Three Things on Thursday #17

Hello, and welcome to the 17th edition of Three Things on Thursday.

This week, our things include: Bizarre units of measurement used by scientists, How computing’s first ‘killer app’ changed everything, and frequently asked questions about the Apollo program.

Let’s go check them out!

1. Bizarre Units of Measurement Used by Scientists (and Why They Matter).

2. How Computing’s First ‘Killer App’ Changed Everything

[Image Credit: IBM/1979 SOFTWARE ARTS, INC]

By Tim Harford
Presenter, 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

“In 1978, a Harvard Business School student named Dan Bricklin was sitting in a classroom, watching his accounting lecturer filling in rows and columns on the blackboard.

Every time the lecturer changed a figure, he had to work down and across the grid on the board, erasing and rewriting other numbers to make everything add up, just as accounting clerks all over the world did every day in the pages of their ledgers.

It’s boring and repetitive work. A two-page spread across the open fold of the ledger is called a “spreadsheet”. The output of several paper spreadsheets provides the input for larger, master spreadsheets. Changing any of the data in that chain might mean hours of work with a pencil, rubber, and a calculator.

Like many business school students, Mr Bricklin had had a real job before going to Harvard - he’d worked as a programmer at Wang and DEC, two big players in 1970s computing.

Why on Earth would anyone do this on a blackboard or paper ledger, he wondered, when you could do it on a computer instead?”

Read Tim Harford's full article on the BBC News Website.

3. Frequently Asked Questions about Apollo

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, NASA will be sharing answers to some frequently asked questions about the first time humans voyaged to the Moon, on their Tumblr.

Including: How many people worked on the Apollo program?, How many people have walked on the Moon so far?, Are the U.S. flags that were planted on the Moon still standing?, Why do the flags look like they’re waving?, and more!

Visit NASA's Tumblr.

Edition #17 done!

See you next week, for more Three Things on Thursday.

Chris ~ Resident Collector of Things

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