Friday, March 8, 2013

Dartmouth Publications

An issue of "Spare Rib."
Dartmouth publications are not subtle in the pride they show in their history. Case in point: The Dartmouth's motto is "America’s Oldest College Newspaper." However, not every Dartmouth publication has been as long standing as The Dartmouth, which it claims was first printed as The Dartmouth Gazette in 1799. For every Dartmouth, Aegis or Jack-O-Lantern, there are dozens of publications that fell by the wayside. Fortunately, Rauner has copies of these gems that are no longer in print.

An issue of "The Third Rail."
The Scrap-Book premiered in 1837 as a literary journal. Though one of the first, it would not be the last of a long list of literary and lifestyle publications Dartmouth students have published. The 1915 Third Rail, was "A Magazine of Adventures," and covered a wide range of topics considered to be of interest to the adventurers of Dartmouth College. Pace, a Dartmouth Lifestyle Magazine, from 1947, was packed with articles that could be lifted almost exactly from a modern publication. Along with the struggle of balancing weekend fun and school life and a discussion of the positives and negatives of fraternities at Dartmouth, the article "Advice to Freshmen" could be pasted into a guide for the class of 2017 with few noticeable changes.

An issue of "Uncommon Threads."Publications that feel the most dated upon rereading tend to be those covering social and political issues. The Tomahawk began in 1928 to fight "bigotry, muddle-headedness, and obscurantism" long before many of the battles later publications would fight were even thought of as problems. The irony of appropriating the term "tomahawk" to fight bigotry at a time when Native Americans were primarily represented at Dartmouth through caricatures of the "Indian" mascot seems to have been lost on the editors. In Your Face! ran from 1990-1992 and was dedicated to making Dartmouth's lesbian and gay community more visible. Spare Rib covered women's issues at Dartmouth in the early 1990's, running at the same time as the more radical Inner Bitch. Uncommon Threads, running from 1996-2000, served as an "anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist and anti-classist" publication grappling with identity at Dartmouth.

An issue of "Old Grimes."

An issue of "Bug."
Finally, there are a few publications that just don't make sense to the modern reader. Old Grimes seems to be a mix of satire and inside jokes from 1848. The modern reader will be left searching for the meaning of lines such as, "why is Hoyle BROOKE unnatural? Because he won't run down HILL!" Was it acknowledged as a point of humor that The Dart and The Mouth existed as two separate publications in 1947? Why was Bug chosen as the name of a 1992 journal of progressive analysis and not a magazine studying insects? Come by Rauner and attempt to puzzle out the answers to all these questions by looking through Dartmouth's periodicals, both the well-known and the widely forgotten.

Posted for Kate Taylor '13.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cloud Computing

A black and white photograph of a woman seated at a desk and typing.
In September, 1940, during a meeting of the American Mathematical Society, George Stibitz publicly demonstrated remote data processing for the first time. His "Complex Computer" at Bell Telephone's New York laboratory was able to process queries and return solutions to several problems as entered by an operator in Hanover, NH. The user in Hanover typed in the calculation to be performed on a keyboard identical to one in New York. The keystrokes made in Hanover were transmitted via telegraph to New York where they were manipulated by the computer to produce a solution. The completed solution was then transmitted back to Hanover to be printed by the remote terminal.

A black and white photograph of a relay rack.
Relay Rack for the
Complex Computer
 The "Complex Computer" was so named as it had been specifically designed to handle calculations involving complex numbers. Stibitz felt that a mechanical means of computing was not flexible enough to handle this type of problem but instead designed his device around telephone switching relays which could be "made to perform any strictly logical thinking" as the mathematics used to describe purely logical operations and those of relay circuits are the same. The one caveat to this proposed method was that all numbers would have to be translated into binary notation to simplify design as the relays themselves were standard 2-position relays.  Stibitz notes in the first draft of his talk that as far as he was aware this was the "first so-called 'practical' use...of binary notation."

A blue circuit diagram.
Portion of circuit diagram
for the Complex Computer.
Ask for ML-27, Box 1 to see Stibit'z drafts of his talk as well as blueprints and notes on the Complex Computer. The slides used in the original presentation are held in Box 53. A guide to the collection is available.