When Computing Got Started

Several weeks ago we announced Buried Reads is starting an Engineering Newsletter. It’s been tricky to figure out what form this should take, since there’s not enough great blogging on engineering. Instead we’ll be doing more original work. We are starting with the story of how computing got started, going all the way back to early Babylonian algorithms, forward into the eighteenth century when Computer was an occupation held by workers calculating everything from the position of the moon to tables of logarithms, leading finally into Charle Babbage and his invention of the Difference Engine.

We are digging into original source material to tell the story, including early research on what it was like to be a Computer in the eighteenth century and Babbage’s autobiography. One moment in particular struck me as magical. Imagine a young Charles Babbage fatigued from calculating monotonous tables of logarithms who has fallen into daydreaming.

One evening I was sitting in the rooms of the Analytical Society, at Cambridge, my head leaning forward on the Table in a kind of dreamy mood, with a Table of logarithms lying open before me. Another member, coming into the room, and seeing me half asleep, called out, “Well, Babbage, what are you dreaming about?” to which I replied, “I am thinking that all these Tables (pointing to the logarithms) might be calculated by machinery.”

Charles Babbage in Life of a Philosopher

My mind races thinking of how momentous this moment was. Our laptops and cell phones may never have happened or been delayed decades even centuries later if not for this moment of inspiration that Babbage had.

If you are curious to learn more, subscribe to our Engineering newsletter.

From the Operators

Joel Gascoigne of BufferApp publicly shares the company’s performance in Buffer 2018 metrics. Impressive to see this company payback its Series A and decide to go non-venture scale. They reached $3.29 million in net profit this year.

Elisa Steele of Namely tells the story of getting on several boards and what the experience has been like. Listen at How To Effectively Use Your Board as a Resource.

From the Investors

Sammy Abdullah of Blossom Street Ventures does an analysis of public SaaS company multiples, which have fairly obviously tanked right along with the rest of the NASDAQ. The most interesting fact: public SaaS companies average -5% EBITDA margin. This was surprising to me.

Andrew Clark of Visible urges CEOs to write a yearly wrap up for their investors, and offers several useful sections you can consider including.

DifferentFunds published the State of Terms in Venture Capital 2018 for sub $100M funds. It covers the terms they iron out with their LPs, all the way down to, just as an example, the average number of words in the LP agreement. Founders can benefit quite a from understanding where their early seed fund investors are coming from.

From the Authors

Eliot Peper of makes an interesting point in True maturity requires treating adults like children. After reading How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett, I’m a big believer that rich emotional experiences can often be shaped by simple environmental factors. For examples, maybe I’m having a nightmare simply because I’m too hot from all the covers over me, and so my body is trying to come up with an explanation why I might feel this way. Peper points out that maybe we should sometimes assume complex adult behavior is from simple factors like this.