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THE “FATHER” OF THE MOUSE

 

To find the origins of the mouse, we have to go back to the almost prehistoric (in computer terms) year of 1963, when Doug Engelbart published a paper on how to augment human intellect through the use of the computer. This paper was almost 20 years ahead of its time in its description of such unknown concepts as personal workstations, networks of users communicating with one another, and word processing. Based on this paper, Engelbart received a grant to try out some of his ideas for using computers.

Among the many ideas that Engelbart's group explored to help people use the computer was the mouse. It was a pointing device that people found they could use easily without special training or other special equipment. The name came from the small size and the tail-like cord leading to the computer. The original mouse was made of wood and had a single button for sending commands to the computer, but soon the number of command buttons was increased to three.

The first computer to use the mouse was the Xerox Star, which was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and released in 1981. An alumnus of PARC then worked for Apple to develop the Lisa computer, which was the direct predecessor of the very popular Macintosh. Today, the mouse has become widely used with IBM compatible PCs as an input device for many different types of software.

Source: Steven Levy, "Of Mice and Men," Popular Computing

 

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DATA BASE HELPS FIGHT ON AIDS

 

In the fight against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the computer has become an important weapon for researchers in their search for drugs that might be effective in deactivating the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. Studies have shown that inhibiting the HIV enzyme, called a protease, deactivates the AIDS virus; therefore, researchers have been looking for a chemical compound that will match and thus cripple the enzyme.

The traditional approach to this type of research would involve randomly testing thousands of chemicals, a time-consuming process that would not guarantee that a suitable chemical would be found. Instead, scientists at the University of California at San Francisco used three computer programs to search the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Base for molecules that mirror the HIV enzyme. The data base contains structural images of more than 60,000 existing drugs.

The first program narrowed the search to 10,000 possibilities. The second program, called Dock, then searched for chemicals whose shape would fit an indentation in the HIV enzyme. Dock reduced the list of possible chemicals to 200. A stereo image of each chemical was produced by the third program, Midas Plus. This enabled the scientists to reduce the list to 20 chemicals, including Haldol, a psychotropic drug that doctors often prescribe to their patients who suffer from schizophrenia.

The researchers were encouraged by their discovery that Haldol closely matches the HIV enzyme. However, they also determined that the drug would have to be administered in doses 1,000 times that of normal—enough to kill a patient—to block the HIV virus. Although Haldol is not an immediate "cure" for individuals suffering from the HIV virus, it provides researchers with a starting point in developing a chemical compound that is less toxic than Haldol but effective in blocking the HIV enzyme.



Source: Michael Alexander, "Fight Against AIDS Takes to the Screens," Computerworld.

 

 

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Date: 2015-02-03; view: 713


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