Dana Dlott: ‘I was looking at your web page today and this quote was given:

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
— Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

‘Watson was almost exactly right but he was quoted out of context. What he was REALLY saying was, ‘I think there is a world market for maybe five VACUUM TUBE computers.’ The transistor would not be invented for more than a decade hence and Watson couldn’t even imagine it. There were just a handful of major vacuum tube computers built, with great names like Eniac, Univac and Maniac, and today there are just a few carcasses in museums, so he was quite accurate.’

Mike Groenendaal: ‘I’m sure you’ve probably gotten plenty of email about this so sorry for the redundancy but found money is subject to the income tax (there’s not much that isn’t). Of course, whether people actually report it is a different question.’

☞ Yeah, yeah, but if I found $200 in the street – the most I can conceive of finding in the street, inasmuch as $20 is the most I have ever found in the last half century (and I’ve been looking) – I would not report it as income because (a) gifts up to $11,000 are not taxable (and not taxed to the recipient, in any event, no matter the amount) and I would consider this a gift from the gods; or (b) because I would consider it nothing more than an offset to all those dollars I have lost over the years in the washer/dryer, where they get transformed to greenish gray lint (although, technically, that would be a casualty loss, subject to a giant threshold before any of it became deductible).

Michael Spencer: ‘My childhood memory of pirate reading (Treasure Island) recalls the Spanish coins: ‘pieces of eight’ because of their eight sided shape. Translated into the US dollar of 100 cents, the result is 12.5 cents per ‘bit.’ Wasn’t that the heritage?’

☞ Pirates never held any appeal for me. Too much ‘har-har-har,’ not enough showering. Robinson Crusoe was my seafarer. He was ingenuity incarnate. But, yes: I do think our notion of ‘two bits’ and the like, referenced yesterday, derives from the Spanish milled dollars that (my trusty copy of The Early Paper Money of America tells me) were the units in which Maryland denominated its currency as early as 1767, and to which New York and North Carolina switched (from the British) in 1775 as an act of patriotism, joined the following year by New Hampshire, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia. I don’t think the Spanish coins were octagonal, but they were called ‘8 reales’ ‘and were the world money standard from the last 1530s to the 1850s,’ according to the web site cited above. (How many sites could a web site cite if a web site could cite sites?)

To take one of a zillion possible examples, I am looking at a $20 bill issued in 1779 by the state of North Carolina: ‘This bill entitles the bearer to receive TWENTY Spanifh milled Dollars, or the value thereof, in Gold or Silver, agreeable to an Act of Affembly paffed at Smithfield, the 15th Day of May, 1779.’ It is numbered (#1956) and hand-signed by two North Carolinians. To the left of their signatures is the legend, ‘Peace on Honorable Terms’ and, in the margin, Death to Counterfeit. And they weren’t kidding.


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