Last night, my husband and I went to the Minnesota State Fair and stumbled upon a demonstration of a linotype machine, a semi-automated, mechanical printing system that was used by newspapers and magazines (and basically everything else) from the end of the 19th century through the 1970s. It's a completely mesmerizing piece of equipment. An operator types out a line of text and the machine responds by collecting molds that match each letter and fitting them together. Then, it fills the mold with molten metal and dumps out the freshly minted block, ready for the printer ... before automatically re-racking all the letter molds so they're ready for the next line of text.
Useless machines are home-built devices that turn themselves off as soon as you turn them on — and that's it. That's all the they do. The more elaborate and gimmicky the method by which they accomplish this job, the better. As a hobby, useless machines have been around since the 1950s, but Abigail Pesta of the Wall Street Journal says they're making a comeback. — Maggie
My little brother and I went to the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC, today and ran across this very cool piece of maker history — a scroll saw operated by a pulley powered contraption resembling a stationary bicycle. Pedal punk?
[Video Link. Warning, may totally creep you out if you love cats. ]
Dutch artist Bart Jansen had a cat named Orville that he loved very much. When Orville died, he did what any cat-loving guy would do: transformed his deceased kitty pal's corpse into a radio-controlled DIY taxidermy helicopter. WAIT WHAT
The Orvillecopter, half cat, half machine. Named after the famous aviator Orville Wright. He was killed by a car. After that he received his propellers posthumously. This is Orvillecopter's first test flight, Soon to be flying with the birds. Oh how he loved birds. He will receive more powerful engines and larger props for his birthday. So this hopping will soon change into steady flight. For the catlovers: it is a tanned hide, just like the shoes you're wearing. For the RC lovers: it's a Lotus T580 (still)
Robogames, an annual robot hoedown, takes place this weekend in San Mateo. $25 for adults, $0-$20 for kids depending on age, free for active duty military. Bring hearing protection and a love of machines, noise, and mayhem. It's a ton of fun. I'm late posting this, but it's not too late for you to go: ticket sales online ticket sales are closed, but they're available on-site at the San Mateo Fairgrounds noon-7pm Sunday 22 April (map).
Photos: Above, an audience member is entranced by robot dance moves. Below, "Last Rites" delivers a lethal hit against "VD6" for a knockout in a heavyweight combat prelim round. By Dave Schumaker.
After World War II and the toppling of the Nazi regime, the Soviets laid claim to much of Germany’s highly-advanced metallurgy industry. In so doing they got a head start on the Cold War race for supersonic air superiority. Unwittingly, they also set in motion a larger, and largely forgotten, industrial revolution that shaped the second half of the 20th century and will shape the 21st. This is the story of the birth of the Jet Age — but it’s anchored firmly to the ground.