Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Half and Half Appendix to Postblogging Technology, June 1948: From the Oder to the Spree

It's time to catch up on a few things.

UBC's copy, or at least the copy in my hands, comes from the library of Dr. J. S. Milsum, who seems like an interesting guy in his own right. 
Given a choice of which numbers of The Engineer and Engineering I was going to epitomise last week, I ended up choosing the ones that didn't have reviews of James, Nicholls and Philips, Theory of Servomechanisms (Internet archive entry), which came out, as Number 25 in the Radar Handbook series from the MIT Radiation Laboratory, in June of 1948. It's in the 18 June issue of Engineering, which means that it's not up as a pdf yet at Grace's Guide,  so you'll have to trust me that it's quite a nice notice. 

You will have noted that all three of the British technical periodicals I follow, have notices about the upcoming summer schools on the theory of servomechanisms, to be held around the North. (No comment needed.) It has now been a year since the Institution of Electrical Engineers' special session on a"automatic regulators and servo mechanisms," which was held in May of 1947. As far as I can put a finger on it, it would be the publication of the proceedings of that conference in the Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, as much as anything, that inspired the summer schools. These are huge developments in the history of information technology; the problem is that our received history of same is so shallow and episodic, that I might be the lone voice in the wilderness of history of science who is even aware that the conference happened. I don't blame the profession. It's just too small to cover this enormous subject. I do blame the people making policy based on bad history, but I say that every week, and I haven't changed the world yet. 

Also to be caught up on here are the intersection of race and natural disaster at Vanport, Washington, and the Berlin Blockade. The latter is pretty closely connected to the history of servomechanisms via the problems of air navigation, while the former . . . is not. 

Black soldiers on flood control at Vanport, 1948, from the files of the Oregon History Project

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Postblogging Technology, June 1948, II: Blockades, Airlifts, Antitrust and Floods

(The surprisingly apropos theme for the Vanport Flood documentary, embedded below.)
R_. C_.
Oriental Club,

Dear Father:

I don't know if I've mentioned that Ronnie had a Monday in lieu of the 4th, and that we're flying spares out to the Zone and then turning the planes right around. 

Put two and two together, and here we are in our weekend boudoir in beautiful (not!) Frankfurt. I can't imagine what Ronnie is going to be like at work on Tuesday morning, but, as she says, she's flown the Atlantic more often than I have, and she aims to keep it that way! I'm not sure that that's going to happen. I may be back in Arcata soon. Right now, we have more planes and pilots in Germany than we have landing slots, which is the reason my CO sent me over with his Skymaster. (That and he's probably tired of me complaining about having to land on a Ronson.) The idea is that the Navy's instrument-flying whizkid will suss out the tricks to keep landings up. I'm not sure what ideas I'm supposed to be coming up with, but I will be doing a night flight into Templehof in six hours to see what's what. Then, who knows, I'll probably be in London on my way to Boscombe Down. Perhaps I can drop in and see you, if you're not off to Aldermaston to talk about sniffing for Russian nuclear tests. 

When you do get back home, watch out for trouble from the kin down California way. Uncle George had no sooner got Uncle Henry settled down over the Vanport floods when US Steel got the go-ahead from the Supreme Court to buy into Los Angeles. Uncle Henry can't blame that on us, but he is wall-eyed angry, and testing out the idea that if we'd only invested in Fontana, he'd be strong enough to keep Big Steel out of California. It's gibberish, but it gives  him someone to blame. Meanwhile, Grace and James are off to meet her father in Macao now that a Communist victory is more than a cynical joke. It's an all-the-stars conference on the question of whether we can get back into Hong Kong. The important point is that Grace isn't in California to manage him. I almost wrote "here!" This flying around the world is disorienting! 

And as if that's not bad enough, R. is going through the wringer. He is getting divorced, which is normal enough for the Hollywood types, but which has brought out H. He had this bizarre notion that his youngest son could have followed him into the Presidency, unlike his legitimate sons, with their habit of sticking their hands out. Can be? I doubt it. Divorce, you see. And family drama, because it turns out that H. has been talking to some friends at GE about promoting R., now that his movie career is, uhm, well . . . 

I had a thought in there, but I've lost it now. That's probably a little angel whispering that I should take a nap while Ronnie's out.

Your Son,

On the same theme, the music from the documentary on the Berlin Airlift, embedded last week.

The flood occurred on 29 May 1948, and President Truman toured the damage on 11 June, so I guess I can forgive Time for having dropped the story by the June 18th issue. But 39 people died! 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Postblogging Technology, June 1948, I: If We Don't Believe in the European Recovery, Maybe It Won't Happen

"Peck a hole to see if a redwood's really red"? It's almost like there's a subtext

R_. C_.,

Dear Father:

You will have my postcard announcing my promotion to Lieutenant, which I sent because I am bummed out about Glenn and Ed. The last time I talked to Ed, he was all test pilot bluster until he had three drinks in him, at which point he used some language about the YB-49 and Jack Northrop that was not complimentary at all. Preliminary talk is that they'll pin this one on the pilot. I'm told that he wasn't as easy to like as Glenn, and Northrop isn't about to let reality invade the private room he shares with his flying wings.

Maybe, just maybe, the Air Force will grow the nether appendages needed to cancel the damn plane. Then if it goes infectious,  the Navy gets rid of Fido, too. It's a dream.

I would say more, but as I'm writing, word's come down about Berlin and Ronnie and I are making plans to meet, in case it's the last time we can get together this summer. The CO says there's a good chance I'm going over at some point.

Your Loving Son,