anthony dobranski online


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My new novel begins!

Today the Forest Hills Connection published the first chapter of my new serial novel, The Scientists and the Spy.

Based on the World War II weapons work of the United States National Bureau of Standards, which in that time was based in my own neighborhood, it’s a weekly serial mystery for a general audience.

We’re kicking off the serial with a public reading and lecture here in Washington DC, with historian Margery Elfin and science historian James Schooley joining me and Marlene Berlin, the Connection’s Editor.

Very exciting times!


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Be here now (Apple’s new Watch)

The Apple Watch is not the first wrist-worn computing device — the Timex Datalink from 1993 could be programmed using the flickering of light from a personal-computer screen — but it seems to be the first designed to interface with the body, not just eyes and fingers. In his review of the device’s first generation, the New York Times‘s Farhad Manjoo notes that it was quite a transition to use it, but in making it, he found himself less absorbed by the device than extended by it.

Wearable computing has always had at its heart the difference between productivity and augmentation, between making specific tasks easier and giving people new abilities. It is a subtle distinction, until it isn’t. A cordless drill lets a worker mount a sheet of drywall much faster; a crane changes how buildings are built and how they can be repaired. Spell-checking fixes your spelling; dictation software spells for you. A constant video log of your life shows you a reality that memory doesn’t.

This distinction may be one factor in Apple’s excellent run in the last fifteen years, a realization I came to while┬áreading an Economist article about Satya Nadella‘s changes at Microsoft. We might have had an iPad years sooner, if Microsoft had let it not be a Windows device. Bill Gates’s insistence on using the Windows interface as a precondition to all devices finally limited his vision. Continue reading