IBM Codes History Of Modern Math iPad App
April 9, 2012 Timothy Prickett Morgan
On April 7, 1964, two weeks before the World’s Fair opened up in Flushing, Queens, one and a half borough hops from where I sit as I write The Four Hundred each week, IBM announced a machine that still, to a large degree, defines what a system is. It was the System/360 mainframe, of course, and we sometimes forget how exotic computers were at the time, and indeed mathematics and information theory as well.
By the way, the 1965 Ford Mustang–the only car I ever really want to own, if I ever do own a car again, and make mine a two-door baby blue convertible with a white ragtop–was also introduced at the World’s Fair that April in 1964. I was not personally introduced to the world until the following March, so I could not attend, and my parents would never have left the farmlands of the Kittatinny Mountains to venture the 100 miles east to Queens. At least not until their grandchildren were born in New York City more than three decades later. (Dad was an American Motors man back then, and the Ford Mustang would not have drawn him out.)
But if you were at the World’s Fair, you might remember an exhibit called Mathematica: A World of Numbers. . . And Beyond, which as the name suggests, was a 50-foot-long infographic created by Charles and Ray Eames (husband and wife) for the IBM pavilion of the World’s Fair that spans from 1000 AD to 1960 AD, outlining all of the major advances in math and including over 500 biographies.
With science and technology studies on the wane here in the United States and Big Blue in need of mathematicians like never before because of all of the focus on analytics and big data, IBM has gone back into history and re-implemented the legacy Mathematica infographic as a modern, colorful, iPad application. So now, you can have this little piece of the World’s Fair all to yourself, provided you have an iPad, of course. The app also includes some animated shorts that the Eames created that IBM is calling the “Mathematics Peep Show” that explain various mathematical concepts.
This is exactly the kind of thing you can show your children or grandchildren. You can download it on iTunes here.
Now IBM needs to create an Android version of the app, and one that uses HTML5.