Understanding Ancient Technology


Sometimes I tell my daughter about the olden days when computers filled an entire room and we had no method of recording any of the four television channels we received. Then there’s the difference in portable music. Years before the iPod, the Walkman seemed like a tremendous technological advance. We could carry around music by listening to cassettes through a box which is many times the size of even the largest mp3 player. The BBC tried giving a Walkman to a 13-year-old. Besides being laughed at on the school bus, he had some difficulty understanding such old technology:

It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.

Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn’t is “shuffle”, where the player selects random tracks to play. Its a function that, on the face of it, the Walkman lacks. But I managed to create an impromptu shuffle feature simply by holding down “rewind” and releasing it randomly – effective, if a little laboured.

I told my dad about my clever idea. His words of warning brought home the difference between the portable music players of today, which don’t have moving parts, and the mechanical playback of old. In his words, “Walkmans eat tapes”. So my clumsy clicking could have ended up ruining my favourite tape, leaving me music-less for the rest of the day.

His misunderstanding of the tapes reminds me of the scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where Scotty tried to use a 20th century computer. Seeing the mouse he figured out that it is an input device–and tried speaking into it. With everyone now getting DVR’s it won’t be long until few can figure out how to program an old fashioned VCR (which, come to think of it, might not be all that different from how things used to be).

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Vote For Obama And Your Granddaughter Will Wear A Burka

Thomas Sowell provides this nonsensical warning:

Perhaps people who are busy gushing over the Obama cult today might do well to stop and think about what it would mean for their granddaughters to live under sharia law.

Don’t conservatives realize that such statements might fire up the base, but make virtually everyone else question both their fitness to govern and their sanity?

Crazy Libertarian Talk

Consider how many people are calling themselves libertarians while supporting the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and often the full agenda of the GOP, it is good to see some  “crazy libertarian talk” such as this. Jason Kuznicki attacks traffic lights.

Actually this isn’t all that crazy, and not necessarily even a libertarian argument as opposed to a question of the best way for the government to handle traffic. He points to this article from 2006 showing that roundabouts are safer and handle traffic better than traffic lights. This is not the only source arguing this, and many cities are turning more to roundabouts. I’ve personally noted them from coast to coast (in Michigan that is, from suburban Detroit to Muskegon on the coast of Lake Michigan). He also notes some government action regarding traffic which is counterproductive.