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Art Bits from HyperCard

Long-time Macintosh users likely remember HyperCard, Apple’s strange hypermedia system that was sorta like a cross between index cards, web pages, and 90s interactive edutainment software. HyperCard left a pretty big legacy for the Web to come, influencing everything from JavaScript to wikis to the pointing finger thing for links on pages to fuckin’ Myst.

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How polyester bounced back

Fifty years ago, polyester seemed like a wonder fabric. It freed women from their ironing boards, and they poured into the workforce, feeling liberated in their double-knit pantsuits. Polyester held bright colors better than old-fashioned materials, making it ideal for psychedelic prints, disco attire, and sports teams clashing on color television. It was inexpensive, and it didn’t wear out. People loved polyester.

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The birth of Tcl

The Tcl scripting language grew out of my work on design tools for integrated circuits at the University of California at Berkeley in the early 1980’s. My students and I had written several interactive tools for IC design, such as Magic and Crystal. Each tool needed to have a command language (in those days people tended to invoke tools by typing commands; graphical user interfaces weren’t yet in widespread use). However, our primary interest was in the tools, not their command languages. Thus we didn’t invest much effort in the command languages and the languages ended up being weak and quirky. Furthermore, the language for one tool couldn’t be carried over to the next, so each tool ended up with a different bad command language. After a while this became rather embarrassing.

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A Plastic Bag’s 2,000-Mile Journey Shows the Messy Truth About Recycling

When the British supermarket chain Tesco Plc first started ­collecting plastic bags and wrappers from customers to be recycled in March 2021, Caroline Ragueneau was thrilled. She was working as a retail assistant at a Tesco store in southwest England when the first white deposit boxes appeared, promising to turn what’s typically discarded back into something useful. Plastic is a notorious source of pollution: unsightly on land, deadly to marine wildlife. Ragueneau, 56, an enthusiastic environmentalist, proudly told friends about the initiative.

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Digging Up the Rich Viking History of Britain

A massive 1,100-year-old graveyard leads to a surprising new view of the Nordic legacy in Britain

Cat Jarman led me through a dense tangle of forest called Heath Wood. We were in Derbyshire, close to the very heart of England. There was no path, and the forest floor was overgrown with bracken and bush. It was easy to lose your footing and even easier to lose your way. Jarman, a fit, cheery woman in her late 30s, plunged jauntily on as I tried to keep up. “See all these lumps and bumps?” she asked as we broke into a small clearing. She pointed to an array of 59 small, rounded hillocks, many two or so feet high and four or five feet in diameter. Humans, not nature, had clearly put these things here, and they gave off a spooky, supernatural energy.

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The Cult of Posits

Computers are incapable of representing arbitrary real numbers exactly. This is due to two intractable facts of real numbers:

Uncountably Infinite Domain: There are an infinite number of real numbers.
Uncountably Infinite Precision: Some real numbers require infinite precision.
Since computers use a finite number of bits, computer architects must settle on capturing a finite number of real numbers at a finite level of precision. This is done by fixing a mapping between bit patterns and real numbers called a representation. A representation makes a tradeoff between the quantity of representable numbers and the level of precision.

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