USB inventor admits that the plugs are annoying

In 1996, Intel released USB (Universal Serial Bus) 1.0 and we have been annoyed ever since. National Public Radio spoke with engineer Ajay Bhatt who led the team that unleashed the perpetually frustrating non-reversible plug on the world. From NPR:

"The biggest annoyance is reversibility," Bhatt told NPR. Nonetheless, he stands by his design.

Turns out there's a very specific reason for the USB's lack of reversibility.

A USB that could plug in correctly both ways would have required double the wires and circuits, which would have then doubled the cost.

The Intel team led by Bhatt anticipated the user frustration and opted for a rectangular design and a 50-50 chance to plug it in correctly, versus a round connector with less room for error...

"In hindsight, based on all the experiences that we all had, of course it was not as easy as it should be," Bhatt said.

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Bic perfume in packaging inspired by their lighters

In 1989, Bic, makers of pens, shaving razors, and, of course, lighters, launched Parfum Bic. I really like the packaging inspired by cigarette lighters! Maybe the original idea was that the scent would cover up the stale funk of cigarette smoke. Weird Universe found this bit from a Detroit Free Press article at the time:

Made entirely in France and packaged in little portable spritzers that look more than a bit like Bic lighters, Parfum Bic will retail for just $5 a quarter-ounce, one-tenth the price of a typical French perfume. Parfum Bic already is selling briskly in Europe, the company reports. Already, cocooned in decidedly downscale blister packs, the product is hitting the speed racks of American supermarkets, drug and variety stores. With this product, Bic hopes to create a whole new low-price perfume category by advancing the notion of perfume as a product that can be bought and used spontaneously.

"Bic Perfume" (Weird Universe)

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This is the color of cyberspace

Do you want to paint your house the color of cyberspace? Sherwin Williams has you covered (also available: "Web gray, African grey, software, network gray, grey screen." (via Bruce Sterling) Read the rest

Free "National Park" typeface that looks like the wood signs on the trails

National Park is a free typeface from The Design Outside Studio based on the "National Park Service signs that are carved using a router bit." Studio founder and University of Kansas design professor Jeremy Shellhorn was visiting Rocky Mountain National Park when inspiration hit. He writes:

I had a sketchbook with me and took some rubbings of the letterforms and asked my friend Miles Barger, the Visual Information Specialist for Rocky, if he had the typeface. He asked the sign shop. No one has it? Turns out it isn’t a typeface at all but a system of paths, points and curves that a router follows.

The router’s "bit" follows the path and gives the letters its stroke weight or thickness only when engraving a sign.

It doesn't really exist as a typeface unless a sign is made.

So my design colleague, Andrea Herstowski, students Chloe Hubler and Jenny O'Grady, NPS Ranger Miles Barger and myself decided to make this router typeface a thing.

Our National Parks belong to the people, so this typeface should too.

National Park Typeface (via Kottke)

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The history of Spikey, the Wolfram logo

It's a 2d projection of a rhombic hexecontahedron, first generated by Mathematica's namesake programming language back in the 1980s, when it was as damned close to magic as anything in computer science.

Spikey is one of my favorite logos. They went through many variations with many products, inspired by renaissance drawings and a vast selection of other influences, on their way to the one you see here, which was originally devised for Wolfram Alpha.

Founder Stephen Wolfram:

And that’s when I noticed an email from June 2009, from an artist in Brazil named Yolanda Cipriano. She said she’d seen an article about Wolfram|Alpha in a Brazilian news magazine—and had noticed the Spikey—and wanted to point me to her website. It was now more than nine years later, but I followed the link anyway, and was amazed to find this:

Yolanda Cipriano's website—with rhombic hexecontahedra, there called "giramundos"

I read more of her email: “Here in Brazil this object is called ‘Giramundo’ or ‘Flor Mandacarú’ (Mandacaru Flower) and it is an artistic ornament made with [tissue paper]”.

What?! There was a Spikey tradition in Brazil, and all these years we’d never heard about it? I soon found other pictures on the web. Only a few of the Spikeys were made with paper; most were fabric—but there were lots of them

The Story of Spikey [blog.stephenwolfram.com] Read the rest

A designer comes up with a much better supermarket receipt

Susie Lu is a senior data visualization engineer at Netflix. She wanted to make a better grocery store receipt so she bought a thermal printer and went to work designing an infographic style receipt that is legible on the printer's crappy resolution. Her design makes it easy to see what categories of food you spent the most and least on and the relative price of individual products.

[via Fast Company]

Image: Twitter Read the rest

Fantastic minimalist embroidery portraits of musicians, writers, and artists

My dear pal Barbara Rushkoff embroiders fantastic minimal portraits of musicians and other artists, writers, and thinkers whose work has inspired her over the years. I love the seeming simplicity of her illustrations that still beautifully convey the essence of her subjects! Also, the name of Barbara's Instagram account has me in, er, stitches: yr_resting_stitchface

Above: Robert Smith of The Cure. Below: Billie Eilish, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of the B-52's, Nilufer Yanya; Mark Hollis of Talk Talk; Joy Division's Ian Curtis; St. Vincent; Debbie Harry; and David Bowie.

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Magnificent photos from a psychedelic family's California trip

For more than 50 years, Roger Steffens has traveled the electric arteries of the counterculture embracing mind-expanding experiences, deep social connection, and unadulterated fun at every turn. And he’s captured it all on film. After serving in Vietnam during the final 26 months of the ‘60s, where he won a Bronze Star for founding a refugee campaign that raised over 100 tons of food and clothing, he spent a year lecturing against the war before settling in Marrakech. Finally returning Stateside in 1972, he immersed himself in the vibrant bohemias of Berkeley, Los Angeles, and beyond, touring his highly-acclaimed one-man show, “Poetry for People Who Hate Poetry.” A psychedelic polymath, Steffens worked as an actor, poet, editor, archivist, lecturer, author, NPR radio DJ and interviewer and, yes, photographer. Driven by his own insatiable curiosity and passion, he was on a perpetual quest for the eccentric, the outlandish, the transcendent. Just as often, it found him, smiling, a camera in one hand and a joint in the other.

Roger Steffens is an intrepid explorer of the fringe but he’s also a family man. He met his wife Mary under a lunar eclipse in a pygmy forest in Mendocino, California while on LSD. Soon after, they conjured up a daughter, Kate, and son, Devon. Family vacations took the foursome up and down the West Coast, from the gritty glam of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to reggae festivals in Humboldt, fiery protests in Berkeley to the ancient redwoods of Big Sur and the wilds of Death Valley. Read the rest

Chess board turned into wonderfully nerdy coat rack

Volker Rieck transformed vintage old chess boards into fantastically nerdy coat racks to sell on his Etsy shop CreativeHolz. Chess club bonus points for the intentional arrangement of chess pieces into the Caro–Kann Defence and an Italian Game opening.

(via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

A smaller jet cowling chair, made from a less-cursed plane

Back in 2017, Andrea wrote about Plane Industries gorgeous chairs made from the cowling of the (now notorious) Boeing 737's jets; now, the company has followed up with a smaller, more practical chair, this one fashioned from a BAe-146's jet cowling, still featuring the company's "high gloss shell and dark Alcantara interior." Read the rest

How to build a house out of shipping containers

Architecture hacker/maker Ben Uyeda of HomeMadeModern designed and built his house out of shipping containers in the high desert of Joshua Tree, California. And he documented the process in fascinating detail.

How to Build A Shipping Container House (YouTube)

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Halifax! I'm speaking at Atlseccon on April 24 (then Toronto, Ottawa, Berlin and Houston!)

I'm coming to Halifax to give the closing keynote on day one of Atlseccon on April 24th: it's only my second-ever visit to the city and the first time I've given a talk there, so I really hope you can make it! Read the rest

eBoy's new design-your-own Swatch watch

Check out the new "Swatch x You" artist edition from longtime Boing Boing pals eBoy, the pixelmasters whose dingbat font FF Peecol birthed our own Jackhammer Jill mascot! With the new Swatch, you get to choose from a variety of eBoy characters in a pre-determined pattern to "design" your own watch. From Swatch:

Three designers, never-ending 8-bit paradises. The always-surprising pixel creations by the Berlin-based trio have been on the cover of numerous magazines, ad campaigns and many art galleries. Since 1977, eBoy keeps building, pixel by pixel, the most original digital environments and characters that invite people on a journey of discovery and wonder.

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This is the new Helvetica

Helvetica Now is Monototype's new typeface created for today's screens. Read the rest

Public Sans: a free/open font from the United States Web Design System

Public Sans is a free, open font (available in weights from 100-900, download here) from the federal United States Web Design System with a Github project that you can contribute to: it's billed as "A strong, neutral typeface for text or display." (via Four Short Links) Read the rest

The Family Acid: California, a far-out photo album from a very unconventional family

For more than 50 years, photographer Roger Steffens has explored the electric arteries of the counterculture, embracing mind-expanding experiences, deep social connection, and unadulterated fun at every turn. After serving in Vietnam at the end of the 1960s, Steffens immersed himself in California’s vibrant bohemia. With his wife Mary and children Kate and Devon, he sought out the eccentric, the outlandish, and the transcendent. Just as often, it found him, grinning, a camera in one hand and a joint in the other.  

My Ozma Records partner Tim Daly and I are honored to share with you this new collection of Steffens’ spectacular snapshots taken between 1968 and 2015 during the foursome’s freewheeling adventures throughout the visionary state they call home. Think of it as a family album belonging to a very unconventional family. 

This is The Family Acid: California.

Based in Los Angeles, the Steffens family traveled up and down the West Coast, from the wilds of Death Valley and reggae festivals in Humboldt to fiery protests in Berkeley and the ancient redwoods of Big Sur. Along the way, they’d rendezvous with friends like Bob Marley, Timothy Leary, and war photographer Tim Page, the inspiration for Dennis Hopper’s character in Apocalypse Now. They’d take in the wonders of nature and, of course, the adults would occasionally lose their minds in psychoactive celebrations of creativity, freedom, and hope.   

The Family Acid: California is a 192-page, large format book manufactured with the finest materials and attention to design as you've come to expect from Ozma Records, producers of the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition. Read the rest

How to easily draw a fantastic optical illusion of a 3D city

As a high school student, I would have enjoyed learning to use ruled paper to draw anamorphic illusions instead of (not) taking notes. (via The Kid Should See This)

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