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Marking time

Marking time on technology

Friday 24 October 2014

Etymology of a microphone

As I was reading about the technicalities of sound recording, I wondered where the lavalier micro­phone got its name​—​(a lava­lier is the little microphone you sometimes see clipped to peoples’ shirts when they are interviewed on TV). I did some digging and here’s what I found.

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Saturday 13 September 2014

What’s in a ballet shoe

Dancers and makers talk about pointe shoes, in this fascinating documentary.»more»

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Monday 7 July 2014

The putter

In Sheffield (once the great centre of cutlery manufacture) the person who assembles and adjusts scissors is called a putter-together, sometimes putter-togetherer, often shortened to putter. It takes years to develop the skill and judgment to do this job really well.

In this video we see Cliff Denton at work. He is a putter at Ernest Wright & Sons Ltd, one of the few Sheffield businesses that still makes high quality scissors in the traditional way.

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Tuesday 31 December 2013

Woodford demographics

I have been at the Woodford Folk Festival for a couple of days, giving a little presentation about researching environmental issues.

Instead of the usual bring-your-own-tent arrange­ment, I stayed in Tent City. This is an area where somebody else has already put up the tents before you arrive, and has put comfortable beds in them. There is also a communal tent with a cold room, tables, chairs, and boiling water on tap​—​and a table with mains power where campers can charge their phones. When I looked, the table was covered with a mess of Apple iPhones, and very few other types.

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Wednesday 17 July 2013

Moon signals at Bustard Head

I found this in the Queensland Figaro news­paper, 24 September 1903. The same story also ran in the Launceston Examiner, the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, the Melbourne Argus, the Hobart Mercury, the Zeehan & Dundas Herald, and the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin:

Moon signals

It was while
locum tenens at the rectory of Gladstone, Queens­land (says a writer in Chambers’ Journal for August) that I became aware that moon-signals could be used in the same way as those of the sun. It was my duty to go to Bustard Head Lighthouse every few months to hold service and visit the Sunday-school and people of the sta­tion. I usually went by land, and rode 30 miles to Turkey Station; and as soon as I arrived Miss Maud Worthington, the daughter of the station owner, would at once helio­graph the news of my arrival at Bustard Head, and enquire by use of an 8 in looking glass at what time a horse could be sent to meet me on the other side of the swampy ground, over which it was wiser to walk. There I was met by Mr Rookesby and his wife, who piloted me to the lighthouse station. Mr Rookesby is a well-known inventor in Queens­land. He erected the heliograph between Turkey Station and the lighthouse, but failed to make communication with Gladstone, 84 miles off, either because an 8 in mirror was too small, or because of other conditions peculiar to the lie of the country. He then experimented with signalling by moonlight, and discovered that​—​notwithstanding the feeble light of the moon as compared with sunlight​—​owing to the darkness of the night, the moon’s reflections were quite powerful enough to carry the intervening 10 miles between the two stations.
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Monday 8 July 2013

A severe blow

A while ago in Dunedin I visited the Otago Settlers Museum, an institution founded in 1898, the 50th anniversary of the first Scot­tish settlement of Otago. In the beginning the museum fo­cused on the earliest European arrivals​—​from 1848 until 1861 when the gold rush started. The focus gradually wid­­ened to ac­knowl­edge more recent arrivals and, eventually, the Māori people who had been there all along. In 2012 the museum was renamed Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Toitū is the Māori name of a stream that once flowed near the site, and the word carries other con­no­ta­tions, as the museum website explains.

In the museum is an ‘early colonists’ gallery, purpose-built in the early 1900s. In this large square room, lit by lantern windows at the top of the hipped ceiling, there are hundreds of framed pho­to­graphs stacked six rows high. It’s very impressive, and gives the impression that anybody who can’t point to an ancestor on the wall is a newcomer.

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Monday 2 April 2012

Making rasps and rifflers

I have some cabinetmaker’s rasps in my kit, but they are the common machine-made kind. I have never used a hand-made rasp. Perhaps I should.

Rasps and rifflers are still made by hand in the old way by a few small manufacturers, like Forge de Saint Juery. The video below shows how much skilled handwork goes into making these tools, which explains why they are rather expensive. To justify the cost, it is claimed that hand stitched rasps work better and cut smoother than the machine made ones, as Chris Schwarz explains

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Wednesday 29 February 2012

Catoptric lights

Some work I’m doing at Cape Moreton Lighthouse prompted me to do just one more search for historical photographs and draw­ings online. At the National Archives I found something new​—​this drawing, signed by W Wilkins, lighthouse engineer of Long Acre, London, of a proposal for Cape Moreton lighthouse, the first lighthouse in Queensland and the only one built of stone.

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Friday 20 January 2012

Kodak in collapse

The news that Kodak has filed for bankruptcy in the US prompts me to think about this company, which dominated the com­mer­cial and technical aspects of photography throughout the twen­tieth century. Among the many Kodak products I have used, I fondly remember my first two cameras, the Carousel projector, Kodachrome film, the 100 mm Wide Field Ektar lens on my first 4x5 camera, and countless Austral postcards.

In 1888, with the introduction of the first Kodak camera George Eastman changed photography by allowing ordinary people to take photos without needing their own darkroom. The camera was sold loaded with a roll of film that could take 100 pictures. Owners sent the camera back to the Kodak factory for pro­cess­ing, printing and reloading. Hence Kodak’s slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest.”

This was a social transformation as great, in its time, as the intro­duction of the mobile phone camera.

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Wednesday 23 November 2011

Town gas

Gentle reader, if you know where this photograph was taken, please send me a message. The picture shows a small town gas­works, newly built or under construction. In front of the camera is the gas holder with five blokes sitting or standing on the empty vessel. Behind on the left is a shed (for storing feed stock?) and in the centre a brick building (the retort house?). No chimneys are visible (odd?). The style of the photographic print sug­gests a date in the 1870s, ’80s or ’90s. The name of the photographer sug­gests the place shown may be one of the 61 former gasworks sites in New South Wales. Any ideas?

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Saturday 25 December 2010

Ah, Kodachrome…

I haven’t shot any Kodachrome for years, but I feel a slight sad­ness knowing that I’ll never be able to do so again. Kodak stop­ped selling the film a year ago, and the last Kodachrome lab in the world (Dwayne’s Photo Service, in Kansas) will stop processing the film in the next few days. This marks the end of a long run​—​since 1935​—​for a film that was noted for its sharpness, colour fidelity and archival stability.

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Monday 30 November 2009

Bill Blair, trug maker

I was in New Zealand last week studying Oamaru’s wonderful Victorian limestone buildings. Beside the harbour I found Bill Blair. In an old tin shed he makes wooden rakes, pitch forks, grain shovels, firewood carriers and other products of woodland hand craft. His best-selling item is the Sussex trug, a type of wooden basket which he makes in a range of sizes. I bought one as a gift for my long-suffering partner Margie, who I had left holding the fort while I enjoyed this solo sabbatical.

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Monday 3 August 2009

Goondiwindi wheelwright

On 24 August 1942 R A Cook, wheelwright and blacksmith of Goondiwindi, wrote a note on his printed invoice paper. I can’t be sure of the name of the recipient, but the note went like this:

Dear Sir
Just a line to ask you if you can supply me with some river oak billets for bullock yokes. They want to be 4ft 11 long by 6 x 6. If you can, let me know what price for same. I require (15) Fifteen and I want them quick.
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Monday 15 June 2009

Hokusai sawyers

Found on Wikipedia Commons, this beautiful woodcut of Japanese sawyers cutting some heroic planks. Neither of the sawyers, nor the saw doctor, have time to enjoy the view of Mount Fuji, but their lady companions might. I recommend following the link to the high resolution version.

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Tuesday 13 May 2008

Keeping up appearances

My old push bike has started to look daggy parked outside the polished granite foyers of city offices. It rides well, but the frame is rusty and the back tyre is balding. Time for a makeover and spoke-polishing.

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Thursday 8 May 2008

Timber and iron in the smart colony

Yesterday I gave a talk at the Queensland Museum, part of a series called Queensland Connections. In this series, speakers about cultural heritage subjects are teamed with Queensland Museum staffers who talk about natural environment subjects. The result is short talks and odd double-bills.

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Wednesday 1 February 2006

Chinese furniture joints

I’m grateful to Curtis Evarts for the information about classical Chinese furniture on his website, including some animated images showing how joints were assembled.

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Tuesday 9 August 2005

Rejuvenating Seurat

Researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology have been studying Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte​—​1884. Their research paper describes their work​—​here’s the abstract:

George Seurat first employed his divisionist painting technique on A Sunday on L Grande Jatte​—​1884 beginning in October 1885. Painting with pigments representing colors seen in the visible spectrum that were minimally mixed on the palette and using divided brushstrokes, he aimed to impart luminosity to the surface and to explore 19th century ideas of color theory, such as simultaneous con­trast. Pigment analysis has disclosed that the brush­work containing zinc yellow has darkened significantly: Yellow, green-yellow, and orange brushstrokes have be­come brown, olive-green, and reddish brown, re­spec­tive­ly. Additionally, the painting has further darkened due to the natural aging of the oil medium. By performing spectral reflectance measurements in-situ on darkened areas of the painting and on paint-outs of comparable unaltered colors, using Kubelka-Munk turbid media theory, imaging the painting with colormanaged digital photography, and image editing with Adobe Photoshop, a digital version of the original, more luminous appearance of La Grande Jatte was simulated.
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Sunday 10 July 2005

Sewer history

On sewerhistory.org you’ll find writings and images illustrating the history of sewerage systems. It’s based on the work of Jon Schladweiler, historian of the Arizona Water & Pollution Control Association. (Thanks to Pruned for pointing this out.)»more»

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Tuesday 5 October 2004

Health versus Roads

A Sydney newspaper article reveals a piece of single-minded planning.

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Wednesday 15 September 2004

Pine resin

Discussion of the ingredients of cutler’s resin continued on the oldtools list today. Steven Longley has turned up an American supplier of pine resin, also called brewer’s pitch. You can buy it from Jas Townsend & Son, Inc.

Daniel E L Yurwit added this to the exchange:

FWIW, the Apache also made jugs woven from plant fiber (a “tuss”) to carry water, and coated them heavily with pine tar resin to waterproof them. Some still work effectively 100+ years later.
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Tuesday 14 September 2004

Cutler’s resin

Pardon me, as I jot down a recipe. Cutler’s resin is 8 oz pine pitch, 1/4 cup carnauba wax and 4 oz of beeswax, melted together in a double boiler and used hot. Mark Marsay wrote on the oldtools mailing list:

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Friday 13 August 2004

The way we do business in the military

From a mailing list message from an American soldier in Afghanistan:

Technology has changed the way we do business in the military. It does seem somewhat bizarre to have unfettered internet access in the middle of nowhere. I can sit in my tent with my ThinkPad and email, IM, and browse the internet the same as if I was sitting in my living room back in Georgia. Myself and 39 other buddies purchased a satellite system from an outfit out of India. The ISP is actually in Germany and we get just about T1 bandwidth which is split up 40 ways if everyone is on (which doesn’t occur due to different work shifts). We “beam” it out via Wi-Fi to the different tents. Even our aircraft (I’m in a CH-47 Chinook unit) are on an intranet of sorts. The system called Blue Force Tracker allows secure tracking of all the different aircraft (and ground elements) within the theater real time. We can email between aircraft and to our headquarters during flight…all with satellite technology. I’ve hardly sent a snail mail letter since I’ve been here.
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Thursday 4 March 2004

Scaling the underground

Thanks to Jason Kottke for pointing out a collection of maps of subway systems of the world, presented on the same scale.

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Saturday 28 February 2004

Diderot online

If you don’t have easy access to Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie you might like to know it is being published on the web by the University of Chicago. This is from the website introduction:

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Monday 15 December 2003

Crocodiles in space

From a Queensland government media release dated 11 December 2003: Environment Minister Dean Wells today launched a new Environmental Protection Agency website to highlight research involving the tracking by satellite of six large estuarine crocodiles as part of a world-first research project.

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Tuesday 28 October 2003

iTunes for Windows

‘Hell froze over’ said the image behind Steve Jobs at the launch of iTunes for Windows the other week. It’s a free download from Apple. Kiri Te Kanawa is singing to me now. Rejoice!

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Thursday 9 October 2003

Mobiles and the appropriation of place

Cultural anthropolist Mizuko Ito has written an article about the way mobile phones are changing the experience of being together for young Japanese people:

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Wednesday 17 September 2003

Stopping the Kodak Carousel

I have seen this message posted to various internet mailing lists:

Eastman Kodak Company has confirmed plans to discontinue the manufacture and sales of slide projection products and accessories in June of 2004. This early disclosure is being made to key user groups in order to allow time for adoption of a replacement technology or purchase of backup slide projector products.

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Tuesday 12 August 2003

Melting metal in a microwave oven

David Reid has been working on this new method.

Research is nearing completion on a system that will allow the melting and casting of bronze, silver, gold, and even cast iron, using an unmodified domestic microwave oven as the energy source. A potential foundry in every kitchen !!
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Wednesday 30 July 2003

Inkblot passwords

Adam Stubblefield, an intern with Microsoft Research, thought that our ability to tell ourselves unique stories about inkblots might be a secret key to a strong digital lock - the online password. [from research.microsoft.com via kottke.org].
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Sunday 27 July 2003

Too much bamboo

Yes Jeremy, there is such a thing as too much bamboo.

Outside my study window, on the other side of the road, is a stand of bamboo. It grows intermixed with Bougainvillea and brings me pleasure as it waves in the breeze.

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Friday 25 July 2003

Digital Gutenberg bibles II

My post about digital Gutenberg bibles has a sequel. Another Gutenberg bible has been digitised. [via kottke.org]

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Sunday 1 September 2002

Disposable computers

The computer in front of me is my ninth. Its predecessors averaged less than two years on my desk. The superseded computers have trickled down to other people, then been sold or given away. When last seen, all of them worked well but couldn’t manage the latest software — practical proof of Parkinson’s law of data. Here’s the list of PCs and where I last saw them:

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Saturday 24 August 2002

Rainforest

This saddening picture is from the rainforest site.

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Thursday 22 August 2002

Blockmaking

More online exhibitions: The Science Museum puts neat little exhiblets on its website. Like Blockmaking, eight pages about machines from the Royal Navy block factory, set up in 1805. The factory pioneered mechanised production of large numbers of identical widgets. Lots of blocks (which sailors never call pulleys) were needed on sailing ships — the exhiblet tells us that a seventy-four gun ship needs 922 of them. So the ship’s block was a good candidate for factory production.

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Wednesday 21 August 2002

Letterpress museum

Briarpress.org has a delicious online museum. Dozens of virtual printing presses are here, richly linked and organised, displayed with other tools of the trade. And there is an illustrated glossary of letterpress terms​—​handy if you don’t know your frisket from your tympan. I admire the clarity of words, pictures and nav­i­ga­tion. My congratulations to Eric Nevin and the other authors.

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Monday 29 April 2002

Dial-up telegraphy

The Morse Telegraph Club is a group of enthusiasts interested in any topic concerned with Morse code and telegraphy. Probably the biggest constituency in the club is retired landline Morse operators. Each year, the various chapters around the country meet on Professor Morse’s birthday to remember the good old days of landline telegraphy and the heyday of the railroads. In addition, keys and sounders are dusted off and telegraph circuits are established with other chapters around the country. Morse code is soon heard clicking from sounders and greetings are received from friends in other chapters.

Read how it is done, with modems and phone lines.

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Tuesday 16 April 2002

Animal glue

As old trades fade, amateurs take up some of them and support the market for all sorts of obscure stuff. Dr Rudolf Dick sells tools and materials for cabinet and musical instrument makers from a shop in Metten, Germany.

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Tuesday 26 March 2002

Screw standards

James Surowiecki has written a history lesson about tech­no­log­i­cal standardisation for Wired. He claims that standards have had large economic and technological effects. OK, I agree. But he gives too much credit to just one man, William Sellers, who he calls a legend and the finest tool builder of his time.

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Wednesday 20 March 2002

Digital Domesday Book fails

It was meant to be a showcase for Britain’s electronic prowess​—​a computer-based, multimedia version of the Domesday Book. But 16 years after it was created, the £2.5 million BBC Domesday Project has achieved an unexpected and unwelcome status: it is now unreadable. From an article in The Observer.
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Thursday 28 February 2002

Digital Gutenberg bibles

In March 2000, ten researchers and technical experts from Keio University in Tokyo and from NTT spent two weeks in The British Library creating digital images of the two [Gutenberg] Bibles and the other related items.
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Saturday 5 January 2002

Why a Strad sounds so good

Dr Joseph Nagyvary attributes the brilliant sound of Antonio Stradivari’s violins to borax and alum, used as insecticides.

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Friday 4 January 2002

Lumberjacks in wetsuits

The Superior Water-Logged Lumber Co., Inc. of Ashland, Wisconsin, makes a business of pulling sunken logs out of lakes and rivers. Some of this old-growth birch, oak and maple escaped from log rafts and sank more than a hundred years ago. The company promotes the timber for making musical instruments, because of its colour and density, and because of the effects of its long immersion:

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Wednesday 5 December 2001

L’Encyclopédie

Yesterday’s score from Archives Fine Books in Brisbane: A Diderot pictorial encyclopedia of trades and industries: 485 plates selected from “L’Encyclopédie” of Denis Diderot (2 vols, Dover, 1959).

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Search marquis-kyle.com.au

On this page
Etymology of a microphone
What’s in a ballet shoe
The putter
Woodford demographics
Moon signals at Bustard Head
A severe blow
Making rasps and rifflers
Catoptric lights
Kodak in collapse
Town gas
Ah, Kodachrome...
Bill Blair, trug maker
Goondiwindi wheelwright
Hokusai sawyers
Keeping up appearances
Timber and iron in the smart colony
Chinese furniture joints
Rejuvenating Seurat
Sewer history
Health versus Roads
Pine resin
Cutler's resin
The way we do business in the military
Scaling the underground
Diderot online
Crocodiles in space
iTunes for Windows
Mobiles and the appropriation of place
Stopping the Kodak Carousel
Melting metal in a microwave oven
Inkblot passwords
Too much bamboo
Digital Gutenberg bibles II
Disposable computers
Rainforest
Blockmaking
Letterpress museum
Dial-up telegraphy
Animal glue
Screw standards
Digital Domesday Book fails
Digital Gutenberg bibles
Why a Strad sounds so good
Lumberjacks in wetsuits
L'Encyclopédie

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