Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Technological and Muck-Raking Appendix to Postblogging Technology, December Titanium

 

By Anynobody - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18445244

Titanium is, we keep hearing, going to be one of the major structural elements in the North American XF-108 Rapier supersonic interceptor. We hear a great deal about how much of it is being used in the DC-7; and while the XF-108 will be cancelled, fifteen A-12s, 3 YF-12s and  34 SR-71s will fill some of the gap. 

Another thing we here today is that a shortage of American titanium led to the surreptitious import of  Russian titanium during the 1960s, so that the Soviet Union was spied upon by planes made with the Motherland's titanium. And as if that weren't enough to make for a story about oopsy-themed metals instead of planes, we have the sour suggestion that the real reason America is dragging its feet over titanium is that all that newly-built magnesium infrastructure would go to waste, and this finally makes the story of "Mag-Thor," or magnesium-thorium alloy, the slightly radioactive  structural metal so widely used in the early years of the Space Race, but mostly on "New Look" weapon systems like the Bomarc missile, one of the great cringing embarrassments of Canadian industrial and political history of the last century, make sense. For Dow-Corning to make adequate excuses for the titanium shortage, there had to be a competitive magnesium product. 

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Postblogging Technology, December 1953, II: Girls Who Won't Say No






R_.C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada




Dear Father:
Norah Docker for woman of the year, 1953!


I guess the day had to come when I wasn't done writing one of these until after I was snug in my room and waiting for whoever it comes on the Twenty-Eighth. The ghost of the Park Royal Boxing Day Sale? Anyway, I'm going to drop this in the courier box so that everyone else can see it. Now this is the part where I mention a winsome event in my life and that of your grandchildren. So did I mention that I saw Field-Marshal Montgomery on the plane? I did? In giddy tones when I got here a week ago? Drat. I've got nothing else. 


Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie



Sunday, March 31, 2024

Postblogging Technology, December 1953, I: The Louche Years Begin

 



R_., C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada

Dear Father:


Thank you for the tickets, which we received on Monday. I have no idea how you found out when James' leave began, as he swears that he didn't tell you. We are very happy to accept the invitation, I repeat, just in case our letter is, I don't know, eaten by the Purple People Eater whilst winging its way across the Atlantic. I feel as though I should be updating you with our plans, but I obviously don't have to tell you our schedule for a trip you paid for and arranged! I would tell you how much luggage we are bringing, but I haven't even begun to sort that out! 

As  this completely upends Christmas shopping, I would be happy to have an updated list of suggestions from Vancouver, if you could find the time to forward one. You'll also have to give some thought to gifts that will satisfy the little ones and still be small enough to pack back with us. Don't worry about space in the apartment, unless for some reason you decide to give them a pot! 
 


Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie

Saturday, March 23, 2024

A Socio-Technological Preface to Postblogging Technology, Decemer 1953: The Louche Years

I started the first installment of December technological postblogging yesterday before deciding that I was a bit too spent from the work week to have a hope of finishing it over the weekend. But before giving up (because it was hard), I did some pretty basic things, like finding the big Christmas song of 1953?


Which was Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby, which I'm saving for next week. Have some meta-commentary instead! So then I had a reaction. I'm not offended by Santa Baby. "Sex positive," I remind myself. We're sex positive these days. And it's a Christmas classic, which, I don't know, did we ever get it sorted out whether that saved Baby, It's Cold Out There? And it's not like Kitt invented the idea of putting double entendres in hit parade music. But it's Christmas. It's for the kids! So that was what I was thinking just before I thought to myself, "Speaking of louche things in popular culture, I forgot to make a fuss for the first issue of Playboy when it came out! When did it come out, anyway?"

December of 1953, it turns out. Begun, the louche years have! We are starting down a valley at the bottom of which is the moment when you're not allowed to complain about skin magazines at the front of the corner store, and all the cool high school teachers are sleeping with their students, and the "Me Too" moment, which might be over as a cry for justice, but sure seems like the mood in public culture. We may or may not be back where we started,  but this isn't about  before it began, some images below notwithstanding, and it's not about where we are now. It's about things that happened in the louche years, and here I'm thinking about that second wave feminist thing about pornography being a way to hold women back. Without going too far down that road, there's a story of images --or, should I say, because we're about technology around here, graphics?

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Boom: The Space Race, 1

 


Everyone has a first public event they remember, and for me, it is the live television broadcast of the landing of Apollo 9. I was a bit young as these stories go, and this might have something to do with the fact that, as it turns out, this was four days before my fifth birthday. I was far too young to remember the two events sequentially, but heightened attention to the one  might have leaked over to heightened attention to the other, I dunno. The point here, such as it is, is that I will have my 60th birthday this year. I try not to blather on about work around here too much, so I won't go into the details of why I am not getting all the paid time off that the contract says I get, just to note, once again, that it has to do with the lack of younger workers at my place of employment and in the Canadian economy in general. Hence the clever double meaning of the title of this series, a reference to the baby boom as well as to the "space race" that culminated on 20 July 1964. Do the two things go together? I sure think so right now!

Even if they don't, this blog obviously can't ignore the space race, and this is the first occasion in the progression of the technological postblogging where it seems appropriate to give the space race its own series. Notice how I've cleverly begun the enumeration of this series in Arabic numerals? That's so I'm not working out the Roman notation for "47" at some point in the probably not-so-distant future. 

Saturday, March 9, 2024

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, November 1952, II: Around the Gyrotron

 The biggest industrial and technological story of this week is the collision of ongoing talk about civil defence or continental air defence with ongoing planning for OPERATION CASTLE, in which the BRAVO test blast of 1 March 1954 will demonstrate the feasibility of noncryogenic, "dry" hydrogen bombs. It will also detonate with two-and-a-half times the predicted yield, and catch Daigo Fukuryu Maru within its unexpectedly large fallout radius. With its usual maladroitness (I seriously  do not get the Eisenhower revisionism school at this point), the Administration tried to cover up the enormous screw-up and blame the crew of the trawler at a very delicate moment in American-Japanese postwar relations, and possibly leading (not a Japan expert!) to the confirmation of the postwar "pacifist"  constitution, and certainly to Godzilla. Would we have otaku culture without Godzilla? I don't know. Probably. 

Hydrogen bombs are a few things. First, they make civil defence seem vaguely ridiculous. Second, they need even less precise aiming than the previous generation of mere atomic bombs. Third, they can be lighter than that previous generation. People have been talking about intercontinental ballistic missiles since before the end of the war in Europe. Hydrogen bomb-tipped missiles actually make sense, because with an error of 3 km at the delivery end, you can still aim at "Moscow" and blow up all the strategic tarets in the Moscow vicinity, along with the rest of Moscow. That being said, ICBMs are a lot harder to build than to imagine. In the rough sketch of a plan for the future of the British nuclear deterrence that developed within its aviation-technical community after WWII, the ICBM would be preceded by an intermediate range ballistic missile. In April of 1954, the outgoing Minister of Supply in the Churchill government, Duncan Sandys, pushed through the concrete realisation of this schedule: the BLUE STREAK, a somewhat more advanced counterpart to the American Thor and Jupiter missiles that would deploy in underground bases in 1964, following several generations of life extensions for the V-bomber fleet and preceding an all-British ICBM that would never be ordered.

Today we are not talking about the BLUE STREAK so much as its guidance system, and we have been led to that discussion via a technology which was not used in it, the "tuning fork" gyroscope. My inspiration for this was taken from an article in Aviation Week about this new "gyratron" or "vibragyro," and an offhand mention of the fact that it had been tried by Smiths in the Smith's Automatic Pilot, SEP2 militarised as  the RAF Mk10. The Sperry vibrayro of 1953 doesn't appear to have gone any further. The idea was revived by Westinghouse for the space programme in the 1960s, but it wasn't until they were made piezoelectric that they became common in such vital gyrostablising applications as electric skateboards. 

So instead I'm going to talk about the technology that was used, and the concept of the BLUE STREAK as a total weapon system.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Postblogging Technology, November 1953, II: Calamity White




R_C_.,
Shaughnessy,
Vancouver,
Canada


Dear Father:

I know that you're going to call me a flighty girl for saying it, but the biggest technology story of the week is a silly movie from a producer who obviously hasn't a clue what he or she (but let's be honest, it's a "he") is doing: Flight to Tangier, in which the studio's money was staked on Jack Palance as a romantic lead. The movie itself, a CinemaScope, Technicolor production for flat screen, 3D or widescreen viewing, is just an amazing statement on the progress of the technology of film making over the last few years. If you can credit television with anything, it is for getting the studios to drop some money into something besides' actors' salaries. I'm thinking about this a lot because of the amount of time I am spending up at Bray, and I know that the studio doesn't exactly spell "sophisticated" to anyone who isn't impressed that I have Eva Bartok's autograph. I don't care. More money is being spent on making bad movies look good (and sound good, too, how did we get beat out to be the first with video tape?) than anything else besides going fast. It's going to matter some day! And not just for those of us making money by smuggling silver. 
 

Your Loving Daughter,

Ronnie