IBM Chief Scientist to Launch TV Series on Computing

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-11-29 Print this article Print

title=Celebrating With the Geeks} 

The message for the general public is key, Grady says. As evidence, he mentioned an incident with his goddaughter who said she already knows everything she needs to know about computing. When they asked her what she knew, she said she knew keyboarding and how to surf the Web. "That was frightening and it gave us even further impetus for the project," Grady said. "We want to make sure people get an opportunity to know what's behind their Facebook page."

Jan said targeting middle school kids is strategic because it is important to get to kids early to get them interested in IT. "There are so few coming into the field now, especially women and minorities. We want to reach them."

In addition, regarding the folks who made and continue to make the technology, the geeks, Jan said, "We'd like to celebrate with them the technology they've created."

Grady and Jan are joined on the project by Hollar, who serves as executive producer, along with co-creator and writer Seth Friedman, and director of development Jim Bentz.

To help guide the work on Computing, the Booches assembled an advisory board of luminaries including Vint Cerf, Tim O'Reilly, Mary Shaw, Ph.D., who is the Alan J. Perlis Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and two of the world's leading historians on computing, Dag Spicer and Martin Campbell-Kelly. In addition, Alan Kay, a pioneer of OOP, personal computing and GUIs, and co-founder of the Viewpoints Research Institute, and Lieutenant General William Lord, Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, have joined the Computing board. As quiet as it's kept, don't let Grady's long locks and "hang loose" demeanor fool you. He's a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, one of the nation's most exclusive institutions, and he knows how to behave as an officer and a gentleman.

An executive summary of Computing said: "Computing will teach the essential science of computing, present the stories of the people, events and inventions in the history of computing, examine the connections among computing, science and society, and contemplate the future."

Indeed, Grady said the goal of Computing is to tell the story of computing in 11 one-hour episodes. And they expect to deliver the series in the fall of 2014 via traditional cable networks as well as streaming platforms.

With 11 hours, there are 11 themes for the project. One is the basic architecture of computing, which sets the stage for discussing what computing is. From there, Grady will explain how much of computing evolved from warfare. Another theme will be computing's role in commerce and along with that the rise of the mainframe.

The Kickstarter site further explains:

"We will launch a lecture series on each of the various topics we intend to explore in the broadcast series. We have architected a full set of talks, such as Woven On The Loom Of Sorrow (about computing and war), Deus ex Machina (about computing as a companion as well as a challenge to faith), The Incredible Lightness of Being (computing and the extension of the human body through games, virtual worlds, artificial organs, and robotics) and several others."

"We also look at how technology is changing the shape of governments and the social revolution," Jan said.

While the Computing project has been in the works for nearly four years, it is now at the point where funding is required to take it to the next level. And although IBM has given Grady its blessing for the project, it is not an IBM effort and thus Big Blue will not be footing the bill. Overall, the effort is expected to cost up to $11 million.

Meanwhile, in case the description above doesn't get you interested in the project, this excerpt from the Computing executive summary should:

"Computing has played a fundamental role in the advancement of the human spirit, encompassing war, commerce, the arts, science, society, and faith; computing causes us to consider the very meaning of self and sentience. The impact of computing on humanity is therefore a clear and present reality and as such, it compels us to tell the story of computing now, so that we may intentionally shape the future of computing rather than be passively shaped by it. An informed and educated populace is far more able to reconcile its past, reason about its present, and intentionally create its future."

Grady says Computing will be different from other efforts to explore the world of IT, as "No documentary project has yet covered the subject in such a scope or style. In the spirit of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, Computing will inform, inspire and entertain."

He cited the Robert X. Cringely documentaries -- Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires and Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet - as examples of projects that have gone before. However, Computing will be different in terms of depth and style, he said.

"This is not a talking heads kind of thing; this is more of a story driven thing," Grady said.


Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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