York professor spearheads Canadian computer museum

Until recently, the job of preserving Canada’s computing heritage has fallen mostly to individual collectors, reported the Ottawa Citizen March 4. While the United States has several major museums and institutions dedicated to the history of computers and information technology, there are almost no places in Canada where a collector can donate a particularly valuable electronic artifact. According to York University computer science Professor Zbigniew Stachniak, that is a pity because Canadians have a lot to celebrate in the field. “Americans and Europeans are taking very good care of their computing heritage, and in Canada we can be very, very proud of many achievements, actually the Canadian contribution to computing is enormous,” said Stachniak “The only problem is you cannot study that in Canada.”

Realizing that little was being done to take care of Canada’s computer heritage, Stachniak founded the York University Computer Museum a little over a year ago. The only other dedicated museum in Canada appears to be a small operation in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, that focuses on vintage computers from the 1970s to the mid-’80s. The biggest hurdle Stachniak faces is the same one faced by all collectors – lack of space. The machines are not small, especially the older ones. Stachniak said collectors have played an important part in saving a lot of technology from the scrap heap.

Military studies emotion in decision-making

The military is going touchy-feely with a $120,000 psychological study on the role emotion plays in moral and ethical decision-making, reported the Calgary Herald March 4. The new study is part of a larger, $750,000 project at Defence Research and Development Canada looking at adaptive and creative decision-making under stress. Martin Shadwick, a York University defence analyst with the York Centre for International & Security Studies, said the research might prove useful to Canada’s military. “You want someone who can, as coolly and as calmly as possible, make a rational and informed and prompt decision without being overcome by raw emotion,” Shadwick said.

Calgary YWCA’s boss a quiet leader

Although Jill Wyatt, the CEO of the YWCA in Calgary and a 1969 York grad, has been in positions of leadership most of her adult life, she explained it was all quite accidental, reported the Calgary Herald in a profile March 4. “As far as a career, I had no direction in mind when I was a kid. I knew I liked people and culture. The options for women in those days, frankly, boiled down to being a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. So I became a teacher. I was really quite malleable.” From junior high, fully bilingual Wyatt attended York University’s Glendon College where she won a scholarship to study French for one year in Caen, Normandy.

Even at low interest rates, variable mortgage best, says study

CanWest News Service cited a York University study in a story on whether locking in or signing up for a variable mortgage at today’s low interest rates is best for homeowners, in a story printed by the Edmonton Journal March 4. “Canadian consumers are better off, on average, financing a mortgage, with a short-term floating prime interest rate, compared to a long-term fixed rate,” concluded the 2001 study by Moshe Milevsky, finance specialist in the University’s Schulich School of Business.

On air

  • Nancy Mandell, a sociology and women’s studies professor at York, discussed creative ways parents can spend more time with their kids, on CBC Radio’s “Calgary Eye Opener” March 3.
  • Television producers sought out two York University space scientists for informed reaction to NASA’s news that data from its Mars rover indicates the Red Planet once had water on its surface and theoretically had the potential for life. Paul Delaney spoke to CTV’s “Newsnet Morning” and Brendan Quine spoke to CP24 TV’s “Money Day” March 3. Both are astronomy and physics professors in the Faculty of Pure & Applied Science.
  • Jack Granatstein, professor emeritus of history at York and author of Who Killed the Canadian Military?, commented on the Canadian role in Haiti, the military budget and rumours of base closures and mothballing tanks, aircraft and ships, on CFAX-AM’s “Newsline” in Victoria, March 2.