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Cory Doctorow at 1:23 pm Thu, Aug 28, 2008
I discovered Shorpys a few months back, one of my favourite ways to fill a few minutes now. A really neat aspect of the site is the comments on each photo; some really informed commentors posting there, often offering neat insights into some aspect of the picture.
@3: Don’t forget, this was before they invented carrying, or any digit higher than seven.
But the actual calculation was quite simple. A soldier’s wages in 1927, or “aught-seven” as they’d have said in that year, would have been 1Â£ 4s and thrippence, so the bonus was a ha’penny, unless the soldier in question held the rank of coronet or better, in which case they could expect two silver groats.
Slightly OT but apropos of “computing section”, a friend of mine who is a PhD in Computer science keeps around an old dictionary from the 1940s(?) for its one entry for “computer”: “one who computes”;
..though of course by the 1940s there were primitive computers on U.S. Navy ships to calculate firing solutions for naval artillery, etc, plus the Hollerith (?) IBM machines used by Nazi Germany.
I really like the images, but Shorpy’s itself bothers me. The vast majority of these images are from the Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs division. The LoC posts all of these images online, and you can download high-res versions. The owners of Shorpy’s download these, then they crop or touch them up a little bit and sell expensive prints of the images. I know this is within their rights, because the images are in the public domain, but I just wish they would credit the LoC.
For example, the image you posted here is from the National Photo Company Collection, which Shorpy’s identifies, but nowhere on this entry or any other does it say that that collection is held by the Library of Congress. Here’s the link to the original image:
It just seems irresponsible to me, that they let their (vast) audience think that they tracked down these images themselves. Plus the LoC is underfunded, and this division is so amazing…I just wish that it could get a little more attention, and that in the interest of full disclosure Shorpy’s would at least be open about where the images are from.
A college friend uses this to expose his kids to history.
Every week or so he gathers them around and shows them a bunch of stuff he’s found on the net. The session I witnessed included a lot of Shorpy posts.
I got to play dead media nerd. I pointed out that a phonograph in one of the photos was non-electric, and that you controlled the loudness by changing the size of a resonating chamber. Hence, “volume”.
Shorpy is simply fantastic – truly one of the best places on the web. Glad more people are finding out about it!
Stefan, that bit of tech trivia is just wonderful. Thanks for sharing it.
It says on the bottom left hand side of every page of the Shorpy website under “About the Photos” that many of the photos are from the Library of Congress and links to the Library of Congress website.
Yeah, I guess you’re right! I missed that. Something about it still bothers me though.
We profiled Dave Hall, founder of Shorpy.com, in Washington City Paper a few weeks back:
Thanks for pointing this out Mr. Doctorow.
I love this picture, it contains so much information about technology and business.
Notice how the sign in the room calls is a “Computing Section”
Before there were “computers’ as we know them, a “computer” was a person who was an account.
Also, it’s interesting to think that it probably took that room all day to do what a basic “computer” can do in a couple of minutes….
Stupid old timey people.
#8, #10: Malt, they have always attributed the source, as you later noted. I really like Shorpy because it allows for interesting comments by buffs and wise-asses alike, and I find it MUCH easier to navigate than the LoC. I actually like the fact that the site’s owner will also include his own ‘vintage’ family photos as well. For me, its a reverse sci-fi time machine and I love trying to parse out the human stories hidden in each photo.
Wow, for once, I was ahead of the boingboing webgeek curve!!