technology

Pandemic Widens Pittsburgh’s Digital Divide

In Pittsburgh and across the nation, the coronavirus pandemic has isolated residents in their homes and shifted huge swaths of public life to the digital world that 1 in 10 people in southwestern Pennsylvania are left out of. Closing longstanding gaps in access to the Internet has taken on new urgency as employers, educators, doctors …

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IT and Robotics Led Business Deals in 2018

Information technology and robotics lead the region as the most active sector for business deals and jobs in the Pittsburgh region for the second year in a row, according to the 2018 Allegheny Conference on Community Development Business Investment Scorecard. The business scorecard is an index which compiles announcements of new deals in the region, …

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Herbert Simon: 20th Century Galileo

James H. Morris is a retired professor of computer science and dean of the School of Computer Science as well as the Silicon Valley campus of Carnegie Mellon University. In a series of blogs for Pittsburgh Quarterly he writes about some of the computing pioneers he encountered during his career. Although he was less approachable …

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Raj Reddy: Modern Circumnavigator

James H. Morris is a retired professor of computer science and dean of the School of Computer Science as well as the Silicon Valley campus of Carnegie Mellon University. In a series of blogs for Pittsburgh Quarterly he writes about some of the computing pioneers he encountered during his career. Raj Reddy began life in …

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Allen Newell: The Lone Ranger

James H. Morris is a retired professor of computer science and dean of the School of Computer Science as well as the Silicon Valley campus of Carnegie Mellon University. In a series of blogs for Pittsburgh Quarterly he writes about some of the computing pioneers he encountered during his career. After succumbing to Alan Perlis’s …

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What’s Right, What’s Left?

So much of modern culture seems bent on eliminating humanity from life itself. In many instances, this is identified as progress. But is it? Consider the current attitude toward handwriting, i.e., cursive. In many of our schools there is no longer any emphasis on the handwritten word. When I asked my grandson recently if handwriting …

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Austin’s Conundrum of Success

Austin, Texas is one of a handful of cities in the world currently blessed in reputation—big enough to have almost all the cultural amenities of cities twice our size, yet small enough to be tops on any of those innumerable “livability” lists. A recent cover story in “The Economist” looks at the Silicon Valley and …

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Work Disrupted

The past and future of work collide on a 178-acre graded-flat stretch of brownfield in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Hazelwood. There, on what is known as Hazelwood Green, the skeletal remains of Mill 19 stand as one of the last reminders of the Jones and Laughlin steel works that spanned the Monongahela River to the …

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How My English Degree Helped Build a Tech Company

When I was 26, my dad got sick and asked me to take over as CEO of the tech company he started. I was armed with my English major from Allegheny College and a couple of years in a retail management training program. In other words, I didn’t have a clue. Or so I thought. …

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What Drives Red Whittaker?

In January, Carnegie Mellon University professor Red Whittaker set a goal that had nothing to do with robotics: to best a field of competitors in an indoor rowing race. The ergometer competition, a 2,000-meter battle on stationary machines, marked the first time the 69-year-old Whittaker had rowed since his college days at Princeton. Since then …

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Exploring Millennial Romance and the Brave New World of Dating Apps

You can find articles, video clips and nearly every type of media content deriding dating apps as the death of romance and the downfall of traditional dating. For some, that translates and escalates to a belief that millennials—the primary users of dating apps—have killed romance. A hefty claim, to be sure, but not entirely unfounded. …

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Developing Young Minds

On May 1, 1969, a western Pennsylvania native with a relatively unknown children’s program testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Communication. Public broadcasting faced having its $20 million budget cut in half, and policymakers were skeptical about the educational benefit of children watching television—until Fred Rogers spoke of his year-old show and television’s potential to …

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Will Someone Please Tell Me What This Bitcoin/Blockchain Thing Is All About?

Everyone has heard of Bitcoin by now (by convention, it’s capitalized when used as a protocol and lower case when used as a unit of exchange, like a dollar), but very few understand the importance of the “blockchain” technology that underpins it. This article expresses no opinion one way or the other on bitcoin and …

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Healthcare On Demand: There’s an App for That

We’ve all been there. You think you might have the flu, and you need to see a doctor, stat. You call your PCP but she’s booked solid for the next three weeks. So you hop in your car and fight the traffic to the urgent care clinic, only to find out there’s an hour-and-a-half wait. …

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Silicon Valley—and the Rest of Us

Last week I was in northern California’s Bay Area for a few days and, as I prefer to do when traveling even to familiar places, I make sure to read and watch the local media rather than “the usual” array of nationally available sources. I caught a TV report on a meeting of Silicon Valley …

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The Internet of Things

We carry our smartphones everywhere, and they connect us to everything. We feel comfortable talking to them and having them talk back. We call them phones, but they’re pocket computers, as powerful as the supercomputers of a decade ago. We use them as calculators, cameras, memory aids, executive assistants, voice recorders, word processors, road maps, …

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Kissing My Privacy Goodbye

I first became aware that my online privacy wasn’t nearly as confidential as I thought while shopping online with my sister who lives in Florida. Separated by 1,000 miles, phones pressed to our ears, eyes glued to computer screens, my price for a particular web cam was a bargain at $3.37; hers was $4.66, over …

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Quantum Couple

He grew up in Manhattan; she, in Patna, India. Both were taken with the way physics accounts for the world around them. After completing undergraduate studies at Harvard and the Indian Technology Institute, respectively, they met as first-year physics doctoral students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Upon arrival she found herself the sole …

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The Genius of Pitt

Kevin Guskiewicz has been called a genius for discovering the link between on-field head hits to football players and damage to their brains; findings that once put him at odds with the mighty National Football League. But here’s the thing about the Latrobe native, who recently won a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship, commonly called a “genius” …

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Breakthrough

On a hot afternoon in late summer 2010, a man in his 30s drove an all-terrain vehicle on an unpaved path. He was doing nearly 40 miles per hour on rough terrain. And though he was strong—a construction worker by trade—his ATV hit a bump for which he wasn’t prepared. He drove off the road. …

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Riding Out the Storm

As the curtain rose on the last scene of “The Barber of Seville,” it grazed a table that had been placed too close to the front of the stage. A miniature cannon propped on the table fell  with a clang. Everyone in the theater stopped. From his seat in the darkened Benedum Center, Pittsburgh Opera Director …

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Found in Translation

Come on, Ima, vamanos! That was the exhortation from my 3-year-old recently when she wanted me to hurry up and get out the play dough. Like now, Mommy—before I scream… Interesting, I noticed (after gritting my teeth), that a little girl still grappling with the complexities and pitfalls of English has begun to integrate words …

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