Stories by Katherine Noyes

What's IT Worth?

With the clock running on Internet time, you may think you're too busy to assess the value of IT. But valuation is more important than ever.

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HOLY TECHNOLOGY! To celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus' birth, the city of Rome is holding a jubilee that includes cultural exhibits, family events, World Youth Day and Masses celebrated by the Pope. The 13-month celebration began on Dec. 24, 1999. It's a momentous event for worshipers, and the jubilee's orchestrators don't want technical or logistical difficulties to diminish their ability to worship. Toward that end, they have developed the Pilgrim Card, which they hope will give travelers "peace of mind in [their] stay devoted to faith, conversion and prayer."

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AGRICULTURE: A New World for Old MacDonald

The Social Impact of Technology

To mark the birth of our first child last year, my husband and I-like many new parents throughout the ages-were the recipients of gifts from friends and relatives far and wide. Some of these were traditional, with a long history in the annals of the baby shower. We received a multitude of baby clothes and a handmade baby quilt, for example-necessities to help us keep the new child protected and warm. We received books and toys, sure to help educate and entertain her. We even received a special monogrammed plate to mark the date and time of her arrival, a memento that has been a tradition in our family for years and that would help her take her place among us. But we also received two gifts that made us take pause. These gifts were the product of a different era, the fruits of an industry younger than our parents. These gifts could only be described as information technology.

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SNAPSHOT FROM SPACE APOLLO 11 What's bigger than a breadbox, weighs more than 70 pounds and packs less computing power than a typical video game console? The computer used onboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft when it made its historic voyage to the moon and back just over 30 years ago. Huge mainframes on the ground controlled the mission, according to Carnegie Mellon University's James Tomayko, a former NASA consultant who now directs the software engineering master's program at CMU in Pittsburgh. But the onboard computers-one in the command module, which orbited the moon, and the other in the lunar explorer itself-were used for some aspects of navigation and timing, and they could, if needed, guide the craft back home on its own. Designers thought of the onboard computer systems as the fourth crew member.