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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)

(free Java applet)

(free Java applet)

Tom's Oscar Contest

Tom's Oscar Contest
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Recent Movies

Interstellar is an ambitious science-fiction film that strives to get the science approximately right while tempering it with a warm father-daughter relationship. Matthew McConaughey stars as an ex-astronaut who's now a cornbelt farmer in a near-future Dust Bowl II. He doesn't like farming, but climactic changes are making Earth untenable for humans, and every food crop is precious. The only hope seems to be finding another world to colonize. McConaughey dominates the screen with his space-cowboy persona, and the excellent supporting cast includes Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Matt Damon, and Jessica Chastain. In its epic scope, storyline, and length (almost three hours), this movie invites comparisons with Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). But Interstellar is tidier, leaving no room for interpretation. That choice doesn't necessarily make it a worse film, but it will likely provoke less discussion, so it's unlikely to become another classic.

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is dynamite—one of the best films of 2014. Michael Keaton plays a has-been action-movie star who's trying to make a comeback by writing, directing, and acting in a serious Broadway play. No more plot summary is necessary, because this film is all about the acting, cinematography, and suspense coiled by the play within the play. All the performances are revelations. Keaton has never been better; Naomi Watts nails the role of his long-suffering ex-wife; Emma Stone reveals new talent as his recently rehabbed teenage daughter; comedian Zach Galifianakis transforms himself into an intense dramatic actor; and the always-excellent Edward Norton almost steals every scene he's in. All this energy needs no further amplification, but Mexican director Alejandro Iñárritu (Biutiful, 2010, Babel, 2006) amps it up anyway by editing the film to appear as nearly one continuous tracking shot. The unusual score adds still more tension with its barrage of drum solos and a perfectly calibrated piano piece comprised of single notes without accompaniment. It'll be a crime if this movie doesn't gather Oscar nominations for acting, cinematography, film editing, sound editing, visual effects, and original score.

Before I Go to Sleep is yet another spin on the Hollywood affliction that's as common as the flu—amnesia. This time Nicole Kidman plays the sufferer with the blank-slate mind. She remembers new things for only one day, then forgets them overnight. And, of course, she's trying to solve a mystery: How did she become so damaged? Was her husband (Colin Firth) to blame? Or her brain doctor (Mark Strong)? Or a forgotten person who may be named Mike? It's a dandy puzzle that has her wavering back and forth, and you will, too. Although the performances are good and the amnesia angle is above average, a similar story was done better in Memento (2000). They would make a great double feature.

Fury stars Brad Pitt as an American tank commander fighting in Germany in the waning days of World War II. The plot is classic war movie: hard-nosed sergeant (Pitt in top form) shapes up bright-eyed young replacement who gets his first baptism of fire. Unlike movies made by the actual WWII generation, however, this one strives for greater realism. That means more gore, of course, but it also tries to show the soul-hardening effects of mortal combat. These tank crewmen are beyond war weary; war is their normal life now. We won't be surprised by anything they do, which is portrayed most effectively by a nerve-racking scene in which they barge into the apartment of two young German women. Writer/director David Ayer artfully extends this scene much longer than you can hold your breath. But as the film rolls toward its climax, the old war-movie clichés emerge, and you'll almost wish these soldiers will die heroically so they won't have to face a bleak life of maladjustment back home.

>> See more mini-reviews, including Kill the Messenger ... The Giver ... Boyhood ... Lucy ... Magic in the Moonlight ... Begin Again ... Godzilla ... Edge of Tomorrow ... Maleficent ... Finding Vivian Maier ... 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 ... 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 380 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: November 17, 2014

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