(   )
                          (    )
                           (    )
                          (    )
                            )  )
                           (  (                  /\
                            (_)                 /  \  /\
                    ________[_]________      /\/    \/  \
           /\      /\        ______    \    /   /\/\  /\/\
          /  \    //_\       \    /\    \  /\/\/    \/    \
   /\    / /\/\  //___\       \__/  \    \/
  /  \  /\/    \//_____\       \ |[]|     \
 /\/\/\/       //_______\       \|__|      \
/      \      /XXXXXXXXXX\                  \
        \    /_I_II  I__I_\__________________\
               I_I|  I__I_____[]_|_[]_____I
               I_II  I__I_____[]_|_[]_____I
               I II__I  I     XXXXXXX     I
            ~~~~~"   "~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mon, 30 Dec 2019

OTR for the Holidays

Happy Holidays! We're getting some snow finally after a pretty dry December. It was actually a green Christmas here, which as you can imagine is unusual for Quebec. But my wife and I have managed to get out and x-country ski a few times with what little we did get. So it hasn't been a total loss.

I've been doing a lot of old-time-radio (OTR) listening over the holidays, something I mentioned before [0] and have continued to enjoy over the years. Archive.org has a huge (and growing) collection [1] if you have an interest in sampling the shows. Some of the best series include Gunsmoke, Escape, Lights Out, CBS Radio Mystery Theater (CBSRMT) [2], X Minus One, and Nightfall.

A recent fun episode I listened to was 'Olive Darling and Morton Dear', a CBSRMT episode from 1977 featuring the voice of Fred Gwynne (the same Fred Gwynne of Munsters fame). He was in over 80 of the CBSRMT episodes [3] and apart from being an excellent actor, has one of those perfect radio voices. You can stream or download the episode on Archive.org [4] or download the mp3 here (warning 20MB) [5].

posted at: 16:07 | path: / | permalink | holidays, otr, radio, retro

Fri, 16 Feb 2018

I Miss the Eighties

With apologies to my younger readers.

I miss the 80s. I spent my formative years in the 80s, in the US. I went to high school, got my first computer, had sex for the first time, started driving, got drunk for the first time, got high for the first time, had my first girlfriend, and went away to college (not necessarily in that order).

Of course people will accuse me of looking back with rose-colored glasses. What was bad about the 80s? Let's see...recession, high interest rates...mullets...expensive long distance phone calls...gas prices...Reagan, Challenger...still I can't say that since then we haven't been through equally fucked-up decades. Hell, the one we're in right now is one for the record books.

read more after the break...

posted at: 21:46 | path: / | permalink | 80s, eighties, nostalgia, retro

Sun, 26 Nov 2017

Old Books and Old Tech

I was back in the States last week to visit friends and family. We generally travel the week before the US Thanksgiving, just to avoid huge delays at the border. Anyway, while there I was able to grab some boxes of books that have been in storage for a while - not all of them but just the ones I'm likely to re-read or that have some sentimental significance. Most of the others I'll be giving away, but I have the fantasy and scifi classics I've collected over the years, including Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov and Clarke.

read more after the break...

posted at: 09:58 | path: / | permalink | books, fantasy, retro, scifi, technology

Tue, 17 Oct 2017

Old-Time Radio

My wife and I enjoy listening to old-time radio shows (OTR), mainly CBS's Radio Mystery Theater (CBSRMT) [0], but also CBC's Nightfall [1] series. This past weekend we listened to Orson Welles' rendition of Dracula, from 1938 [2]. They make a nice change from TV if you want some entertainment for an evening.

CBSRMT is my favorite, despite being not so old-time (1974-1982), mainly because I remember listening to them live as a kid, on a transistor radio, while hiding under my covers. That would have been the late 70s. Many of the recordings have ads edited out, but some do not and the old advertisements are sometimes as interesting as the shows. Archive.org has a large OTR section [3].

posted at: 18:28 | path: / | permalink | otr, radio, retro

Sat, 29 Jul 2017

HP-15C Calculator

I still have an HP-15C I bought new in 1987. I don't use its programmable features anymore, but just as a desktop calculator (after getting used to RPN, I could never get the hang of 'normal' algebraic entry again). These are probably the slide rule of my generation - every computer science and engineering student had one.

The good thing about these models is that they last forever (clearly), and the keys have this great, solid feel to them when pressed. I still have some of the programs I wrote in the back of the manual, written as a sequence of keypresses. At the time I was a sophomore in a computer science curriculum at UMASS, Amherst, so the programs were probably due to my discrete math class, although I have no memory of writing them now 30 years later.

read more after the break...

posted at: 17:24 | path: / | permalink | calculator, hp15c, retro

Tue, 08 Dec 2015

Low Tech

I enjoy reading the weekly posts over at The Archdruid Report. Very thought-provoking. Last week's post [0] was on the aggression and anger many face by admitting to eschewing a "modern" way of life in favor of simpler, older technologies. The comments to this post are full of interesting anecdotes.

As a child I read voraciously, in fact all through my 20s. Then the family happened, along with suburbia, a house, two cars and programming/sysadmin jobs, and somehow the digital screen took over my life, for a time. It's very easy to fall into that lifestyle, and in fact there is enormous social pressure to do so. I hear others describing the affects, and I've seen it in myself and in my own children - after many years of sound-bytes and feed-checking in a hyper-connected culture it becomes difficult to concentrate for long periods of time, particularly to finish books. I find myself constantly wanting to check my email or blog feeds. I have stayed away from facebook, thankfully. I grew up in the 70s, when it was common as a 10-year old to spend all day outside, running home briefly only for meals and then hurrying back outside to explore/play/fight/run/ride until dark. At night I would read in bed via flashlight. I still remember those days, and surely the experiences shaped who I am. Will my kids remember their childhood, spent in front of a screen watching youtube videos, playing minecraft or call of duty? Does the push for computer use in schools really benefit kids? Is it merely different today, sometimes good, or actually harmful?

For myself, I find I feel better physically and mentally when I cut back on technology. I have been trying to roll back my own consumption of TV in favor of reading physical books. I keep my 'smart' phone in my office rather than at my bedside (unless I am on-call). I use a rake rather than a leaf blower. I still enjoy using older technologies like slide rules and paper journals. Since 2009 I have again been playing old-school tabletop pen-and-paper RPGs, albeit sometimes via google hangouts (technology is not all bad, especially when it enables real social interaction). I try to limit my kid's use of social media and TV. That's just me, and again, maybe the internet culture is all just different and won't be harmful at all as the current generation grows up and enters the workforce. Or, maybe we're creating a generation of chronically depressed, unfit, barely-literate uber-consumers. Time will tell.

posted at: 17:47 | path: / | permalink | hyper-connectivity, lowtech, retro

Thu, 19 Aug 2010

Slide Rules

[This post disappeared from the SDF bboard for some reason, so I'm posting it here]

When I was in high school (80's) TI handheld calculators were just starting to be used regularly in math and science classes. But I had a soft-spot for slide rules, as my grandfather taught me to use one when I was 11. He was a civil engineer, and still used them regularly. When I was a bit older he gave me his prized possession, a post-versalog with the bamboo slides and instruction manual (back when instruction manuals were actually hardcover, cloth-bound books). The quality was amazing. Apparently, the more you use the bamboo slides, the smoother the action gets, a property of the natural oils in the bamboo.

I still have that instruction manual, although the original slide rule was lost in a fire. A couple of years ago, I got nostalgic and bought an identical model on ebay for about $20. They are fun to use, if not practical nowadays, and do teach logarithmic principles in a nice, visual way.

posted at: 13:36 | path: / | permalink | history, retro, sliderule