New and improved gadget for doing vinyl-like scratching with magnetic audio-tape

Back in 2014, David wrote up Jeremy Bell's prototype "ScrubBoard" that enabled a scratch-like effect with magnetic audiotape. Bell writes, "I've made a lot of progress on my device since then, and I have a much more sophisticated prototype that uses a motorized tape loop and can record live audio directly onto the tape while I'm scratching. Enjoy!" Read the rest

Cassette Store Day is coming, when you'll be able to pick up the Beastles "Ill Submarine"!

dj BC (previously) writes, "You might be familiar with my Beastles mashup project from some years ago. The album "Ill Submarine" is dropping on TAPE on Cassette Store Day, October 13th 2018! I guess tapes are unpopular enough that no one anticipates copyright lawsuits. Speaking of copyright fear, the vinyl editions of this project, and of Wu Orleans, are not being pressed any more. So if you see one, get it." Read the rest

Stephen Colbert teaches a millennial how to use a payphone

Many people under the age of 30 have never used a landline, let alone a payphone. Stephen Colbert took a random young person from his audience outside and taught her how to use a payphone for the first time. After spraying the phone with disinfectant and handing her some quarters ("Have you ever seen these before? They're like Venmo you can touch.") Colbert gives her step-by-step instructions. Unfortunately she doesn't know any phone numbers, so Colbert tells her to call the number of the pizza parlor right next to the phone. Then Colbert has her call an operator and whispers into her ear what to say. Read the rest

Visiting the VHS Swap Meet

Be kind, rewind. On Sunday, Houston, Texas's Insomnia Gallery hosted the VHS Swap Meet where 21 sellers gathered to hawk VHS tapes. Jason Champion, 37, who operates a VHS video store out of his garage, organized the swap. From The Chron:

“For me, it’s pure nostalgia,” (attendee Tayvis) Dunnahoe said. “When I watch a tape, it’s not always about just (watching) the best-quality version of the film. A lot of times it’s just kind of going back to that root of how I saw it the first time I watched it.”

Dunnahoe, who’s known among VHS collectors as Benny Junko, is all about “keeping physical media alive.” He and his wife, Nancy Agin Dunnahoe, operate the online shop Video Sanctum, which specializes in horror.

In fact, just about every vendor Sunday had at least a small collection of horror films, from the rare to the classic to the campy.

“We’re horror fanatics,” said Debra Santos, 32. She and her husband, Nasario Santos Jr., bought a bag full of videos Sunday, from 1979’s “Nosferatu the Vampyre” to “Cujo,” based on the Stephen King novel.

“A lot of people who are into VHS are primarily horror collectors,” said seller Ryan Allison. He said he recently paid a dollar at Half Price Books for a trashy horror thriller called “Slash Dance,” then sold it to a collector for $150.

Read the rest

Watches made from obsolete 1" mechanical hard drives

French watchmaker Jean Jerome created the HDD Watch in 2014 with a successful Indiegogo campaign, recycling 1" hard drives for the movements. Read the rest

The forgotten world of TV guide magazines, curated

DON'T PARADE IN MY RAIN (via Metafilter) is a blog collecting scans of the magazines that were once our only guide to what's on the box. Replaced by the digital menus provided by cable boxes, they often featured striking illustrations by artists such as Gary Viskupic. Read the rest

Meet one of the last jukebox repairmen

Perry Rosen turned his passion for jukeboxes into a career. This man knows from motors, vacuum tubes, and turntables. If I had a jukebox, I'd ask Rosen if he could mod it to play with a punch to the chassis, Fonz style. Read the rest

This month, Japan will manufacture its last VHS video cassette recorder

Funai Electric Company, maker of VHS video cassette recorders for its brands like Magnavox, Emerson, and Sanyo, has announced that they will stop production on new VHS video cassette records this month.

According to the newspaper Nikkei, it's difficult to source the parts and, surprise, sales of new units have continued to plummet.

Expect a VHS-only store to appear in a hipster neighborhood near you soon. Y'now, the image just looks... warmer.

(Anime News Network) Read the rest

How floppy discs worked

The 8-Bit Guy's 15-minute explainer on floppy discs is a great potted history of 80s- and 90s-era storage media (it follows his segment on tape-drives) and the way that competitors learned from each others' mistakes and dead-ends, and engineered clever solutions to one of computing's most serious challenges. (via Motherboard) Read the rest

Pentagon's nuclear missile system is run on 1970s floppy disk tech

In a new report, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reveals that the "Department of Defense uses 8- inch floppy disks in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces." That floppy format was developed in the late 1960s and was obsolete by the 1980s. I wonder if the DoD saves a few bucks by using a hole punch to make them double sided.

According to the GAO report, "The agency plans to update its data storage solutions, port expansion processors, portable terminals, and desktop terminals by the end of fiscal year 2017."

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: Federal Agencies Need to Address Aging Legacy Systems (PDF) Read the rest

Elements of telegraphic style, 1928

Nelson E. Ross's "small booklet" sets out the principles of sending telegrams "in the most economical manner possible," so you can take full advantage of a communications medium that "annihilates distance and commands immediate attention." Read the rest

People really do still watch black and white televisions

Forget 8-bit videogames, the vinyl revival, and the resurgence of cassette tapes. Hundreds of households in Scotland are watching black and white television. The data comes from the organization that handles the mandatory licenses required to operate a television set. The annual fee is £145.50 to watch or record on a color set and £49.00 for black and white.

"It's astounding that more than 550 households in Scotland still watch on a black and white telly, especially now that over half of homes access TV content over the internet, on smart TVs," TV Licensing Scotland spokesman Jason Hill told the BBC News.

According to the Museum of Communications' Jim McLauchlan, "There are an increasing number of collectors throughout the UK collecting black and white sets from as early as the 1940s onwards, with some now fetching good prices. In general, younger visitors to the museum show very little interest in the black and white televisions but the occasional senior visitor will comment in a nostalgic way." Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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 Read the rest

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!) Read the rest

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.

Read the rest

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