Nov 012012

What a difference a year makes!

Just one year ago, we were busily starting our Kickstarter project! Over 300 people from every continent of the world donated generously, and as a result we were able to do many things. One of those things – launching our lecture series – had the greatest impact for us!

Unknown to us, Michael Isip, the Vice President of the television division of KQED was in the audience for our first lecture (“Woven on the Loom of Sorrow”) and he LOVED what he saw! Shortly thereafter we had a meeting with the entire senior management team at KQED. Our goal was simply to obtain a letter of support from KQED, demonstrating that Computing was something worth putting on television. Well, we got much more: KQED is so enthusiastic about Computing: The Human Experience, that they committed a significant portion of their 2012 and 2013 research and development budget to create the materials necessary to take to corporate PBS in the hopes of securing a broadcast window in 2015 or 2016. A huge leap forward for Computing – made possible by our Kickstarter backers’ faith in this project!

KQED has hired producer Michael Schwarz and writer Marty Koughan to develop the materials needed to pitch Computing to corporate PBS: a series outline, a treatment of one episode, a production budget, and a sizzle reel. We are working closely with them to develop these materials and are really enjoying the working relationship that is developing!

Michael Schwarz is an Emmy award winning producer who has produced a number of shows for PBS – The Botany of Desire, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, and Hunting the Hidden Dimension to name just a few. He has also done a variety of shows for other networks including Deadwood on HBO. Michael’s Company Kikim Media is founded on the premise that “a true story, honestly told, can change lives.” We are very lucky to be working with Michael.

Marty Koughan is an Emmy award winning writer who has worked with 60 Minutes and Walter Cronkite and is now a producer for Bill Moyers Journal. Marty is creative, funny and a joy to work with!

Just last week, we were in the Bay Area for a day of filming. What an experience that was! We filmed for a full 10 hours at Purebred Studios in San Francisco on a green screen set, plus a few outdoors shots. Filming is a lot of waiting with periods of intense, frantic energy: long shots, medium shots, and close ups are taken of the same dialog. In addition to Marty and Michael, we had a cameraman, a soundman, a gaffer (who set the lights), and an assistant (who attended to all sorts of odd jobs, such as filling a teapot). Speaking of teapots, as sort of an Easter Egg in the script, we borrowed from a curator at the Computer History Museum a replica of the famous Utah Teapot – famous, because it’s THE standard reference object in computer graphics.

Marty and Michael were incredibly patient directors, who helped bring out the best in me for the script. Three things I learned. I’d never make a good professional hand model: talking while pouring tea, paying attention to where the water goes AND what the camera sees is really hard! Also, thanks to my virtually non-existent hairline, I need considerable makeup to reduce the shine. And finally, “nuclear” is NEVER supposed to be pronounced “nuCUlear” – it must have been my Texas background that made that come out in certain takes.

December will be focused on editing the reel, which we hope to have finished sometime around the start of the New Year. Sometime in the first quarter, we will take those materials forward to corporate PBS to pitch the series, secure a national broadcast date, and then the real work of reaching out to foundations to raise the funds needed to produce Computing begins!

Just for fun, you’ll find an outtake from the session here.

In other news we have a publisher! We have a contract for a book for Computing: The Human Experience as well as a contract for a book series focusing on the human experience of computing! Over the summer, we had conversations with several publishers, looking for someone who would be able to bring our work to a wide, global audience, who was open to working with us closely to devise a creative, approachable book design, and who understood the potential of all the related parts of the Computing project. Well, I’m happy to report that we found such a publisher – and much more – in O’Reilly Media! O’Reilly has a long history of publishing important and useful books, from the early Whole Internet User’s Guide and Catalog to their current large portfolio of technical books. O’Reilly Media also conducts a number of important conferences (such as their Emerging Technology Conference and the Open Source Convention) and also supports the DIY community with their Make magazine.

For the Computing book series, we are seeking authors to write about the events, inventions, people, and implications of the human experience of computing. We are already in conversation with one potential author regarding a book directed to the general public about women in computing. If you have any ideas for a book for the series, or know of an author whose work you think would fit with Computing, please let us know! We are looking forward to creating a strong series that looks at computing from the unique perspective of its relationship to humans. We can only create such a series if we have authors to write the books! Maybe you have always thought about writing, but never quite got to it for whatever reason. Let us work with you to help you become the author you always knew you could be!

Thank you for your continuing support for Computing: The Human Experience. Without you, the project would simply not be where it is today. In the coming months, we will be visiting corporate PBS, presenting another lecture in the series (this one is set tentatively for the end of January at the Computer History Museum), continuing research and development of the book, and refining the treatment for each broadcast episode. It’s quite an exciting journey!


Broadcasting from San Francisco, KQED is one of the nation’s most watched public stations. As their site notes “KQED produces and acquires programs that inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Northern California. KQED broadcasts the best available programs from PBS, APT, and other distributors, and also produces its own unique national and local programs, series, and specials. Airing more independent films than any other public broadcasting station in the country, KQED is committed to bringing the work of local and independent film producers to the community. KQED video content is now widely available for streaming and downloads on this site and on iTunes.”

“Kikim Media was founded in 1996 by Kiki Kapany and Michael Schwarz, whose work over the past 20 years has been honored with some of the most prestigious awards in broadcasting. These include three national Emmy Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awards, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Journalism Award for Investigative Journalism, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, Red and Blue Ribbons from the American Film Festival, the Grand Prize in the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards for Coverage of the Disadvantaged, and numerous Ciné Golden Eagles and local Emmys.

“O’Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, research, and conferences. Since 1978, O’Reilly has been a chronicler and catalyst of leading-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and galvanizing their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.”

Grady is writing a column for IEEE Software titled “On Computing,” addressing the impact of computing on humanity. You may find the podcasts of each of his articles here.