-fast-as-we-can newsletters for Computing: The Human Experience. We’ve been incredibly busy since our last report: a trip to Washington DC, work with potential producers in London, and lots and lots of progress on content!


You may recall that late last year KQED – the Bay Area’s PBS station – commissioned the development of a sizzle reel for the series as part of the materials needed to take us forward to corporate PBS. We did a day of filming at the end of 2012 and we completed editing this spring. You’ll find the final results in our YouTube playlist here. Kudos go to Adam Murray, who took our raw footage and produced an outtake reel, which you’ll also find in that playlist. In addition to this video work, we developed a complete treatment for one of the episodes.

In April, our entire team – including KQED’s VP of programing, the producer and writer they had hired, Jan and me – took those materials to Washington DC, where we pitched the project to corporate PBS. We were excited that we had executives all the way up to the top present, including Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager of General Audience Programming, along with her three key lieutenants representing the financial and development interests of PBS. Their reaction was incredibly positive: they told us “this is exactly the series to which we aspire” and they encouraged us to find a production team that could execute such a bold vision. In short, we have an excellent outcome from the meeting: corporate PBS is fired up about the concept, KQED has agreed to give us a formal letter of support, and we are now searching for the right production team to bring our vision for Computing to fruition.

Grady, Michael Isip (KQED), Michael Schwarz (Kikim Media), Marty Koughen, Jan

In March we stopped by the Computer History Museum to present the second in our series of lectures for Computing as part of the CHM Soundbytes Lecture Series. You’ll find a recording of that lecture titled I Think, Therefore I Am here. This turned out to be a very well-received and provocative subject: the computability of the mind.

Our next lecture is scheduled at the Computer History Museum on Friday, October 25th, titled Deus Ex Machina. We expect this lecture to be equally compelling. No matter your individual position on the matter, it is a reality that faith is a powerful element of the human experience, and so it comes as no surprise that computing intersects with the story of belief in many profound ways. In this lecture, we will examine several of these stories, leading to an understanding in how different faith traditions have reacted to, and in some ways contributed, to the advance of computing. From Pope Benedict’s blessing via Twitter to the growth of the Digital Sabbath movement, from the technology-driven exegesis of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the rise of the virtual church, computing has impacted the ways we believe and the means by which some make their faith manifest. You can read more about this event at the Computer History Museum and you can register here.

The story of computing is indeed the story of humanity.

In April, we attended the IBM Impact conference in Las Vegas, where among other things Grady shared the stage with Tim O’Reilly in two plenary sessions. We also conducted a meet-and-greet for potential authors for our O’Reilly series on Computing, during which we had the opportunity to talk to over a dozen potential authors. Do you have a book about the confluence of computing and humanity inside you just jumping up and down to find a voice? If so, let us know! We are always on the search for great authors. Visit Author Central on the Computing web site to learn more.

Tim O’Reilly and Grady

Now that we have completed our initial teaser production work, our search for a producer and director for the full broadcast series is ramping up. While I was in London in June to receive the BCS Lovelace Medal, we met with two creative teams currently engaged with the BBC, and we’ll continue our courtship with them. We also had the opportunity to meet some old friends of Computing and make some new ones as well! In the US, we have reconnected with an Academy Award winning producer who continues to express interest in the project, and we will also be intentional about reaching out to other potential producers on our wish list.

Our research into the stories of Computing continues as well. It seems that not a day goes by without reading some story in the news regarding the confluence of computing and humanity: from Snowden’s disclosures about the technical capabilities of the NSA to the release of Apple’s new iPhone with biometrics; from a dramatic decline in the cost of sequencing the human genome to dramatic increases in the velocity of programmatic trading, computing is very much a part of the fabric of our lives…and we are privileged to be a part of telling that exquisite story.

Jan, Grady, Dav Bisessar, Phil Tetlow

Follow us on Twitter! Jan can be followed here and Grady can be followed here.

We are pleased to present a new member of Computing‘s Advisory Board, Jack Copeland. Jack is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Professor Copeland is the Director of the Turing Archive for the History of Computing and has written a number of books, including The Essential Turing.

Grady presented the Lovelace lecture on June 27th in London; you can watch his lecture here, here, and here (the video has been split into three parts). While there, we had a chance to meet with the wonderful Sue Black, who has done so much to advance the cause of women in computing and contributed greatly to the preservation of Bletchley Park.

Our research into the stories of computing has led us to many interesting people, papers, and books. We maintain a list of book resources on our Computing site here. By no means is this list complete: thus far we’ve put in only 300 of the over 1,000 materials we’ve studied.

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Warren Teitelman in early August. We had been working with Warren to publish his memoirs as part of our Computing book series. Through his long career, Warren made many contributions to computing: he invented the language INTERLISP, he co-created the first client-server windowing system, and advanced the state of the art in development environments. Warren worked at Xerox PARC, Rational Software, and Google, was Sun’s first Distinguished Engineer, and was named as an ARPANET Pioneer. He will be missed. If you are interested in helping us bring his draft manuscript to completion, please contact us.