50 & 100 years ago

    50 Years ago

    Composition with an Electronic Computer. By Prof. L. A. Hiller, Jr., and Leonard M. Isaacson — So much is heard nowadays of the capabilities of the computer robot in imitating every human activity that it is not surprising to read of experiments in which the computer is made to compose music. Perhaps to say that the machine 'composes' is putting the experiments described in this book at too high a level ... Nevertheless, these experiments are amusing and the account of them is well written, so that one does not need to be a habitué of the computer room to understand what the authors were planning.

    From Nature 5 December 1959.

    100 Years ago

    My attention has just been directed to a letter which appeared in NATURE of March 11 ... It was signed by Prof. McKendrick, and dealt with the vexed question of the blind and their faculties. I am a blind man, and have mixed with blind people of all ages for the past thirty years ... Permit me to thank you for what you say about the popular notion that when a person loses his sight he is compensated by a gift of ability in one, if not all, his other faculties. The intelligent blind know how foolish this idea is, and constantly protest against it ... We are credited with marvellous powers in music, basket-making, &c., and yet when we assert our claim to live the ordinary life of the citizen these people are shocked at our audacity ... My own experience has compelled me to take heed of the varying degrees of what I shall call, for want of a better name, ear-power ... When people are speaking to me, they are never on guard to control their countenance as they would be if conversing with a sighted person ... I know when a person smiles, frowns, when the face lights up with an intelligence or when apathy and want of perception cloud the countenance.

    From Nature 2 December 1909.

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    50 & 100 years ago. Nature 462, 577 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/462577a

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