a programming blog

Method of Differences

The “Method of Differences” is a mathematical technique for reducing the computation of polynomials to repeated addition. Once the system is setup, relatively unskilled human computers can populate dense mathematical tables. This is the “difference” in the Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine which aimed to automate the creation and printing of these tables.


Konrad Zuse's Early Computers (Review)

Although historians are usually pushed to decide questions of “who was first,” the question of impact is more interesting. Konrad Zuse has a claim to the first computer, the first high-level computer language, and the first European commercial computer sale, but his relative isolation working in Germany in the 30s and 40s limited his visibility and impact. It wasn’t until the 1970s for his innovations to become more widely known. Raúl Rojas has long contributed to the historical appreciation of Zuse and the remarkable modern nature of his machines. This volume collects and makes available in English many of his previous articles on the subject.


Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground (Review)

For those interested in the history of tabletop roleplaying game design, Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in Ground is an excellent, near encyclopedic treatment. The author, Stu Horvath, documents major and minor game systems, how they innovated or were influenced by other game systems, and how the systems expanded with settings and adventures.


Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds (Review)

Shared Fantasy is an ethnographic study of fantasy roleplayers in the Minnesota area from 1977 to 1979 by Gary Alan Fine. As this predates the moral panic of the early 1980s (James Egbert disappeared in 1979; the movie Mazes and Monsters was released in 1982) and the resultant explosion in popularity of the field, it also serves as a historical artifact of the hobby’s early days. Does this book provide a better historical understanding of roleplaying games? Will reading this book make you a better player? My answers are yes and no, respectively.


Page 2 of 11