Small Ideas — Large Effects Aug 2023

I often think of the 'small' or taken-for-granted inventions that change the world
Of course — not really small — rather they are elemental, atomic and yet prolific in spawning more advanced ideas.


History of writing — wiki


Some notational signs, used next to images of animals, may have appeared as early as the Upper Palaeolithic in Europe circa 35,000 BCE, and may be the earliest proto-writing: several symbols were used in combination as a way to convey seasonal behavioural information about hunted animals.

Simple machines
Scientific Method
Scientific method — wiki

Thanks to Aristotle, Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham, John Dewey

Most obvious in 2023 — the hyperlink
Hyperlink — wiki


a team led by Douglas Engelbart (with Jeff Rulifson as chief programmer) was the first to implement the hyperlink concept for scrolling within a single document (1966), and soon after for connecting between paragraphs within separate documents (1968)

Cut and paste
Cut, copy, and paste — wiki

Excerpts (that I cut and pasted)

The term “cut and paste” comes from the traditional practice in manuscript-editings whereby people would cut paragraphs from a page with scissors and paste them onto another page.

Inspired by early line and character editors that broke a move or copy operation into two steps — between which the user could invoke a preparatory action such as navigation — Lawrence G. “Larry” Tesler proposed the names “cut” and “copy” for the first step and “paste” for the second step. Beginning in 1974, he and colleagues at Xerox PARC implemented several text editors that used cut/copy-and-paste commands to move and copy text.

The incredibly effective method of organization using simple indentation

Outline — wiki

import sqlparse

def indent_sql(sql):
    parsed = sqlparse.parse(sql)
    output = ""
    indentation = 0

    for statement in parsed:
        for token in statement.tokens:
            if token.is_whitespace():
                output += str(token)
                output += " " * (indentation * 4) + str(token)
                if str(token).upper() in ["SELECT", "FROM", "WHERE", "GROUP BY", "ORDER BY"]:
                    indentation += 1
                elif str(token).upper() in ["END", "ELSE"]:
                    indentation -= 1

    return output

Indentation style — wiki


Some software languages (such as Python and occam) use indentation to determine the structure instead of using braces or keywords; this is termed the off-side rule. In such languages, indentation is meaningful to the compiler or interpreter; it is more than only a clarity or style issue.


Geometry, Axioms, and Proofs
Zero — scientific american

Zero — wiki


The Babylonians did not technically have a digit for, nor a concept of, the number zero. Although they understood the idea of nothingness, it was not seen as a number—merely the lack of a number. Later Babylonian texts used a placeholder cuneiform zero to represent zero, but only in the medial positions, and not on the right-hand side of the number, as we do in numbers like 100.

Step function

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *