Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

This week, a computer genius is calling it a day, while a computer genius of the past is finally getting his due. And to complete this geek trifecta, "World of Warcraft" and "Guitar Hero" are going to record a duet. Here are our Picks of the Week.

Gates Calls It a Day

Bill Gates is set to retire from day-to-day operations at Microsoft and concentrate all of his efforts on his foundation. So we just wanted to take a minute to talk about what this means for Microsoft. First of all, Microsoft will be fine. The new guy coming in, Steve Balmer, has been around Redmond forever. In fact, he was a college buddy of founders Gates and Paul Allen. The guy goes way back and will stay the course. This isn't like Carly Fiorina's much-publicized departure from HP.

Gates leaves behind quite a legacy at Microsoft, but we think his most significant accomplishment is that he basically created the software industry by making the platform upon which software developers could base their work. That platform went from Basic to DOS to Windows to Vista.

History may actually judge Bill Gates by his philanthropy and not his works. If you ask people on the street what Andrew Carnegie did for a living, nine times out of 10 they won't know. But they will know about his university and charitable work. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping up to be the wealthiest foundation ever. Bill's second act may actually eclipse his first.

The First Computer

Gates is taking off, but will he be remembered as fondly as Charles Babbage? Who was Babbage? Like Bill Gates, he was one of the greatest computer theorists of his day. Too bad he lived before computers. The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., now has a working model of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine No.2 on display. Babbage was an inventor and visionary who lived in 18th century London and designed very early "computers." For various reasons, he was not able to build his engine, and no one in Victorian England ever got to see them. Transported from London, where it has just been completed, the engine consists of 8,000 parts of bronze, cast iron and steel. It weighs five tons and measures 11 feet long and seven feet high. Designed between 1847 and 1849, the engine is a startling example of elegant design and inspired engineering.

Geekiest. Combo. Ever.

Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind the massively successful online role-playing game "World of Warcraft," has announced it will team with Activision and provide a downloadable track for "Guitar Hero 3." The song, "I am Murloc," is described as a "tongue-in-cheek tribute to the beloved race of fish-people" found in the game. The track will be available via the Xbox 360's Xbox Live download system and on the PS3's PlayStation store. We don't even know where to begin with this one. This is like Captain Kirk walking into the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Jonathan Blum and Dan Evans co-host "Strange New World," a weekly syndicated radio show. Blum hosts the blog Blumsday.com and Evans is a features editor at PC Magazine.

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