Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Postblogging Technology, November, 1952, I: Everyone Likes (M)ike

The Transmountain pipeline going in

The Mayflower,
Washington, D.C.

Dear Father:

If this letter gives you the sense that I am feeling a bit out of sorts for reasons that do not need to be spelled out, well, you are right to think that. I am told that all law students cannot wait to be done with third year, so I am normal, even if my situation definitely isn't, and if one more preppy Stanford man offers to open a door for me I shall --! I have shot men before! Several times! (Twice.)

Speaking of shots heard around the world, no-one is allowed to say anything about the hydrogen bomb test, which went ahead before the election --but why am I telling you this? You hear better Service rumours than I do! 

Speaking of rumours, I hear that Mr. Hoover has recently taken out subscriptions to Engineering, Fortune and The Economist. I wonder if he thinks that this is some kind of revenge on me? Shot men for less!

Your Loving (if exasperated!) Daughter,

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Early Iron Age Revival of the State, XXVII: More From the Shimmering Sky


Nine years ago, so in 2014, some vaguely professional media people up in Nebraska decided that these six young people had something going on, and arranged some venues leading to six (I think?) videos, most with at least slightly wonky sound. No-one watched them, and teenagers grow up quickly, so I assume that these kids quit music, joined a space mission, were exposed to cosmic radiation, gained superpowers, and now fight crime. Or something. 

Probably not that, actually. Anyway, point is, the Youtube algorithm proceeded to sit on these videos for eight years while all this was going on before suddenly pushing it into everyone's feeds, leading to 200,000 views and 2000 upvotes in the last year or so. This being a lot, but not, as the kids say, not a lot of a lot, it's possible that no-one involved in making these videos knows that they have been picking up views. It's algorithm archaeology! Also, it's me sharing a video that I enjoyed. (Speaking of which, I speed read through Martha Wells' Murderbot Diaries this week. Its good!) 

Also some more, Sidestone Press, has launched a new initiative where you can read their books for free online. Like, for example, Lorenzo Zamboni, Manuel Fernandez-Goetz, and Carola Metzner-Nebelsick, Crossing the Alps: Early Urbanism between Northern Italy and Central Europe (900--400BC (Sidestone, 2020)! It's got the latest from the Heuneburg excavations, so I'm not going to argue about the financial viability of their business model, even if I'm pretty sure that "giving stuff away for free" does not work.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

A Technological Appendix to Postblogging Technology, October 1952: Jogging Stroller


Caroline Geoghegan

Having long since covered Mr. Atlee's atom bomb, I definitely want to do a technological appendix for the month that sees two actually Earth-shattering scientific developments: The first reference to a "birth control pill;" and the first reference to using a semiconductor chip to store computer memory. On the other hand, it's really hard to see a throughline from one story to the other, so while I'm going to try because that's the artistic thing to do, I'm not going to apologise if it doesn't work. So there! 

It will be noted that Benjamin Sieve's phosphorylated hesperidin pills aren't "the Pill," and didn't work, and that  J. R. Anderson of Bell Labs is touting "a 1 inch square of barium titanate," and doesn't say anything about integrated circuits. Nevertheless!

Before launching in, I should mention that I captioned the photo as being of Caroline Geoghegan, the author of the blog linked here, but image search shows the photo coming up as stock. Maybe it's a stock photo of Geoghegan? Idk! It's what I came up with when I went looking for a modern picture of a jogging stroller, and it is more photogenic than what I eventually turned up in connection with the baby  pram from Minneapolis that converts from wheels to sleds. And by this time I really can't say that this is "before launching in."

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Postblogging Technology, October 1952, II: Chess, Not Checkers


Dear Father:
So we are now very much in the middle of a genuine school year with class work and also my domestic obligations, and yet somehow these letters still reach you and you should be very grateful because there is nothing more fun than reading about exciting technological developments in the field of cataloguing chemicals and getting rid of vacuum tubes in magnetic amplifiers. Which is to say that I don't see anything too crazy or interesting in the science news this month.

I'm kidding! Obviously the most fun thing we could possibly read about is Richard Nixon crying on television. There is something off about that man, and it is not just because I disagree with his politics. As for the letter, I will admit that I have treated The Engineer lightly, but it is in there. For one thing, for reasons of timing of news stand dates, The Engineer, which is not the paper (as Uncle George would say) that I go to for breaking news, is the first of my magazines to cover the biggest "science and technology" story of the back end of the month at least, "Mr. Churchill's (GRRRR!) bomb." 

So I officially, finally, have all the magazines I had before my diphtheria quarantine, although don't expect me to start hitting myself on the head with Time again on a regular basis. Newsweek might not be a very good news magazine, but it has better pictures.

Your Loving Daughter,


PS: Since I know you don't follow Hollywood gossip, especially gossip printed in Newsweek, which is not where you go for good gossip --if gossip can be good, come on, let me have this one-- but someone, probably  Linda Darnell, is dragging the College Man's boy into her attempts to land a movie. I know he's not our favourite or closest relative, but blood is blood, so maybe someone could have a polite but firm chat with Miss Darnell?