Floppy ROM: distributing software on flexidiscs


On Modern Mechanix, Charlie's posted a wonderful article about the Floppy ROM, an exotic dead medium that encoded software onto flexidiscs that you played into your computer. The Floppy ROM distributed with Interface Age in 1977 held up to 80 pages' worth of code (this was from the days when programs were distributed as text printed in magazines, for hobbyists to retype into their computers) and plugged into a 187-character-per-second interface intended for cassette-players. Charlie even got some hi-rez photos of the disc, in which you can see the bits on their surface.

Read the rest

India discontinues its telegram service


Andy Deemer discovered that India was about to decommission its telegram service on July 15, so he ran around Bangalore until he located the telegram office and sent one to a friend, just to document a procedure that is about to vanish forever:

He handed over an old slip of paper, wanted more details than should be necessary, copied everything into a massive bound ledger, spent ten minutes tallying up the bill, and charged only pennies for the experience. And that was it. I have no idea what happened next. Was there furious tapping of dots and dashes, or did he pop open Outlook 95 and send it via email? I don’t even know.

I guess the story isn’t exciting. Not one bit. But receiving the telegrams a week later?

Now that was grand.

The interesting thing is that the telegram system still sees a surprising amount of use; the Bangalore office alone handles 150 telegrams a day. However, that's down from a peak of 25,000-30,000 -- the decline started with the introduction of SMS.

Goodbye Telegram / Hello Telegram

Promotional DVDs smell like pizza when played

A Brazilian ad agency has built a campaign for Domino's "Pizza" that uses a heat-sensitive coating on rented DVDs; when the disc is played, the heat from the player heats up the coating and causes it to emit a pizza-like odor; the coating also changes appearance and becomes a picture of a pizza with an ad for Domino's.

In partnership with 10 video rental stores in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the brand used rented DVDs as media. About 10 discs each of 10 different new release titles such as Argo, 007, Dread And Dark Knight were stamped with thermal ink and flavored varnish, both sensitive to the heat.

While people were watching the movie, the heat of the DVD player affected the disc. When the movie ended and they ejected the disc, they smelled pizza. They also saw pizza: the discs were printed to look like mini pies, and carried the message: "Did you enjoy the movie? The next one will be even better with a hot and delicious Domino's Pizza."

A DVD That Smells Like Domino's Pizza

Skull made from VHS cassettes: Dead Media


Noah Scalin sez, "Dead Media is created from 497 VHS videocassettes that were given to me by several friends and also culled from my personal collection. The piece, which is approximately 20 feet long by 9 feet wide, was built in the style of the skull in Holbein's The Ambassadors and meant to be viewed from only one point and is actually quite distorted in real life. The piece is on display at the TCC Visual Arts Center in Portsmouth, Virginia from this Friday through November 1st after which it will be dismantled and used to create new artworks by the students of Tidewater Community College."

403. Dead Media (Thanks, Noah!)

Minitel goes dark

The last 800,000 Minitel terminals in France will go dark this month, as the service is finally shut down. Minitel was a proprietary network service that used "free" dumb terminals to access online services, typically at a small fee for each use. Minitel was much loved by business because every use generated revenue for them, and by its users, especially when it was the only game in town.

But it's also an existence proof of the power of open systems. Minitel boasts 1,800 services up and running. Imagine if the Web boasted a whopping 1,800 websites -- like the "500-channel cable universe," the numbers that seemed like an unbelievable banquet of choice in the 1980s now seem like a farcically constrained menu, the digital equivalent of the half-dozen standard clothing styles in a Soviet department store.

At the end of this month, Minitel will finally go offline, ending a brave experiment in French exceptionalism. The surprise is that the network has lasted so long.

There are still 810,000 Minitel terminals in France, mostly used by older people who dislike computers. There are still 1,800 services available through Minitel, although most people these days contact them (final indignity) through the Internet.

Argument still rages about whether the Minitel, run by France Telecom and its predecessor, the PTT, was a fast-track into the future or a destructive dead-end. The mushroom-coloured box has become an emblem of France's struggles with a globalised, and allegedly Anglo-Saxon dominated, world.

It has often been argued that the obsession of the French state with the Minitel impeded France's conversion to the Internet. Either way, Minitel itself proved to be a kind of "Neanderthal- technology -” a huge evolutionary advance that was doomed to be swept away by a smarter, more flexible and more aggressive cousin.

Death of an invention (via Beyond the Beyond)

HOWTO make Star Wars vehicles from 3.5" floppies


Instructables user Jetpack5 created a series of Star Wars space vehicles out of floppy-disk parts and office supplies. There's even a rubber-band-ball Death Star! Also in the set: a Millennium Falcon and a truly spiffy X-Wing fighter. This is a potentially productive way of using up the 5-billion-odd 3.5" floppies kicking around, slowly decaying. Better than my idea of a massive Beowulf cluster of 486s with four floppy drives each, rack-mounted and spanned to create a massively inefficient, room-sized virtual ZIP cartridge, which would be serviced by a dozen rollerbladed teenagers who would whisk around, swapping out corrupt disks.

Millennium Falcon and X-Wing from Floppy Disk (with Special Guest Appearance: Death Star) (via Neatorama)

VHS Cassette notebooks


Peleg Design's "Video Notebook" bears an uncanny resemblance to a VHS cassette, and comes with labels for extra verisimilitude.

Video Notebook (via Neatorama)

In Stereo banners from LPs


From How to Be a Retronaut, a "Stereo Stack" anthology: 4,000+ pixels of "In Stereo" logos from LP jackets, ganked from the Stereo Stack site.

Stereo Stack