A fascinating compendium of early-20th-century mechanical devices, this expansive work ranges from basic hooks and levers to complex machinery used in steam, motive, hydraulic, air, and electric power, navigation, gearing, clocks, mining, and construction. More than 1,800 engravings include simple illustrations and detailed cross-sections.
LATE one June afternoon in 1903 a hush fell across an expectant audience in the Royal Institution’s celebrated lecture theatre in London. Before the crowd, the physicist John Ambrose Fleming was adjusting arcane apparatus as he prepared to demonstrate an emerging technological wonder: a long-range wireless communication system developed by his boss, the Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. The aim was to showcase publicly for the first time that Morse code messages could be sent wirelessly over long distances. Around 300 miles away, Marconi was preparing to send a signal to London from a clifftop station in Poldhu, Cornwall, UK.
Yet before the demonstration could begin, the apparatus in the lecture theatre began to tap out a message. At first, it spelled out just one word repeated over and over. Then it changed into a facetious poem accusing Marconi of “diddling the public”. Their demonstration had been hacked – and this was more than 100 years before the mischief playing out on the internet today. Who was the Royal Institution hacker? How did the cheeky messages get there? And why?
That things would not go smoothly for Marconi and Fleming at the Royal Institution that day in June was soon apparent. Minutes before Fleming was due to receive Marconi’s Morse messages from Cornwall, the hush was broken by a rhythmic ticking noise sputtering from the theatre’s brass projection lantern, used to display the lecturer’s slides. To the untrained ear, it sounded like a projector on the blink. But Arthur Blok, Fleming’s assistant, quickly recognised the tippity-tap of a human hand keying a message in Morse. Someone, Blok reasoned, was beaming powerful wireless pulses into the theatre and they were strong enough to interfere with the projector’s electric arc discharge lamp.
It was dubbed “Big Bird” and it was considered the most successful space spy satellite program of the Cold War era. From 1971 to 1986 a total of 20 satellites were launched, each containing 60 miles of film and sophisticated cameras that orbited the earth snapping vast, panoramic photographs of the Soviet Union, China and other potential foes. The film was shot back through the earth’s atmosphere in buckets that parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where C-130 Air Force planes snagged them with grappling hooks.
He describes the white-hot excitement as teams pored over hand-drawings and worked on endless technical problems, using “slide-rules and advanced degrees” (there were no computers), knowing they were part of such a complicated space project.
First, they look fantastic, all 6 colors have a crystal translucent glossy look. Although they do not have LEDs built in, we’re confident that sticking a diffused LED into the body would make it light up very nicely. They are also shorter than cheap arcade controls, and snap into place, so you only need 1.5″ of depth (1.25″ if you bend the contacts over). The button action is smooth, without a strong click, yet you can definitely feel when the button is pressed. A tiny micro-switch is pre-installed, with gold plated contacts.
What would happen if we finally invented personal teleportation? Who are the engineers responsible for creating the artificial heart and Moog synthesizer?
What happens when you take four engineers, film them walking in slow motion, and put a sweet guitar riff in the background?
Thank an Engineer is here to answer those hard hitting questions. From funny videos to blogs to forums, thx is where engineers go to interact with their peers outside of the lab and get the recognition and admiration they deserve.
You should know that resistance to the program’s hold is futile…if less than 1 Ω.
The folks at lahack.com have created a custom badge wall generator for showing off your hacking and making skills on the internet(s). If you want to save the image after you’ve generated it, click ‘view image’, and then save it as a jpeg (your browser might want to save it as a .php file, just change php to jpg).
Of course, if you really want to really wear your skills on your sleeve, you can check out the badges in the shop!
What gifts of electronics and education did you give this year? Did you give something that will spark the mind of a young kid that will become an artist, designer, engineer or scientist? Did you make something for someone, did you give a book? Post up in the comments!
Today’s New York Times Magazine is a special edition dedicated to individuals who have died this past year. This edition of the Magazine was edited by Ira Glass and his This American Life team; the issue is titled These American Lives (the accompanying website is quite good as well). “Hello, world” — the article by Ellen Ullman about Dennis Ritchie, is a wonderful thing — touching on the accomplishments of Ritchie, but also discussing the power of openness and sharing in shaping his work and our modern society:
Hello, world: those were the words that appeared on the screen once you had programmed and run the iconic first example in the book “The C Programming Language,” which Dennis Ritchie, the creator of C, co-wrote with Brian Kernighan. I remember that slim volume’s revelatory power when I read it — its generous, collegial style, more a talk with presumed equals than a textbook. I still have on my shelf the copy I used, a first edition. The pencil scratches seem to indicate I was figuring out what the hell I was doing.
I was a self-taught programmer, and it was through Ritchie that I came to understand the layers of software that worked beneath the screens and printers and keyboards and mice. The newness of C’s conception — and the elegance of it — was that the language was both “high” and “low.” Higher-level languages — like Cobol and Fortran — kept you out of the innards of the machine. “Lower-level” languages — called “assembler” — worked on only specific hardware. Closed environments dominated the computing world of the 1970s and early ’80s. An operating system written for a Hewlett-Packard computer ran only on H.P. computers; I.B.M. controlled its software from chips up to the user interfaces.
But C and the operating system it was deeply intertwined with, Unix, designed by Ken Thompson, were made readily available. Programmers were free to poke around to see and directly manipulate what was in the computer’s memory. The entire environment presumed you knew what you were doing, or trying to do. It let you fail spectacularly — bring down the system with one command — an annoying but essential part of any great experiment. The C/Unix system invited collaboration across time and space, what today we might call “crowd sourcing,” except that the members of this crowd — researchers in government, professors of computer science, students in universities — were deeply knowledgeable and often brilliant.
There doesn’t seem to be a persistent link to the actual article, so you’ll have to go through the Bits blog or the Magazine portal to read it — it’s worth it. As of now, it’s not behind a paywall (at least for me).