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Thomas Edison's Kindle

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the mister-bezos-come-here-i-want-you dept.

Toys 98

harrymcc writes "In 1911, Thomas Edison bragged that he could make a 40,000-page book by printing the pages on thin pieces of metal. In the mid-1930s, newspapers experimented with transmitting special editions into homes via early fax machines. In 1956, Chrysler tried to sell Americans on buying 7-inch records that could only be played on a tiny turntable built into its cars' dashboards. Over at Technologizer, I rounded up these and a dozen other fascinating, forgotten gadget ideas that didn't work out — but which foreshadowed products and technologies that eventually became a big deal."

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98 comments

fust (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898590)

furst post

hmmm (4, Interesting)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898610)

Pages 1/20,000th of an inch thick? What exactly keeps you from lopping off your fingers?

Re:hmmm (4, Funny)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898622)

Exactly what I was thinking. I have a feeling such a book would provide a much better shave than a read.

Re:hmmm (4, Funny)

danlip (737336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898864)

Re:hmmm (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898760)

Pages 1/20,000th of an inch thick? What exactly keeps you from lopping off your fingers?

And if you dropped it in your lap....

Re:hmmm (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900296)

Edison was more ahead of his time than we thought...he invented the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit.

Re:hmmm (4, Insightful)

Trogre (513942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898806)

Do you lop off your fingers when handling Christmas tinsel? How about aluminium ("tin") foil?

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898842)

Do you lop off your fingers when handling Christmas tinsel? How about aluminium ("tin") foil?

Why yes, yes I do. I make a lot of hats.

Re:hmmm (1)

LoverOfJoy (820058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898872)

You won't for much longer, after all your fingers are lopped off.

Re:hmmm (4, Funny)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899150)

I can make a tin foil hat with my feet. It's important to practice such skills because you might get handcuffed one day.

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30900714)

True. But since my fingers are nearly all missing now, I think I will just chop off my hands and replace them with some that are easy to pop off if I'm ever handcuffed.

Re:hmmm (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 3 years ago | (#30906512)

Only if I find a new wife.

Re:hmmm (4, Insightful)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899062)

Nowadsys Tinsel is made of plastic.

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30899600)

however some of us prefer the traditional look of true metal tinsel, and have it imported from Austria.

Re:hmmm (1)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 3 years ago | (#30901918)

Do you lop off your fingers when handling Christmas tinsel? How about aluminium ("tin") foil?

you would if it was brittle enough to keep a relatively wrinkle-free page.

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30903730)

Tinsel isn't metal. You don't typically handle the edges of foil, the way you would have to in order to flip pages of a book.

Re:hmmm (3, Insightful)

TBoon (1381891) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899020)

I'd imagine it to be so thin it would be quite soft. In fact so soft that it would either tear, or get crumbled up and unsuable.

Re:hmmm (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899496)

Right, but Edison claimed it would be stronger and yet more flexible than paper. So, while real nickle sheets 10 times thinner than tinfoil would tear and crumple easily, Edison's fictional nickle sheets would be incredibly dangerous ;)

Re:hmmm (1)

Deefburger (1345835) | more than 4 years ago | (#30918736)

That's the DRM part of the idea!

EXTREME READING (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30899258)

But this could create a whole new extreme sport : EXTREME READING!

This would be fantastic with fantasy books like LOTR. Now you too can have your own fingers chopped off JUST BY READING! AWWE-!

This book turns it beyond 11, one stare at this book and your eyeballs will explode with so much awesome that you'll create another universe.

captcha: glazing. See, because even Slashdot agrees.

Re:hmmm (1)

failedlogic (627314) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899300)

You have it all wrong. COPY PROTECTION. That is it.

Re:hmmm (1)

amoeba1911 (978485) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899556)

This takes "paper cut" to a whole new level.

Re:hmmm (4, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899908)

That's not the real problem. Nickel pages 1.27 microns thick simply don't have enough stiffness for you to be able to pick up a page without crinkling it, never mind any risk to the skin on your fingers, which is quite resilient by comparison. What Mr. Edison wasn't thinking about -- I assume he was speaking off the cuff to the interviewer, as he certainly had the technical knowledge -- was the tensile strength of nickel. If you think it's hard to handle a sheet of aluminum foil without getting it crinkled, good luck with nickel leaf.

The other problem is that layers of printing ink have thickness. It doesn't matter a whole lot with paper (for most inks, anyway) because paper is so thick relative to the ink, but relative to 1.27 micron metal leaf, it's another matter altogether. Bear in mind that most of the ink sits on or near the surface of the paper -- if it soaked in too much it would cause the outlines of the letters to blur. And with paper, there is actually lots of empty space in the fibers for the pigment particles (mostly carbon) and the binder to settle in. Nickel leaf, on the other hand, is not fibrous, and while I suppose it might eventually be possible to cheaply mass produce sheets of nanoscale nickel fibers, it's not possible now and sure as heck wasn't in Edison's day.

The idea of using nickel isn't an entirely bad one, though printing isn't the way to go. The Long Now Foundation [longnow.org] -- the current project of Stewart Brand, the guy who gave us the classic hippie Whole Earth Catalog -- is working on using an excimer laser to etch 350,000 pages onto 2.8-inch nickel discs. This will be actual, unencoded, human-readable text -- if the human in question has a student-grade microscope capable of 650x magnification. The required technology already exists; the main problem, aside from the sheer expense of the equipment, is that it takes a day and a half to etch a single disc this way. I can't help but think that Brand would be better off using a chip fab to crank out more or less the same thing using the same technology we use for making tiny circuits.

Re:hmmm (1)

sjdude (470014) | more than 3 years ago | (#30901010)

That's not the real problem. Nickel pages 1.27 microns thick simply don't have enough stiffness for you to be able to pick up a page without crinkling it, never mind any risk to the skin on your fingers, which is quite resilient by comparison.

Finally, the book publishers could get a crack at what the media scrooges have gotten away with through DRM: Read once books! You can bet if they could sell you a book that could only be read one time, they'd do it in heartbeat.

Re:hmmm (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#30902636)

The other problem is that layers of printing ink have thickness. It doesn't matter a whole lot with paper (for most inks, anyway) because paper is so thick relative to the ink, but relative to 1.27 micron metal leaf, it's another matter altogether.

Electroplated gold? Gold leaf seems to run about a tenth of a gram per square inch... Compared to the cost of making the nickel "paper", the gold "ink" will be pretty cheap.

Re:hmmm (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900194)

Just a naive question: no matter how thin each deadly blade is, would not you essentially have something two inches thick made of steel or nickle? How could this much metal be lighter than paper?

From what I can find out [reade.com] , Normal paper weighs 75 lb / cubic foot; steel 490 lb/cf, and nickel 541 lb/cf.

What am I missing here?

Re:hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30903520)

yes but how much does it weigh per byte ?

Re:hmmm (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#30904918)

You are replacing shelves of paper with a 2 inches block of nickel.

Success is timing as much as great ideas (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898620)

Success is timing as much as great ideas. Your customers have to be ready for it. It happens on the macro level, with mass produced products, and on the micro: I learned long ago that if my clients aren't ready to adapt a new technology, it is a waste of time to push it on them. Usually they come around to it a few years later. :)

'Ready' usually means that it is a small mental step forward and they see a pressing need for it.

Re:Success is timing as much as great ideas (4, Insightful)

socz (1057222) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898710)

I completely agree. I once told my friends about an idea I had called "a home server - a server for your home." It could be used for controlling what time the AC or heating kicked in, turns lights on and off, and even opened windows blinds! Of course, the latest technology offered video playing, but it wasn't an easy feat nor practically affordable for anyone who was a professional.

Of course I was laughed at and told "if it was such a good idea, someone would have thought of it and made it by now." So a few years pass by and technology made some awesome advancements. So now we have linux boxes that run your pool at optimum points in time to help you save money, HTPC's and gaming PC's. And that's just what a little reading will get you. The true beauty comes with taking the time to learn the systems more in depth so you can create whatever you please.

I still await amassing enough of a fortune to start my manufacturing plant to create, patent and produce my own designs. But in the mean time I have to fight off those who say "if it was such a great idea, someone would have made it by now..."

Re:Success is timing as much as great ideas (0, Redundant)

Clemsonuee (968674) | more than 3 years ago | (#30898980)

If that was such a great idea, someone would have thought of it by now...

Re:Success is timing as much as great ideas (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900084)

I've had a few "million dollar ideas" in my time:
  1. They have drive through windows at fast food restaurants, why not have them at doughnut/coffee shops? I saw my first drive through coffee shop about four months later.
  2. Build a universal remote control circuit inside the body of a Star Trek phaser or tricorder. I got this idea the year after TNG ended. Of course, it already exists [noveltytelephone.com] .
  3. Same thing with my idea of a TV remote control finder. Press a button on the TV and the remote beeps.

Sigh! Why can't I have my brilliant ideas BEFORE somebody else does?

Re:Success is timing as much as great ideas (2, Funny)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900312)

I thought of a device that will send video output to my TV via an ATSC 8VSB signal. That exists too.

Re:Success is timing as much as great ideas (1)

socz (1057222) | more than 4 years ago | (#30913568)

I actually have an idea for a remote control that doesn't exist yet. While there is something similar, it has of course been sloppily implemented.

So that'll get made once I make my small fortune... stay tuned. :P


-Socz

Re:Success is timing as much as great ideas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30900166)

Someone had thought about - 30 years ago- they called them PLC's, and if they were too expensive, you just used the C64's cartridge. Nowdays the number of off the shelf items that contain switchable, programmable logic circuits is kind of ubiquitous.

So get off your ass and build something, you can still make a ton of money.

Re:Success is timing as much as great ideas (2, Informative)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 3 years ago | (#30902508)

In Fritz Lang's movie Metropolis Feder talks with the worker over a video telephone [switched.com] . The technology was operational in the thirties and presented, it just didn't happen. When cable TV was introduced the concept of a return channel was discussed, e.g. for home shopping.

Thomas Edison's Kindle? (3, Funny)

dangitman (862676) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898628)

Sounds kind of like Ayn Rand's slashdot.org. Oh wait, we already have that.

Re:Thomas Edison's Kindle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30902562)

Sounds kind of like Ayn Rand's slashdot.org. Oh wait, we already have that.

Really, where?

oops! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898636)

Don't forget the iPod and iPhone!

Re:oops! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30900320)

Flamebait?? Geez, you guys have absolutely no sense of humor about your own mortality, do you?

There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (3, Informative)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898646)

In France, by a guy named Caselli, called a Pantelegraph:
http://www.telephonecollecting.org/caselli.htm [telephonecollecting.org]

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (5, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898756)

Some of other Caselli's inventions were: an electrical marine torpedo which came back to the launching point in the event of missing the mark, an hydraulic press and an instrument that measures the speed of the locomotives.

A torpedo that comes back if it misses? What could possibly go wrong? This man was clearly a genius!

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898884)

Some of other Caselli's inventions were: an electrical marine torpedo which came back to the launching point in the event of missing the mark, an hydraulic press and an instrument that measures the speed of the locomotives.

A torpedo that comes back if it misses? What could possibly go wrong? This man was clearly a genius!

Naturally, Australians got there first [dropbears.com] .

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (2, Insightful)

TBoon (1381891) | more than 3 years ago | (#30898986)

A torpedo that comes back if it misses? What could possibly go wrong? This man was clearly a genius!

The genious part would be to sell it to your enemies!

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#30901864)

That is classified, you insensitive clod.

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (3, Funny)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899212)

A torpedo that comes back if it misses? What could possibly go wrong?

Ahhh...that really lends a whole new kind of meaning to the word BOOMerang.

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#30902390)

BOOMerang

I never did figure out how you turn whipped egg whites into an explosive...

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899414)

indeed, his method for measuring the speed of a locomotive involved open railroad drawbridges. After he invented the hydraulic press he was known as "thumbs".

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899768)

I'm pretty sure they covered that one in The Hunt for the Red October.

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (3, Insightful)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 3 years ago | (#30903100)

No, no, no. You have to look at the bigger picture. This technology will help us evolve a breed of near-infallible marksmen.

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898796)

That's the worst excuse for a limerick I've ever heard.

Re:There was an early fax machine in the 1860s (2, Funny)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 3 years ago | (#30898998)

On that page, the background image and faded foreground text are clearly meant to slow down reading and comprehension so we can savor the article.

TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (3, Informative)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898670)

The author of TFA seems to have misunderstood what he has posted:

Even the pages of books may be made of steel, though Edison regards nickel as a better substitute for paper”Why not?” asks Edison. “Nickel will absorb printer’s ink. A sheet of nickel one twenty-thousandth of an inch thick is cheaper, tougher, and more flexible than an ordinary sheet of book-paper. A nickel book, two inches thick, would contain 40,000 pages. Such a book would weigh only a pound. I can make a pound of nickel sheets for a dollar and a quarter.”

        Hereis a prospect of real culture for the masses Forty thousand pages in a volume! A single volume the equivalent in printing space of two hundred paper-leaved books of two hundred pages each! What a library might be placed between two steel covers and sold for, perhaps, two dollars!

He wasn't talking about having a small device that could 'download' content remotely. He was just talking about using nickel as a substitute for paper, but the book would still essentially be a printed one and the content would be 'hard coded' in ink, albeit you'd still get a lot more pages in there.

Either that or I'm missing something.

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (3, Informative)

ChinggisK (1133009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898832)

The author is saying that Edison's idea could give you a lot of books in one object, like a Kindle does; the relation he is drawing has nothing to do with downloadable content.

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30900826)

The author is saying that Edison's idea could give you a lot of books in one object

reader's digest invented that, except they used a lossy compression format over a new storage medium.

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (2, Interesting)

dlenmn (145080) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898854)

He wasn't talking about having a small device that could 'download' content remotely.

Where did the author say that he was? I think the author's comparison to the kindle is just because they can store a lot of words in a little space. Whether that is a valid comparison is another issue.

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (2, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899940)

Either that or I'm missing something.

Just an ear for metaphor and simile.

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (1)

John Bayko (632961) | more than 3 years ago | (#30905298)

I don't understand, I don't read with my ear.

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 3 years ago | (#30905536)

Exactly.

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (1)

elronxenu (117773) | more than 3 years ago | (#30902800)

The problem is that selling two hundred books for $2 does not provide an adequate income for the publisher. Even if the manufacturing cost was only $1, and the publisher is nominally making 100% profit, they're making a lot less revenue than if they could sell, say, 200 books individually for $2 per book.

So I expect that was one reason the idea was never developed. If it had been, the publishers would never have supported it. They might have tried to make it illegal. The product would have become popular only when readers could print on it for themselves, and the industry would continue to fight against such practices with slogans like "Home scribing is killing literature" and "Don't copy that ... hard ... copy".

Re:TFA gets it completely wrong on the 'Kindle' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30909668)

You're missing the part where everyone is nit-picking, nay-saying or simply laughing at the technology of those times. If presented with the Buck Rogers comic anthology, these same people wouldn't make it past the first page because (1) the technology is "then" and not "now", and (2) there are no references to not-so-discrete body parts. This includes the guy writing the "fly in the ointment" pronouncements.

Look around the web, and no one is truly speculating about future technology beyond what Apple might release next year. If it sounds "too hard", no one will fund it. If you can't multitask it while driving the car, no one will buy it. Our school children cannot conceive of a future without "green" in the name, nor one without government involvement, as limiting as those concepts can be.

Likewise the healthcare debate: all congress cares about is how to pay for it. No one talked about capturing patent rights to things like bone-mending technology or nanobots that can do surgery or deliver medicine from the blood stream, let alone discussing how to restart the nuclear medicine supply pipeline.

When you read that blog, try to see the problems being solved, not the solutions employed. You will realize that good solutions never occur on the first attempt, only by years-long, patient perseverance in the face of those that have both short-term memory and short-term goals.

Another invention that didn't work out (4, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898726)

...was breaking up your article into four arbitrary pages on the web.

Or at least, I *hope* that's what people will think in the future.

Another Idea that will not catch on (hopefully) (2, Funny)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898846)

Using Slashdot to hype your own damn blog!

Re:Another Idea that will not catch on (hopefully) (5, Insightful)

isomer1 (749303) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899208)

Unfortunately the Slashdot story submission process almost requires you to post the stories on your own site. The problem is that the main url for the story must be unique among all story submissions, but the writeup must also be decent (yes that second point is debatable). So if any of the bagillion other slashdot readers submits the story before you, you're out of luck. And if they write a crappy one sentence description the story gets rejected and that original url is permablocked but the submission process. The process naturally selects the autobloggers that provide a unique url (typically to their own site) and provide a good (read inflammatory) description.

Re:Another Idea that will not catch on (hopefully) (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899734)

Really? Why would it be designed like that? (I know, this is slashdot, technology and information design is not a strong point)

Do you have a citation for this that can confirm this is how it works?

Re:Another Idea that will not catch on (hopefully) (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900004)

Search Engine Optimization. URLs containing keywords will cause the page to be ranked much higher.

Re:Another Idea that will not catch on (hopefully) (1)

isomer1 (749303) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900368)

I would guess the reason is simply to reduce the huge number of story submissions that the editors must wade through.

The reason I happen to know about it is that I attempted to submit a story a few days ago and ran in to this exact problem. The main url I wanted to link to was: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8476381.stm [bbc.co.uk] . Another slashdotter had already submitted the link, but included only a tiny one sentence blurb. The result was that the story was killed and the url can not be used for new submissions.

Incidentally this seems like a GREAT way for astroturfers to abuse the /. process.

Re:Another Idea that will not catch on (hopefully) (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900644)

I would guess the reason is simply to reduce the huge number of story submissions that the editors must wade through.

How would this reduce the number of story submissions?

The reason I happen to know about it is that I attempted to submit a story a few days ago and ran in to this exact problem. The main url I wanted to link to was: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8476381.stm [bbc.co.uk] [bbc.co.uk]. Another slashdotter had already submitted the link, but included only a tiny one sentence blurb. The result was that the story was killed and the url can not be used for new submissions.

What proof do you have that the previous submission was the reason your story was "killed"?

Submitting stories here is NOT that complex... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30900870)

Nah, just leave the main URL blank and it will go through, even if someone has sent in a crappy submission before you. Or find another source to use as your main link (pretty much everything gets reported on several different sites these days). But do NOT try to rewrite AP or Reuters stories. I think their EULA thingy is BS, but Slashdot seems to feel otherwise, so don't even bother and don't link directly to them, either. You can almost always find a better source than them, anyhow, if you Google the story. This generally only matters if you're linking to reuters.com, so don't worry too much if you're linking to some newspaper website with AP credits or something.

Also, they're definitely NOT beholden to posting the first guy to submit the story. There's at least some small window before they've accepted any story on the subject where anyone has a shot at it. It's really not that hard to get stories submitted here, though you do have to be able to find hot news while it's still (relatively) new. If the story is important enough and you do a decent job on the writeup (at least as compared to anyone else who sent it in), you have maybe a 1-in-4 shot of getting accepted. What you do need (sadly) is to hype the story a bit. Like that in that Facebook story, the big deal was how open your data was to insiders, but the most eye-catching detail was that stupid thing about how the internal master password spelled out 'Chuck Norris'.

If all you want is to say that you've successfully submitted a story here, just trawl the main geek news sites, find something hot, and give it a decent writeup. Back when I was really trying to find news, I could get several submissions per day more often than not. Just one caveat: be careful of oversimplifying anything. Some people will get upset over the smallest things, even if you bend over backwards to try and write decent stories reasonably quickly and do your best to cram all the important details from a long story into a tiny summary. It gets to be quite a bit of work for each story once you start doing things like looking up the names of the researchers who rarely get named in the stories about their discovery, or adding Coral cache links for small sites and Wordpress blogs, etc. These days, I simply don't have enough free time to report as much as I used to. I mean, I don't get paid for this and I don't even have a blog to advertise.

- I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property [eff.org]

Re:Another Idea that will not catch on (hopefully) (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 3 years ago | (#30906150)

In Soviet Russia, blog hypes yo...wait a second...

First Web Browser!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30898862)

The Telenewspaper and Electric Writer described in the article is the first imagining I have ever seen of what we now consider the browsing experience! It look slike it is alst Two-Way as the console has the ability to send information out as well.

Cool...

Hellschreiber (4, Informative)

leighklotz (192300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30898890)

Hellscrhreiber was used in the 1930's. It uses a font to send text over a wire (or radio) link, as off-on pulses for pixels.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellschreiber [wikipedia.org]

Some hams still use it, for kicks. It's got good performance in noise (weak signal mode).

Re:Hellschreiber (3, Informative)

gyrogeerloose (849181) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899706)

Some hams still use [Hellschreiber}, for kicks. It's got good performance in noise (weak signal mode).

Easy on your transmitter too (low duty rate) and a pretty narrow bandwidth (75Hz), but slow (35WPM) compared to PSK31. Hell does have a couple of big advantages, though, one being that the operator is in the translation process and can interpret when the reception gets dodgy. Another is that, being a facsimile process, the sender can use any font he/she chooses. And it sounds cool [wb8nut.com] , too--sort of like crickets.

KJ6BSO

Antikythera (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30899110)

It's amazing how far backwards we managed to go.

Shame on the Dark Ages for, erm, being dark and on the Greek for not making their knowledge public.

They probably had laws against export of secrets... bummer!

Mail-in mainframe access (5, Funny)

Brett Johnson (649584) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899310)

Side note: Popular Science used the article to introduce a service in which readers could get access to mainframe programs by filling out forms with input data and mailing them to PopSci, which would then run [the] program and send the results back in a S.A.S.E. the reader had supplied. It may have been the least real-time approach to computing in the history of the universe.

Edward waits impatiently for the letter carrier to arrive. "Where is he?", Edward musses, checking his watch.

Every day this week, Edward had rifled through the mail as soon as it had arrived, hoping to see that special envelope. And every day this week, the postman brought only bills and grocery store circulars.

But today - certainly today - would be the day he would receive the results of his climate modeling simulation. It just had to come today!

Edward sees the postman coming down the street. His mailbag seems a bit heavier today ... Could it be? Why doesn't he walk faster!?

Finally, the mailman reaches Edward's house and pulls out a bundle of letters. Edward anxiously grabs the lot from the hands of the postman. One of the envelopes is notably thick; Edward pulls it out and checks the return address. "YES!", he exclaims, seeing it was from Popular Science. He hands back the rest of the pile and dashes up the stairs with his precious packet.

Edward gives himself a paper cut opening the envelope, but is oblivious to the pain. His mind is focused on one thing - the test results: "Is global warming real?" Surely these results will show it beyond any reasonable doubt!

Examining the first page, Edward's heart sinks...

climate.c: In function 'main':
climate.c:75: error: syntax error before '}' token

"FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU...."

Re:Mail-in mainframe access (3, Funny)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900342)

So Edward fixes the bugs in his program, and a month later, receives a similar letter. More cautious now, he opens it to find that the letter contains real output this time:

"Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

Re:Mail-in mainframe access (2, Funny)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 3 years ago | (#30901678)

eventually, politically motivated hackers break into his mailbox and start publishing his letters to his friends talking smack about some other guy's climate modeling program....

Re:Mail-in mainframe access (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30902082)

We offered that at my university in the late 1980s. Students from some jungle overseas could post in forms with mainframe code on them (COBOL rather than C of course), they would be typed in, run, and the listings posted back to them. This was a painstaking way to get a correspondance degree in Computer Science. Some time later, having a personal computer was made a requirement of the course.

Re:Mail-in mainframe access (3, Informative)

niks42 (768188) | more than 3 years ago | (#30902314)

Not so different from so-called cafeteria systems of the 60s and 70s, when we poor students used to submit our deck of punch cards at the Ops counter in the machine room, and pick the deck up and associated printout from our pigeon hole the following morning. Even after terminals arrived, we still picked up printout from Ops well into the 80s. When IBM started cost reducing in the UK, more remote locations didn't have a laser printer, so anything printed nicely was delivered in the mail.

Compilers for cafeteria systems often had a quick first pass phase that threw out jobs with syntax errors; most student programs failed that step, so it saved on CPU time when it was precious.

Re:Mail-in mainframe access (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#30905078)

Well, that is still better than 42... I guess.

how many blades? (0, Redundant)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899366)

In 1911, Thomas Edison bragged that he could make a 40,000-page book by printing the pages on thin pieces of metal

Man, how many blades? That Gillette guy is gonna shit himself.

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930 [theonion.com]

Edison (1)

feesa (1729776) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899492)

He seems to be still coming into the picture every day

"No, that's paper, sir." (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899644)

"Hey, is this metal? I've got a bet with Joe."

Re:"No, that's paper, sir." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30903352)

Interocitor incorporating an electron sorter, hrmm

What's The First One Gonna Be? (2, Funny)

The Wild Norseman (1404891) | more than 3 years ago | (#30899874)

First thought that popped into my mind when I read about the Edison book was the Orange Catholic Bible.

Which brings up a related question for me. A bible the size of the OC Bible couldn't be physically thumped, so you can't call Orange Catholics "bible thumpers." "Bible plinkers" maybe?

"Fiche" technology (2, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#30900046)

Article: When did the basic idea become practical? In the late 1960s and early 1970s, libraries got excited about PCMI and similar technologies-collectively known as "ultrafiche"-and began using them to cram massive amounts of information into small spaces. But the trend lasted only a few years. By then, I assume, it became clear that the future was digitization, not miniaturization.

That's not entirely accurate. Variations of "fiche" technology were quite common in university libraries. When doing reports with newspaper citations, "Microfiche" (flat film plates) and/or "Microfilm" (scrolled film) were quite common into the mid 1990's. This was cheaper than storing gajillion actual newspapers and magazines, especially in bigger cities where floor-space is a premium.

Thus, "the trend only lasted a few years" is off because it had about a 25-year run and was quite successful in its heyday.

An interesting variation that allows computerized retrieval is the aperture card [wikipedia.org] . However, it's not as compact.

       

I noticed Kindle wasn't in the list. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30900104)

maybe next year, when Linux is ready for the desktop.

/ducks/

In dash records (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30900660)

I listened to a lot of tunes in a friend's car way back when, that had an in dash record player. It was in a 64 (IIRC) Buick "deuce and a quarter" or 225. Worked OK, did skip on really nasty bumps, but less then what you might think.

How old is the author? (1)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 3 years ago | (#30901608)

How old is the author of this article?
They seem to think that all of these things only finally got workable in the 90s, yet in many of the cases there was a perfectly working substitute in place in the 80s, 70s, or even earlier.

Re:How old is the author? (2, Informative)

hrimhari (1241292) | more than 3 years ago | (#30902274)

That or there was a little lack of Google skills after all. The article completely neglects portable CRT TVs over LCD ones. Took me 5 minutes to find a more verbose list. [guenthoer.de]

Prior art there (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#30902302)

Lots of prior art to many things here. How many US patents does this lot invalidate?

Inflation bullshit (1)

professorguy (1108737) | more than 3 years ago | (#30902914)

Anyone else notice that they give 2 examples of 1965 prices and their 2010 equivalents? From TFA:

The portable TV is $200 ($1400 in 2010 dollars). The VCR is $400 ($2700 in 2010 dollars).

Um, anyone else think it's funny that the average car cost $2,650 in 1965 and $26,500 in 2010, a median home cost $21,000 in 1965 and $210,000 in 2010 and yet the government figures claim prices rose 7 times?

How'd they do that? That's because in 1965 you bought a car. But in 2010 you bought a car, an airbag (which is counted as extra because it wasn't on the 1965 version), and anti-lock brakes, and long lasting tires, and etc, etc. There's a technical term for this money-saving (and people-screwing) accounting trick, it's called 'LYING LIKE A RUG.'

Cold weld? (2, Funny)

proverbialcow (177020) | more than 3 years ago | (#30903522)

"Um..yeah, I'd like to return this book. I was making a cake, and the recipe spreads over opposite sides of a page, and as you can clearly see, the pages stick together from 'Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl' all the way through to the Book of Revelations. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this until after I'd already added the brimstone and the lake of burning sulphur, and it was the worst birthday my five-year-old ever had."

Finger Saver Version of Edison Kindle (1)

bjs555 (889176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30913650)

Roll the printed metal into a cylinder and enclose it in a open-faced box with scrolling wheels at the top and bottom. Mechanically switch to a high gear ratio for fast forward / reverse.

"Early" FAX Machine? I think not. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30914096)

The FAX machine was invented in 1843. How a 1930's FAX machine could be considered "early" escapes me.

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