Jean Armour Polly put computers in libraries

October 21st, 2019 7:00 AM
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Last month, the Internet Hall of Fame inducted a new class. Among its members was Jean Armour Polly, who pioneered free Internet access in public libraries.

And she did so with an Apple II, according to Syracuse.com. While the Internet and the Apple II were not exactly contemporaries, Polly was an advocate for computers in libraries well before they were put online.

It was 1981 and this was groundbreaking. They set up the computer, a black Apple 2 Plus, in a spot where everyone could use it. The American Legion raised money to buy the printer. At the time, Liverpool was one of two libraries in the country with a computer, said Polly, a Syracuse University alumna.

That's not Polly's only contribution to computer literacy and Internet lore: she also popularized the term "surfing" for Internet activity.

While Polly popularized the phrase, she didn't coin it. The first use of "surfing the Internet" was by Mark McCahill on the Usenet newsgroup alt.gopher on February 25, 1992:

There is a lot to be said for surfing the internet with gopher from anywhere that you can find a phone jack.

I'm a big fan of public libraries, making weekly visits to mine to get free movies, books, and video games (and to look for Apple II software). While I haven't needed to use a library's computers, I realize that making this resource available to the community is an invaluable service with a high return on investment.

Our thanks to Polly for being among those who got the ball rolling with an Apple II Plus!

(Hat tip to Andy Molloy)

The music of the ImageWriter

December 2nd, 2010 7:16 PM
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Chiptune music — the use of retrocomputing hardware to synthesize original melodies — is not a new phenomenon … but the creativity of artists seeking to use classic computers to produce these tunes never ceases to amaze me.

An example I recently stumbled across is by Man or Astro-man?, a surf rock group founded in Alabama in 1992 and reunited in 2010. Their 2000 album A Spectrum of Infinite Scale features a track entitled "A Simple Text File". Although Man or Astro-man? is not a chiptune band, their music video for this piece is something any Apple II user can be proud of:

What makes this piece so imaginative is that it's essentially a self-playing piece of hardware; once initiated, it requires no software or human intervention. Granted, the hardware featured above received its print command from a piece of software, but the result is more reliant on the hardware than on user input, making it an entirely different kind of creativity from that of, say, 8 Bit Weapon, who acquired and remastered Michael J. Mahon's Apple II DMS music software to help them get the most out of their instruments. It's two equally dedicated approaches to delighting the retrocomputing enthusiast.

For a less Apple II-centric example of musical hardware, check out this rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", performed by an Adaptec 2940UW SCSI card, a TI-99/4A with tape drive, an HP ScanJet 3C, and an Eico oscilloscope, among other pieces of equipment:

Which of these performances would you buy tickets to see?

(Hat tip to Stavros Karatsoridis and Shark Bait)