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The best tech writing of the week, November 25

long reads

We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.

On skeuomorphism

Clearing up confusion and misconceptions about "skeuomorphism," Realmac's Christopher Downer explores the term and its use in interface design.

Realmac blog: Christopher Downer - Skeuomorphism and the User Interface

On the surface it’s clad in a tanned Corinthian leather texture, with stitched on tab and tool bars giving it the appearance of… nothing. As aesthetically unique as it looks, Find My Friends is based on something completely fictional, unlike similarly designed Calendar and Contacts.

On the Great Firewall

Foreign Policy's Eveline Chao sheds some light on exactly how China's internet is censored.

Foreign Policy: Eveline Chao - Five Myths about the Chinese Internet

Sina Weibo users can post anything they like, and often sensitive posts will even appear in their personal feed, but the post is blocked from search results. In other words, a user might have no idea their post has been "disappeared" and their friends and other users can’t see the post in their feeds. After a term has been unblocked, it quietly reappears in users’ feeds and search results.

On the Honeywell Kitchen Computer

Daniela writes about the history behind Honeywell's space age-era Kitchen Computer, a very primitive $10,000 minicomputer that could suggest recipes.

Wired: Daniela Hernandez - Before the iPad, There Was the Honeywell Kitchen Computer

If the lady of the house wanted to build her family’s dinner around broccoli, she’d have to code in the green veggie as 0001101000. The kitchen computer would then suggest foods to pair with broccoli from its database by "speaking" its recommendations as a series of flashing lights. Think of a primitive version of KITT, without the sexy voice.

On Nakamatsu

In the December issue of Smithsonian Magazine, Frank Lidz profiles inventor Sir Dr. NakaMats, who has over 3,000 patents to his name. His preferred inspiration process? Starving the brain of oxygen while diving deep underwater.

Smithsonian Magazine: Frank Lidz - Dr. Nakamats, the Man With 3300 Patents to His Name

Dr. NakaMats keeps his intellect free by following a strict daily routine. Every night in his NakaPenthouse, he retires to the Calm Room, which is actually a bathroom tiled in 24-karat gold. "The gold blocks out radio waves and television signals that are harmful to imagination," he says. The Calm Room was built without nails because "nails reflect thinking."

After sitting calmly on the toilet for a spell, surrounded by running water, he moves to the Dynamic Room—actually, an elevator—in which Beethoven serenades him.

On windowing

And finally, while we were researching the history behind Windows 1.0 this week, we stumbled across this 1984 editorial in the New York Times.

The New York Times: Erik Sandberg-Diment - Value of windowing is questioned

In the somewhat pretentious pep talk of the software industry, windowing was to emulate the familiar, comforting desktop, a cluttered one at that. But it is extremely difficult to use efficiently a system that displays bits and pieces of documents in windows next to and above and below each other, like so many papers spread out in overlapping piles on a desk with just their edges sticking out here and there to identify them. So little was visible of each document, so few identifying lines, that the user often simply forgot what was hidden underneath.

Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.

The Verge
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