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History

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
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History matthewgerstman.com

History of the web: part 1

Matthew Gerstman:

I’ve been tasked with leading frontend. As a result, I’ve been teaching a whole lot of people about the web.

Knowing where we came from can help us figure out where we should go. It’s also a mountain of technical debt, and we’re collectively building on top of it.

Forgive me if I skip the wonderful stories of Macromedia Flash, Java in the browser, or whatever other detour you can think of. While those were important to development of the web, most of us will never run into them again.

The first Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) spec was released in 1993 as a way to represent web pages, then documents….

A sweeping history (replete with screen shots) that ends with a peek into the potential future.

Data visualization schleiss.io

Plotting the source code "TODO" history of the most popular open source projects

It’s fun seeing the proliferation of TODO comments over time on these bastions of open source. One not-surprising (but still unfortunate) trend: they all pretty much move up and to the right 📈, but a few have had some dramatic reversals 📉 at certain points in time. Go had a crazy month in April 2018 & TypeScript’s TODOs exploded in the Spring of 2018.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

Remembering Dan Kaminsky

David Cassel, on The New Stack:

Widely-respected security expert Dan Kaminsky passed away on April 23 from diabetic ketoacidosis at the age of 42. His considerable legacy went beyond expertise with a rare and memorable kindness.

I met Dan very briefly at ShmooCon back in 2004. His kindness was memorable, for sure, but the thing I remember most was just how larger-than-life he was to me at the time. The guy contributed so much to the infosec community and yet remained humble and kind despite it all. It was striking.

By the age of 22, he was giving talks at Black Hat himself, as well as at other tech conferences around the world. Kaminsky told the site he was thrilled to be interacting “with the smartest people I’d ever met in my life.”

Oddly enough, that’s how I felt when I interacted with Dan. It’s a tragedy that he died so young.

Remembering Dan Kaminsky

Miroslav Nikolov webup.org

The Emerging Ship

Miroslav Nikolov:

I want to tell you the real story behind an ambitious two-month project my team completed, with a huge impact on our organization. A very stressful, challenging, and full of surprises journey, marked by developers being the leaders. I intend to reveal why things went bad and how with a proper smart set of decisions the front-end team managed to navigate its boat.

Stick around to the end for his best practices summary.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

Microsoft Excel is now Turing-complete

Microsoft’s researchers believe they’ve now finally transformed Excel into a full-fledged programming language, thanks to the introduction of a new feature called LAMBDA. “With LAMBDA, Excel has become Turing-complete. You can now, in principle, write any computation in the Excel formula language,” a Microsoft blog proclaimed.

Two questions:

  1. What’s the most influential consumer application history and why is it Excel?
  2. Can we please stop naming things Lambda?

Jeff Lindsay linkedin.com

Lost potential of personal computing

I really appreciate the perspective Jeff shares in this post on what we know of as personal computing and making tools that improve our lives.

Do you remember when computers were fun to explore? Perhaps you’ve always thought computers were fun to explore, but there was a time before the Internet at the dawn of personal computing when people were excited at the potential of computers. Surely, they’ve probably exceeded most of our expectations today, but at the same time … it’s different. Did we get what we hoped for? Do we still get hope from computers now?

Ars Technica Icon Ars Technica

“A damn stupid thing to do" (The origins of C)

Ars Technica goes long form for this (abridged) history of the C programming language.

In one form or another, C has influenced the shape of almost every programming language developed since the 1980s. Some languages like C++, C#, and objective C are intended to be direct successors to the language, while other languages have merely adopted and adapted C’s syntax. A programmer conversant in Java, PHP, Ruby, Python or Perl will have little difficulty understanding simple C programs, and in that sense, C may be thought of almost as a lingua franca among programmers.

But C did not emerge fully formed out of thin air as some programming monolith. The story of C begins in England, with a colleague of Alan Turing and a program that played checkers.

If you have some downtime this week[end]… find a comfy spot, a hot drink, and enjoy a history lesson on one of the most influential and still extant programming languages of all times.

Increment Icon Increment

What the history of HTTP status codes can tell us about the future of APIs

Darius Kazemi writing in Issue #14 of Increment magazine:

HTTP status codes are largely an accident of history. The people who came up with them didn’t plan on defining a numerical namespace that would last half a century or work its way into popular culture. You see this pattern over and over in the history of technology.

Because technology isn’t immune to historical contingency, it’s important for us as engineers to remember that long-lasting technical inflection points can occur at any time. Sometimes we know these decisions are important when we’re making them. Other times, they seem perfectly trivial.

Jon Evans GitHub Blog

GitHub Arctic Code Vault's guide to the Tech Tree

Have you heard of the GitHub Arctic Code Vault? If not, the goal of GitHub Arctic Code Vault is to preserve open source software for future generations. Which means we need thorough docs describing how the world makes and uses software. Which I find completely fascinating!

From the GitHub Archive Program readme:

We are now also opening up the initial compilation of Tech Tree resources to community input. Inspired by the Long Now Foundation’s Manual for Civilization, the Tech Tree is a collection of technical works which document and explain the layers of technology on which today’s open-source software relies, along with works included to provide additional cultural context for the Arctic Code Vault.

From the Tech Tree readme:

What follows, which we call the Tech Tree, is a selection of works intended to describe how the world makes and uses software today, as well as an overview of how computers work and the foundational technologies required to make and use computers. The purpose of the GitHub Archive Program is to preserve open source software for future generations. This implies also preserving the knowledge of other technologies on which open-source software runs, along with a depiction of the open-source movement which brought this software into being.

Jeff Benson decrypt.co

Lawsuits threaten to bankrupt The Internet Archive

Activists are rallying to save The Internet Archive from bankruptcy…

In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of public libraries, the Internet Archive created the National Emergency Library and temporarily suspended book waitlists—the kind that make you cool your jets for 12 weeks to download “A Game of Thrones” onto your Kindle—through the end of June. In doing so, it essentially allowed for a single copy of a book to be downloaded an infinite number of times.

Book publishers weren’t happy. Last Monday, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Wiley—four publishing behemoths—sued the organization.

JavaScript dutzi.party

Userscripts are fun and are still very much relevant

I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment! Customizing your web experience is what the web is all about. Who remember Greasemonkey?! ✋

Here’s the quick how to for today:

Creating a simple Userscript is pretty simple, you simply install ViolentMonkey (on Chrome, use TamperMonkey for other browsers), hit the Create Userscript button and you will be preseneted with a pretty decent code editor showing a userscript template.

Startups blog.taskade.com

Google Wave’s failure is a great lesson for modern real-time collab tools

Google Wave was all the rage in 2009, but interest soon fizzled. This post takes us through that history, answering this question along the way:

With the full weight of Google 💰 behind it, why aren’t we all using Wave today? What caused a revolutionary, real-time collaboration tool to fizzle out in just a few short years?

What can we learn from Wave’s failure? The author has one key takeaway that will serve all of us well to keep in mind.

The New Stack Icon The New Stack

How git changed the way we code

The New Stack takes us on a fun trip down memory lane:

Fifteen years ago a number of the Linux kernel developers tossed their hands in the air and gave up on their version control system, BitKeeper. Why? The man who held the copyright for BitKeeper, Larry McVoy, withdrew free use of his product on claims that one of the kernel devs had reverse engineered one of the BitKeeper protocols.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds sought out a replacement to house the Linux kernel code. After careful consideration, Torvalds realized none of the available options were efficient enough to meet his needs:

Cloudflare Icon Cloudflare

The history of the URL

I love internet history articles like this one from Cloudflare:

On the 11th of January 1982 twenty-two computer scientists met to discuss an issue with ‘computer mail’ (now known as email). Attendees included the guy who would create Sun Microsystems, the guy who made Zork, the NTP guy, and the guy who convinced the government to pay for Unix. The problem was simple: there were 455 hosts on the ARPANET and the situation was getting out of control.

Eevee eev.ee

Old CSS, new CSS

Need a history lesson of CSS and web design? Take a long journey with Eevee on the subject…

I first got into web design/development in the late 90s, and only as I type this sentence do I realize how long ago that was. And boy, it was horrendous. I mean, being able to make stuff and put it online where other people could see it was pretty slick, but we did not have very much to work with.

I’ve been taking for granted that most folks doing web stuff still remember those days, or at least the decade that followed, but I think that assumption might be a wee bit out of date. Some time ago I encountered a tweet marvelling at what we had to do without border-radius. I still remember waiting with bated breath for it to be unprefixed!

Daniel Janus blog.danieljanus.pl

How do we recreate the Web of Documents?

This excellent post is a mix of history and possible futures:

As the WWW spread, it grew features. Soon, it was not enough for the documents to contain just text: support for images was added. People wanted to customize the look of the documents, so HTML gained presentational markup abilities, eventually obsoleted by CSS. It was not enough to be able to view the menu of your local pizza store – people wanted to actually order a pizza: the need for sessions yielded cookies and non-idempotent HTTP methods. And people wanted the pages to be interactive, so they became scriptable.

All these features were good. They helped the Web meet actual needs. But having them has a significant consequence, one that is seldom realized:

We don’t have a Web of Documents anymore.

Daniel goes on to argue that what we have today is a Web of Applications, but he believes we can recreate the old web by adding just three restraints

Matt Asay infoworld.com

How open source changed everything — again

While many of us writing our year-end wrap-ups, Matt Asay saunters into the room, kindly requests that we “hold his beer”, and proceeds to write his decade-end wrap-up.

We’re about to conclude another decade of open source, and what a long, strange trip it has been. Reading back through predictions made in 2009, no one had the foggiest clue that GitHub would change software development forever (and for everyone), or that Microsoft would go from open source pariah to the world’s largest contributor, or a host of other dramatic changes that became the new normal during a decade that was anything but normal.

We are all open sourcerors now as we round out the decade. Let’s look back at some of the most significant open source innovations that got us here.

Cory Doctorow EFF

alt.interoperability.adversarial

Cory Doctorow goes deep into Usenet’s history and uncovers a sage decision by the “backbone cabal” which may help us improve the web’s (currently centralized) state:

Restoring adversarial interoperability will allow future companies, co-operatives and tinkerers to go beyond the comfort zones of the winners of the previous rounds of the game – so that it ceases to be a winner-take-all affair, and instead becomes the kind of dynamic place where a backbone cabal can have total control one year, and be sidelined the next.

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