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CfP: Unix in Europe: between innovation, diffusion and heritage, October 19, CNAM, Paris

Call for contributions
International symposium
Unix in Europe: between innovation, diffusion and heritage
Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, France – October 19 2017
The Unix system was born in the 1970s at the crossroads between two interacting worlds: industry (the Bell Labs at AT&T) and academia (the University of Berkeley computer science network). Its fast adoption throughout computer research and engineering networks across the world signaled the future success of the new system, fostering software experiments within its open, multi-user and multi-tasking system running on mini-computers – and later compatible with a larger part of computer hardware. In the European context, how was this American innovation propagated, adopted and adapted? Why was Unix of so much interest in this context, then and now? A solid culture of Unix users might also explain this success, as well as subsequent processes of appropriation and inheritance, due to the long and complex history of Unix versioning. The memory of Unix users is vivid indeed, fed by early accounts within the computer world (Salus, 1994) as well as preservation initiatives (Toomey, 2010). Moreover, the Unix system is a crucial reference in the history of computing, in particular in the field of free and open source software (Kelty, 2008), computer networks (Paloque-Berges, 2017), as well as in programming language philosophy (Mélès, 2013).
In order to explore the variety of these interrogations, this symposium encourages contributions from historians as well as philosophers, social science researchers, and heritage professionals interested in the history of computer open systems and software with a focus on Unix or who have a wider perspective. It will also welcome protagonists and witnesses of Unix culture and carriers of its memory. We wish to discuss and shed light on several aspects of the development of Unix in Europe (including in comparison or relation with the rest of the world) along three main lines: historical and sociological, philosophical and epistemological, and heritage- and preservation-oriented.

1/ Historical and sociological perspectives
Historically, the Unix system is linked to the promotion and development in research on open systems and computer networks. How does this fit in the context of industrial, scientific and technological policies defined at the national and European level? The history of Unix thus reaches at least three levels of interrogations: 1/ the forms, places and practices of innovation around Unix in R&D labs and computing centers in companies, schools and universities; 2/ planning, promoting and negotiating open systems (norms and standards) from the perspective of science and/or politics; 3/ international geopolitical relations, whether economical or geopolitical and even geostrategic (for example between Unix users, with users of other computer equipment or other hardware and software companies, the role of embargos in the shipping of mini-computers, of code, and military uses of Unix).
In parallel, how has the world of computer research welcomed, encouraged, negotiated and propagated uses and innovations related to Unix systems? This begs the question of how Unix-related research and development was legitimized – or played a part in the legitimization of computer science experimentalism in the scientific field and beyond. We would also like to highlight practices of resistance, the failure to acknowledge, ignorance of or even the limits of the Unix system, its software tools and hardware environment (beginning with the famous PDP and Vax machines from Digital Equipment where the first Unix versions were implemented). With a focus on occupational computer uses, we call for analysis which aims to explore and clarify:
– the role of developers, users, and user associations – from the point of view of pioneers as well as helpers, maintainers and other witnesses of the implementation of Unix;
– the context, process, and people who determined its propagation, appropriation, and development over time;
– the meaning of concepts of Unix philosophy and ethics such as “openness” and “autonomy”, from a social, political or economic point of view.

2. Philosophical and epistemological perspectives
We will foster research and reflection at the crossroad of the theoretical foundations of computer systems and engineering pragmatism, between the philosophy of computer systems and Unixian practices.

Protagonists in the conception and diffusion of Unix often claim to have a ‘Unix philosophy’ . But beyond statement of principle, what was the real influence of this idea on the technical choices underlying the system’s developments? What are the ethical, moral, and philosophical motivations – alongside the social, political or economic dimensions discussed earlier – underpinning the adoption of Unix or pretending to extend it (for instance in relation to the notions of sharing, modularity or freedom)? How is the idea of ‘openness’ attached to Unix practices and heritage (free software, open source) conceived? What are the theoretical developments to be drawn from it (for instance with the idea of open software)?

The logical and mathematical foundations of Unix should be readdressed. Do the fundamental concepts of Unix have an ontological or metaphysical significance beyond the sole research aim of technical efficiency? What role do aesthetics play in the formulation of general principles and technical choices? How can we analyze programming languages such as C and its successors, scripts, software, and generally speaking, the proliferating source codes of Unix? How do we consider the system, the software environment, as well as the hardware in which Unix is implemented and executed?

Such philosophical questions also cover the modalities of the transmission of Unix, extending to the investigation of the respective roles of theory and practice in the teaching of the system, the teaching of knowledge and tools underlying the system or supporting the system.
3. Unix heritage and ‘heritagization’
France is now the home to multiple initiatives taking place to build and preserve a material and immaterial heritage of computer science and technology – such as ‘Software Heritage’ at INRIA, a global software archive in progress. The Museum of Arts et Métiers gave impetus to the MINF initiative (‘Pour un Musée de l’informatique et du numérique’) and coordinates the ‘Patstec Mission’ dealing with contemporary scientific and technological heritage preservation, including computer science. At an international scale and with a grassroots perspective carried by the community of Unix users, the TUHS (The Unix Heritage Society) demonstrates the current interest in the specific heritage linked to Unix. We encourage reflections on this heritage and its specific features:

– What is the place of Unix in the construction of computer science heritage? Is it possible to map Unix systems and their heritage, from the standpoint of machines, languages and software? What has already been collected? What corpus, data bases, and/or platforms with a patrimonial mission are concerned with Unix and to what purpose?
– How are the questions of training, constitution and diffusion of a Unix culture incorporated in the effort to collect heritage? How do we evaluate and put forward the importance of immaterial heritage attached to Unix, considering the effects of community and memory in its history and for the writing of its history?
– What are the practices and modalities advocated by the unixian heritage itself? What has been its influence on the field of computer engineering and research as well as diverse fields such as: popularization of science and technology, ‘hacker’ movements and many ‘maker’ practices today (Lallement, 2016)?
Communications and discussions will be held in French or English.

*Schedules*
Please send a one-page abstract (maximum 500 words) with a short biography by June 30, 2017 to: camille.paloque-berges@cnam.fr; loic.petitgirard@cnam.fr. Accepted contributions and speakers will be notified by July 15, 2017.

*Organizing committee*
Isabelle Astic (Musée des arts et métiers)
Raphaël Fournier-S’niehotta (Cédric, Cnam)
Pierre-Eric Mounier-Kuhn (CRM, Paris 1)
Camille Paloque-Berges (HT2S, Cnam)
Loïc Petitgirard (HT2S, Cnam)

*Scientific committee*
François Anceau (UMPC-LIP6)
Pierre Cubaud (Cédric, Cnam)
Liesbeth de Mol (STL, Lille 3)
Claudine Fontanon (CAK, EHESS)
Gérald Kembellec (DICEN, Cnam)
Baptiste Mélès (Archives Henri Poincaré, CNRS)
Giuseppe Primiero (Middlesex University)
Lionel Tabourier (LIP6, Paris 6)

*Partners*
– Project « Hist.Pat.info.Cnam », HT2S, Cnam – Research program supported by the Excellence laboratory History and Anthropology of Knoweldge, Technics and Beliefs (HASTEC), and in partnership with the laboratories CEDRIC (Cnam), DICEN (Cnam), and the Center Alexandre Koyré (EHESS).
– Musée des arts et métiers and « Histoire de l’informatique » (« History of computing » seminar) seminar.
– « Source code » seminar (CNRS, Cnam, Université Paris 6).
With support from the DHST/DLMPST Commission for the History and Philosophy of Computing (HAPOC)
*Bibliography*
Kelty, Christopher M. 2008. Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Durham: Duke University Press Books.

Lallement, Michel. 2016. L’âge du faire, Seuil.

Mélès, Baptiste. 2003. « Unix selon l’ordre des raisons : la philosophie de la pratique informatique ». Philosophia Scientiæ 17 (3): 181‑98.

Salus, Peter H. 1994. A quarter century of UNIX. Addison-Wesley. Reading.

Toomey, Warren. 2010. « First Edition Unix: Its Creation and Restoration ». IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 32 (3): 74‑82.

2nd CfA: Summer School on Computer Simulation Methods

Summer School: On Computer Simulation Methods

September 25-29, 2017, High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS)

Organizers: Michael Resch, Viola Schiaffonati, Giuseppe Primiero, Andreas Kaminski

Website: https://regi.hlrs.de/2017/summer-school/index.jsp

Call for Applications

Topic

The transformation of science through computer simulation is often considered to be a methodological one. A lot of literature has been dedicated to determining the relationship between computer simulation, experiments or theories as the classical sources of knowledge. This relation is both methodologically and technically complex. On the one hand, it is difficult for philosophers, social scientists, and historians to gain detailed insight into the methods used among practitioners. On the other hand, for computer scientists and practitioners in general, the methodological limitations and design constraints that simulation techniques impose on hypothesis formulation and testing may not be obvious. The summer school addresses these problems by offering lectures and tutorials on computer simulation methods for scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and computer science.

Schedule

The morning sessions will include lectures by faculty members, focusing on the philosophical, methodological, and technical aspects of different simulation techniques (including numerical methods, software techniques, visualization, agent-based modelling, and computational experiments). These will be followed by project presentations by participants. The afternoons will be dedicated to hands-on tutorials by practitioners. Finally, in the evenings, distinguished scholars will offer lectures on the most inspiring and exciting issues in this increasingly important research area.

Instructors (confirmed and requested)

Nicola Angius (Sassari), Petra Gehring (TU Darmstadt), Andreas Kaminski (Stuttgart), Johannes Lenhard (Bielefeld), Giuseppe Primiero (London), Michael Resch (Stuttgart), Viola Schiaffonati (Milan), Angelo Vermeulen (Delft)

Who is it for?

  • Researchers (especially but not exclusively postgraduates) from the humanities and social sciences who are interested in learning more about the methodological dimensions of computer simulation;
  • Computer scientists and practitioners in simulation who are interested in deepening their knowledge on the foundations, methods, and implications of their techniques.

Prerequisites for participation?

Technical skills (knowledge of programming languages, simulation experience) are helpful, but not required. Acquaintance with the literature in contemporary philosophy of science is useful, but will not be assumed.

How to apply?

The number of participants is limited to 20. To apply, email kaminski@hlrs.de.

All proposals must be submitted by May 30, 2017 and include:

  1. short curriculum vitae;
  2. description of your research (max. one page);
  3. questions or topics you are interested in regarding the summer school (just a few lines).

Participants will be notified by June 30, 2017.

What are the costs?

There is no fee, but participants will have to cover their travel and hotel expenses. The organizers will happily help participants organize their journey and hotel stay.

The DHST/DLMPST Interdivision Commission on the History and Philosophy of Computing (www.hapoc.org) will offer two bursaries of $250 each to support travel and accommodation costs of young researchers. To apply for this funding, please forward your application to

by May 31, 2017. Applicants will be informed of decisions pertaining to both funding and proposal submission at the same time (June 30, 2017).

3rd CfP HaPoC4 (with details on publication plans)

Third Call for Papers
4th International Conference on History and Philosophy of Computing
https://hapoc2017.sciencesconf.org/
Masaryk University Brno
4-7 October 2017

held under the auspices of the
DHST/DLMPS Commission for the History and Philosophy of Computing (HaPoC)
www.hapoc.org

In their societal impact, computers have grown way beyond their roots in mathematics and logic. Their ubiquity since the late 20th century has increased the number and impact of several of the original questions raised by early computer scientists and practitioners: questions about their expected and intended behaviour, as Alan Turing did when asking whether machines can think; questions about their ontology, as John von Neumann did when asking what the computer and the human brain have in common; questions about their role in performing human tasks, as Norbert Wiener did when asking whether automatic translation is possible. With new technologies, the need for rethinking formal and technological issues is crucial.

HaPoC conferences aim to bring together researchers exploring the various aspects of the computer from historical or philosophical standpoint. The series aims at an interdisciplinary focus on computing, rooted in historical and philosophical viewpoints. The conference brings together researchers interested in the historical developments of computing, as well as those reflecting on the sociological and philosophical issues springing from the rise and ubiquity of computing machines in the contemporary landscape.

For HaPoC 2017 we welcome contributions from logicians, philosophers and historians of computing as well as from philosophically aware computer scientists and mathematicians. We also invite contributions on the use of computers in art. As HaPoC conferences aim to provide a platform for interdisciplinary discussions among researchers, contributions stimulating such discussions are preferable. Topics include but are not limited to:

  • History of computation (computational systems, machines, mechanized reasoning, algorithms and programs, communities of computing and their paradigms,…)
  • Foundational issues in computer science and computability (models of computability, Church-Turing thesis, formal systems for distributed, cloud and secure computing, semantic theories of programming languages, …)
  • Philosophy of computing (computer as brain / mind, epistemological issues, …)
  • Computation in the sciences (computer experiments and simulations, computer-aided systems for teaching and research, …)
  • Computer and the arts (temporality in digital art; narration in interactive art work, speculative software, programming as a deferred action, computing and affect, performativity of code, eristic of HCI, …)

We cordially invite researchers working in a field relevant to the main topics of the conference to submit a short abstract of approximately 200 words and an extended abstract of at most a 1000 words (references included)

Submit through EasyChair at https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=hapoc2017
Deadline for abstracts and extended abstracts: 15 May 2017
Notifications of acceptance: July 2016

Accepted papers will be presented in 30 minute slots including discussion. Abstracts must be written in English. Please note that the format of uploaded files must be in .pdf. Submissions without extended abstract will not be considered.

*NEW*
A selection of revised contributions to the Conference will be published in a Special Issue of Philosophy & Technology (Springer). A second special issue focusing on historical aspects will be announced later.
*NEW*

Conference fee: EUR 150, including welcome reception and conference dinner.

The conference will be preceded by a special workshop on the reception of Hilbert’s axiomatic method in Eastern Europe on 3 October 2017, organized by Mate Szabó. Accompanying cultural programme will include: the remake of the 1968 Brno exhibition Computer Graphic (featuring Frieder Nake and others), Live coding performance (inspired by the Exhibition Computer Graphic), the concert Exposition of New Music (contemporary music), and field recordings of Brno (student project).

HaPoC Special Session at CiE 2017

The HaPoC Commission organizes a Special Session on History and Philosophy of Computing at the Computability in Europe Conference, to be held in Turku, June 12-16, 2017

Special Sessions

 

Topic: History and foundations of recursion, in memory of Rósza Péter.

Organized by Liesbeth De Mol (Lille, France) and Giuseppe Primiero (London, United Kingdom).

Speakers:

  • Juliette Kennedy (University of Helsinki, Finland)
    Gödel’s Reception of Turing’s Model of Computability: the Shift of Perception in 1934
  • Jan von Plato (University of Helsinki, Finland)
    Rosa Politzer and the beginnings of the theory of computable functions
  • Hector Zenil (University of Oxford, UK, and Karolinska Institute, Sweden)
    Computability and Causality
  • Cliff Jones (Newcastle University, UK)
    Turing’s 1949 paper in context

 

 

Communications of the ACM reports about HaPoC Commission

ACM

Philosophy, like other disciplines in the humanities, enjoys a mutually enlightening relationship with history […] The philosophy of computer science, like other philosophy devoted to a particular subject, enjoys a mutually enlightening relationship with the history of that particular subject […] I have been pleasantly surprised to find research in the history of computing quite interesting, and can only hope for reciprocal generosity toward philosophy on the part of historians. With respect to computing, the international organization founded to bring together history and philosophy is HaPoC, the Commission on the History and Philosophy of Computing. Designated a Commission by both divisions of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (http://www.iuhpst.org), it aims to “enhance our understanding of computing by means of historical and philosophical explorations.” The dedicated and hard-working HaPoC leaders Liesbeth de Mol, of the Université de Lille, and Giuseppe Primiero, of Middlesex University London, explain how this came about.

Hosted by Robin K. Hill on the blog of Communications of the ACM , read the full article on HaPoC by Liesbeth de Mol and Giuseppe Primiero

LEO plaque unveiling in London

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Professor Frank Land and Dame Stephanie Shirley. Photo: LEO Computers Society

On November 29th 2016 we attended the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for LEO – Lyons Electronic Office. The plaque is located in Lyons Walk, W14 0QH, former location of Cadby Hall, the factory complex and the headquarters of J. Lyons & Co and LEO I’s home in Hammersmith.

The engraved stone has been generously funded by Tony Morgan, who was Commissioning Manager at LEO Computers Ltd. and is now Technical Consultant to the LEO Computers Society.

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Middlesex University Donors Events

Middlesex University London held a Donors Event on 16 November 2016 to celebrate the students awarded with Scholarships and the Donors behind them.

On this occasion, Ms. Elisabetta Mori has been formally awarded with the David Tresman Caminer Scholarship in the History of Computing funded by the Association for Information Technology Trust.

The award certificate has been presented to Elisabetta by Mrs. Hilary Caminer and Mr. Peter Byford from the LEO Computer Society.

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Celebration of LEO I’s first routine job

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LEO I (Lyons Electronic Office). Source: Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick

On November 29th, 2016 LEO Computer Society will unveil a plaque commemorating LEO I on the 65th anniversary of its first business routine run in Lyons Walk, Olympia, London. The location is close to the former location of Cadby Hall, the major office and factory complex in Hammersmith, London, which was the headquarters of J. Lyons & Co and LEO’s first home.

Eric Schmidt and LEO computers at LSE

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On Friday October 14th, 2016 the London School of Economics hosted Eric Schmidt in a public conversation with Chrisanthi Avgerou, with title: From LEO to DeepMind: Britain’s computing pioneers.

Eric Schmidt, American software engineer and businessman, is the executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc., American multinational conglomerate founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin and parent company of Google, among others. As an intern at Bell Labs, Schmidt did a complete re-write of Lex, a software program to generate lexical analysers for the UNIX computer operating system. From 1997 to 2001, he was CEO of Novell. In 2001 Eric Schmidt joined Google, where he served as CEO until 2011 and helped grow the company from a Silicon Valley startup to a global leader in technology.

Continue reading “Eric Schmidt and LEO computers at LSE”