“Yeah” he said with slight irritation “that’s me.”
June 29, 2017 10:58 AM   Subscribe

 
That was the best thing I've read all day! Thank you.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:15 AM on June 29


Ah, that's just a great story. Thanks.
posted by Fence at 11:22 AM on June 29


Man, that was wonderful. Thanks for the lift!
posted by davelog at 11:22 AM on June 29


This was so so so good. The parts about Mr. Kovacs's deep, profound knowledge really resonated with this thing I read on twitter the other day.
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:23 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]


Nice!
posted by gyusan at 11:26 AM on June 29


That really is a great story. I'm glad to know that I am not the only one with a fetish for the Hasselblad C/M. They really are a work of art and engineering. And just to think of the craftsmanship and knowledge that John Kovacs must have developed leaves me reeling.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 11:32 AM on June 29


What a lovely bittersweet story, those crotchety old guys that knew their stuff were sometimes difficult but just the very best to be around to sop up a few subtle details. There is a certain tragedy in "digital".
posted by sammyo at 11:35 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]


Space! You worked on the cameras that went to the moon!! That’s amazing!”

John got even more irritated.

“Space.” he dryly said. “Fucking Armstrong couldn’t operate the camera with his big stupid moon gloves on, so I had to create a big dumb button that he could bang to take the exposure.”


Sometimes I feel bad for the Apollo astronauts. They took a lot of shit for the things that they were not:
  • Scientists gave them shit for not being scientists ("glorified rock collectors")
  • Pilots gave them shit for not having to do much of their own flying ("they were basically ballast")
  • People in general gave them shit for not being articulate about their experiences ("should've sent a poet")
And then I remember they got to go to the fucking moon. And then I don't feel so bad for them.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:39 AM on June 29 [45 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:49 AM on June 29


To put things very simply, a film camera is a glass lens coupled with a clockwork shutter, in a box. Since the time Joseph von Fraunhofer Bavaria had been the world leader in lensmaking technology, and the Black Forest Region had been been a center of clockmaking for centuries. It was more or less inevitable, then, that after unification the Germans would become the best cameramakers. After a couple of decades of relentless competition, most of the camera business was ceded to Japan. (WWII and partitioning didn't help much, either).

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, a Swedish company, Hasselblad, swept in and stole the rest of the market that hadn't already been taken by the Japanese. Why is this? Well, on a Hasselblad, the lens and shutter parts of the camera were still German, but the box part was designed and built in Sweden. That's right, the Swedes were better at designing a box than the Germans. Much better. It was a modular system that you had to assemble yourself to get a working camera. It was not flat-packed, though.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:52 AM on June 29 [28 favorites]


That's amazing. Thank you!
posted by needlegrrl at 11:52 AM on June 29


Boy, did I need that story this week? Thanks.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:54 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]


> And then I remember they got to go to the fucking moon.

Holy shit, Tranquility.
posted by davelog at 12:01 PM on June 29 [9 favorites]


Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket.
posted by loquacious at 12:02 PM on June 29 [9 favorites]


Man, good read.
posted by cortex at 12:06 PM on June 29


Re: Joseph von Fraunhofer - the name rang a bell, and today I learn that this is the namesake of the Fraunhofer society which invented and patented the MP3.
posted by idiopath at 12:31 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


What a great story.
posted by suelac at 12:35 PM on June 29


Beautiful. I read it with the same appreciation for Kovacs as I have for the gruff old guys who tend to my clattering 1920 steam heat system, gray-haired plumbers who can eye the angle of a pipe or listen to a hiss and gurgle and tell me precisely what's wrong without having to plug in a diagnostic tool or turn on a laptop. They tell me in a generation no one will be able to do what they do.
posted by bassomatic at 12:58 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]


I like stories like this. Thank you for sharing.
posted by Fizz at 1:07 PM on June 29


BIG STUPID MOON GLOVES!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:23 PM on June 29 [7 favorites]


That was great. Now I need to find out how someone so remote from him found out that he and his wife had that inside joke.

Because, um, it's always been my dream to have a Gottlieb Haunted House pinball machine if anyone's reading this...
posted by Mchelly at 1:31 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]


Mchelly, emulation! Building a full on pinball cabinet with a TV for a playfield isn't easy or cheap, but I can say from experience that it is most rewarding and is great fun once you get everything working and you have most of the pinball machines ever made at your fingertips.

I mean, you do miss out on a few things like the smell of old wood/electronics blowing directly in your face while playing Whirlwind (well, you can put a blower motor in your cab and make it work..), but it's still quite a treat compared to console/PC/phone recreations.

Sadly, there is no way at present to make digital imaging sound and feel and work like film. Well, aside from those Hasselblads that happen to have compatible digital backs, but even that is still less realistic than a good virtual pinball cabinet, where judicious placement of relays and motors and whatever can make them sound and feel very close to the original.
posted by wierdo at 2:09 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


There is something so intensely pleasurable about encountering a genuine expert, in any field.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 2:26 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


Mchelly, The author told his boss who told Mr Kovacs in casual conversation.
posted by Megafly at 3:07 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]


As the poet's planetary lander spun out of control he sighed, "They should have sent an astronaut."
posted by ckape at 3:31 PM on June 29 [22 favorites]


That's a great story. My Hasselblad is one of my favorite things, it's such a joy to use.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 5:01 PM on June 29


Mchelly, emulation! Building a full on pinball cabinet with a TV for a playfield isn't easy or cheap, but I can say from experience that it is most rewarding and is great fun once you get everything working and you have most of the pinball machines ever made at your fingertips.

Heathen.
posted by bongo_x at 5:29 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]


His 'get the fuck to work' posts are also worth a read.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:48 PM on June 29


I like that Kovacs basically made him a Frankencamera. It was put together from parts that had wound up in his shop over the course of his career—whatever he had lying around. It had serial numbers from two different cameras on it.

Since it doesn't trace back to any specific original Hasselblad C/M it is, in a sense, a brand new camera! It is the last Hasselblad 500 C/M ever made, one that was never supposed to exist.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:25 PM on June 29 [7 favorites]


Heathen.

Yeah, it's like the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Part of the thrill is knowing that some of the most impressive and compelling effects are done with simple stage tricks and phantasmagoria that were invented a century ago or more.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:24 PM on June 29


Ugh, this kills me. My mom gave me her old college camera when I was 13, a Minolta Maxxum 7000i, and I held onto that thing for 11 years before a probably-illegal eviction robbed me of it. I wish I still had that camera.
posted by gucci mane at 9:11 PM on June 29


Best of the web indeed. Thanks for the post.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:20 PM on June 29


This just got me to look up Hasselblad 500s on ebay which are more within range than I thought; you can get a full kit for under $1000. I'll stick with my Bronica ETR for now though but neat to think that I could potentially afford a Hasselblad.
posted by octothorpe at 3:54 AM on June 30


"People in general gave them shit for not being articulate about their experiences ("should've sent a poet")

Buzz Aldrin described the moon as "magnificent desolation." I can't imagine two words being more articulate (or poetic).
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:26 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]


bassomatic re steam heating: I used to have steam heat and I had a decent understanding of (and serious facination with) the system that heated my building, thanks to my dad, one of those grey-haired plumbers, who passed 10 years ago today. (He was already on my mind, of course, but this brought back more happy memories.)
posted by she's not there at 10:39 AM on June 30


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