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Communications Programming Technology

60 Years of Hamming Codes 66

swandives writes "In 1950 Bell Labs researcher Richard W. Hamming made a discovery that would lay an important foundation for the modern computing and communications industries — coming up with a method for performing computing operations on a large scale without errors. Hamming wrote about how self-checking circuits help eliminate errors in telephone central offices. He speculated the 'special codes' he proposed — which became known as Hamming codes — would only need to be applied to systems requiring unattended operation for long periods or 'extremely large and tightly integrated' systems where a single failure would incapacitate the entire installation. Hamming code was the first discovery in an immense field called coding theory. This article looks back on the history of Hamming codes, their applications, and includes interviews with Todd Moon, Professor of electrical and computer engineering at Utah State University and David MacKay, Professor of natural philosophy in the department of Physics at the University of Cambridge and chief scientific adviser to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. An interesting read, about a little-known but fundamental element of information theory."
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60 Years of Hamming Codes

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  • Impossible (Score:0, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 25, 2010 @01:34PM (#34343786)

    I've been assured many times by Slashdotters that the only reason we have technology and computers is because of the '60s Space Race. I refuse to believe that people are smart by default and discover things on their own. Obviously there can only be progress when there's rockets or people floating around in free fall doing nothing. So clearly, Hamming codes were invented in space, by Mars colonists mining asteroids or something. This whole "telecom" thing and using computers for scientific purposes is a fad.

  • by NoOneInParticular ( 221808 ) on Thursday November 25, 2010 @03:22PM (#34344498)
    Actually, Hamming is a bit overrated. He was a tireless self-promotor who himself named these things after himself. Really a no-no. Hamming codes and Hamming distance are fairly simple constructs and by no means the first, the last, or the most significant in the field. The real giant in the field is of course Claude Shannon, who, in my opinion, has been more important for the field of computing as a whole than even Alan Turing himself (Shannon's master thesis for instance proved how to do arbitrary boolean circuitry in hardware. 1932). Hamming is just a footnote. He found a good algorithm, and ran with it for fame and glory.
  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Thursday November 25, 2010 @05:15PM (#34345224)

    If you're a cheap bastard I'm sure you can find a pdf, but it's well worth the asking price.

    Exactly. Remember kids, the money you spend goes directly to Richard Feynman, so he can continue to write excellent books from beyond the grave.

God made machine language; all the rest is the work of man.