August 2019 News Wire

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for August 2019.

BASIC Gets an Historical Marker

Before the Python programming language, in 1964, two math professors at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire created one of the first user-friendly computer programming languages. It’s called BASIC, for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. Versions of BASIC are still in use today. The US state of New Hampshire recently posted a roadside marker to recognize the creation of BASIC, an honor usually reserved for bridges and places where famous people did famous things, like all the places George Washington slept.

DIY Smart Mirror Project

A smart mirror projects weather, calendar, and other useful information on a mirror, for example, in a bathroom or hallway. While it sounds like a difficult and exotic project, it’s a one-way glass mirror set into a frame with a computer monitor behind and a Raspberry Pi as the computer. The monitor size determines the size of the mirror glass. There’s also an open source project called the Magic Mirror platform with code and help. If you’re interested, definitely check out the project.

Ants Help Build Better Algorithms

While a single ant can’t do much, colonies of ants can do amazing complex feats due to the biological algorithms or rules they follow. Deborah Gordon, a biology professor at Stanford University, studies red harvester ant colonies in the Arizona desert. She studies the way different ant species have developed algorithms to respond to their environments, for example, to balance water intake, build routes, and find food. These algorithms can benefit humans, too.

Play the Original Minecraft in a Web Browser

To celebrate 10 years of Minecraft, the developer Mojang has released a version of the original game — complete with bugs! — that can be played in a web browser. There’s only 32 types of blocks to build with, for example, and a simpler interface. It’s a fun way to experience the difference between today’s version of the game and when it first became available.

Engineers Create Lifelike Material

Cornell engineers used DNA to create a material with the three traits of life, metabolism with the ability to self-assemble and organize itself. While the material is life-like, it is not alive. Yet. Their research explores how to create materials that mimic organic life like humans and animals, as well as the elements that we recognize as life.

Math is Beautiful

Journalist Stephen Ornes has published a book that explores how math concepts and equations can generate beautiful images that reveal their inner workings. Unlike finding math in paintings or sculptures, these images are generated from math concepts. While he didn’t include Monkey See, Monkey Do because the three-dimensional image doesn’t fit a two-dimensional book, you can click on the monkeys to make them full screen.


  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

Also In The August 2019 Issue

Explore the world, spend time with family and friends, and shed some light on the secrets of nature!

Make your sprite’s motion more realistic by adding acceleration and gravity to your code!

These three strange words keep popping up in coding tutorials. What’s their story?

Interactive play is a great way for students to learn STEM concepts, and new web technologies are making this easier than ever.

Meet the STEAM star who’s combining activism, innovation, and collaboration to build a better world — with sparkles!

Eating dog food doesn't sound like much fun but it's an important part of creating software.

Transform ordinary smiling faces into something kooky and unique with this fun SketchUp activity.

Learn what your antivirus software does, and why it’s important to keep it updated.

Driverless cars could mean less traffic and less accidents, but their developers have some challenges to solve.

A long time ago, before the internet, games were stored on cassette tapes — just like music! Well, Sort of.

We might think robots are a modern invention. But al-Jazari created amazing automatons in the thirteenth century. Today we would call him a maker.

Why does your computer need special hardware to render graphics? And what’s the deal with all those pixels, anyways?

A quick primer to the ins and outs of typed vs untyped programming languages.

Links from the bottom of all the August 2019 articles, collected in one place for you to print, share, or bookmark.

Interesting stories about computer science, software programming, and technology for August 2019.

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