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Media Computer - From Math to Augmentation

by Teemu Leinonen, Hans PƵldoja, Jukka Purma — last modified 2011-01-08 05:47
group: History of New Media
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Maths, Calculation and Computing

The pre-history of computing is closely related to the history of mathematics and calculation. To solve more complex operations, such as addition and subtraction of large numbers humans have always used external objects. Groups of objects have been calculated by adding them inside a space drawn to the sand or by putting them in a sack.

After the stones and sacks, the next step in the history of computing was the innovation of counting tables, which are, not only to formalize the counting method; but also contain the concept of positional notation. This means that objects are located in matrices, which gives new possibilities for calculations. The same method is still the core of modern computers.

The first big name in the history of computing is said to be a Tashkent cleric, mathematician and professor in Baghdad. Muhammad Ibn Musa Al'Khowarizmi (780- about 850) developed the concept of a written process to be followed to achieve some goal. This method is called now a days after its inventor: algorithm. Later on, the use of algorithms in computer programs made computers "reasoning" and logic machines - in a way a machine to help humans in decision making process. However, all the way from Al'Khowarizmi days, from 1300 AD to the late 1960's computers were mainly designed and used for calculating, statistics and outputting and opening cryptology.

Media Computer - From Math to Augmentation-img0029.jpg


Engelbart's Demo - a medium in the making

In 1968 in California Douglas C. Engelbart and his group working in the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California gave a public demonstration of a computer system (OnLine system) they had been developing since the early 1960's. Engelbart's group of scientist thought that by demonstrating their system in real use, the audience could get a better picture of it, than by just reading an article about it. In some writings Engelbart's and his group demo has been said to be "the mother of all demos".


In the demo Engelbart presented for the first time a working version of the mouse and hypertext functionalities, that were synchronized working via computer network and word processing with such features as editing, cutting and pasting and drag and dropping text elements. Engelbart's demo can be seen to be a turning point in the conception of computers not only as a tool for computing, but also as a tools to develop and share creative work. Engelbart's main thesis (which was not said openly in the presentation but demonstrated through the functionality of their computer system) was that computers can be used as an external memory and processor that could help humans to create and share their creativity with others - of being "media machine".

Teaching and learning stories
Brief History of New Media by Teemu 09.01.2011