Business, Economics, and Politics

The Army's Flying Saucer

In the late 1950s, the U.S. Army investigated a flying saucer as an airborne replacement for the ubiquitous Jeep. This is the story of the Avro Canada VZ-9 Avrocar, one of the most curious projects of the “anything goes” era of aviation.

The Autodesk File

The history of Autodesk and AutoCAD told through contemporary documents, edited and annotated by Autodesk founder John Walker. You can read this 900 page book on-line on the World-Wide Web, or download a copy to read or print off-line in either PostScript or Adobe Acrobat PDF format. New: Fifth edition (2017) updates to modern Web standards, typography, and navigation.

Autodesk Vintage Image Gallery

This gallery contains a collection of photographs from the early days of Autodesk, including the presentation to prospective institutional investors in Autodesk's initial public stock offering (IPO) in 1985, trade show exhibits in 1984 and 1985, and the first use of AutoCAD (and perhaps of any CAD system) in underwater archaeology in 1984.

Autodesk Premises Over the Years

This document is a Google Maps application which shows overhead imagery of all of the sites of Autodesk's headquarters in California and the European Software Centre in Switzerland from the company's founding in 1982 through the present. The images are linked directly to the Google Maps server and can be panned and zoomed to explore the vicinity.

Autodesk Stock Price Database

Microsoft Excel database of Autodesk, Inc. stock (NASDAQ-ADSK) from its initial public offering in 1985 through mid-1996. Daily high, low, and closing prices are included, along with volume. Annotations point out significant events in the company's history and contemporary news items. All quarterly sales and earnings reports are noted. A daily price chart linked to the database is included as well as a database which ranks Autodesk among countries of the world, considering its most recent yearly sales as Gross Domestic Product and number of employees as population is included. Charts of the relative strength of Autodesk stock compared to shares of Borland, IBM, Intergraph, Microsoft, and the Dow Jones 30 Industrials are available, as well as a chart which compares stock performance under each “administration”—chairbeing and president—since Autodesk's initial public stock offering in 1985. Requires Microsoft Excel 5.0 or above.

Currency Basket Weaver

This directory contains the file, a PKZIP archive which extracts into the file basket.xls. This is a Microsoft Excel 5.0 (or above) workbook which allows you to compose baskets of the major trading currencies: Swiss Franc, German Mark, British Pound, Japanese Yen, and U.S. Dollar and evaluate their performance over the period 1984–1994 in terms of overall gain or loss, yearly volatility, and maximum gain and/or loss from the initial position. Results are presented both for investors who “keep score” in US$ and Swiss Francs. A monthly database of currency values is included.

Blockchain Tools

Fourmilab Blockchain Tools provides a variety of utilities for users, experimenters, and researchers working with blockchain-based cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. General-purpose tools for Bitcoin and Ethereum address generation and management include: Tools for analysis of the Bitcoin blockchain (these require access to a full Bitcoin Core node with transaction index) include: Programs are written in the Perl and Python languages, developed and maintained using the Literate Programming methodology.

Code Is Speech

During the “crypto wars” of the mid-1990s, the slavers tried rolling out a particularly pernicious doctrine under which computer code and, by implication, electronically-mediated communication in all forms, was not considered speech worthy of protection compared to the spoken word or physically printed documents. We thought we'd won, but, as is so often the case, they're back! This time they're trying to use the distribution of files containing instructions for manufacturing firearms and components as a wedge issue, once again arguing that computer files and design documents are not speech. If they win, that wedge will be driven to remove protection for all forms of speech in the form of computer files. We must not let them win this one.

The Data Immortality Foundation

Imagine the Web without any broken links or vanished sites. That was the dream of Ted Nelson's Xanadu but seems utopian almost four decades later. This document proposes a market-based solution (and business opportunity) for making data of all kinds immortal: forever accessible through eternally invariant URLs. Build it and they will come.

The Digital Imprimatur

Over the last three decades the Internet has evolved into something unprecedented in the human experience: the first many-to-many mass medium. It bypasses and undermines the centralisation and concentration of information flow and empowers individual freedom of expression at the expense of government control and mass media gatekeepers. Power, especially concentrated power, is rarely relinquished willingly. Over the next decade, a collection of technologies in various states of development and deployment, promoted as solutions to clamant problems of the present-day Internet, pose the risk of “putting the Internet genie back in the bottle”. The Digital Imprimatur explores these technologies, describes how they can, and are, being promoted and adopted, and assesses the perils they pose to liberty and the Internet as we know it. Whether the Internet continues to empower and enrich the lives of an ever-growing global audience or becomes something very different indeed is likely to be decided in the next decade; The Digital Imprimatur sounds a cautionary note of what the future may hold if the present course is maintained.

Distributed Denial of Service Attack Against Fourmilab

Between January 25th and February 13th, 2004, Fourmilab was subjected to an intensive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack which pounded the site with around 400,000 hits per day to the home page emanating from more than 16,000 different IP addresses of sites worldwide. This may have been a precursor or test version of the Mydoom worm prior to its mass deployment. Here is the original incident report, updated daily with forensic analysis as the attack burst, grew, and eventually tailed off. It's back! On February 18th, 2004, the attack resumed. Follow its progress in daily updates (usually posted within an hour or so after 00:00 UTC) to the above page.


Most libertarians and conservatives have great respect for the rule of law and civil discourse. They're inclined to assume their opponents are well-intentioned adversaries with a different vision of how to better the general welfare. This is an error: they are not “liberals” or “progressives”, but rather enemies of liberty and progress. This document explores why champions of liberty must defeat them and how that might be accomplished.

Evil Empires…

Impress your friends! Persuade the undecided! Meet new and interesting people! Get your car shot up by right-wing yahoos! Be smeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal! Yes, it's the one, the only, the original “Evil Empires: One down, one to go…” bumper sticker, in both PostScript and PNG image formats in a variety of resolutions.

The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition—In Your Palm

Don't you just hate it when you're about to close a clandestine munitions deal and your partner raises a question about the relative applicability of Rules of Acquisition 35 and 177? You'd look like a lobeless altruist if you had to stop and ask whether Rule 35 is “Peace is good for business” or “War is good for business”! Install this Memo Pad document containing a compendium of the Rules of Acquisition on your Palm OS handheld and profit from the distilled wisdom of generations of Ferengi in the palm of your hand. Since this reference is provided as a Memo Pad archive, you can read it using the built in PalmOS Memo Pad application; there's no need to install a document reader application, and you can modify the document using the Memo Pad editing functions.


Nerds weren't held in the highest esteem in the tempestuous times of the late sixties, but if you had access to a mainframe computer with a fast line printer, a great way to make new friends and meet radical chicks was cranking out banners for the cause du jour on the graveyard shift when the Man wasn't looking. The FIST program traces its lineage directly back to a program I punched onto Hollerith cards for a UNIVAC 1108 in September 1969. It prints banners with a clenched fist and block-letter slogan of your choice. Various silly options let you choose a right- or left-handed fist according to your political persuasion and to adjust the size of the fist commensurate with the vehemence of your convictions and your printer's paper size. In the spirit of Donald E. Knuth's most excellent mise jour of the Adventure game, this version is presented as a literate program in the CWEB language; C source code is included.


Gnome-o-grams are occasional postings from Fourmilog which focus on finance and investing from a preservation of capital perspective. These articles discuss both contemporary events and provide generally applicable background information. They are archived below.

The Go-Getter

Peter B. Kyne's classic novelette about a young man whose “whatever it takes” attitude has inspired and motivated hundreds of thousands of readers, including this one, for almost a century. This Web edition, reproducing the 1921 first edition, is in the public domain.

GAU-8 Avenger

If there is a pyramid of badassery when it comes to guns, the GAU-8 Avenger, carried by the A-10 Thunderbolt II (“Warthog”) close air support aircraft, is near the pinnacle. Explore the details of this bad boy.

Monkeying with the Mainstream Media

Legacy “mainstream” media outlets engage in numerous forms of bias to advance their assorted agendas. One of the most subtle is the selective use of “trigger words” which, due to indoctrination and repetition, evoke an emotional response in the audience which short-cuts rational judgement. Users of the Firefox browser can install these two Greasemonkey user scripts to highlight trigger words in documents they read on the Web, and automatically translate politically correct and slanted bafflegab to plain talk.

New Red Meat edition eschews neutrality in favour of mockery of legacy media bias.

The Internet Slum

Spam, scams, viruses, worms, pop-ups, exploits, pirated warez, music, and movies; identity theft, drug peddlers, gross-out pornography, terrorist images, and subhuman discourse: is the Internet becoming a bad neighbourhood—a slum? I used to live in a slum, and I moved out. Will present-day Internet users end up doing the same?

Global IQ: 1950–2050

Doesn't it seem like the world is getting dumber with every passing year? Well, maybe it is! Combining published data for the mean IQ of countries with historical and forecast population figures permits estimating the mean IQ for the entire world's population. Standing at 91.6 in 1950, global mean IQ is presently around 89 and can be expected to fall to about 86.3 by the year 2050. This document presents the analysis, provides access to the source data for your own investigation, and discusses the many uncertainties in any study of this kind.

Islam and Political Freedom

Is Islam compatible with political freedom? This document combines data from the Pew Research Center and Freedom House to investigate how empirical evidence addresses this question.

Clash of Ideologies: Communism, Islam, and the West

Western politicians say, “We're not at war with Islam.” But Islam is more than a just a religion. Its scriptures specify a political system, civil and criminal law, economics and trade, laws of war, and other matters which other major religions leave to civil authority, and some of these policy prescriptions conflict with Western values. This essay explores whether the West should treat these aspects of Islam as an ideology, like communism, fundamentally incompatible with its values, and how best to confront it.

Peter Kropotkin's Anarchist Communism and Anarchist Morality

Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921) was a revolutionary before leaving his native Russia, but it was in the Jura mountains of western Switzerland, present-day home to Fourmilab, that he developed his philosophy of anarchism. In his Memoirs, he wrote, “…when I came away from the mountains after a week's stay with the watchmakers, my views upon socialism were settled. I was an anarchist.” His 1887 pamphlet, Anarchist Communism, is one of the clearest expositions of Kropotkin's view that anarchism cannot seek solely to do away with government, but must also abolish property and privilege. In Anarchist Morality, published in 1897, he treats morality as a characteristic of all living beings and argues that anarchism, oft condemned as immoral, is in fact entirely consistent with this innate morality.


In an op-ed (never published) from July 1988 I ask whether the government of the United States is losing its legitimacy: whether citizens continue to believe it has the “consent of the governed”.

Art of Money Getting

Here is Wisdom. One of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 19th century, P.T. Barnum, presents his 20 “Golden Rules for Making Money” in this pithy, succinct, and witty document penned in 1880. A Web edition and plain ASCII electronic text are available, both in the public domain.

Microsoft at Apogee

I hereby predict that, in retrospect, early 1997 will be seen as the high point in Microsoft's domination of the personal computer software industry. Will they be blown away by Java, Oracle, or IBM? No…I think not; the situation is more complicated that that, yet has clear precedents in the mainframe and minicomputer eras.


Anti-personnel land mines are the predominant terror weapon of our time. With more than 100 million in the ground in more than 40 countries, they have killed and maimed more people in the last 50 years than nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles combined. Can we deploy high technology in the form of advanced sensors and semi-autonomous robots to close the gap between the cost to lay a mine (about US$3) and the cost to remove it (about US$1000) and thereby rid the world of this plague? This directory contains a collection of documents describing the land mine problem and clearance technologies.

No EU!

No sooner do you get rid of one Evil Empire than another begins to sprout--in Brussels! If you're lucky enough to be outside (or even encircled by) the European Union, thank your lucky stars and display this symbol to ward off those twelve most unlucky stars from climbing your flagpole. If you're inside, say “enough is enough” with this No EU! symbol, available as image files in assorted resolutions, scalable PostScript, or emblazoned upon a bewildering variety of merchandise.

No Treason

Lysander Spooner's No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority. Written in 1870 and published by the author, No Treason remains one of the greatest flat-out anarcho-libertarian rants ever penned.

Nuclear Fission Fuel is Inexhaustible

“Sustainable energy” is on the lips of politicians, media figures, and others seeking to signal their virtue, but rarely do they mention that a technology first demonstrated in 1951 has the ability, any time we choose to adopt it, to entirely replace fossil fuels, eliminate 100% of carbon emissions from energy production, and provide power for all people on the globe at European per capita energy consumption for at least the next ten thousand years. But it has a scary name.

Project Pluto

In the late 1950s and early '60s Project Pluto aimed at developing a nuclear powered cruise missile which could fly three times the speed of sound at low altitude with unlimited range and deliver nuclear devastation to multiple targets with pinpoint accuracy. It was one of the most bizarre concepts of the age of unlimited nuclear optimism, and got as far as ground testing a full scale flight weight propulsion system.

Programs Are Programs

Programs Are Programs: How to Make Money In the Software Business discusses the rapid evolution in the distribution channels for software over the short history of the personal computer industry and suggests that the next few years may see software moving from a sales oriented model to a subscription model, much like cable television and perhaps technologically linked. This paper is strongly related to the Unicard paper and is best read in conjunction with it. This document is included in The Autodesk File.

The Rat and the Butterfly

A fable which poses the question, “If a well-managed commercial software project attempts to maximise total return over the product life-cycle, what then should a free software project seek to optimise?“

Slave Lives

Taking away a person's freedom and confiscating the entire product of their life's work is morally abhorrent. But what about doing it to a large population, just in smaller slices?

Strike Out: Reading Unedited Text

The advent of global data networks has largely removed the editorial filtering which both restricted access to large audiences but also vetted the quality of text exposed to a broad audience. Here is a technique I've found effective when reading unedited text, whether in newsgroups, discussion boards, or Web log comments, which reduces the time wasted chewing through incoherent text and the depressing devaluation of the cognitive skills of one's contemporaries which results from an overdose of contributions to open fora. A modest technological fix, the “Banish Button”, is proposed to raise the intellectual level of the text readers encounter in unedited venues.


Unicard: Ubiquitous Computation, Global Connectivity, and the End of Privacy discusses how a variety of technological trends are converging to make possible a world in which privacy no longer exists. It argues that in most cases privacy is not taken away from individuals by governments and corporations, but is rather willingly relinquished in exchange for convenience and/or perceived security, and that the apparent benefits of these new technologies will be so compelling that resisting their adoption, or demanding that they are implemented in an inherently secure manner, will be a difficult challenge.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

U.S. Code

The entire U.S. Internal Revenue Code (26 USC), and Immigration and Nationality Act (8 USC) compiled into Web documents. Cross-references within sections are hyperlinked so they can be followed by clicking on them. You can search the full text for occurrences of words and phrases and view matching sections. New: 2005 release brings both titles up to date with all changes enacted through January 19th, 2004, corresponding to Supplement III of the 2000 edition of the U.S. Code.

The Use of the Apostrophe in the English Language

Nothing so instantly identifies the scribblings of intellectual knuckle-walkers as riotously funny misuse of the apostrophe. This humble punctuation mark has been the downfall not only of innumerable greengrocers, but also self-possessed self-published authors and pompous pundits. This document presents five easily-remembered rules which will keep you from tripping over the apostrophe in your own writing, and proclaims International Write Like a Moron Day to commemorate those who can't be bothered with such details.