Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Brief History Of Computer Chess

History of Computer Chess Video

Playing chess by computer began in the early 1950s, nearly as soon as computers became available. As a human activity, chess is believed to require thinking, yet in 1997 a massively-parallel supercomputer, drawing on over four decades of continual advances in both hardware and software, defeated the best human player in the world.Does playing chess require thinking? Or is human thinking perhaps a form of calculation, parts of which a computer can mimic? What is the tradeoff between knowledge and search? Was Claude Shannon's 1950 prediction that studying computer chess might lead to applications in other areas fulfilled? This panel, comprising seminal contributors to the solution of this challenge including two of AI's leading pioneerswill discuss these and other questions as well as the origin and development of computer chess and what it tells us about ourselves and the machines we build."

Computer Chess History Timeline by Bill Wall Link reproduced here 'cause geocities is flaky.

  • In 1945 Alan Turing (1912-1954) used chess-playing as an example of what a computer could do. Turing himself was a weak chess player.
  • In 1946 Alan Turing made his first reference to machine intelligence in connection with chess-playing.
  • In 1947, Alan Turing specified the first chess program for chess.
  • In 1948 the UNIVAC computer was advertised as the strongest computer in the world. So strong, that it could play chess and gin rummy so perfectly that no human opponent could beat it.
  • In 1948 Turing challenged Donald Michie to see who could first write a simple chess-playing algorithm.
  • In March, 1949 Claude Shannon (1916-2001) described how to program a computer and a Ferranti digital machine was programmed to solve mates in two moves. He proposed basic strategies for restricting the number of possibilities to be considered in a game of chess. Shannon was an avid chess player. He first proposed his idea of programming a computer for chess at the National Institute for Radio Engineers (IRE) Convention in New York.
  • In 1950, Alan Turing wrote the first computer chess program. The same year he proposed the Turing Test that in time, a computer could be programmed (such as playing chess) to acquire abilities rivalling human intelligence. If a human did not see the other human or computer during an imitation game such as chess, he/she would not know the difference between the human and the computer.
  • In 1950 Shannon devised a chess playing program that appeared in the paper "Programming a computer for playing chess" published in Philosophical Magazine, Series 7, Vol. 41 (No. 314, March 1950). This was the first article on computer chess.
    In November 1951, Dr. Dietrich Prinz wrote the original chess playing program for the Manchester Ferranti computer. The program could solve simple mates in two moves.
  • In 1952 Alick Glennie, who wrote the first computer compiler, defeated Alan Turing's chess program, TurboChamp. He was the first person to beat a computer program at chess. Turing never finished his chess-playing program.
  • In 1953 Turing included an example of his chess program in action in chapter 25 (Digital Computers Applied to Games) of the book Faster than Thought by B. Bowden.
  • By 1956 experiments on a Univac MANIAC I computer (11,000 operations a second) at Los Alamos, using a 6x6 chessboard, was playing chess. This was the first documented account of a running chess program. It used a chess set without bishops. It took 12 minutes to search 4 moves deep. Adding the two bishops would have taken 3 hours to search 4 moves deep. MANIAC I had a memory of 600 words, storage of 80K, 11KHz speed, and had 2,400 vacuum tubes. The team that programmed MANIAC was led by Stan Ulam.
  • In 1957 a chess program was written by Alex Bernstein at MIT for an IBM 704. It could do 42,000 instructions per second and had a memory of 70 K. This was the first full-fledged game of chess by a computer. It did a 4-ply search in 8 minutes.
  • In 1957 Herbert Simon said that within 10 years, a digital computer would be the world's chess champion.
  • In 1958 the alpha-beta pruning algorithm for chess was discovered by three scientists at Carnegie-Mellon (Allen Newell, John Shaw, and Herbert Simon). Here is how it works. A computer evaluates a move and starts working on its second move. As soon a a single line shows that it will return a lower value than the first move, it can terminate the search. You could now chop off large parts of the search tree without affecting the final results.
    In 1958, a chess program (NSS) beat a human player for the first time. The human player was a secretary who was taught how to play chess one hour before her game with the computer. The computer program was played on an IBM 704. The computer displayed a level of chess-playing expertise greater than an adult human could gain from one hour of chess instruction.
  • In 1959 some of the first chess computer programmers predicted that a chess computer would be world chess champion before 1970.
  • In 1962 the first MIT chess program was written. It was the first chess program that played regular chess credibly. It was written by Alan Kotok for his B.S. thesis project, assisted by John McCarthy of Stanford. The program ran on an IBM 7090, looking at 1100 positions per second.
  • In 1963 world chess champion Botvinnik predicted that a Russian chess playing program would eventually defeat the World Champion.
  • In 1965 the Soviets designed a chess program developed at the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics (ITEP) in Moscow. ITEP's programming team was led by Georgi Adelson-Velskiy.
  • On November 22, 1966 a USSR chess program began a correspondence match with the Kotok-McCarthy MIT chess program. The match lasted 9 months and was won by the Soviet computer, with 3 wins and 1 loss.
  • The first chess computer to play in a tournament was MAC HACK VI (DEC PDP-6) written at MIT in assembly language (MIDAS) by Richard Greenblatt. The computer entered the 1966 Massachussets Amateur championship, scoring 1 draw and 4 losses for a USCF rating of 1243.
  • In the spring of 1967, MacHACK VI became the first program to beat a human (1510 USCF rating), at the Massachussets State Championship. By the end of the year, it had played in four chess tournaments. It won 3 games, lost 12, and drew 3. In 1967 MacHACK VI was made an honorary member of the US Chess Federation. The MAC HACK program was the first widely distributed chess program, running on many of the PDP machines. It was also the first to have an opening chess book programmed with it.
  • In 1968 International Master David Levy made a $3,000 bet that no chess computer would beat him in 10 years. He won his bet. The original bet was with John McCarthy, a distinguished researcher in Artificial Intelligence at Stanford. The bet was made at the 1968 Machine Intelligence Workshop in Edinburgh University.
  • In 1970 the first all-computer championship was held in New York and won by CHESS 3.0 (CDC 6400), a program written by Slate, Atkin and Gorlen at Northwestern University. Six programs had entered the first Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) North American Computer Championships. The event was organized by Monty Newborn. The other programs were DALY CP, J Brit, COKO III, SCHACH, and the Marsland CP.
  • In 1971 the Institute of Control Science, Moscow, created KAISSA using a British computer to play chess.
  • In 1971 Ken Thompson wrote his first chess-playing program.
  • In 1971 CHESS 3.5 wins the 2nd ACM computer championship, held in Chicago.
  • In 1972 CHESS 3.6 wins the 3rd ACM computer championship, held in Boston.
  • In 1973 CHESS 4.0 wins the 4th ACM computer championship, held in Atlanta.
  • In 1974 World Correspondence Champion Hans Berliner wrote his PhD dissertation on "Chess Computers as Problem Solving."
  • In 1974 KAISSA (ICL 4/70) won the first world computer chess championship, held in Stockholm with a perfect 4-0 score. It was programmed by Donskoy and Arlazarov. 2nd place went to CHESS 4.0
  • In 1974 RIBBIT wins the 5th ACM computer championship, held in San Diego.
  • In 1975 Grandmaster David Bronstein used the endgame database in KAISSA to win an adjourned game in a tournament in Vilnius.
  • In 1975 CHESS 4.4 wins the 6th ACM computer championship, held in Minneapolis.
  • In 1976 CHESS 4.5 won the Class B section of the Paul Masson tournament in Northern California. The performance rating was 1950.
  • In 1976 a computer program was used to make the chess pairings at the chess olympiad in Haifa.
  • In 1976 CHESS 4.5 wins the 7th ACM computer championship, held in Houston.
  • By 1976 all legal moves of castling were established by a chess computer.
  • In 1977 the first microcomputer chess playing machine, CHESS CHALLENGER, was created. The International Computer Chess Association (ICCA) was founded by computer chess programmers. It has about 400 members.
  • In 1977 CHESS 4.5 won the Minnesota Open winning 5 games and losing one. It had a performance rating of 2271. Stenberg (1969) became the first Class A player to lose to a computer.
  • In 1977 SNEAKY PETE was the first chess computer to play in a U.S. Open, held in Columbus, Ohio.
  • In 1977 Michael Stean became the first grandmaster to lose to a computer; it was a blitz game.
  • In 1977, BELLE was the first computer system to use custom design chips to increase its playing strength. It increased its search speed from 200 positions per second to 160,000 positions per second (8 ply). Over 1,700 integrated ciruits were used to construct BELLE. The chess computer was built by Ken Thompson. The program was later used to solve endgame problems. The cost of BELLE was $20,000.
  • In 1977 CHESS 4.6 wins the 8th ACM computer championship, held in Seattle.
  • In 1977 CHESS 4.6 won the 2nd world computer championship, held in Toronto.
  • In 1977 the International Computer Chess Association was founded.
  • In 1977 David Levy played his first computer, KAISSA, as part of his bet. He won.
  • In 1978 SARGON won the first tournament for microcomputers, held in San Jose. David Levy collected his 10 year bet by defeating CHESS 4.7 in Toronto with the score of 3 wins and one draw. The drawn game was the first time a computer drew an international master. Computer chess experts predicted that a computer would be world chess champion in 10 years.
  • In 1978 BELLE wins the 9th ACM computer champonship, held in Washington, DC.
    In 1978 David Levy defeated MacHack in 2 games.
  • In 1979 CHESS 4.9 wins the 10th ACM computer championship, held in Detroit.
  • In 1980 CHAMPION SENSORY CHALLENGER won the first world microcomputer championship, held in London.
  • In 1980, Edward Fredkin created the Fredkin Prize for Computer Chess. The award came with $100,000 for the first program to beat a reigning world chess champion.
  • In 1980 BELLE wins the 11th ACM computer championship, held in Nashville.
  • In 1980 BELLE won the 3rd world computer championship, held in Linz.
  • In 1981 CRAY BLITZ won the Mississipi State Championship with a perfect 5-0 score and a performance rating of 2258. In round 4 it defeated Joe Sentef (2262) to become the first computer to beat a master in tournament play and the first computer to gain a master rating (2258).
  • In 1981 BELLE wins the 12th ACM computer championship, held in Los Angeles.
  • In 1982 BELLE was confiscated by the State Department as it was heading to the Soviet Union to participate in a computer chess tournament. The State Department claimed it was a violation of a technology transfer law to ship a high technology computer to a foreign country. BELLE later played in the U.S. Open speed championship and took 2nd place.
  • By 1982 computer chess companies were topping $100 million in sales.
  • In 1982 BELLE wins the 13th ACM computer championship, held in Dallas.
  • In 1983, the first chess microcomputer beat a master in tournament play. BELLE became the first chess computer to attain a master's rating when, in October, 1983, its USCF rating was 2203.
  • In 1983 CRAY BLITZ won the 4th world computer championship, held in New York.
  • In 1984 a microcomputer won a tournament for the first time against mainframes, held in Canada.
  • In 1984 CRAY BLITZ won the ACM computer championship in San Francisco.
  • In 1985 HITECH achieved a performace rating of 2530. It was the first computer to have a rating over 2400.
  • In 1985 Kasparov played 15 of the top chess computers in Hamburg, Germany and won every game, with the score of 32-0.
  • In 1985 HITECH won the ACM computer championship in Denver.
  • In 1986 BELLE won the ACM computer championship in Dallas.
  • In 1986 CRAY BLITZ won the 5th world computer championship, held in Cologne.
  • In 1987 the U.S. Amateur Championship became the first national championship to be directed by a computer program.
  • In 1987 CHIPTEST-M won the ACM computer championship in Dallas.
  • In 1988 DEEP THOUGHT and Grandmaster Tony Miles shared first place in the U.S. Open championship. DEEP THOUGHT had a 2745 performance rating.
  • In 1988 HITECH won the Pennsylvania State Chess Championship after defeating International Master Ed Formanek (2485). HITECH defeated Grandmaster Arnold Denker in a match. HITECH became the first chess computer to rated Grandmaster strength.
  • In 1988 Grandmaster Bent Larsen became the first GM to lose to a computer in a major tournament - the American Open.
  • In 1988 DEEP THOUGHT won the ACM championship in Orlando.
  • In November 1988, DEEP THOUGHT had a rating of 2550.
  • In 1989 DEEP THOUGHT won the 6th world computer championship in Edmonton, with a 5-0 score. DEEP THOUGHT defeated Grandmaster Robert Byrne in a match game. DEEP THOUGHT can analyze 2 million positions a second. In March 1989, Garry Kasparov defeated Deep Thought in a match by winning 2 games. Deep Thought easily beat International Master David Levy in a match with 4 wins. Deep Thought Developers claimed a computer would be world chess champion in three years.
  • In 1989 the first Computer Chess Olympiad was held in London.
  • In 1989 IBM started working on 'Big Blue' and later Deep Blue.
  • In 1989 HITECH won the ACM championship in Reno.
  • In 1990 World Champion Anatoly Karpov lost to MEPHISTO in a simultaneous exhibition in Munich. MEPHISTO also beat grandmasters Robert Huebner and David Bronstein. MEPHISTO won the German blitz championship and earned an International Master norm by scoring 7-4 in the Dortmund Open.
  • In 1992 Kasparov played Fritz 2 in a 5 minute game match in Cologne, Germany. Kasparov won the match with 6 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses. This was the first time a program defeated a world champion at speed chess.
  • In March, 1993 GM Judit Polgar lost to Deep Thought in a 30 minute game.
  • In 1994 WCHESS became the first computer to outperform grandmasters at the Harvard Cup in Boston.
  • In 1994 Kasparov lost to Fritz 3 in Munich in a blitz tournament. The program also defeated Anand, Short, Gelfand, and Kramnik. Grandmaster Robert Huebner refused to play it and lost on forfeit, the first time a GM has forfeited to a computer. Kasparov played a second match with Fritz 3, and won with 4 wins, 2 draws, and no losses.
  • At the 1994 Intel Speed Chess Grand Priz in London, Kasparov lost to Chess Genius 2.95 in a 25 minute game. This eliminated Kasparov from the tournament.
  • The 13th World Micro Computer Chess Championship (WMCCC) was held in Paderborn, Germany in October, 1995. It was won by MChess Pro 5.0 (by Marty Hirsch) after a playoff with Chess Genius (by Richard Lang).
  • The 8th World Computer Chess Championships were held in May, 1995 in Hong Kong. The event was won by Fritz, after it won a playoff game against StarSocrates.
  • In November 1995, Kasparov beat Fritz 4 in London with a win and a draw. He then played Genius 3.0 in Cologne and won the match with one win and one draw.
    The 6th Harvard Cup Human Versus Computer chess challenge was held in New York in December, 1995. The Grandmasters won with a score of 23.5 to the computers 12.5 score. The computers scored 35%, a slight decrease in performance from 1994. Joel Benjamin and Michael Rohde had the best human scores with 4.5 out of 6. The best machine was Virtual Chess (I-Motion Interactive) with 3.5 out of 6.
  • In February 1996, Garry Kasparov beat IBM's DEEP BLUE chess computer 4-2 in Philadelphia. Deep Blue won the first game, becoming the first computer ever to beat a world chess champion at tournament level under serious tournament conditions. Deep Blue was calculating 50 billion positions every 3 minutes. Kasparov was calculating 10 positions every 3 minutes. DEEP BLUE had 200 processors.
  • The 11th AEGON Computer Chess Tournament (Mankind vs Machine) was held on April 10-17, 1996 in The Hague, Netherlands. There were 50 masters, International Masters, and Grandmasters and 50 computers (most playing on HP Pentium-166 machines with 16MB of RAM). Yasser Seirawan won the event with 6 straight wins and no losses. The best computer was QUEST, with 4.5/6 and a 2652 performance rating. The machines won with 162.5 points versus the humans with 137.5 points.
  • The 14th World Microcomputer chess championship was held in Jakarta in October, 1996. It was won by SHREDDER, followed by FERRET.
  • On May 11 1997, DEEP BLUE defeated Garry Kasparov in a 6 game match held in New York. This was the first time a computer defeated a reigning world champion in a classical chess match. DEEP BLUE had 30 IBM RS-6000 SP processors coupled to 480 chess chips. It could evaluate 200 million moves per second.
  • In November, 1997 Junior won the 15th World Micro Computer Championship. The event was held in Paris.
  • In 1997, the Allen Newell Medal for Research Excellence went to several people involved in computer chess. Ken Thompson and Joe Condon won for their pioneering work on Belle, the first master in 1983. Richard Greenblatt won for having developed MacHack VI in 1967, the first Class C chess computer. Lawrence Atkin and David Slate won for developing CHESS 4.7, the first Class B and first Expert chess computer from 1970 to 1978. Murray Campbell, Carl Ebeling, and Gordon Goetsch won for developing Hitech, the first Senior Master computer in 1988. Hans Berliner won for all his work in computer chess. Feng Hsu won for developing Deep Thought, the first chess computer that performed at a Grandmaster level in 1988. Thomas Anantharaman, Michael Browne, Murray Campbell, and Andreas Nowatzyk won for their work on Deep Thought in 1997. Murray Campbell, A. Joseph Hoane, Jr, and Feng Hsu won for their work on Deep Blue which defeated Garry Kasaparov in 1997.
  • In 1997 the $100,000 Fredkin Award went to the inventors of Deep Blue - Feng Hsu, Murray Campbell, and Joseph Hoane, of IBM. Their program defeat Kasparov.
  • The 9th World Computer Championship was held in Paderborn, Germany from June 14, 1999 to June 19, 1999. The winner was Shredder. This was also the 16th World Microcomputer Chess Championship, won by Shredder.
  • In 1999 the highest rated chess computer is Hiarcs 7.0, followed by Fritz 5.32, Fritz 5.0, Junior 5.0, Nimzo 98, Hiarcs 6.0, Rebel 9.0, MChess Pro 7.1, Rebel 8.0, and MChess Pro 6.0 (based on SSDF ratings as of Jan 28, 1999).
  • In August 2000, Deep Junior took part in the Super-Grandmaster tournament in Dortmund. It scored 50 percent and a performance rating of 2703.
    In 2000 the 17th World Microcomputer Chess Championship was held in London. It was won by Shredder.
  • In August, 2001, Deep Junior won the World Micro Computer Championship. The event was held in the Netherlands.
  • From May 13 to May 18, 2002, a match between Grandmaster Mikhail Gurevich and Junior 7 was held in Greece. Junior won with 3 wins and 1 draw.
  • On July 6-11, 2002, the 10th World Computer Championship was held in Maastricht, Netherlands. The winner was Deep Junior after a playoff with Shredder.
  • In October, 2002, Kramnik drew a match with Deep Fritz in Bahrain with a 4-4 score. Kramnik won games 2 and 3. Deep Fritz won games 5 and 6. The rest of the games (1, 7, and 8) were drawn.
  • From January 26 to February 7, 2003, Kasparov played Deep Junior 7 in New York. The match ended in a draw. Kasparov won game 1. Deep Junior won game 3. The rest of the games (games 2, 4, 5, and 6) were drawn. This was the first time that a man/machine competition was sanctioned by FIDE, the World Chess Federation. Deep Junior took 10 years to program by Tel Aviv programmers Amir Ban and Shay Bushinksy. It can evaluate 3 million moves a second, and positions 15 moves deep.
  • On November 11-18, 2003, Kasparov played X3dFritz in New York. The match was tied 2-2. Fritz won the 2nd game. Kasparov won the 3rd game. Games 1 and 4 were drawn. It was the first official world chess championship in total virtual reality, played in 3-D.
    The 11th World Computer Chess Championship was held in Graz from November 22 to November 30, 2003. It was won by Shredder after a play-off with Deep Fritz. 3rd place went to Brutus, which evolved into Hydra.
  • In 2003 the top chess computers were Shredder 7.04 (2810), Shredder 7.0 (2770), Fritz 8.0 (2762), Deep Fritz 7.0 (2761), Fritz 7.0 (2742), Shredder 6.0 (2724), and Chess Tiger 15.0 (2720).
  • The 12th World Computer Chess Championship was held at Bar-llan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel from July 4 to July 12, 2004. It was won by Deep Junior (programmed by Amir Ban and Shay Bushinsky). Shredder took 2nd place, followed by Diep. Shredder won the 12th World Computer Speed Chess Championship. Crafty took 2nd place.
  • In 2004, Hydra defeated GM Evgeny Vladimirov with 3 wins and 1 draw. It then defeated former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov (rated 2710) in a 2-game match, winning both games.
  • In June, 2005, Hydra beat Michael Adams, the 7th ranked chess player in the world. Hydra won 5 games and drew one game.
  • The 13th World Computer Chess Championship was held at Reykjavik University in Iceland from August 13 to August 21, 2005. It was won by Zappa (programmed by Athony Cozzie). 2nd place went to Fruit. Shredder won the speed championship, followed by Zappa.
  • In 2005, a team of computers (Hydra, Deep Junior, and Fritz) beat Vesilin Topalov, Ruslan Ponomariov, and Sergey Karjakin (average rating 2681) in a match by the score of 8.5 to 3.5.
  • The 14th World Computer Chess Championship was be held in Turin, Italy from May 24 through June 1, 2006. It was won by Junior, rated at 2800, with a score of 9 out of 11. 2nd place went to Shredder (2810), followed by Rajlich (2820).
  • In December, 2006, world champion Vladimir Kramnik was defeated by Deep Fritz, which won with a 4-2 score (2 wins and 4 draws).
  • The 15th World Computer Chess Championship was held in June, 2007, in Amsterdam and sponsored by the International Computer Games Association (ICGA). The winner was the USA program Rybka ("little fish"), programmed by Internatonal Master Vasik Rajlich, with a score of 10 out of 11 (defeating Shredder in the last round). 2nd place went to the USA program Zappa, programmed by Anthony Cozziem with 9 points. 3rd place went to Loop, with 7.5 points. Defending champion Junior, nor Fritz, did not participate. The German program Shredder won the blitz world championship.
  • In June, 2007, the "Ultimate Computer Challenge" was held in Elista. Deep Junior defeated Depp Fritz with the score of 4-2 (2 wins, 4 draws).
  • In August, 2007, Grandmaster Joel Benjamin played a match with Rybka in which Rybka played without one of its pawns (pawn odds). Rybka won the match 4.5 - 3.5 (2 wins, 1 loss, 5 draws for Rybka).
  • In December, 2007, Hiarcs won over tiebreaks against Rybka, with a score of 5.5 out of 7 at the 17th International Paderborn Computer Chess Championship.
  • In January, 2008, Rybka defeated GM Joel Benjamin with a 6-2 score. Joel had White in every game. Also, every draw was scored as a win for Benjamin.
  • In March, 2008, Rybka and Dzindzichashvili drew 4-4 in their match. Rybka won 2, lost 2, with 4 draws. Dzindzichashvili had White every game and Rybka played without one of its pawns in every game.
  • The 16th World Computer Chess Championship will be held in Beijing, China in September, 2008.

Other Resources:

  • The Computer History Museum has a nice Exhibit.
  • Yes, another Wikipedia article.
  • A short bur nice history over at
  • has a nice history with descriptions of basic algorithms used by chess programs.
  • Nice java applet to play chess and you can even put it on your own site.
  • gpl java based chess game to practice on.

  • Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Computer History Video Edsac, Ordvac, Illiac, Edsac2, Titan... Very long. (126 minutes)

    From Google:
    David Wheeler will describe some of his early experiences from 1947 onward after having been inspired by a lecture about the ENIAC by Douglas Hartree. In the early years, he was involved in the software and hardware design of Edsac (1949), Ordvac (1951), Illiac (1952), Edsac2 (1953), Titan (1959), and other early machines. At Berkeley in 1965, he designed the multiplexer for connecting on-line terminals to the CDC 6500 Supercomputer. This was his first use of integrated circuits which, at the time, had only two NAND gates per chip! David was trained as a mathematician, but always had the aim of getting things practically right rather than theoretically correct. Join us for a unique, revealing look at the early events that influenced him."

    Flatland and Geometry

    "[The universe} is written in the language of mathematics , and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures..."
    --Galileo Galilei

    This is a really neat book I read years ago that is not only a funny book of victorian satire, but also a really short easy read primer on geometry of higher dimensions.

    From Wikipedia:
    Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions is an 1884 novella by Edwin A. Abbott, still popular among mathematics and computer science students, and considered useful reading for people studying topics such as the concept of other dimensions. As a piece of literature, Flatland is respected for its satire on the social hierarchy of Victorian society. Isaac Asimov, in a foreword to one of the many publications of the novella, wrote that it is "The best introduction one can find into the manner of perceiving dimensions."

    There are a couple of movie versions floating around, I caw a preview for a good looking one on you tube but haven't seen the movie as it is $29 and is not exactly blockbuster video kind of fare. Check out the movie site at
    Flatland Movie Preview.

    Friday, April 25, 2008

    Tangram History, Templates and Online Versions

    The following text is from, Sorry I forgot to credit them when I posted......

    The invention of the tangram puzzle is unrecorded in history. The earliest known Chinese book is dated 1813 but the puzzle was very old by then. One reason for this could be that in China, it's country of origin, at the time it was considered a game for women and children. This would have made it unworthy of "serious" study and unlikely to be written about. Different times, different ways of thinking. Glad that's changing.
    The roots of the word Tangram are also shrouded in time, with a number of possible explanations. The one I like best involves the Tanka people. These river people of China were great traders who were involved in the opium trade. The western sailors they traded opium to likely played with the puzzle when they visited their Tanka girlfriends. The story I believe is that it comes from the obsolete English word "tramgram" meaning puzzle or trinket.
    Tangrams enjoyed a surge of interest during the 19th century in Europe and America.This, no doubt, was due to the opening up of trade with China and the aforementioned sailors bringing home new found amusements. "The Chinese Puzzle" spawned a flood of books and picture card sets. Some quite elaborate Chinese examples exist with pieces carved from and/or inlaid with ivory, jade and other fine materials. Others were cheap, locally made copies in wood or fired clay. Some books blindly reproduced previous mistakes in the patterns. Some things never change.
    In 1903, Sam Loyd wrote his great spoof of tangram history, The Eighth Book Of Tan. He had many people convinced that the game was invented 4000 years ago by the god Tan. According to Loyd, the first 7 Books Of Tan were linked with many famous people and historical events. All very convincing and it made Sam a lot of money. Later examination showed it to be a colossal joke. The book did catalog over 600 patterns, many by Loyd himself. He also introduced (along with H. F. Dudeney) the idea of paradoxes.
    Fu Tsiang Wang and Chuan-chin Hsiung mathematically proved in 1942 the existance of a finite set of patterns refered to as "convex." In this context, it means that there are no indentations along the outside edge. There are only 13 silhouettes that qualify. Other finite sets may exist.
    Tangrams continue to entertain and frustrate now days. The puzzle attracts people on a number of levels. It gets the math inclined with the geometry and ratios of the pieces. The figures spark visually inclined people though their form, liveliness and striking simplicity. It is one of the classic puzzles, appealing to young and old, the serious and the carefree. Go make one and enjoy it.
    Tangrams is an ancient art. The story goes that this form of recreation has never been improved upon since the legendary Chinaman Tan first conceived of it. In Chinese this puzzle is called ch'i ch'iao t'u. This translates to 'ingenious-puzzle figure of seven pieces'. Lewis Carroll was reputed to have been a great fan of tangrams. He is said to have had in his possession a Chinese book made of tissue paper which had 323 tangram designs in it. Whatever the origins, this excellent puzzle game is still widely used today. To play you simply need to rearrange the seven forms to exactly reproduce the given image. These images are either geometric in nature or patterned after a familiar object. It is not as easy as it first appears. This is an excellent exercise in spatial coordination and being able to discern the whole from its randomly scattered parts. This develops spatial pattern recognition.
    From Enchanted Mind (see their web site).

    Cool Links:

    • one billion silhouettes project

      Try the One Billion Silhouettes site for many patterns.

    Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Star Trek TAS: The Slaver Weapon

    Most people don't seem to know that there even was an Animated Star Trek series, well there was from 1973-1974 on NBC. Although the entire series ran for only 22 episodes, some were really pretty good because you weren't confined by the limited special effects of the time. The episode presented here is my absolute favorite because it combined both Trek and the Known Space mythos of Larry Niven. If you haven't read any of his work, start with some short stories and then read the Ringworld series. (Inferno, although not known space is also very good and is a sort of retelling of Dante's Inferno)

    Episode Synopsis:

    The Following synopsis is from the text from the Curt Danhauser's fansite at

    This episode was a landmark in that it crossed over into Larry Niven's Known Space universe.
    As related by Larry Niven in his 1991 book Playgrounds of the Mind, in 1973, Dorothy C. Fontana asked Niven to write an episode of the animated STAR TREK series. His first story treatment involved quantum black holes and the Outsiders - a very alien species which were built like a black cat-o'-nine-tails using photoelectric metabolism. Fontana advised him that the story wouldn't work. His second attempt proved to be "too bloody." While at Gene Roddenberry's house one afternoon, Gene suggested that Larry Niven rewrite his short story "The Soft Weapon" which had been reprinted in 1968 in Neutron Star a collection of Larry Niven's stories. This third attempt became the finished episode "The Slaver Weapon." Interestingly, Niven's first idea which involved quantum black holes, formed the basis for his story "The Borderland of Sol" which was first published in the January 1975 issue of Analog magazine (see left). "The Borderland of Sol" was such an excellent story, that it won the 1976 Hugo award (pictured right) for best novelette.

    • This was the only episode of the original and animated series in which neither the Enterprise nor Captain Kirk appeared. Only series regulars Spock, Sulu and Uhura appeared in this episode.

    • Rarely, if ever, in a Saturday morning cartoon show are people or even animals seriously harmed or killed. However, in this episode, when the Slaver weapon self destructs, the explosion kills four of the Kzinti. Once again, this was not just another kids' show.

    • The Kzinti police cruiser ship seen in this episode was pink in color. When asked why the fearsome Kzinti warriors would be flying around in a pink ship, series director Hal Sutherland (pictured) replied that he hadn't realized that the production department had made the ship pink since he was color blind.

    • The Slaver device was an espionage agent's weapon which could change shape to become several different tools such as a laser, a computer, a telescope and an immensely powerful total-conversion beam.

    • Life-support belts played an important part in this episode. Spock, Sulu and Uhura used the belts to allow them to venture onto a small icy, airless planetoid. The life-support belts were used on the animated series as a cost cutting device. In order to be able to produce an animated half-hour series in the 1970's with a very limited budget, the production company had to take as many short cuts as possible. These include limiting action to a minimum and recycling sequences of drawings. So, rather than draw a new sequence of Kirk and Spock walking with spacesuits on, they would reuse a sequence of the two walking and would just draw on the belts and add a glowing outline around their bodies.

    • Kzin hand phasers were shown in this episode, and they looked just like Federation phasers, but were red in color.

    • The Slavers and their empire, which were mentioned in this episode and in the original short story, first appeared in the 1965 novella "World of Ptavvs" by Larry Niven which was published in the March 1965 issue of Worlds of Tomorrow magazine. The actual name of the Slaver species, which was not mentioned in the animated episode, was the Thrint.
      There was a visual error in this episode: when the back doors of the Copernicus were shown openning from behind, they disappeared impossibly on each side of the ship. (Picture showing this error, 36KB jpeg).

    • In another visual error in this episode: Spock's life-support belt spontaneously vanished in one scene.

    • "The Slaver Weapon" was novelized by Alan Dean Foster in Star Trek Log Ten published by Ballantine Books in January 1978, bringing Larry Niven's short story full circle. The entire book was devoted to this one episode.

    Part 1/3

    Part 2/3

    Part 3/3

    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Making of the Computer Graphics for Star Wars (Episode IV)

    You read it correctly, episode IV as in 4.... yes, the original movie from 1977. — From 1977. "The computer graphics for the first Star Wars film was created by Larry Cuba in the 1970s at the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) (at the time known as the Circle Graphics Habitat) at the University of Illinois at Chicago."

    The Linux Magic Sysrq - Help with a locked Linux Box

    If you have ever had your Linux box lock up hard on you, you may find the following key sequence helpful, if you remembered to enable it in the kernal (CONFIG_MAGIC_SYSRQ). Don't enable this on a public box because anybody will have the power to just reboot the machine from the keyboard!

    Be sure to hold down ALL the keys at once!!

    1. Alt+SysRq+s - sync the disk

    2. Alt+SysRq+e - try to nicely kill processes (be patient)

    3. Alt+SysRq+i - kill all processes, execpt for init

    4. Alt+SysRq+u - unmount disks (be patient again)

    5. Alt+SysRq+b - reboot

    • 'r' - Turns off keyboard raw mode and sets it to XLATE.

    • 'k' - Secure Access Key (SAK) Kills all programs on the current virtual
      console. NOTE: See important comments below in SAK section.

    • 'b' - Will immediately reboot the system without syncing or unmounting
      your disks.

    • 'o' - Will shut your system off (if configured and supported).

    • 's' - Will attempt to sync all mounted filesystems.

    • 'u' - Will attempt to remount all mounted filesystems read-only.

    • 'p' - Will dump the current registers and flags to your console.

    • 't' - Will dump a list of current tasks and their information to your

    • 'm' - Will dump current memory info to your console.

    • '0'-'9' - Sets the console log level, controlling which kernel messages
      will be printed to your console. ('0', for example would make
      it so that only emergency messages like PANICs or OOPSes would
      make it to your console.)

    • 'e' - Send a SIGTERM to all processes, except for init.

    • 'i' - Send a SIGKILL to all processes, except for init.

    • 'l' - Send a SIGKILL to all processes, INCLUDING init. (Your system
      will be non-functional after this.)

    • 'h' - Will display help (any other key than those listed
      above will display help)

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    The Star Wars Holiday Special- Really Really Bad...

    This special came out in 1978 and the only saving grace in the whole damm thing is a cartoon in which Bobba Fett makes his screen debut. I mean this thing is even worse than the Ewok Adventure. What was george thinking anyways... "Ya know- I like how Star Wars turned out and all, but I really think we need someone like Bea Arthur to take it to the next level." You can just tell that Harrison Ford was under contractual obligation and Mark Hammil looks like he has a drag queen's wig on... just watch, but be warned - you can never get that hour back.

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    Part 5

    Part 6

    Part 7

    Part 8

    Part 9

    Part 10

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    New Pictures of Space junk available from ESA

    From the European Space Agency-

    Between the launch of Sputnik on 4 October 1957 and 1 January 2008, approximately 4600 launches have placed some 6000 satellites into orbit, of which about 400 are travelling beyond geostationary orbit or on interplanetary trajectories.Today, it is estimated that only 800 satellites are operational - roughly 45 percent of these are both in LEO and GEO. Space debris comprise the ever-increasing amount of inactive space hardware in orbit around the Earth as well as fragments of spacecraft that have broken up, exploded or otherwise become abandoned. About 50 percent of all trackable objects are due to in-orbit explosion events (about 200) or collision events (less than 10).

    The picture above isn't one of the actual ones from ESA and dosen't do this growing problem justice. Check out the Pictures Here

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Thumb wars.. Funniest Star Wars Parody Ever.

    "It is a time of great unrest in the Universe. Using the nail side of the power of the Thumb, the Evil Thumbpire has taken a stronghold in the Sacul region of the Egroeg sector."

    Star Wars parodies are almost as popular as the actual movies, and this is one of the best, originally aired on UPN in late 1999, the under thirty minute film features fully costumed thumbs with eyes and mouths superimposed (i.e. thumbation) to a slightly disturbing and hilarious effect. I won't give away the jokes, but as you can imagine many revolve around thumbs and such. Very Funny and worth 30 minutes of the time your boss is paying you for anyway.

    Buy It Now from Amazon.

    Tuesday, April 8, 2008

    Make the African String Puzzle!

    The Folks over at Here usually craft fine puzzles for the dedicated solver, well they have posted some pdf's with directions to make your own copies of some of the simpler, classic ones. These are puzzles you have more than likely run into at one time or another and they are all pretty easy to build with a wide range of materials from kid friendly to rather professional looking.
    The puzzle shown is often known as the 'African String Puzzle' and all you have to do is move the rings to the same side, not too hard, but more difficult than you would at first think.

    Really Simple Computer Desk to Build.....

    I found this neat desk to build Here I'm Gonna be building it myself soon, looks really easy and functional.


    one sheet of 3/4" plywood, (best quality you can afford, ask them to cut it for you)
    one 2X4, 8ft. long
    two 15" 1x6 pieces
    three 14 1/4" 1X6 pieces (see note #1below)
    one 46 1/2" 1X6
    drywall screws, 1 5/8" and 2", (my hardware guy said to use drywall screws for plywood)
    construction glue, (I prefer liquid nails, see note #2 below)
    wood filler

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    The Missing Dollar....

    A friend just told me this old riddle you run into every now and again so I thought I'd post a description and solution for those of you who get snagged by it.

    Three men go to stay at a motel, and the man at the desk charges them $30.00 for a room. They split the cost ten dollars each. Later the manager tells the desk man that he overcharged the men, that the actual cost should have been $25.00. The manager gives the bellboy $5.00 and tells him to give it to the men.
    The bellboy, however, decides to cheat the men and pockets $2.00, giving each of the men only one dollar.
    Now each man has paid $9.00 to stay in the room and 3 x $9.00 = $27.00. The bellboy has pocketed $2.00. $27.00 + $2.00 = $29.00 - so where is the missing $1.00?

    "...three nines are $27, plus the $2 which the bellboy got is $29. Where did the extra dollar go?"
    Be careful about accepting what you are told! The flaw is in the phrase "plus the $2 which the bellboy got." This should not be added; it should be subtracted, since the $2 the bellboy got is part of the $27 dollars the three men spent altogether. If you subtract the $2 from the $27 you get the $25 that goes into the till.
    Here are a few links related to the "problem"

    Sunday, April 6, 2008

    Star Wars Auditions from YouTube

    These have been floating around for awhile, but they are still worth a watch.....

    Mark Hamill

    Harrison Ford

    Carrie Fisher

    Kurt Russell

    Cindy Williams

    Andrew Stevens

    Saturday, April 5, 2008

    ESA's ATV docks with ISS

    On April 3rd, the European Space Agency successfully docked their Automated Transfer Vehicle to the International Space Station!

    TOULOUSE, France, April 3 (UPI) -- The European Space Agency's Jules Verne automated transfer vehicle spacecraft was successfully docked Thursday with the International Space Station.
    The incremental docking procedure was completed at 10: 45 a.m. EDT, the first for an ESA spacecraft and the most demanding of seven planned ATV missions to resupply the space station, the ESA said.
    The spacecraft's automated movements were ordered by controllers at the ESA's ATV control center in Toulouse, France, with assistance from National Aeronautics and Space Administration ISS controllers in Houston and Russian space agency controllers near Moscow.

    ISS/ESA/ATV Links

    Oldie but Goodie Jack Black Lord of the Rings

    Microsoft Surface Parody.....

    Just too Funny to leave out today... (I still want one)

    Papercraft resources

    I like to make models of stuff, and the following is a bunch o' links I've collected over time for crafting everything from spacecraft to the iphone to animals using your printer, some scissors and a little time.. Pretty fun and a good rainy day craft for kids too. Paper model web ring

    NASA/ESA stuff james webb space telescope Paper Model of the Kepler Satellite Mars Pathfinder Cassini-Huygens pioneer 10 Stardust SOHO X-1 paper glider terra Very nice model of the ESA Venus Express

    MISC a chess set iPhone pdf- I knew it had to happen sooner or later. Quake and Half-Life soilder models. Paper rocket you can really launch Puzzle mazes DnD castles and such Really nice paper airplane Polyhedra More polyhedra Still more polyhedra Geodesic dome from newspaper big enough for kids to sit inside. Cemetary, complete with graves and trees paper enigma machine Nissan paper car models (Japanese) ship models from digital navy many models and links to more dinasours for kids all sorts of paper toys 3D paper models on a range of topics including animals, toys and science Rare animals of the world Rare animals of Japan Insects Fish and a stand for them Many models to choose from, buildings automobiles,aircraft and more.

    Stop the SciFi Original Movie Insanity!!!!

    The following is just a partial list from wikipedia,luckily I haven't seen them all as I managed to find the remote before they came on so I was just subjected to the commercials. DO THEY EVEN TRY? I can't believe somebody in some office somewhere just sits on his ass and approves this stuff, I mean there is some guy (or gal) somewhere that one day made the decision to fund something like Mansquito, so they were just sitting around and said, "Ya know- we don't have enough movies about giant insects... lets make one about a man crossed with a ant, man ant... no wait mosquito-man. Mansquito... I am a fucking genius"
    If you have seen more than about 5 of these movies, you need to get out more.

    Abominable, Absolon, Antibody, Attack of the Sabretooth, Bats: Human Harvest, Beyond Loch Ness, Basilisk: The Serpent King, Bugs, Chupacabra: Dark Seas, Deadly Swarm, Dragon Storm
    Dragon Sword, Earthstorm, Fire Serpent, Frankenfish, Grendel, Gryphon, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, Ice Spiders, KAW, Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep, Larva, Locusts: The 8th Plague, Magma: Volcanic Disaster, Mammoth, Mansquito, Manticore, MegaSnake, Minotaur, Ogre
    Path of Destruction, Pterodactyl, Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys, Raptor Island, Rock Monster, Sabretooth, Sasquatch Mountain, Showdown at Area 51, The Snake King, Snakehead Terror, Stan Lee's Harpies, Supergator, Threshold, Webs, Wraiths of Roanoke

    Brokeback to the Future.....

    Just plain funny... In a wrong kinda way.

    Perpetual Motion Stuff

    What is the First Law of Thermodynamics:The increase in the internal energy of a thermodynamic system is equal to the amount of heat energy added to the system minus the work done by the system on the surroundings.
    Principle of Conservation of Energy:Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change from one form to another form.

    Just a few links and stuff for perpetual motion, man I love it when we can violate the laws of thermodynamics at will. It is hard to believe, but there are still people around who try to fleece money from others with the promise of "free energy" with their "over unity" devices. Check out the "new" machine over at, it is interesting that they are happy to take your money, but not let you examine the machine.