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BYTE Magazine Archive
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Unofficial BYTE FAQ
( R.I.P. 1975-1998 )

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(magazine articles)

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(free Java applet)

Tom's Oscar Contest

Tom's Oscar Contest
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Recent Movies

Begin Again is a great example of a modern musical—a film centered on music that doesn't interrupt the story with unrealistic song-and-dance numbers. Keira Knightley stars as a young singer-songwriter in the shadow of her rock-star boyfriend. Mark Ruffalo co-stars as a down-and-out record producer who discovers her latent talent on open-mike night at a noisy bar. Both characters are in the dumps and looking for an escape route. They find it in her music, which is more like ore than gold but is ready to shine. The redemptive quality of music carries this film, although it glosses over some problems (alcoholism, a broken marriage) that aren't so easily solved. Irish writer/director John Carney builds on his previous success with a musical movie—Once (2006), which launched the Oscar-winning song "Falling Slowly." Begin Again is a bigger production that borders on the formulaic but has enough charm to overcome its clichés.

Edge of Tomorrow is the evil twin of Groundhog Day (1993). Tom Cruise plays a cowardly U.S. Army public-relations officer who pisses off a general and finds himself busted to private and assigned to an infantry squad on the eve of a major battle. The enemies are invading space aliens well on their way to conquering Earth. Through a quirk of fate, Cruise's character discovers that when he's killed in combat, he relives the same day again and again but can alter his actions to survive. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray's character discovered the same unexplained ability and used his reincarnations to become a better person and a worthy lover. In Edge of Tomorrow, Cruise's character uses his reincarnations to become a better killer. Both films may be regarded as Buddhist allegories, but the new one seems to replace nirvana with Valhalla. Normally, it's unfair to judge one movie against another that has an unrelated storyline. In this case, however, they're so similar and so different that they're almost mirror images of parallel universes. Starting now, it's unthinkable to see one without seeing the other. Both are good in their own ways. But Edge of Tomorrow is the more unsettling—it shows a weaponized twist on the Buddhist quest for enlightenment.

Maleficent retells the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale from the viewpoint of Maleficent, the wicked witch who cursed the beautiful young Princess Aurora to eternal sleep. But in this revisionist history for the modern age, the wicked witch is not so much wicked as emotionally damaged. Betrayed by a lover, Maleficent (played with delicious verve by Angelina Jolie) becomes embittered and bent on revenge. Aurora (Elle Fanning) just gets in the way. Unlike Sleeping Beauty, Disney's 1959 animated adaptation of the legend, this live-action remake is noteworthy for showing good versus evil as shades of gray, not black or white, and for offering a path to redemption. Is it too Freudian for little kids? Probably not; they're more perceptive than we realize. But the computer-animated fire-breathing dragons and other violent scenes go far beyond the 1959 version, which was scary enough for small children. This movie is better suited to adolescents and adults.

Finding Vivian Maier is an intriguing documentary about an elderly Chicago woman who died in 2009 and left behind a storage locker filled with personal effects. Among them were more than 125,000 photographic negatives, color slides, 8mm movie films, and self-recorded tapes. Vivian, it turns out, was an extraordinary amateur photographer whose work—especially her urban street photography—compares favorably with that of the best professionals of the 20th century. Yet she never published, exhibited, sold, or shared her work with anyone. She labored her whole life as a nanny, caring for the children of affluent families. And she was mysterious. She never dated or married, never discussed her own family or background, and sometimes used an alias. What were her secrets? Why did she hide her talents? John Maloof, the young man who discovered Vivian's artwork, explores her life in this startling but ultimately puzzling film.

>> See more mini-reviews, including The Grand Budapest Hotel ... The Monuments Men ... 12 Years a Slave ... Her ... August: Osage County ... Lone Survivor ... The Wolf of Wall Street ... American Hustle ... Inside Llewyn Davis ... Nebraska ... The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ... All Is Lost ... Ender's Game ... Captain Phillips ... The Fifth Estate ... Gravity ... and many more!


 Tom's Inflation Calculator

Now there are two versions of Tom's Inflation Calculator—the original Java version and an all-new JavaScript version for wider compatibility with web browsers, smartphones, and tablets!

Tom's Inflation Calculator includes the latest U.S. government inflation data plus alternative data sets. Both calculators are free and will automatically run in your web browser after clicking on the links above. By using historical data and forecasts, they can adjust U.S. dollar amounts for retail price inflation either forward or backward in time for any years between 1665 and 2100. (The alternative data sets have narrower ranges.)

The JavaScript version includes a new data set—the Social Security Wage Index. In addition to using the U.S. government's official inflation data, the Java version of Tom's Inflation Calculator has an alternative data set from ShadowStats, a private company. These are the best inflation calculators on the Internet.


Computer Dictionary
Common Terms Defined

Are you baffled by a technical term or acronym you've never seen before? Or just curious about the latest techie slang? Tom's Computer Dictionary may have the answer. From "AAC" to "zoo virus," it defines more than 800 terms in plain language.


[ FUJI X20 IMAGE ] Fuji X20 Review

Read my in-depth review of the new Fujifilm X20 compact digital camera on the Maximum PC magazine website. Access is free!


Guitar Cheat Sheet

Do you want to learn the most common major and minor guitar chords? Instantly transpose songs from one major key to another? Find out which major and minor chords go together? Play scales in any major key? Learn the notes on the fretboard? It's easy! And it's free! Just download and print Tom's Guitar Cheat Sheet.


Index to Tom's Articles  


Here's an index to more than 350 of Tom's articles in Microprocessor Report and Networking Report, the insider's guides to microprocessors and networking semiconductors. Learn about embedded processors, microcontrollers, digital-signal processors, and other chip-related topics. (Subscription required for most articles.)


Test Your Java Security

How safe is your system from hostile Java applets? Find out with JSecure, one of Tom's free applets. JSecure harmlessly tests the security manager of your Web browser or applet viewer by trying to access information from your computer's operating system and hard disk. Try it today!


Scramble Text With ROTator

ROTator is a Java applet that lets you encode and decode text in the popular Internet format known as "ROT 13." Lots of other programs do that, too, but Tom's ROTator applet goes further by allowing you to encode and decode text in any rotational letter-substitution format. With ROTator, you can shift the letters left or right, and you can shift them by any number of letters from ROT 1 to ROT 26.


[ BYTE JUNE 1998 ] BYTE Articles

Here is an index to more than 180 of Tom's computer articles from BYTE Magazine published from 1992 to 1998. (BYTE ceased publication in June 1998.) Most articles are still available online and include the original photographs, figures, and screen shots.


And more stuff...
  • Tom's Mini Movie Reviews. Snappy reviews of recent movies, like those in the blue column on the left. Reviews that scroll off the column end up on the Mini Movie Reviews page.

  • Shutterbug Articles. More than a dozen of Tom's photography articles from Shutterbug magazine are now online. Learn how to personalize your film speed, banish dust from your darkroom, make professional-looking postcards, find the best deals on used cameras, create special effects with open flash, and more.

  • Tom's Oscar Contest. An annual tradition for 25 years, Tom's Oscar Contest is both entertaining and challenging. Hundreds of people have tried to guess who will win an Oscar in each Academy Award category. Competing against them is the computer brain of Tom's famed OscarCalc program, which sometimes wins the contest and always places near the top.

  • The Death of BYTE Magazine. In 1998, after 23 years of operation, BYTE Magazine was shut down by its new owner, CMP Media. A year later, CMP launched BYTE.com as a very different web-only publication. To learn the inside story about what happened to the world's second personal computer magazine, see Tom's Unofficial BYTE FAQ: The Death of BYTE Magazine.

  • Tom's Favorite Web Links. Find information about personal computers, microprocessors, Java, and other technologies. There are quite a few photography-related sites, plus some offbeat places you've never been. Lots of new links!

  • Tools for Web Builders. The hardware, software, programming tools, and books used to build this web site might be useful to you, too. Most of these tools are linked to their vendors' web sites so you can find more information.

Cool hobbies:   Phil's Old Radios
Buy hardware:   OsoSoft Mineral Collection
My guitar teacher:   Dave Creamer
Almost-forgotten history:   Commodore Computer
Nutrition adviser for family health:   Marsha Kunz, M.S., Give Me Five
World's foremost CPU authority:   Microprocessor Report
Kick-ass info about PCs:   Maximum PC Magazine
Online archive of tech articles:   BYTE Magazine
Practical photography:   Shutterbug
Contact the webmaster:   Feedback page

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Last site update: July 19, 2014

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