IEEE Milestone for my dad, Gary Kildall

This plaque in Pacific Grove, California, is the IEEE Milestone honoring my dad’s computer work in the 1970s. He was a true inventor and laid the foundation for the personal computer architecture that we now take for granted.

Gary Kildall’s is the 139th IEEE Milestone. These awards honor the key historical achievements in electrical and electronic engineering that have changed the world, and include the invention of the battery by Volta, Marconi’s work with the telegraph, and the invention of the transistor.

More pictures plus a short write-up of the ceremony can be found here: http://bit.ly/1io2wFH

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The dedication event was emotional and powerful, with several of my father’s close colleagues from decades ago gathered to recount his contributions. I knew most of the stories and his work, but there were several aspects of his methodology that I had never heard before.

For example, I learned that my dad was not only a software programmer, but a systems architect, and would spend days diagramming data structures and logic trees on sheets of paper, using a door blank on sawhorses as his work table.

After fastidious corrections, and days poring over the designs, he would embark on programming binges to code what he had designed. And the final program would often work flawlessly on the first run.

With a PhD from the University of Washington, lots of hard work, incredible focus on long-term solutions, plus extraordinary talent, Gary created a vision of how to bring the personal computer to the desks of millions of users, and shared his enthusiasm with just about everyone he met.

My dad turned his passion into two key products: CP/M (the operating system), and BIOS (the firmware interface that lets different hardware devices talk to the same operating system). From this combination, people could, for the first time, load the same operating system onto any home computer.

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The IEEE and David Laws from the Computer History Museum did a tremendous job of pulling in an amazing contingent of computer industry pioneers from the early days of personal computing to commemorate this occasion.

At the dedication, my sister Kristin and I had a chance to reconnect with many former Digital Research employees, and I think everyone felt a sense of happiness, relief, catharsis, and dare I say, closure for my dad’s work, which has often been overlooked by the popular press since his premature death in 1994, right in the middle of his career.

My mother, Dorothy McEwen, ran Digital Research as its business manager, to complement my dad the inventor. Together they changed computer history. It was here in Pacific Grove, 1974 that Gary Kildall loaded CP/M from a tape drive onto a floppy disk and booted it up for the first time: the birth of the personal computer.

If you find yourself in Pacific Grove, take a visit to 801 Lighthouse Avenue, Digital Research headquarters in the 1970s, and you can see this milestone for yourself.

Getting into 123D Circuits

I’m a convert to 123D Circuits and not just because I’m an Autodesk shill (full disclosure: I’m in the residency program), but because it has the shared component library that anyone can tap into.

What I’m designing is a PCB that goes to your Raspberry Pi cobbler breakout with some basic components: switches, LEDs, and potentiometers. I’m getting some great help from one of the 123D Circuits team members. It’s going to build on some of my Raspberry Pi Instructables, as well as be a critical component in my upcoming Bot Collective project.

Here’s the preliminary circuit diagram…see anything wrong?

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Fritzing, the other viable competitor — as much as an open source program can be considered so — has a snappier grid system and is faster. It is after all, a desktop application and doesn’t have the odd performance issues in a browser app.

However, 123D Circuits has a community. Bah, a community, why is this important?  (see below)

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 10.00.23 PMWhat won me over to the 123D Circuits…besides the fact that I know the some of the people who work on the product: the MCP3008 chip. I need this chip for the Raspberry Pi ADC do-all circuit that I’m building.

123D Circuits has it. Fritzing doesn’t. That’s because someone out there made the chip and now I’m using it. 123D FTW.

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First three Data Crystals

My first three Data Crystals are finished! I “mined” these from the San Francisco Open Data portal. My custom software culls through the data and clusters it into a 3D-printable form.

Each one involves different clustering algorithms. All of these start with geo-located data (x,y) with either time/space on the z-axis.

Here they are! And I’d love to do more (though a lot of work was involved)

Incidents of Crime
This shows the crime incidents in San Francisco over a 3-month period with over 35,000 data points (the crystal took about 5 hours to “mine”).  Each incident is single cube. Less series crimes such as drug possession are represented as small cubes and more severe a crimes such as kidnapping are larger ones. It turns out that crime happens everywhere, which is why this is a densely-packed shape.
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Construction Permits
This shows current the development pipeline — the construction permits in San Francisco. Work that affects just a single unit are smaller cubes and larger cubes correspond the larger developments. The upper left side of the crystal is the south side of the city — there is a lot of activity in the Mission and Excelsior districts, as you would expect. The arm on the upper right is West Portal.  The nose towards the bottom is some skyscraper construction downtown. 

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Civic Art Collection
This Data Crystal is generated from the San Francisco Civic Art Collection. Each cube is the same size, since it doesn’t feel right to make one art piece larger than another. The high top is City Hall, and the part extending below is some of the spaces downtown. The tail on the end is the artwork at San Francisco Airport.

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Support material is beatiful

I finished three final prints of my Data Crystals project over the weekend. They look great and tomorrow I’m taking official documentation pictures.

These are what they look like in the support material, which is also beautiful in its ghostly, womb-like feel.

I’ve posted photos of these before, but still stunned at how amazing they look.

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