When television was new

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From JF Ptak Science Books:

This cover (above) from Popular Science (February 1949) speaks to those early television times to me, the screen hosted in multiple layers of framing that gives it an appearance of a piece of art, which it was.

This pamphlet was delivered by Allen Du Mont Labs (1946) with the popular dictum that color television was not only possible but a probable near-term you-can-have-it-now reality.  The unfolded pamphlet cover also forms an interesting imaginary green-sky citiscape with a very stubby tv antenna foreground:

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See JF Ptak Science Books for more.

When television was new

A fallen empire in the snow

Tkachenko

From Wired:

In the early 1970s, the Soviet Union built an amphibious airplane designed to skim the sea, searching for US nuclear submarines. It flew, but the Kremlin scuttled the Bartini Beriev VVA-14 after a prototype crashed, the designer died, and a supplier bungled an order. The one remaining plane rusts away in a field at the Russian Air Force Museum outside Moscow.

That ill-fated plane is among 33 Soviet-era relics that Danila Tkachenko photographed for his series and photo book Restricted Areas. Many see them as monuments to the Cold War, a reminder of a time when the world lived under the threat of annihilation. But Tkachenko sees the Soviet Union’s aspirations and failures, and a rejection of the pursuit of political and technological utopias. “My project is a metaphor [for] post-technology apocalypse,” he says.

The series takes its name from the dozens of “secret” cities that housed the government’s most sensitive military and scientific programs. These cities were closed to all but the people who worked in them, and visits required approval from the highest levels. Many of them still stand today, abandoned and falling into ruin.

Read the rest.

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A fallen empire in the snow

A world without GPS

constellation

Technology creeps up on us until it runs everything. From the New Yorker:

The radio signal that is the lifeblood of the Global Positioning System originates from a constellation of twenty-four satellites, orbiting more than twelve thousand miles above Earth. When it reaches the ground, after about sixty-seven milliseconds, it is so weak as to be almost imperceptible. (G.P.S. experts often compare processing the signal to trying to read by the light of a single bulb in a city thousands of miles away.) The signal tells the receiver the precise moment at which it left the satellite. Given four of these cues, processed simultaneously, the receiver can extrapolate its position in three dimensions. A timing error of as little as a millisecond can throw its calculation off by nearly two hundred miles. […]

That’s a lot of responsibility for such a weak signal. The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently determined that, within thirty seconds of a catastrophic G.P.S. shutdown, a position reading would have a margin of error the size of Washington, D.C. After an hour, it would be Montana-sized. Drivers might miss their freeway exits, but planes would also be grounded, ships would drift off course, commuter-rail systems would be tied up, and millions of freight-train cars with G.P.S. beacons would disappear from the map.

Read the rest.

A world without GPS

The beautiful 16th Century maps of Abraham Ortelius

Islandia

Last year I visited Iceland with my wife, Nayeli, and our boys, Oscar and Mateo. I bought a print of an old map of the country, which I’ve now framed.

I didn’t know anything about the history of this map, so I did I little digging and discovered it was made in 1590 (!) by the Dutch cartographer Abraham Ortelius.

Abraham made quite a few maps of the world during his lifetime. Although not accurate by modern standards, they are beautiful and fascinating.

See also this brilliant illustrated timeline of maps of Iceland and a previous post comparing a map of Lancashire by John Speed from 1610 with the same view by Google Maps.

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The beautiful 16th Century maps of Abraham Ortelius