It’s funny in a way”, says Bill Gates, relaxing in an armchair in his office. “When I was young, I didn’t know any old people. When we did the microprocessor revolution, there was nobody old, nobody. It’s weird how old this industry has become.” The Microsoft cofounder and I, a couple of fiftysomething codgers, are following up on an interview I had with a tousle-headed Gates more than a quarter century ago. I was trying to capture what I thought was the red-hot core of the then-burgeoning computer revolution — the scarily obsessive, absurdly brainy, and endlessly inventive people known as hackers. Back then, Gates had just pulled off a deal to supply his DOS operating system to IBM. His name was not yet a household word; even Word was not yet a household word. I would interview Gates many times over the years, but that first conversation was special. I saw his passion for computers as a matter of historic import. Gates himself saw my reverence as an intriguing novelty. But by then I was convinced that I was documenting a movement that would affect everybody.
With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaching on Thursday April 22, festivities meant to increase awareness about environmental issues facing our home planet are underway. NASA, which describes itself as the world’s largest contingent of scientists and engineers working with other agencies to sustain the planet’s natural resources, started marking Earth Day on April 17. The celebration, organized by the Earth Day Network, started at the National Mall in Washington on April 17. The ‘NASA Village’ of three domed tents near the Smithsonian Metro stop will showcase NASA’s technological contributions to global efforts for maintaining the planet’s health. A series of exhibitions, lectures, and hands-on demonstrations are set for the "Rocket City" of Huntsville, Alabama, and in California, Missouri, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia.
Kooky-actress-it's-ok-to-worship Zooey Deschanel has apparently been cast as Ada Lovelace in a new film chronicling her life, Enchantress of Numbers. Lovelace, who died in 1852, was an English woman who wrote the first algorithm ever processed by a machine. Almost 150 years after her death, and she's the figurehead for an annual celebration (March 24th) of women working in the technology and science industries. The story goes that Lovelace, whose father was Lord Byron, translated an Italian mathematician's memoir about Charles Babbage's (an English mathematician/inventor) Analytical Engine, which was an early computer that never quite got built. Not only did she translate the story of the machine, but she also included her own notes—which contained a form of computer program, which would supposedly have been processed fine by the Analytical Engine, had it ever been built.