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8 posts tagged with Technology by filthy light thief.
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Carrier Access Codes and cultural detritus, featuring Alf and friends

Carrier Access Codes are a largely dated*, though still functional service to select your long-distance telephone carrier per phone call. In the United States, these "dial-around codes" reached a (commercial) peak in the late 1990s, as seen with ads featuring such semi-notables as Marla Gibbs, Christine Taylor and Reginald VelJohnson, Harry Anderson, John Lithgow, Tony Danza, Doug Flutie, and even Alf and some well-known friends. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Mar 29, 2014 - 73 comments

Listening to the past, recorded on tin foil and glass, for the first time in over a century

Towards the end of the 1800s, there were three primary American groups competing to invent technology to record and play back audio. Alexander Graham Bell worked with with Charles Sumner Tainter and Chichester Bell in at their Volta Laboratory in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., while Thomas A. Edison worked from his Menlo Park facilities, and Emile Berliner worked in his independent laboratory in his home. To secure the rights to their inventions, the three groups sent samples of their work to the Smithsonian. These recordings became part of the permanent collections, now consisting of 400 of the earliest audio recordings ever made. But knowledge of their contents was limited to old, short descriptions, as the rubber, beeswax, glass, tin foil and brass recording media are fragile, and playback devices might damage the recordings, if such working devices are even available. That is, until a collaborative project with the Library of Congress and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory came together to make 2D and 3D optical scanners, capable of visually recording the patterns marked on discs and cylinders, respectively. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 10, 2012 - 21 comments

The first planetarium in the western hemisphere is now the most technologically advanced

Adler Planetarium, founded in 1930, was the first planetarium in the western hemisphere, and is a US national monument. Until recently, the planetarium was run with a Zeiss Projector (Mark IV) that was around 40 years old. The proposed upgrade was controversial in the 2008 presidential elections, as $3 million in federal funding was earmarked for the $14 million project. In the end, the high-tech projection system was funded. The result: the world's most advanced planetarium system, with a 64 megapixel resolution display, provided by 20 individually modified projectors, 42 GPUs and run with the help of 84 servers. And it can be controlled from an iPad or X-Box controller.
posted by filthy light thief on Jul 12, 2011 - 30 comments

Atlantropa: Dam in the Straits of Gibraltar and Flood Africa

The Canal des Deux Mers connected the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, the Zuiderzee Works reclaimed part of shallow inlet of the North Sea to expand the Netherlands, so why not try taming the Mediterranean and irrigating Africa? Part ocean reclamation, part power generation (the "white coal" of falling water), Atlantropa wasn't simply the stuff of science fiction. First called Panropa, it was the long-term goal of a German architect and engineer named Herman Sörgel, a dream that lasted until his death in 1952, and the Atlantropa Institute continued on another 8 years. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 22, 2011 - 17 comments

No Tool is Gone, Under the Sun

Kevin Kelly, writer and founding executive editor of Wired magazine, made the bold statement: "I say there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet." The challenge was laid, including a search through the agricultural tools section of an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue. Every item listed in that section was still made, somewhere in the world (and found online, to boot). Additional challengers were found, from the 8-Track (still being made [previously]), anvils (plenty), astrolabes (pick one [listed under Astrolabe Reproductions]). Button hooks? Check. Shoe X-Ray Machine? Probably extinct (via). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Feb 1, 2011 - 176 comments

The Sun is a Mass of Cyclically Furious Gas

"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity." Dr. Richard Fisher and other sun-gazing scientists recently discussed the upcoming peak in the 11-year sunspot cycle. Due to the ever-increasing humans' reliance on electrical systems, the storm could leave a multi-billion pound damage bill and "potentially devastating" problems for governments. Constant improvements in satellite designs have assisted in bracing for a solar superstorm, an effort that comes in part by studying the impacts records of activity from past peaks in solar storms. System limits are set based on significant solar storm-triggered events in the past, though the largest magnetic storm on record was before the modern understanding of solar events. The solar storm of 1859, also known as The Carrington Event, when "telegraphs ran on electric air," was experienced around the world. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jun 15, 2010 - 52 comments

The Present and Future of Mobile Phones

Jan Chipchase is employeed by Nokia in the "corporate anthropology" field, but he considers it "design research," as he's not an anthropologist by training. His work covers researching how people modify their phones in China, India, Ghana, and elsewhere, adding features or extending battery life. He also tracks how cellphones are associated with personal identity and how they are playing roles far from urban and suburban centers. In some locations, cell phone numbers are written above doorways for identification, when there is no official map or organization for streets. He also blogs about his experiences, and his most recent post, he covers the rise of "Super Fakes." [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Sep 3, 2009 - 16 comments

Summer intern for Morgan Stanley wrote their most discussed write-up

Matthew Robson, aged 15 years & 7 months, was asked to describe how he and his friends consume media by the London research branch of Morgan Stanley, where he is a summer work intern. The teenager spent a day on the briefing note, after polling some friends by text message. His write-up impressed the right people (direct link to pdf report). "Without claiming representation or statistical accuracy, his piece provides one of the clearest and most thought provoking insights we have seen. So we published it." After being published, the note had generated five or six times more feedback than the team's usual reports. Lauded by professionals, his claims were met with disagreement from some peers. (via)
posted by filthy light thief on Jul 14, 2009 - 41 comments

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