Arbitrary Stupid Goal: a memoir of growing up under the tables of the best restaurant in New York

To call Shopsin's "a Greenwich Village institution" was to understate something profound and important and weird and funny: Shopsin's (first a grocery store, later a restaurant) was a kind of secret reservoir of the odd and wonderful and informal world that New York City once represented, in the pre-Trumpian days of Sesame Street and Times Square sleaze: Tamara Shopsin grew up in Shopsin's, and Arbitrary Stupid Goal is her new, "no-muss memoir," is at once charming and sorrowing, a magnificent time-capsule containing the soul of a drowned city.

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. — Read the rest


I love how anachronistic this ad for earning big bucks by learning steno is — among the obsolete elements contained in it are dictation, shorthand, shorthand gadgets. It's true that continuous speech recognition, autocomplete and pocket recording devices are their descendants, but they're none of them "exciting careers." — Read the rest

Working machine gun for kids!

From the Dec 1941 ish of Mechanix Illustrated, a jim-dandy shop project to make Junior his own dowel-firing machine-gun!

ANY small boy will want, and be delighted with this toy submachine gun, which holds fifteen shots in the magazine and fires them continuously, until empty, as the "tromboning" action is worked.

Read the rest

HOWTO get rich from carny rides, 1945

In this 1945 Mechanix Illustrated article, Harold S. Kahm sets out the facts for any would-be ride-designers looking to hit the jackpot with a new high-speed thrill. Starting with the origin story of the bumper car (a WWI munitions plant worker built a miniature truck for hauling parts, the plant workers went crazy riding it, so he covered it with bumpers and turned it into a carny ride), he moves onto the holy grail of 1945 amusement parks: a portable ride. — Read the rest

HOWTO make a 4,000-volt infrared "snooperscope"

From the August 1951 ish of Mechanix Illustrated, a modest HOWTO describing a "Snooperscope" that requires a 4,000 to 6,000-volt power-supply to fire infrared light at and through the materials around you.

Construction of the snooperscope: The image converter tube is mounted in a plastic drinking cup 3-1/2 in.

Read the rest

Proto-maker spaces: the "New Inventors Club"

In the Nov, 1950 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, a piece about an early iteration of the hackspace: the "New Inventors Club" where a technician would help you modify your project designs so that you could get something that worked and try to sell it without having to pay big bucks to scumbag "promoters" who'd string you along with pretty lies. — Read the rest

Apparatus to focus human body heat for the purposes of cooking potatoes, 1930

I wonder if the "scientists" in this Feb, 1930 Modern Mechanix article ever actually built the potato-cooking apparatus shown here, or whether it was purely for illustration purposes.

SCIENTISTS have learned that our bodies are living machines of the combustion type in which the burning of fuel (food) is accompanied by the consumption of oxygen, liberation of heat energy and production of carbon dioxide as is the case in all combustion engines.

Read the rest

Giant plastic log cabin ad, 1960

I imagine these things must have been incredibly flimsy, but the ad design itself was rock solid — looking at this thing for five minutes this morning had me trying to figure out where I could install a log cabin in our flat. — Read the rest

Multitool cigarette case, 1933

Ah, the good old days, when it was de rigeur to stick a knife-blade onto every single object one carried, back before the era of aviation confiscation totum:

Eight distinct purposes are served by the versatile pocket case, illustrated above. A cigarette compartment occupies the center, supplemented by a concealed writing tablet, a telescoping pencil, and a stamp container.

Read the rest

Pop-up, flat-pack camping house for transport on your car's roof

From the Nov, 1938 issue to Mechanix Illustrated, a sweet little pop-up camping "house" that folded down flat and could be strapped to the roof of your hupmobile, tin lizzie any other jalopy you find yourself piloting.

FEATURING six windows fitted with slid-glass and permanent screens, a newly developed prefabricated collapsible house which can be carried on the roof of an ordinary passenger auto enables sportsmen, fishermen and others who like the outdoors to enjoy short or prolonged trips in perfect comfort.

Read the rest