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May 17, 2012

'Computers' were once people

Daily Star

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Computers are a relatively recent invention; for many, within our lifetime. The machines are an integral part of our everyday lives, and to tell the truth, I've not given the origin of the word computer much thought. While reading a book on the periodic table recently, there was a section that brought home the word's origin to me.

During World War II, scientists were working on plutonium, neutrons and neurons, trying to determine speed, atoms available and a host of other things. Their work required calculations of long lists of numbers. Wives of the scientists, bored with their lives at Los Alamos, were hired to calculate these long lists of numbers. Each woman did one type of calculation, passed it on to the next, forming an assembly line. These women crunched endless tables of data and were known as "computers."

So, the first definition of the word was someone who computes and now we know it as a machine. Interesting. As an aside, it was due to these women and their endless computing, that the Manhattan Project was able to move forward. Like me, you probably had never given a second thought to the origin of the word computer, but now you know.

New Arrivals

Daphne Sheldrick's memoir tells of her success as the first person to ever raise newborn elephants. Her techniques have also saved many other baby animals in Kenya. "Love, Life, and Elephants" is the true story of her life. She works in the orphans' nursery in Nairobi National Park and her experiences with the animals and efforts to save and promote the country's wildlife are exceptional.

In "A Velvet Scream" a novel by Priscilla Masters, Kayleigh Harrison 14, is found left for dead outside a nightclub. DI Joanna Piercy tries to find out why, but Kayleigh is not cooperative. A case similar to this happened six months ago, and then another girl goes missing. Piercy is convinced Kayleigh can help, but how can she convince her?

"Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts" by Alice Medrich helps you make homemade desserts quickly and easily. All have been tested by the author and require minimal ingredients and time. Photos show exactly what your dessert will look like. Tips and hints are helpful, too.

Gerard Macdonald's "The Prisoner's Wife" is a modern-day political thriller. Shawn Maguire has been hired to find an Iranian who is being interrogated by the CIA in an unknown location. He's confident he can find his man, but what he isn't sure of, is if he can handle the prisoner's wife. Nonstop action will have you grabbing the arm of your chair.

Children's Books

"Every Day's a Dog's Day" by Marilyn Singer is a book of poems. These poems though, are told from the viewpoint of dogs, which gives them a whole new slant. The poem on the first day spring is joyously celebrated by rolling in the mud. On the Fourth of July, humans are noisy, while telling their dogs to be quiet if they bark. When it's a snow day, the best part is eating the snow off the street, probably not what we think of first. What great fun this is.

Lauren Thompson wants kids to move in "Hop, Hop, Jump!" Whether you are wiggling your toes, standing on your head, scrunching your nose, you'll be moving some different part of you on each page of this book. You may even find you think of new moves not even mentioned in the book.

Bernard has a problem. Whenever his aunts visit, they love to give him kisses, and kisses, and kisses. He can't take it anymore and he announces there will be no more kisses. His aunts are really disappointed and they really want to show how much they love him. How will everyone reach a compromise? Find out in "No More Kisses for Bernard" by Niki Daly.

Larf is a 7-foot tall Sasquatch who lives alone in the woods. He's a vegetarian, likes gardening and walking in the woods. No one knows about him and he's happy about that. When Larf learns that there will be a Sasquatch coming to a nearby town, he wants to meet him, and what happens changes his life. "Larf" by Ashley Spires will leave you smiling.

Library Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday.

Marie Bruni is director of Huntington Memorial Library in Oneonta. Her column appears in the community section of The Daily Star every Thursday. Her columns can be found online at