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Tag: Computers

Way, way back in the prehistory of computing, Charles Babbage built the first machines that could be called a computer.

The first calculating machine he came up with was the Difference Engine in 1822, which has since been reconstructed several years ago. This was basically just a giant, complicated calculator.

While Babbage was building the Difference Engine, he came up with the concept of the Analytical Engine, which he worked on from 1837 until his death in 1871, although never actually finished it.

This machine was technically the world’s first computer, and was powered by steam.

Now, there is a group trying to recreate the Analytical Engine, known as Plan 28. It is an extremely ambitious project, and they will be needing a huge amount of funding to manage it.

I am very interested to see how this project progresses.


I am colourblind, as is around 10% of men and 0.5% of women. Now, before I talk about how this affects computers, let me first explain what colourblindness is and isn’t for the uninitiated.

A normal-sighted person sees colours as they are using 3 different colour receptors in the eye, detecting red, blue and green light respectively. The eye also has receptors which see in shades of grey, which is used in low light levels (which is why you lose colour vision when it is dark).

Do you see a number 74 in here?

Do you see a number 74 in here?

Many people aren’t aware that colourblindness comes in several different forms and severity, the most common being red-green colourblindness, where the person sees red and green as the same colour. Colourblindness occurs when one or more of the colour receptors does not work as it should, or does not function at all. So for example, in red-green colourblindness, the red and green receptors incorrectly react to the same frequencies of light, or you may find that the receptor does not work at all, in which case that colour will appear black.

Now how does this affect computers? Well, for one thing, often green is used to indicate that all is ok, and red that an error occurred. A red-green colourblind person would not notice a difference. I was just reading that in games too the enemies are often tagged in red and the good guys in green – so then who do you shoot?

A more subtle problem is when the programmer or web designer themselves is colourblind. For example, it is a rather bad idea to trust my opinion on colour. I have a blue-green colourblindness which means that my colours would probably appear slightly off to a normal sighted person. I once painted our bathroom an avocado green colour because I thought it looked nice, much to the horror of my family who thought I had gone mad.

Implied in the problem about choosing colours for computer applications and webpages is also the problem of sites and applications that look great for a normal sighted person, but become useless for a colourblind person. It is often a good idea to either let the colours be configurable or else choose safe colours.

And before I end, a little interesting fact – most colourblind people will not realise they see the world differently until it is pointed out to them. For us, the world just looks normal.


Yesterday, my laptop running Windows Vista crashed good and proper. I discovered that my drive was still intact, but somehow or another, Windows had managed to corrupt itself.

Normally this would not be too much of an issue. On my previous computer, all I had to do was pop in the Windows XP disc and do a repair, and that sort of issue would be fixed, and all my data would be safe.

this was not the case in this instance. You see, my little HP notebook shipped with an application recovery disk – without a standalone Vista disc. What this means is that if the computer needs a reinstall, then you restore a disc image off this disc and your computer is brand spanking new again back in its original state.

This original state is what gets to me. This process does not allow you to save your data at all. It completely formats and overwrites your harddrive, so I lost everything on it. Fortunately, I am pretty good at keeping backups, so didn’t lose very much, but it is still a major problem not being able to rescue your data.

The only solution for this would be to use a boot disk to get access to the computer and copy stuff off, but, seriously, how many people have boot discs lying around these days.

It was a very long night……