Ancient Computer

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
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Research on Internet Dating

By Kara Miller   |   Friday, July 13, 2012
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Listen to the complete Innovation Hub segment.


online dating


What does the newest research tell us about online dating?

We look at the huge business of online dating. Why is the industry so powerful? How does it work? And what’s the best way to actually find someone? We look at why people are lured online — and what sites really work. Kara Miller talked with Bob Seay about Harvard Business School professor Mikolaj Piskorski's research on the topic.

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Encore: Crowdsourcing

By Kara Miller   |   Saturday, June 9, 2012
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Kickstarting Local Ideas

This week, we look at the power of crowdsourcing. What happens you pool wisdom, ideas, solutions — even money?

The co-founders of Supermechanical make their pitch to the crowd to help fund their project, Twine. 

First, we look at the crowdsourcing phenomenon, Kickstarter. A company started less than three years ago by a few guys who thought that people might be able to get friends and colleagues to fund each other’s projects.

"It's a website where people raise money for creative projects. People make films, they make records, they do art, photography, food -- any sort of thing that springs from the imagination. Someone comes on, and they say what they want to do, and they invite the public and their network to contribute money to their project," explained co-founder Yancey Strickler.

Users set a funding goal when they start their project, and donors' credit cards are only charged if the money is raised.

"It's all or nothing," Strickler said.

We're joined by two inventors and a professor who know Kickstarter well.


Crowdsourcing for Science, Medicine and Government

Part 1:


Part 2:


A crowd is seen in 2009, waiting for a Coldplay show to begin. Scientists and entrepreneurs are finding that crowds can do even more than this. (Anirudh Koul/Flickr)

The power of crowdsourcing isn't limited to start-ups. Next, we explore the role it plays in science, medicine and even municipal affairs.

Many CEO's are expected to solve problems. But we talk with one whose goal is to find them — medical, environmental, and technical — and send them out to the crowd.

One of those problems was finding a biomarker for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which would allow scientists to begin working on a cure. And a scientists found it.

Plus, we explore how more cities are using crowdsourcing to identify and solve local problems.



Remembering Steven Paul Jobs

By Bob Seay   |   Wednesday, October 5, 2011
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Oct. 6, 2011

steve jobs

Steve Jobs in 1990. (via WGBH Open Vault)


BOSTON — With the loss of Steve Jobs, we have our own remembrance of him, in a superb WGBH interview from 1990. It's from a series called The Machine That Changed The World, a BBC-TV/WGBH Boston Co-Production. In it, Jobs talks about how that revolutionary device, the Macintosh personal computer, came to be and the particular gifts of the people who made it.

Here are some excerpts from the extended interview with Steve Jobs conducted for that series:

Steve Jobs: "I think the Macintosh was created by a group of people who felt that there wasn't a strict division between science and art. Or in other words, that mathematics is really a liberal art if you look at it from a slightly different point of view. And why can't we interject typography into computers. Why can't we have computers talking to us in English language? And looking back, five years later, this seems like a trivial observation. But at the time it was cataclysmic in its consequences. And the battles that were fought to push this point of view out the door were very large."

Jobs talked about the people on his design team and what they were like.

Steve Jobs as seen in his 1990 WGBH interview. (via WGBH Open Vault)

Jobs: "My observation is that the doers are the major thinkers. The people that really create the things that change this industry are both the 'thinker-doer' in one person. And if we really go back and we examine, did Leonardo [da Vinci] have a guy off to the side that was thinking five years out in the future what he would paint or the technology he would use to paint it? Of course not. Leonardo was the artist but he also mixed all his own paints. He also was a fairly good chemist. He knew about pigments, knew about human anatomy. And combining all of those skills together, the art and the science, the thinking and the doing, was the exceptional result."

"And there is no difference in our industry. It's very easy to say, 'oh I thought of this three years ago.' But usually when you dig a little deeper, you find that the people that really did it were also the people that really worked through the hard intellectual problems as well."

On Feb. 10, 1982, the Mac design group had a small party. Along with their cake and champagne, they each signed a large sheet of paper. Jobs had those signatures copied and engraved into the mold for the Macintosh case.

Another frame of Steve Jobs in his 1990 WGBH interview. (via WGBH Open Vault)

Jobs: "The people that worked on it consider themselves and I certainly consider them artists. These are the people that under different circumstances would be painters and poets but because of the time that we live in this new medium has appeared, in which to express one's self to one's fellow species and that's a medium of computing and so a lot of people that would have been artists and scientists have gone into this field to express their feeling, so it seemed like the right thing to do."

If you're the owner of a Mac128K, 512K, or Macintosh Plus, they signed your computer, too. When the new machine was presented at a shareholders meeting in early 1984, the design team was there.

Jobs: "The first few rows had all the people that worked on the Mac. About a 150 people that really made it happen were all seated in the first few rows and when it was introduced, after we went through it all and had the computer speak to people itself and things like that, the whole auditorium of about twenty five hundred people gave it a standing ovation and the whole first few rows of Mac folks were all just crying. All of us were. I was biting my tongue very hard because I had a little bit more to do. But it was a very, very emotional moment because it was no longer ours. From that day forward it was no longer ours. We couldn't change it. If we had a good idea the following day it was too late. It belonged to the world at that point in time."

You can view the entire unedited 45-minute Steve Jobs video interview on the WGBH Open Vault. Please be patient, the interview doesn't start immediately.

Boston: There's An App For That

By Jess Bidgood   |   Tuesday, February 22, 2011
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Feb. 22, 2011

A group of students, programmers and Code For America fellows gather at Microsoft's NERD center in Cambridge to brainstorm new uses and improvements on Boston's civic data. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Last summer, the MBTA unleashed a small revolution for people who spend minutes — even hours — waiting for the bus.
They released a stream of data that used GPS technology to track the location of all of its busses. Within days, developers created a number of applications that allowed smart phones, like iPhones or Androids, to tell users when their bus would arrive.
But Steve Hershman has a big problem with those applications.  

A screen shot from the PocketMBTA iPhone app, which predicts arrival times of MBTA busses. Some developers are working to make those predictions more accurate.

“So, I have a dumb phone,” he said, referring to his basic, regular, non-smart, non-fancy cell phone. “It drives me nuts that all my friends (with smart phones) can figure out where the bus is, but I can’t.”
He’s in the right place to tackle that problem. He’s sitting with about a dozen other programmers, students and data-heads at a long table at the Microsoft New England Research and Development center — NERD for short — underneath a futuristic-looking neon tube light.
They’re among a growing number of individuals dreaming up new possibilities for Boston’s civic data — basic streams of information on topics ranging from the city’s sidewalks, to school busses, to building shadows to that MBTA bus data. And they’ve all gathered at Code For America’s DataCamp, a low-key afternoon dedicated to thinking up new ways city data can make people’s lives easier.
Max Ogden talks excitedly with just about everyone there. A Code For America fellow who helped organize the event, he’s a longhaired, bearded computer programmer and something of a civic data evangelist. He says we’re just beginning to imagine all that we can do with the city’s numbers.
He and his team chat about their main project in Boston, which is to help the city use ID cards given to Boston Public School students to generate data about their extracurricular activities, grades, MBTA usage and more. That could help educators unlock why some students are successful and others aren’t.
Hershman, who is getting a Ph.D. in systems biology at Harvard, has never played with civic data before, and he seems a little sheepish. “I haven’t hacked around with local data, and I kind of wanted to, and I figured that would be a fun thing to do on a Sunday,” Hershman said.
And, even though some people have been in this room for five hours, it is fun. The room echoes with fingers hitting keyboards — but also with lively conversation. Two people compare GPS tracking in Ghana to that in Boston. Another woman is there to offer programmers advice on how to patent their work.

Across the table, David Crosbie and Michael Cox are discussing their work to make current data more reliable. They’ve noticed that mobile apps that use the MBTA’s GPS data don’t always predict the right time for the bus’s arrival.
In their view, those inaccuracies stem from the fact that apps connect to the MBTA’s “firehose” of raw data each time you ask them to make a prediction.
“It helps if you do that once, and if you do that with a nice big brain, rather than if you do that on your little cell phone,” Crosbie says.
He and Cox want to take the T’s data and make it into a format that’s much easier to understand — using their own prediction model.“So we take the cow, and we slice it up and we hand it out in little burger,” Crosbie said.
Mmm. Real-time data sliders. Yum.
There’s nothing formal about this day, no official goals or set of outcomes. But Ogden wants it that way. He’s hoping that, one project at a time, the city’s policymakers and programmer-hacker types will realize how much they have in common. “People want to help make their cities run better, but they are not clear on avenues to do so,” Ogden explained. “We want to figure out how to let the community that lives here interact with (the city) over time.”

Programmers, students, hackers and people from all walks of city life will gather again this weekend at Boston Globe Hack Day.

Your comments: What kinds of apps would make your life easier?

The Smartest Night On TV

Monday, February 7, 2011
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The Smartest Night On TV

Nova ScienceNow: How Smart Are Animals?
Wed, 2/9 at 9pm on WGBH 2/HD

How well can we understand what's going on in the brains of non-human animals? Do our pets have the same feelings we do? How smart are parrots and sharks really?

Nova: Making Stuff Smarter
Wed, 2/9 at 9pm on WGBH 2/HD

Host David Pogue looks into the growing number of smart materials that can respond, change, and even learn.
An army tanker truck that heals its own bullet wounds. An airplane wing that changes shape as it flies.
Clothing that can monitor its wearer's heart rate, health, and mood.

Nova: The Smartest Machines On Earth
Wed, 2/9 at 10pm on WGBH 2/HD

What's so special about human intelligence? And will scientists ever build a computer that rivals the flexibility
and power of a human brain? Nova takes viewers inside an IBM lab where a crack team has been working for
nearly three years to perfect a machine that can answer any question. The scientists hope their machine will be
able to beat expert contestants in one of the USA's most challenging TV quiz shows: Jeopardy.

About the Authors
Kara Miller Kara Miller
As a radio host, Kara Miller has interviewed thinkers from E.J. Dionne to Howard Gardner, Deepak Chopra to Lani Guinier. She is a panelist on WGBH-TV's "Beat the Press," as well as an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Her writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, The National Journal, The Boston Herald, Boston Magazine, and The International Herald Tribune.

Podcast: iTunes | XML

Browse our past programs

Bob Seay Bob Seay
Bob Seay is the host of NPR's Morning Edition on 89.7FM WGBH Radio. He got his start in radio during college at WMUH, got involved with WGBH TV while in graduate school at Boston University and formerly hosted ME at WRNI in Rhode Island.
Jess Bidgood Jess Bidgood
Jess Bidgood is's news editor and producer.

Boston is a hub of technology — and WGBH is here to cover it.

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