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  • feedwordpress 08:01:42 on 2014/10/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Gorrie, history of technology, peonies, , ,   

    “Earth laughs in flowers”*… 


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    The promise of gold, oil and king crab has lured fortune seekers to Alaska for decades. But Alaska’s newest profit-making industry stems from a most unusual source: flowers. Specifically, peonies — the kind that people will delay weddings over.

    To date, over 100,000 roots have been planted in the state, and because peonies take years to mature, the industry is poised for steep growth. The projected harvest in 2017 is over 1 million stems, which could bring in somewhere between $4 to $5 million in sales. Still, this is a drop in the bucket compared to worldwide peony sales — Holland alone can sell over 30 million stems in a single month. But the northernmost state in the U.S. has one advantage over all other markets.

    Alaska, it turns out, is one of the few places on Earth where peonies bloom in July…

    A blooming bonanza, or another Tulip Mania in the making?  Find out at “From Fish to Flowers– Is Peony Farming Alaska’s Next Gold Rush?

    * Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Hamatreya

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    As we take our pick, we might send pleasantly-cool birthday greetings to John Gorrie; he was born on this date in 1803.  As a young physician, Gorrie found himself in Apalachicola, Florida, where he cared for folks suffering from malaria.  Noting that people in colder climes rarely got the disease, he (illogically, but correctly) concluded that ice– more generally, cold– would help treat his patients’ fever.  He first suspended ice in basins above his patients to cool the air around them.  Later, he built a small steam engine to drive a piston in a cylinder immersed in brine.  The piston first compressed the air, and then on the second stroke, when the air expanded, it drew heat from the brine.  The chilled brine was used to cool air or make ice.  He was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration (No. 8080) on  May 1851.  Dr. Gorrie’s statue stands in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:28 on 2014/10/01 Permalink
    Tags: history of journalism, history of media, history of technology, , , , new media, , ,   

    “If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners”*… 


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    Edward R. Murrow

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    There’s no denying that newspapers are in jeopardy; emerging electronic media have eaten away at both their audiences and their advertising revenue.  But lest we count them altogether out, we might remind ourselves that folks have been predicting their demise for decades.

    From the March 1922 issue of Radio News magazine:

    Seated comfortably in the club car of the Twenty-first Century Flyer — fast airplane service between London and New York — the president of the Ultra National Bank removes a small rubber disk from his vest pocket and places it over his ear. A moment hence, he will receive by radiophone the financial news of the world. Simultaneously, millions of other people all over the globe will receive the message. At designated hours, news of a general character will also be received.

    The broadcasting of news by radiophone had long displaced the daily newspaper, and…

    Don’t scoff! The day may be nearer than you suspect. In Hungary, a wire “telephone newspaper” has been successfully conducted for more than 25 years. For nearly a year, financial news direct from the Amsterdam Bourse has been broadcasted by radiophone to 200 banks and brokerage firms in Holland. And within a few months the German Government has installed near Berlin a wireless telephone station for the broadcasting of general news on a regular daily schedule throughout the entire country.

    More on the premature reports of the death of the newspaper at “1922: Radio Will Kill the Newspaper Star.” (See also “The Newspaper of Tomorrow: 11 Predictions from Yesteryear.”

    * Johnny Carson

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    As we strap on our jet-packs, we might recall that it was on this date two years earlier, in 1920, that Scientific American got a forecast powerfully right; in an issue cover-dated the following day, it made then-bold prediction that radio would be come an important medium for delivering music.

    It has been well known for some years that by placing a form of telephone transmitter in a concert hall or at any point where music is being played the sound may be carried over telephone wires to an ordinary telephone receiver at a distant point, thus enabling those several miles away to listen to the music. Such systems have been in use in London between a number of the theaters and hotels for many years, but it is only recently that a method of transmitting music by radio has been found possible.

    It has now been discovered that music can be transmitted by wireless in the same manner as speech or code signals and as a result of research work on radio telephony at the Bureau of Standards it has been proven that music sent by this means does not lose its quality. It is, therefore, obvious that music can be performed at any place, radiated into the air through an ordinary radio transmitting set and received at any other place, even though hundreds of miles away. The music received can be made as loud as desired by suitable operation of the receiving apparatus. The result is perhaps not so very different from that secured by means of the ordinary telephone apparatus above mentioned, but the system is far simpler and does not require the use of any intermediate circuit. The entire feasibility of centralized concerts has been demonstrated and in fact such concerts are now being sent out by a number of persons and institutions. Experimental concerts are at present being conducted every Friday evening from 8:30 to 11:00 by the Radio Laboratory of the Bureau of Standards. The wave length used is 500 meters. This music can be heard by any one in the territory near the District of Columbia having a simple amateur receiving outfit. The possibilities of such centralized radio concerts are great and extremely interesting. One simple means of producing music for radio transmission is to play a phonograph into the radio transmitter. An interesting improvement upon this method is being utilized in the experiments at the Bureau. The carbon microphone, which is the mouthpiece of an ordinary telephone, is mounted on the phonograph in place of the usual vibrating diaphragm. As a result the phonograph record produces direct variations of electric current in the telephone apparatus instead of producing sound; thus while the music is not audible at the place where the phonograph record is being played, it is distinctly heard at the different receiving stations.

     

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:46 on 2014/07/10 Permalink
    Tags: A la Recherche de Temps Perdu, carbon paper, copying, , history of technology, In Search of Lost Time, , Remembrance of Things Past, , Wedgewood   

    “I am my own secretary; I dictate, I compose, I copy all myself”*… 


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    In this age of the email attachment and of the “duplicate” and “save as” commands, we’ve come to take copies for granted.  But the quest for a way easily to make/keep duplicates of correspondence and records without transcribing them has a long history: most readers will be old enough to remember the days when Xerox machines– introduced in 1959**– were the duplicators of choice; and some, the era of the carbon copy.  But while xerography ruled for around 50 years, carbon paper held sway for over 100.

    The first version of carbon paper was patented by Ralph Wedgwood—an estranged member of the famous Wedgwood pottery family—in 1806. The paper was the central component of Wedgwood’s  “Manifold Stylographic Writer,” which was originally meant to aid the blind in writing (through the addition of thin metal wires to guide in forming words along lines), but was soon used primarily as a copying device. Wedgwood wasn’t the only manufacturer of manifold writers; the portable (approx. 8.5 x 10 in) leather wallet above includes a label naming “inventor and patentee” F. Folsch.

    Early adopters were mixed in their reviews.

    Poet Robert Southey called it a “very excellent contrivance”; on the other hand, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Charles Willson Peale in 1807, noting with disapproval the olfactory effect of the oil used to create the carbonated paper: “The fetid smell of the copying paper would render a room pestiferous, if filled with presses of such papers.”

    In the end, wide adoption of carbon paper came in the 1870s with the introduction of typewriting (and the development of better-smelling ink).

    Read more at Slate in Nora Wilkinson’s “The Nifty, Portable Copying Technology Used by Early-19th-Century Letter-Writers,” and even more in her longer post on the subject on the Bodleian Library’s Conveyor blog.

    * the Venerable Bede

    ** The Xerox machine was the much sharper competitor of- and, with it’s technological copycats, ultimately replacement for– the first office copiers, introduced in 195o (main among them, 3M’s Therma-Fax machine).

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    As we savor sharing, we might send nostalgic birthday greetings to that most exquisite of (self-)copiers, Valentin Louis Georges Eugène Marcel Proust; he was born on this date in 1871.  Proust spent the last three years of his life confined to his cork-lined bedroom, working to complete what Somerset Maugham called the “greatest fiction to date,” the seven-volume novel A la Recherche de Temps Perdu (Remembrance of Things Past, or as more recently translated, In Search of Lost Time).

    All the greatest things we know have come to us from neurotics. It is they and they only who have founded religions and created great works of art. Never will the world be conscious of how much it owes to them, nor above all of what they have suffered in order to bestow their gifts on it.

    Remembrance of Things Past: The Guermantes Way

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