Computers in 1985: It was a very good year

Computers in 1985: It was a very good year

In some ways, 1985 was a really pivotal year for computing. The industry was changing fast, but in 1985, many relics from the past were still present even as we had an eye for the future. Here’s a look back at computers in 1985 and what made that year so interesting.

I think 1985 was interesting in and of itself, but it also made the succeeding years a lot more interesting. A surprising amount of the technology that first appeared in 1985 still has an impact today.

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What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation?

What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation?

Digital Equipment Corporation was perhaps the second most important computer company in history, behind IBM. Its minicomputers challenged IBM, and, indeed, Unix first ran on a DEC PDP-7. DEC’s Alpha CPU was one of the few chips to make Intel nervous for its x86 line. It created the first really good Internet search engine. In a just and perfect world, DEC would still be dominating. Instead, it faded away in the 1990s. What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC?

There’s a short answer and a long answer.

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The Atari 2600 CPU: The MOS 6507

The Atari 2600 CPU: The MOS 6507

The Atari 2600 CPU was a nondescript MOS 6507 chip. Neither Intel nor Motorola had a CPU chip in the early 1970s that could meet Atari’s price point. MOS Technology didn’t have one either, but they asked Atari what they could afford. Then they made one.

The 6507 is so nondescript, some of them don’t even have the number “6507” anywhere on them.

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The workstation events you want to be logging in Splunk

Every once in a while the NSA or another government agency releases a whitepaper with a lot of really good security advice. This paper on spotting adversaries with Windows event logs is a fantastic example. It’s vendor-neutral, just talking about Windows logs and how to set up event forwarding, so you can use the advice with any log aggregation system or SEIM. I just happen to use and recommend Splunk. But whatever you use, these are the workstation events you want to be logging.

I want to call your attention to a couple of items in the paper. Most breaches begin on workstations, and this paper has the cure.

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Women in tech: The forgotten story of Vector Graphic

I frequently hear lamentations about the number of women in the technology field–or the lack of them. Although there have been a number of successful women in the field, such as Meg Whitman, CEO of HP and formerly Ebay; Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo; and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP, men outnumber women in the field and often by a large margin.

That perhaps makes it even more sad that Vector Graphic is largely forgotten today. Last week Fast Company profiled this pioneering computer company that time forgot.

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Why shouldn’t corporations just let software auto update?

I’ve been hearing the same new idea at work for about 10 years. The idea is pretty straightforward: Since my home PC updates itself whenever it wants and I don’t have problems, why don’t we do the same thing at work so we won’t need expensive update deployment tools?

There are generally two problems with that.

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The Sony breach and why every company should be worried

To me, the Sony breach is noteworthy not just because of its magnitude, but because it doesn’t appear to be driven by profit, unlike the other big breaches in recent memory. Instead, it’s a return of vigilante hacktivism, and entertainment companies are particularly vulnerable because, the Washington Post argues, all movies have an element of politics in them.

That’s a problem for U.S. companies in an interconnected world, because much of the world doesn’t value free speech as the United States does. The plot of the movie “Red Dawn” was changed–China, not North Korea, was the original aggressor–to avoid offending the Chinese government, for example. Search Google for “movies that offended foreign governments” sometime. It’s amazing how many you’ll find.

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IT security vs. the construction industry

On the Risky Business podcast last week, Andrew Wilson, the CEO of Australian cryptography gear maker Senetas, stated that many businesses see the bad things that happen from poor IT security as just a cost of doing business.

Nothing revolutionary there. We’ve all seen it. Target is paying a steep price right now, but what about Michaels and Nieman Marcus? They got breached at the same time as Target, and nobody’s talking about them. Maybe Target thinks the cost of doing business got too high, and they’ve hired a CISO and I hear they’re hiring lots of new security personnel–I have coworkers and former coworkers in the Minneapolis area who tell me as much–but for Michaels and Nieman Marcus, the cost, at least so far, appears to have been manageable.

But Wilson added something that I hadn’t heard anywhere else before. Fifty years ago, he said, construction workers dying while building a large building was considered a cost of doing business. Fifty years ago that was normal. Today it’s unacceptable.

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Why AMD’s turnaround is working when so many turnarounds fail

As this editorial notes, a year ago chipmaker AMD was on the ropes. Today AMD still won’t be unseating Intel any time soon, but they’re profitable again.

The problem, it argues, is that changing CEOs isn’t enough. A CEO has to have lieutenants that tell the CEO what the CEO needs to hear. Steve Ballmer failed, the author argues, because he inherited Bill Gates’ team, and Gates’ team wouldn’t tell Ballmer what he needed to hear.

It’s a very interesting perspective, and timely, as AMD released a compelling product line today.

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