3 Feb 2021

What I'm Reading #3

Books

Programmed Inequality: How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing

I'm only halfway through this book, which gives a detailed history of the development of the UK computing industry since the first computer, Colossus. (To any American readers, let me save you some time: ENIAC was NOT the first programmable electronic computer. Get over it.)

In particular, it focuses on the social history of the computer, and how the first computer operators were all female, and how the gender of the workforce changed as computers became more important in business and government. An in-depth and fascinating read.

Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View

I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, but my son is currently obessed by the Lego Star Wars cartoons, so I picked up this anthology of short stories based on the initial film over Christmas. It was very a different read to what I had enviaged. It consists of 40 short stories (one for each year since the release of Star Wars in 1977), each story giving the viewpoint of a minor character in the original film: one of the scrap droids in the Jawa transporter, Wuher (the barkeep in the Mos Eisley catina), the Dianiga in the Death Star's trash compactor, one of the rebel X-wing mechanics. In each story, you get to see how they become, in some small way, part of the larger saga. Some were strangely moving, like the one discussing Obi-Wan Kenobi's desert vigil - I had never thought of it as a test of his religious faith before. Recommended, even (or perhaps especially) for those who didn't enjoy the film.

Articles

Have we reached ‘peak international students’ in the UK?

This article asks a question that I had also recently started asking myself - have we reached peak international student numbers? Given the recent shameful reporting that some international students have been forced to use food banks, I suspect that we have.

How Cyberpunk 2077 Sold a Promise—and Rigged the System

I'm not a gamer, but one of my brothers is. He gave me the heads up about this story, which shows how the company behind Cyberpunk, CD Projekt Red, managed to manipulate the reviews of the game and led to the choru sof disapproval from gamers on actually playing the title.

David Squires on ... Marcus Rashford v the Tory government

A classic...

Built To Last

An interesting read on the attempts of some US states to blame the COBOL programming language (and the lack of COBOL programmers) for unemployment systems not being able to cope with the increase of unemployment claims due to the pandemic. And how it relates to the wider issue of a lack of investment in critical infrastructure.

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