Popular Science archives, online and free

Videophoneeeeee Popular Science, in partnership with Google, just put its 137-year archive online, for free. You can't yet browse by issue; rather, the entry point is a keyword search box. But yes, the ads are all there too. At left, Chatroulette, er, I mean "You See Your Party On New Video Phone" (September, 1950). Ah, the history of the future never gets old.

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  1. When browsing around the thing that strikes me most is the amount of ads for smoking. Here in europe many countries have banned ads for smoking and banned smoking in restaurants, public buildings and so on. Seeing these ads from recent times feels like a time machine.

    Weird find: I was browsing 1988 and BAM there’s one more smoking ad. But wait! That model looks eerily similar to
    actor Dominic West, a.k.a. McNulty in the Wire.

    Could that be so? Compare:

    1. I see what you mean, however Dominic West would have been 19 then so it’s doubtful. Unless he has a portrait in his attic.

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time browsing through both Pop Sci and Pop Mech on Google Books, particularly the 1940’s -in the last few months. Popular Mechanics is very simular to Pop Sci and I recommend checking it out too. Some of the ideas they show are just hilarious. It was definitely a time of optimism- the idea everyone would own either a helicoptor or an airplane seems to be an ongoing idea/wish. Some ideas they presented are in existance today.

  3. 137 is the reciprocal of the fine structure constant. NO WAY this is a coincidence (cue spooky music).

  4. Searching for electronics, this is the Popular Science I remember from a couple of old stacks I inherited. Full schematics of projects to build. First one to pop up, precision winding of coils using a polishing lathe.

    Makers out there, there are a lot of published machining and electronics ideas waiting to be transformed for use with our current technology. Enjoy!

  5. My favorite search is Paul Moller. A sampling…

    July 1967

    If you have the urge to make like a Martian, you may get your wish. This is the goal of Paul S. Moller, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, who wants to develop low-cost ($4,000 and up) flying saucers for personal transportation. After installing new engines in his first machine [PS, July ’66], Moller recently made a series of successful test flights a few feet off the ground. With a second, eight-foot-diameter, single-engine craft, demonstrated a few weeks ago, he hopes to acheive real flying-saucer altitudes.

    March 1987 (advertisement)

    For the past three decades, Moller International has been studying VTOL aircraft from every angle, in an effort to engineer the first VTOL aircraft that is safe to operate, inexpensive to manufacture, and economical to maintain. This advanced technology has finally been developed and will soon be available, in the form of the two-passenger Merlin 200.

    January 2005

    Last August one of the longest-anticipated feats of flight since the moon landing took place in a grassy field in Davis, California. As a small crowd looked on, a red Batmobile-like vehicle shuddered, lurched, and rose a few feet into the air, its eight 50hp rotary engines screaming like hornets. After a few minutes, the craft settled into the ground.

    The event might not have seemed like much—it could hardly even be called a flight—but it represented a milestone that inventor Paul Moller, a 67-year-old Canadian, had been promising journalists and investors for more than a decade.

    Yeah, a little bit more than a decade, all right. What a crackpot.

    1. Hey The Tim,

      I was called into my Dad’s office and he showed me all this info on the Merlin 200, which he was almost convinced to buy in 1994. I am currently scanning some of the documents!! Very funny stuff.

  6. I posted a comment earlier with a few links to some interesting searches, but it seems to have been caught by a spam filter? Search for “Moller” if you want an amusing look at the 50-year history of Paul Moller’s flying car scam.

  7. I just wish they were downloadable.

    I’m using Safari, and when I go into my Activity window I can see the individual files as they stream in. I can get each page’s image url, and then request it at CRAZY resolution with a minor url change.

    If you can do that (I dunno if Firefox, et al, can), you’ll get a link like this (I don’t expect this link will work for you, I think the “sig” is a session-identifier. Give it a click though.):


    See the w=600 at the end? It’s the render-width, in pixels. I tried up to 5000px and it worked!

    id = book id
    pg = page number, in the following code: PP1 = P(age)+P1 (outside front cover), +P2 (inside front cover), +A1 (first actual page), +A2 … +T1 (outside back cover)
    img = must be set to 1
    zoom = 1 is thumbnail, 3 is good
    sig = will probably be unique to your session

    Just run through the whole magazine once, so each page loads, and the list of urls should appear in the Activity window. So, if you feel like writing a script to do it automatically, or have the time to do it by hand, you could get all the images at massive resolution and stitch ’em into a pdf.

    Should be pretty easy :)

  8. Over in 1920, there’s an article on the introduction of prohibition describing ways in which you are no longer allowed to distill alcohol, what you are not allowed to make it out of, equipment you are no longer allowed to possess, and a dozen charming detailed diagrams of home-made still designs that you are probably not allowed to take inspiration from or make at home.

    (See a page above that article for the editors grave opinion on women wearing trousers.)

    1. “(See a page above that article for the editors grave opinion on women wearing trousers.)”

      Goes well with the oh-so-phallic cover imagery!

  9. I am constantly searching these old magazines for interesting ideas I can recreate for Youtube videos- there’s so many “forgotten” experiments in these magazines that are facinating. More often than not, the materials or chemicals needed simply are no longer available- either obsolete or banned.


  10. I’ve always wondered, what if you took all city-of-tomorrow stories from Popular Science and Popular Mechanix magazines of the 1920s and ’30s, assumed they all came true and wrote a story about it? TV in the 1920s with 78 records holding movies just like DVDs? (http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2007/06/19/home-movies-from-phonograph-records/) Maglev trains? (http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2007/08/14/magnets-drive-high-speed-suspension-trains-thru-air/) Walking mecha? (http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2006/12/04/horse-of-steel-runs-across-fields/) Wireless, electricity transmission just like Tesla imagined? (http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2008/07/14/radio-power-will-revolutionize-the-world/) Well OK that last one hasn’t happened yet but it sure looks cool.

    I’d write it myself but it’s really hard for me to write.

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