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“Once Upon a Time…”

Everyone reading this post has never not known some form of computer interaction – the fact that you’re reading this on a device is definite proof!

Whether it be from your groceries scanned at the food store – the price “magically” appearing on the display – the more intricate and inner workings of your automobile, to a cellular device that has more programming in it than Apollo 11, much of the world is surrounded by technology hundreds of times a day.

“…the iPhone 6’s clock is 32,600 times faster than the best Apollo era computers and could perform instructions 120,000,000 times faster.”(1.)

Imagine when this wasn’t the case  … it really wasn’t so long ago.

In our continuing series for Women’s Month, we are focusing on the first computer programme to be written … in 1843!

Ada (Byron) Lovelace, born to the poet Lord Byron and his wife, is the first person to “have recognized that the full potential of a computing machine, and one of the first computer programmers.” (2.)

After her father’s death when she was only 8, her mother promoted her towards maths and sciences as she feared that, if focused on English, Ada would become mentally ill and pass away in early life like her father.  By twenty she was married to a man that would be made the Earl of Lovelace making her a Countess.  With an engaging aristocratic social life, Ada managed to invite such intellects as Sir David Brewster, Charles Watson and Michael Faraday while still staying in constant touch with her mathematics mentor from Cambridge, Charles Babbage the “father of the computer”  known as the Analytical Engine. (3.)

In the mid 1800’s at the turn of the Industrial Revolution, machines were used for single source applications – in other words sewing machines were used to sew, steam engines were used for power  and so on.   Ada, through a complex series of applications, saw that the Analytical Engine could build beyond single source and be constructed to have a wide variety of uses.

“An Italian engineer, Luigi Frederico Menabrea wrote a paper on Babbage’s Analytical Engine.  He wrote it in French, however Lovelace, who knew French,  spent months, translating and notating Menabrea’s paper.  Her notes ended up being three times longer than the actual work and she understood the workings and possibilities of the Analytical Engine better than even Babbage, its inventor.   What’s more, within her detailed work, she created a way for the engine to calculate Bernoulli numbers in steps.”(4.)

“The Analytical Engine can do whatever we know how to order it to perform…. it can follow analysis, but it has no power of anticipating any analytical relations or truths” Lovelace wrote.

As we look into all the interactions we have with technology, that statement is as relevant today as it was over 100 years ago,  however with the ongoing development of Artificial Intelligence we are moving far beyond where even Ada Lovelace would have imagined.






It’s hard to remember back to folding up a large paper map accordion style … but before GPS (Global Positioning Systems) became main stream, navigators everywhere had maps spread out on their laps working through the twists and turns that would get them to their destinations.

“The Global Positioning System technology in the United States of America, currently run by the U.S. Air Force, uses at least four satellites. Radio signals are transmitted to earth constantly by orbiting satellites. The closest satellites pinpoint your location through trilateration which is a process that uses time to measure distance (distance = rate x time). As the satellites communicate with each other and the devices on earth, the satellites need a detailed model of earth that contains the surface elevation (so the system can work more effectively).” (1.)

Born in 1930 in Virginia,  Dr. Gladys West was instrumental in the development of GPS with a team at the Naval Laboratory.   She started her employment in 1956 after graduating in mathematics with a Masters in 1955.  During her career, Dr. West programmed orbital calculations on one of the room sized IBM computers and designed algorithms that proved the regularity of Pluto’s motion relative to Neptune.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Dr. West worked on prgrammes and calculations to define precise modelling of the shape of the Earth ~ specifically the oceans.  This definition and specifics of the geoid was further enhanced to create the very first use of GPS.

At the time this technology was limited to the military until an executive order, signed by President Regan, allowed for individuals to have access to the algorithm science and from that point forward the race was on to incorporate it into much of the technology we use today.

With any address you look up on your phone map app, the calculations are running behind the scenes to triangulate your location and bounce off the geographic attributes between you and your cited destination…all those instructions coming from the chosen voice on your phone are simply following the signalling of how to get you to your destination based on satellites in spacial orbit that are bouncing signals off the earth and back to you in commands like “Turn left now” ….. Recalculating …..

Dr. West has a memoir available about her life ~ I highly recommend this book ~  it is such an enjoyable read! (2.)



Can you hear me now?

Happy International Women’s Day!  

As we celebrate women in technology this month, it is wonderful to highlight one of the leading pioneer’s of Bluetooth and WiFi techniques.  Hedy Lamarr, a famous actress in the 1940’s, played a pivotal roll in “spread spectrum” science during World War II.

It was her knowledge of jamming technology, that was crucial in ensuring that torpedoes could be set off course during the war.  Years later, in 1957, the technology was created into a “sonobuoy” –  a device that is dropped into the ocean for anti-submarine warfare or, as is now the case, vast underwater research based on sonar frequencies.  In 1962, the same technology was installed by the Navy during the Cuban missile crisis.

The spread spectrum science is used today in Bluetooth technology although still sometimes used in WiFi signalling.

So what is the difference between the two?

“Bluetooth, developed in the late 1990s, is a technology designed to enable short-range wireless communications between electronic devices, such as between a laptop and a smartphone or between a computer and a television. Bluetooth works by using radio frequencies, rather than the infrared spectrum used by traditional remote controls.  As a result, Bluetooth eliminates the need not only for a wire connection but also for maintaining a clear line of sight to communicate between devices.”1.

“Wi-Fi is similar to Bluetooth in that it also uses radio waves for high-speed data transfer over short distances without the need for a wire connection. Wi-Fi works by breaking a signal into pieces and transmitting those fragments over multiple radio frequencies. This technique enables the signal to be transmitted at a lower power per frequency and also allows multiple devices to use the same Wi-Fi transmitter.”2.

As we can see, there is a difference between the two and, while you can sometimes use bluetooth without a wifi signal, the two are required the majority of the time to function in the environments that we have today.  Wifi transmits at a much higher frequency than say your cellular devices.  Common rule is the higher the frequency, the more data that can be passed over the spectrum.  Because this frequency is sensitive you’ve likely experience spots in your home where your devices doesn’t work as well or you can’t hear the caller.  We all have that “dead zone” usually around the load barring wall that has internal steel construction or the furnace room that sends all kind of interference into the spectrum – not to mention the interference if you microwave is on or your trying to chat on the phone while doing your laundry!   This is one of the reasons that cell phones are not allowed in the wards at hospitals – two frequencies clashing between your device and a medical one is not an optimal outcome.  While these signals are getting more resilient with further technology, it’s still important to understand why a “no cellular devices here” sign exist.

The Internet of Things (IoT) runs a low wifi frequency for your Zumba, door locks. lights etc.  and is set up over your network – the PAN example from our Tea and Tech Podcast ~ Episode 3.  As “multi radio mesh deployments” become more standard the world of WiFi will surely be less of “can you hear me now” and more of “can you link to me now”






But there’s a lock on my door …..

To continue on from last week, we are discussing data breaches and how your personal information could be exposed for nefarious means.

Data breaches are malicious attacks on a network in order to get inside the firewall and take information that is deemed valuable.  How valuable is your social security number (USA) or passport number?  VERY!  These numbers are linked to you and all that you have medical files attached to, own, lease, and/or bank with.

“It is estimated that there is a hacking attack every 39 seconds.” (1.)

It seems no one is immune and we have only to review the headlines over the last few years to remember some of the large corporations and government entities that have been breached.  Do you remember the Heartbleed security breach uncovered in 2014?  It had been running for two years and had done some serious damage to many of the worlds “secure” information sites.

“We’re not talking small time sites like hot rod forums or collectible card game swap sites, we’re talking banks, credit card companies, major e-retailers and e-mail providers. Worse yet, this vulnerability has been in the wild for around two years. That’s two years someone with the appropriate knowledge and skills could have been tapping into the login credentials and private communications of a service you use (and, according to the testing conducted by Codenomicon, doing it without a trace).” (2)

Referencing some data breach statistics directly:

  • The average cost of a data breach currently sits at $3.86 million. That number rises to $8.64 million if you only analyze the USA. [IBM]
  • Worldwide cybercrime costs will hit $6 trillion annually by the end of 2021. That number will rise to $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. [Cybersecurity Ventures]
  • Remote work increased the average breach cost by $137,000. [IBM]
  • The average cost per lost or stolen record per individual is $146. [IBM]
  • The average ransomware payment rose 33% since 2020 and now sits at $111,605. [Fintech News]
  • By the end of 2021, ransomware damages will reach a total of $20 billion, 57x greater than the damages in 2015. On average, there is a ransomware attack on a business every 11 seconds in 2021. [Arcserve]
  • The average price for a Business Email Compromise hack is $24,439 per case. [Verizon]
  • The average cost of a malware attack sits at $2.6 million. [Accenture]
  • In 2020, phishing accounted for 1 in every 4.200 emails. Every minute, companies lose $17,700 due to a phishing attack. [Symantec]
  • The average cost of information loss, the most expensive aspect of a cyber attack, is $5.9 million. [Accenture]1.

These numbers are staggering and it is helpful for us to understand how we have left some information behind when we log in to different sites on our various devices.

There are a variety of security applications that we can utilize to mitigate some risk.  Having a Virtual Private Network (VPN) client as part of your home set up is a valuable tool.  You can Google and read many of the options based on your location, and this helps to suppress allot of your information as you are surfing websites.

Breaching data bases is a full time business for some – not only individuals but government actors as well.  It is our job to shelter ourselves as best possible from having our information commoditized if we don’t wish it to be.

Related to the above statement it will be interesting to see how this year plays out with FaceBook as various countries look to change the large monopoly of information that FB currently enjoys.  I’m sure we will be discussing in the coming months…

“If you are not paying for it, you become the product.”(3)  True words we should all review as we move through the day using all this technology.

Next week we will discuss the in-depth workings of VPN’s and how they relate to our previous discussions.


GDPR ~ Giving hide and seek a new challenge …

In Europe, “The right to be forgotten” ~ now known as GDPR ~ was introduced into the public square in 2014 after a landmark case Google v. Spain.  

“In Google v. Spain, the European Court of Justice ruled that the European citizens have a right to request that commercial search firms, such as Google, that gather personal information for profit should remove links to private information when asked, provided the information is no longer relevant. The Court did not say newspapers should remove articles. The Court found that the fundamental right to privacy is greater than the economic interest of the commercial firm and, in some circumstances, the public interest interest in access to Information. The European Court affirmed the judgment of the Spanish Data Protection Agency which upheld press freedoms and rejected a request to have the article concerning personal bankruptcy removed from the web site of the press organization.” 1.

This legal judgement expanded throughout Europe, and has now morphed into what we know today as the General Data Protection Regulation standard.

By May of 2018, all major corporations that held personal information on European clients/customers had to adhere to steps to ensure privacy and, when asked to do so, expunge the personal records they held.  This opened up a whole new set of issues in ensuring that the company that was doing the purging had documented and verified electronic ways of proving they had done so.

While North America has not caught up to this standard of protection and privacy for its citizens, many individual States in the USA have implemented such laws ~ California’s CCPA being the first and farthest reaching to date.

This came about through a desire by individuals to shield their personal information from those who looked to exploit it for either monetary or nefarious gain.  If this information is about you, why did you not have the ability to make decisions about how it was used?

Privacy and protection is a starting point as we expand our thoughts on how how we wish our data to be mined by third parties and what, if any, control we have on that process as we move through the world of technology.

Like most major upheavals, the digital age was off and running before society had an opportunity to study, discuss, ponder, and decide how best to deal with all the issues that came with it.   Laws allowing you to pull back your own bits and bytes from massive data storage centres around the world,  gives back some level of control to you, the consumer.

Next week, we will touch on data breaches and why this privacy of our information continues to be so important.

  1. Electronic Privacy Information Center



The beginning, the middle, but to what end?

This blog is dedicated to discussions and op-ed essays 

This is a discussion forum and not a specific endorsement of any one opinion of material.  


From Wiki’s to WAN’s how does all this technology serve us?  Are we protected from ourselves or will the age of information prove to be too much?

“To understand why we have less privacy today than in the past, we must look not just at the gadgets. To be sure, we should be wary of spies and thieves, but we should also look at those who protect us and help us—and we should also take a good look in the mirror.” 1

When the original World Wide Web came to be, individuals’ words and actions online were well hidden – cloaked behind some magic filter it seemed, but in reality hard to access because the network architecture precluded an easy interface to retrieve the data.

Today, these platforms are constructed to be able to log transactional bits and bytes of information that we create when we simply sign on. Making it easy for both organizations and individuals to piece together our personal IP address information that is left behind, technology today has enabled a vast variety of third parties to create literal dossiers of our every keystroke.

As we navigate consumer good websites, social media applications or news organizations, we are leaving behind a digital trail that finds us again in the form of advertisements, game suggestions, or local coupons in the sidebar of our searches. Is this trade off of information for marketing opportunities enough of a value to us to abandon the anonymity we would otherwise have? If it isn’t, why are we complacent in accepting this, and, if it is, how much further down the road are we willing to travel?

Blog posts written by:  cam  ~ Harvard Alumni, Owner of Spicy Pear Media Inc , a technology and education consultative firm.

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