Categories
History Poetry Politics & Society

Back to black

The cement of society amounts to a thin place that refuses to be exploited and homogenized.

The world is flat once again, as nation-states, cities, and towns have gone back to their most nativistic urges.

Globalization was never ruthless enough, spread unevenly amid the digital divide, and invariably vulnerable to the power-hungry few.

The market shifts back to impulse over cooperation, as people gravitate inwards and head onwards into deeper provincialism.

The only penetrating force — Amazon Prime — brings the people to their doorsteps.

Once dormant, the balance of power re-emerges to run the show.

God, the great fashioner designer in the sky, weeps below at the unintelligent design.

Algorithms and artificial intelligence — human products — jam the world of competence and comprehension.

The past is as present as the future, with those ignorant of history daring to repeat it.

Categories
Books History

The word salt ‘was the origin of the world salary’ 💰

salt

“The first of the great Roman roads, the Via Salaria, Salt Road, was built to bring this salt not only to Rome but across the interior of the peninsula. This worked well in the Roman part of the Italian peninsula. But as Rome expanded, transporting salt longer distances by road became too costly. Not only did Rome want salt to be affordable for the people, but, more importantly as the Romans became ambitious empire builders, they needed it to be available for the army. The Roman army required salt for its soldiers and for its horses and livestock. At times soldiers were even paid in salt, which was the origin of the word salary and the expression “worth his salt” or “earning his salt.” In fact, the Latin word sal became the French word solde, meaning pay, which is the origin of the word, soldier.”

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Categories
History Tech

Typewriter for music

The Keaton Music typewriter was a typewriter specifically for music. Designed by Robert Keaton in San Francisco, California in 1933, it contained two keyboards, one moveable the other stationary, and 14 keys that plotted musical symbols onto blank paper into the carriage underneath. #history #tech #typewriter #typewriterseries #antiques

The Keaton Music typewriter was a typewriter specifically for music. Designed by Robert Keaton in San Francisco, California in 1933, it contained two keyboards, one moveable the other stationary, and 14 keys that plotted musical symbols onto blank paper into the carriage underneath. 

The second iteration of the keyboard debuted in 1955 and sold for $225 or $2,000 in today’s value, roughly the amount it costs for a brand new Macbook Pro. Now an antique, there are no more than 24 Keaton Music typewriters left in the world. 

Categories
Culture History

The origin of “OK”

O.K. or “Oll Korrect” was originally a corny joke amongst Boston intellectuals in 1830s Boston who would intentionally misspell abbreviations.

The Boston Post printed in what is the first known print of the word OK in 1839. Martin Van Buren even adopted the idiom during his 1840 reelection campaign as a nickname. His supporters called him “Old Kinderhook” after the New York town where he was born.

Van Buren lost the election, but OK took off, emerging from slang into practical use thanks to the invention of the telegraph in 1844. It was easier to tap out the word “OK” versus anything else for operators on the railroad to confirm receipt.

Part of the reason OK continued to supplant itself into vernacular in the 20th century was the way in which marketers used the letter “K.” Very few words started with the letter K, so brand strategists modified the C in words like Kraft, Kleenex, Krispy Kreme, and Koolaid to sell products.

Today, OK is universal. Used as an adjective, noun, verb, and adverb, it is most commonly understood as “the ultimate neutral affirmative.” As Alan Metcalf writes in OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, OK does the “affirming without evaluating.” People use the word to convey the acceptance of information and not necessarily its confirmation.

So the word OK started off as awkwardly as it persisted. Yet, there never goes a day where you can avoid the ubiquity of the two-letter word.

Categories
History Travel

Advertising on the Eiffel Tower (1925 – 1934)

The dawn of ubiquitous advertising found itself on a Paris landmark before World War II.

Between 1925 and 1934, the Eiffel Tower served as a huge illuminated advertisement for Citroën.

Darran Anderson
Categories
History People

NASA’s “women computers” 🚀

Katherine Johnson helped launch America’s first orbit around Earth. She also “computed the path” that would eventually get Neil Armstrong to the moon. 

In 1962’s Mercury-Atlas launch, astronaut John Glenn personally requested that she hand-crunch the machine’s calculations around the planet.  She confirmed the math a day and a half later.

The 2016 film Hidden Figures pays tribute to Johnson’s seminal role in one of the most important NASA missions in America’s spaceflight history.

Categories
Books History

‘History cannot be interpreted without the aid of imagination and intuition’

Why Don't We Learn from History? book cover

History cannot be interpreted without the aid of imagination and intuition. The sheer quantity of evidence is so overwhelming that selection is inevitable. Where there is selection there is art.

B. H. Liddell Hart, Why Don’t We Learn from History?

History remains incomplete, minus some themes.

Categories
History Photography Tech

Wiring an IBM computer, 1958

Information is the sum of parts

(via)

Categories
History Science

In fingerprints we trust

Your fingerprints are uniquely yours. No two people have the same friction ridges, not even twins. Writes The Paris Review:

“Scientists describe the basic patterns of fingerprints in terms of arches, whorls, and loops. (Seventy percent of a fingerprint is made up of loops.) Closer features include dots, lakes, islands, spurs, crossings, and bifurcations. It is true that every print is unique to every finger, even for identical twins, who share the same genetic code.”

Before the fingerprint became a forensic science, its original purpose was economic. Thumbs acted as a stamp of approval.

“Thumb marks were used as personal seals to close business in Babylonia, and, in 1303, a Persian vizier recounted the use of fingerprints as signatures during the Qin and Han Dynasties, noting, “Experience has shown that no two individuals have fingers precisely alike.” The Chinese had realized that before anyone: a Qin dynasty document from the third-century B.C.E, titled “The Volume of Crime Scene Investigation—Burglary,” pointed up fingerprints as a means of evincing whodunnit.”

Even more interesting is how fingerprints form, made permanent by Week 19 of pregnancy. “Fingerprints are formed by friction from touching the walls of our mother’s womb. Sometimes they are called “chanced impressions.””

Technically, your fingerprints or eyeballs could your access key to anything. You don’t need the phone to act as your digital keys or wallet. Logging into a smartphone with a thumb, the mobile device merely serves as an interlocutor for checking out at places like Starbucks or the bank.

“Wallets and keys might get lost for good if we can pay for cappuccinos and power up cars with our eyeballs or fingers. In the early aughts, when we were increasingly imagining a future where people moved through the world—for better or worse—without anonymity, those people were chipped. But who needs computer chips when you’ve got fingerprints? “The future of biometrics has never been better,” said Becker. “Biometrics have gone mainstream—now people have expectations and habits. People are checking into every Delta Sky Club in the country with biometrics.””

The grooves within your fingerprints can also predict your future.

“The patterns on our fingers do seem to correspond to the lobes of our brains. Some researchers are hailing fingerprints as blueprints. “Fingerprints are the mirrors to our inborn talents and potentials, knacks and likings,” write the authors of one recent paper, who believe people may be able to use their fingerprints to unlock their best selves.”

Fascinating.

Categories
Culture History Video

Views of Tokyo (1913-1915)

Views of Tokyo (1913-1915)

[bha size=’120×120′ variation=’01’ align=’alignright’]Last week, I blogged about a trip through Golden Gate City: San Francisco (1939). This week’s archival video goes back in time to views of Tokyo, 1913-1915.

Some observations:

  • Notice the clash of those wearing modern (Western) clothing versus the traditional feudal garb
  • A lot these kids (and their kids) probably went on to fight in both World Wars
  • The girl with the bouncing ball (see gif) has impressive football and basketball skills

Another fascinating look at black and white footage augmented with a sound for added ambiance. Be sure to check out the archival footage of New York (1911) as well.