The 1946 SF short story that nailed modern tech

From the Register:

A Logic Named Joe: The 1946 sci-fi short that nailed modern tech

70 years later, Murray Leinster’s disaster scenario is the internet you know and love

Buried deep in the pages of the March 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine sits a short story by Murray Leinster that, 70 years on, has proven a remarkably sharp prediction of both 21st century consumer technology and culture.

One of two pieces contributed by Leinster, a pen name used by author William Fitzgerald Jenkins, ‘A Logic Named Joe’ tells the story of a humble repairman who finds himself scrambling to stop a machine that has become a bit too good at helping people.

Though Leinster never achieved the notoriety of other science fiction visionaries such as Asimov or Philip K Dick, ‘A Logic Named Joe’ has been recognized by, among others, the Computer History Museum as “one of the most prescient views of the capabilities of computers in a network.”

Fascinating. I don’t have the breadth of knowledge of early science fiction that would allow me to offer up an alternative candidate, and would be intrigued to hear if there were any.

Separately, it is striking how bad we are at predicting the future. We seem to be able to manage passably well with predictions about the development of technology, but downright awful when it comes to anticipating the effects on society, and especially the consequential effects.

Thought provoking stuff. Read the whole thing (including a link to the story text) here.

Six for Sunday

I have spotted too many articles of interest over the weekend; if I had the time, I would blog about each of them, and offer some commentary. But, I don’t have the time for that. However, they are too good to pass unnoticed, so the least I can do is gather them up in one place and spread the word. Here you go:

Shavuah Tov!

Don’t mention the hatred

The terrible suicide bombing in Istanbul was jumped on by one Israel hater, as reported by the BBC:

Soon after the Istanbul blast, a tweet from a woman claiming to be a junior official of Turkey’s governing AKP party caused consternation on social media.

Irem Aktas, described as head of public relations for the women’s branch of a local AKP bureau in Istanbul, tweeted that she wished “all Israeli citizens in the area had died.”

The Twitter account now seems to have been taken down.

Another official from the same AKP party branch later confirmed Ms Aktas was a party member, but said her tweet did not reflect the party’s position and that the process of expelling her had started.

The Guardian report omits this. Presumably they would say that it doesn’t fit their definition of news. However, to me it seems more likely that they wouldn’t mention the hatred because it does not fit their world view. They do not see any hatred. And for sure, the Guardian cannot see that they are responsible for stoking the fires of hatred. Oh no, they are far too liberal to be doing that…

Getting to Tel Aviv

The power station at Tel Aviv port

The power station at Tel Aviv port

On Friday, Susan and I decided to go on a longer than usual bike ride, partly as a preparation for doing longer biking events, and partly as a continuing effort to keep fit and active.

We extended our usual ride from Ra’anana to Herzliya, by continuing on to the namal (port) at Tel Aviv. Up to Herzliya, it’s a mix of cycle track and pavements. At Herzliya, we needed to some rough riding along the coastline – rocky, sandy, uneven, and energy sapping – before joining on to another cycle path that took us all the way in to the namal.

It was a perfect day for biking: blue skies, a bit of cloud, not too warm, and the occasional wind to cool us down, and freshen things up.

It’s about a 42 km round trip, so we were feeling pretty good afterwards.We stopped at the namal for a coffee, and then had brunch in Ra’anana. As mentioned above, there are a couple of biking events later this year that we may try and do, so that length of run was a good confidence booster. It was tiring, but not exhausting. The biggest impact of the change to a longer ride was on our respective posteriors. We were saddle sore! Apparently, the only way to sort that is to keep riding long distances.

How to fix a record player

Depending on your perspective, the following is either a story of cultural differences, or my well embedded anal retentive type nature. You decide.

I have not posted anything about my record collection for a while, because my beloved record player wasn’t working. I pressed the button, but the turntable wouldn’t move. I checked the power supply, but I knew that was OK as the turntable light was on. So, I turned it off, then on, then off, then on. No joy. I tried it at 33 RPM and 45 RPM. Still no joy. I unplugged the turntable, and looked at how easy it would be to take it apart. It looked too difficult, and I wasn’t that confident that I would know what to do, even if I did get it open.

So, the record player stayed where it was, broken, and waiting for me to get round to dealing with it. And my record collection stayed unplayed.

It remained like this for months, until Sarah-Lee and Tomer mentioned this hi-fi store in Givatayim by the name of Fuse. It had proper listening rooms to try out audio kit before you buy it, sold and repaired every imaginable piece of audio kit, and seemed to offer a professional, reliable service. More importantly, they said they could fix a Linn turntable.

Aside. I thought that Linn had an Israeli distributor. But when I went to the Linn site and tried out Israel in the Find a shop feature, this is what I got.

My nearest authorized Linn hi-fi store...

My nearest authorized Linn hi-fi store…

I don’t think I’ll be going there in the near future…

Meantime, back in Israel, we arranged a trip out to Givatayim with the record deck. I took it into Fuse. I told the guy serving me what the problem was: the record player is not working. Can you fix it?

He plugged the record player into a power source. He turned it on. You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather – the damn thing was working. The turntable was turning! I protested that it had not been working. I think he believed me. Then, he turned it off. Then, he turned it on. This time it id not work. The turntable stood defiant and still, not moving. Aha. Vindication!

I told him that this was how it was when I tried it at home. I clicked the on button, the light went on, but nothing happened.

At this point, he did something I would never have done: he gently nudged the turntable platter, encouraging it to move. It moved. It worked. He turned it off and on again. Again it refused to move. But once more, he gave it a little nudge, and it was fine. He put a record on to make sure it was working, and it was. He told me that whatever the problem was, it was not worth opening up the delicate insides.

I was astonished. I would never have thought to do anything like give the platter a push. If you turn the damn thing on, it should work without needing a push. Obviously that only applies outside of Israel…

Anyway, I now have a working turntable, and I am back playing my records again. With a nudge…


Enemy Action: Ardennes


Enemy Action: Ardennes is on the table. It’s designed by John Butterfield, published by Compass Games, and gives you three Battle of the Bulge games in one box: Two player, German solitaire, and Allied solitaire. It uses four km hexes, turns of a day, and units at the regiment/brigade level.


I am starting off with the two player game as that is the recommendation. Each game uses a different map, with the same terrain covered, but different sets of symbols used as part of the card driven artificial intelligence in the solitaire games. The cards are also used in the two player game, offering unit activations, reinforcements, events, and tactics. There are many innovations on show here, but one that stands out is the absence of a combat results table. All combat is resolved by drawing chits from a pool, and applying them according to circumstances. For example, one chit might apply if the attack is at greater than 2:1 odds. Another chit might apply if the attacker has air support. And so on.

The components look beautiful, though there’s a let down because of some minor errata for the map and cards. One day, game companies will master the art of quality control.

I have set up the game, read the rules once, and am now rereading them for comprehension.

John Butterfield’s previous designs have been favorites of mine, and I do not expect to be disappointed here. The fact that this is apparently the first of a series of games with a similar approach is a mouthwatering prospect. I’ll post some more after playing the game.

Five for Friday

Fisherman on the wharf at Tel Aviv marina - January 2010

Fisherman on the wharf at Tel Aviv Marina – January 2010

This was a broken week at work – broken up by the firm’s R & D (Research and Development) Day, held at the Convention Center in Tel Aviv, across the road from the university railway station. The day is an opportunity for everyone to spend time out of the office, network, learn what the other parts of the business are up to, listen to some management briefings, and be entertained and inspired.

The inspirational speaker was Roei Sadan, who fell off a mountain in India in 2015, suffered serious injuries, and was in a coma for two months. His focus was on looking forward, and the different perspectives you could have about any journey in life.

The entertainment included Lior Suchar, a mentalist who reads minds. (Or so he says.) Also, there was some musical content played live by Avi Singolda.

The feelings of the workforce about the R & D Day are interesting, and cover a range of responses. I’m keeping mum.

Meantime, it’s the weekend, and time to forget about work, and recharge the batteries. Now if I could only find the damn batteries…

While I look, here are the regular offering of links for you:

Shabbat Shalom!

Nothing to see here

I was at an office event at the Tel Aviv Convention Center yesterday, and spotted this sign for a restaurant on the site.

"What else is on the menu, apart from your best dish?" "Er, nothing..."

“What else is on the menu, apart from your best dish?” “Er, nothing…”

My guess is that it is somebody’s attempt to improve on Nothing but the best. I’d judge that a resounding failure!

Labour or Society?

In the current Vicki Kirby controversy, it seems to me there is one important aspect that has been overlooked. By way of summary, here’s how Harry’s Place puts the overall position:

Vicki Kirby, then Labour’s candidate for Woking, was suspended from the Labour Party in 2014 following a string of antisemitic tweets. Now it seems that she has not simply been reinstated by Labour, but appointed as Woking’s vice chair.

The story was broken by Guy Fawkes’ blog. That blog also highlighted that Kirby and the Woking Labour Party chairman:

“have been publicly sharing content suggesting ISIS is a CIA conspiracy and joking about their own anti-Semitism.”

The latter behavior occurred after her 2014 suspension.

It’s all very well for the Labour Party to take a long look at itself, and wonder how they managed to reinstate her, and appoint her as a vice chairman. And it is right and proper that questions are asked about the Labour Party’s procedures, principles, and it is given the opportunity to learn from its mistakes. (Again.) But the further question is, why was the story only broken by Guy Fawkes’ blog? Given the public nature of Vicki Kirby’s social media postings, why didn’t other Labour Party members raise the alarm?

One possible explanation is that such behavior is not seen as offensive or objectionable within the Labour Party. (And there is plenty of evidence to suggest this is the case.) Another, much more troubling possible explanation, is that such behavior is not seen as offensive or objectionable within British society as a whole.

So, is it the Labour Party that has a Jewish problem, or is it British society?

More about cheating at Bridge

David Owen has a good overview piece on cheating in bridge at the New Yorker. (Read the article here.)

As I read it, I realized that one aspect it highlights is the crowd sourcing of the challenge: when somebody thought players were cheating at bridge, but could not see how, posting the videos on Youtube, and inviting the world at large to view and investigate brought about a solution. Also, it does seem that there may be a future opportunity to use a Big Data approach, if anyone puts the time and effort into converting all the on-table behavior into some kind of analytical data. Fascinating.

I still believe that there is a technology solution for professional bridge.