The Golden Record images included on the Voyager probes provoke more questions that the answer

Image of curvature of Earth as seen from orbit
Image of curvature of Earth as seen from orbit
Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

From the first time humans craned their necks to the night sky, the question of is there life out there has been one of the fundamentally alluring. Our first forays in to space during the second half of the twentieth century, despite coming up empty in terms of martians or moon dwellers, has done nothing to quell our curiosity — partly because for every extra mile we venture in to space, there’s still a potentially infinite more to explore. Indeed, recently, unexplained sightings of flying objects are still sparking intrigue even amongst the highest echelons of authority.

We’re fairly confident…

Incorporating NLP models into iOS development is refreshingly straightforward and a great way to explore machine learning

A carton of eggs with funny faces drawn on them in black marker.
A carton of eggs with funny faces drawn on them in black marker.
Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Today, we’re going to make a basic app that’ll be able to use natural language processing (NLP) to predict whether a statement is positive or negative.

This sounds impressive, but creating machine learning models using Apple’s CreateML framework and integrating them into an app is enticingly straightforward. The app below is very basic — but this workflow to train and create a machine learning model can be used to create far more complex and interesting machine learning projects

Preview of the finished app

A super simple look at how to work with APIs and SwiftUI

London Underground train blurred as it moves past platform
London Underground train blurred as it moves past platform
Photo by Dan Roizer on Unsplash

Full disclosure — I’m not the best iOS developer, or programmer in general. I’d scarcley got my head around UIKit and the delegate pattern for handling data received from APIs before *boom* I open up Xcode after a break and all of a sudden there’s a view struct staring back at me — not a trusty viewDidLoad method in sight! That’s how I discovered SwiftUI. At first, I was immensely confused — the paradigm shift from the imperative UIKit to the declarative SwiftUI is a real head-scratcher if you’ve still at the level where closures freak you out. …

Python? JavaScript? Go? Nah…these are the languages you need to learn if you want to zig when everyone else zags.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Picture the scene. You’re on the cusp of your career, and — like everyone else you know — you want to break in to the illustrious world of tech. But what language should you learn to impress your prospective employers or build the next big thing? Python? JavaScript? Maybe you want to be an iOS developer, so you could learn Swift? Want to beef up your data scienece resumé? You could learn R

Or, you could really impress the Google interviewers, stand out from the JavaScript crowd, and impress all (or hopefully some) of your freinds, by learning one of…

Apple’s pursuit of clean, simple design landed them with a big fee for a small app.

A Swiss Railway Clock seen from beneath
A Swiss Railway Clock seen from beneath
The Swiss Railway clock design that Apple used in iOS 6. Photo by Amparo Michel on Unsplash

Let’s face it, you don’t end up being worth more than the FTSE 100 without occasionally running into a few legal issues. From their trademark battle with the Beatles’ record label, Apple Corps (a dispute which ran for nearly thirty years), to the endless back-and-forth patent war with Samsung, Apple’s legal team probably haven’t had any time to celebrate their company’s meteoric rise through the market capitalisation record books.

With a company so big, with so many products and users, every new piece of hardware or software is bound to cause some issues. iOS 6 was infamous for the Apple…

Representing digital functions via their physical antecedents is heavily entrenched, but does it have to be?

Image of an old floppy disk abandoned on the ground
Image of an old floppy disk abandoned on the ground
Floppy disks may be physically redundant, but we see them everyday. Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

I think it was a Facebook post a few years ago that led to me to think about skeuomorphism. The post went something along the lines of ‘isn’t it weird that kids today don’t even know what the ‘save’ button is supposed to be’. I had never noticed that the ‘save’ icon on many applications was a little floppy disk. …

The Ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about producing good content. Photo by Eran Menashri on Unsplash

The internet is full of people telling you how to achieve certain goals: X things you must do to be Y, you must not do A if you want to be B, and so on and so forth. Well, that’s nothing new: one of the first poets in the Western canon also wrote a list of didactic tidbits on how to be successful. His name was Hesiod, from rural Greece, and in around 700 BC he composed a poem called Work and Days, which gave his brother Perses advice on how to successfully prosper off the land.

A lot of…

At the height of the Cold War, two films brought the horror of nuclear war to British and American televisions — and we need a refresher.

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

It was one of those October afternoons that dispel any lingering doubt that winter is coming. The weight of the cold, damp grey skies dragged the light from the day and the leaves from the trees. I was fourteen, and that afternoon, the YouTube suggestions algorithm had decided that art would indeed mimic life (well, mimic weather at least) and presented me with Threads, a 1984 BBC television film that depicts a nuclear attack and its aftermath on the United Kingdom.

If I thought the afternoon was bleak before, well, it got a whole lot bleaker. I don’t think any…

How I ended up making an app, and why I still try.

Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

I had never been more excited for a download to finish. I could almost hear my rural broadband creaking under the weight of the 5 GB behemoth.

I was downloading Xcode — Apple’s integrated development environment, used to develop iOS and MacOS applications. It was August 2011, and I was in my mid-teens. Intoxicated by a sweet cocktail of The Social Network and naïve fantasy, I had decided to become the next app millionaire. …

Detail of an advert showing a woman grimacing accompanied by the words ‘neauraglic pains.’
Detail of an advert showing a woman grimacing accompanied by the words ‘neauraglic pains.’
Detail of a 1939 ad for ‘Phensic No-Pain’ tablets (Aspirin)

Beyond the infamous Craven A ‘for your throat’s sake, smoke!’ adverts, the late 1930s had plenty of other products aimed at keeping the body in tip-top shape. I’m fortunate to have a huge collection of issues of the British photojournalistic magazine — Picture Post — which published some fascinating features and reports during its 1938–1957 run, especially in the run up to the Second World War. There is a particular strain of tragic foreshadowing in the magazine’s coverage of the rise of Nazi Germany, especially given the magasine’s strong anti-fascist stance. These deserve more considered attention, but for now, let’s…

Fred Gray

One part experience, nine parts curiosity: history, iOS development, design, and whatever else ends up floating my boat.

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