The Alexis: a homebrew typewriter from 1890

Martin from Antique Typewriters writes, "The Alexis typewriter is the result of a small town inventor with the desire to design and manufacture his own typewriter. James A. Wallace (1845 - 1906) was born in Alexis, Illinois (pop. 900) where he is now buried. He was a dynamic man with various occupations including bicycle repair, writer, and photographer (see his portrait below). He was also an avid musician. The Alexis is a superb example of a unique typewriter from the 'Wild West' of typewriters during the 1880s & 1890s when all sorts of ingenious designs came forth. Some ideas were better than others though and there were many successes and failures." Read the rest

Facsimile editions of the "Negro Motorist Green Books" from 1940, 1954 and 1963 are selling briskly in 2017

In 1936, Hugo Green, a postal worker in Harlem, published his first "Negro Motorist Green Book," a guide to the places that black travelers could eat, sleep, gas up, and be physically present and alive without being discriminated against, harassed, threatened, beaten or murdered. Read the rest

In 1977, the Sex Pistols played their last UK gig: a Christmas show for children

In 1977, the Sex Pistols did a charity gig to raise money for the families of striking miners and firefighters in Huddersfield; the show started at lunchtime with an all-kid audience, and went on into the night, with adult punks showing up later in the day. Read the rest

A playable version of Oregon Trail to promote Oregon tourism

The semi-independent Oregon Tourism Commission has created a playable version of the classic Apple ][-era adventure game Oregon Trail to promote Oregon tourism. Read the rest

Buy a random permanent tattoo from this vending machine

Choosing art to be inked permanently on your body can be a crippling decision, at least for some folks.

Elm Street Tattoo in Dallas, Texas thought of a fun way to make the process simpler. They created a vending machine that picks the art for you.

Yup, for $100 you get one turn of their "Get What You Get" machine. "What you get" is an old-school tattoo design which pops out in a plastic toy capsule and is then inked on your person. If you aren't cool with the design, don't throw a fit because for another $20 you can buy yourself another spin. No one is forced to put the design on their body; however, there are no refunds.

Boogie, a shop employee, told the Dallas Observer, "All of these tattoos I would price out between $160 and $180 ... maybe $250."

Tattoos will be completed on a first-come, first-served basis. If there's no line, you can get yours right away. If all of the artists are booked, you may have to make an appointment.

Get What You Get now at #elmstreettattoo! Drop by the shop and get tattooed! #dallastattoo #2146531392 #walkinswelcome #americantraditional #walkintattoo #deepellum #deepellumtattoo #deepellumart #heartinhandgallery #tattoospeakeasy #heartinhand #getwhatyouget

A post shared by Elm Street Tattoo (@elmstreettattoo) on Aug 8, 2017 at 3:54pm PDT

The shop's co-founder and Ink Master star Oliver Peck writes, "Not a bad design in the bunch."

This Friday at @elmstreettattoo I will be doing tattoos out of the "Get What You Get " machine ...

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A working modem using HTML5 sound

Martin Kirkholt Melhus's workplace bans connecting his development computer to the internet, so he hacked together a modem using HTML5: by plugging over-the-ear headphones into his laptop's 3.5mm audio jack and then placing the headphones over a network-connected built-in mic, he is able to tunnel a network connection outside the firewall (or that's the theory; as he notes, "This was only ever intended as a gimmick and a proof of concept - not something that I would actually use at work.") Read the rest

Reimplementing an Apple ][+ on an FPGA

1977's Apple ][+ was the first successful personal computer, inspiring a generation of hackers and makers and coders; famously, it shipped with a schematic that showed how the boards and their components worked together, to allow hobbyists to improve and service their PCs (hardware-hacking legend Bunnie Huang credits these schematics with igniting his interest in electronics and computing). Read the rest

Incredible Doom: a new Patreon-supported comic about "teens in the 90s getting into life and death situations online"

Matthew Bogart's new comic Incredible Doom launches today, online and in print, "about a group of teenagers in the 90s getting into life and death situations over the early internet." Read the rest

20 year old advice on helping people with computers is still relevant today

Phil Agre's 1996 article "How to help someone use a computer" is full of eternal verities that hold up today: it starts with a section on putting yourself in the mindset of someone who's struggling with something you know how to do already ("Beginners face a language problem: they can't ask questions because they don't know what the words mean, they can't know what the words mean until they can successfully use the system, and they can't successfully use the system because they can't ask questions") and then moves on to practical tips for turning that empathy into successful advice ("Try not to ask yes-or-no questions. Nobody wants to look foolish, so their answer is likely to be a guess. 'Did you attach to the file server?' will get you less information than 'What did you do after you turned the computer on?'.") Read the rest

Bruce Sterling in 1994, talking about crypto backdoors and the future of VR

Here's a 30-minute keynote that Bruce Sterling gave in 1994 to the ICA's "Towards the Aesthetics of the Future" VR conference in London. You should watch it, if only for the insight it gives into the early years of today's most contested technology questions. Read the rest

Headbadges: the lost, gorgeous bicycle hood ornaments of yesteryear

Collectors Weekly's feature on "headbages" tells the story of the 1000+ badge collection of bike-mechanic-turned-evolutionary-biologist Jeffrey Conner, who published a book on the subject, featuring an alphabetic index of photos from his collection.

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Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac hang out with New York's beats, 1959

Bruce Sterling: *THEY DON’T LOOK countercultural cliche-dramatic, they don’t have beatnik berets or bongos. You wouldn’t look at them twice in New York City, but there’s still something subtly off about them. I think it’s that plethora of pens in Ginsberg’s untucked shirt." Read the rest

Free on the Internet Archive: 255 issues of Galaxy Magazines, 1950-1976

Galaxy was one of the first pulps to explicitly bill itself as a magazine for "adults," in 1950 under founding editor HL Gold. Read the rest

A traveling neon salesman's sample-case, 1935

This old Mental Floss post collects salesmans' miniatures from the 1930s, including mausoleums, swimming pools, Persian rugs, and more -- but the gem is this gorgeous neon sample-case. Read the rest

Top Secret: New World Order: Merle M. Rasmussen reboots his 1980 RPG classic

The first time Merle Rasmussen played Dungeons & Dragons, he thought it was a Halloween game. “It was October 1975, and I was an 18-year-old freshman at Iowa State University. My roommate got this game filled with skeletons and undead monsters. I had no idea.” The role-playing bug had bitten him, but fantasy wasn’t his genre. So that same year, he started writing a game set in a modern world, the spy game that would become Top Secret.

In 1956, Hugh Hefner gave MAD's founding editor an unlimited budget for a new satire magazine called "TRUMP"

Harvey Kurtzman is a hero of satire, the guy who convinced Bill Gaines's mother to bankroll a comic book called MAD, then doubled down by turning MAD into a magazine -- only to jump ship five issues later after a bizarre fight with the Gaineses, finding refuge with Playboy founder Hugh Hefner who gave him an unlimited budget to start an all-star, high-quality satire magazine called TRUMP, which lasted for two legendary, prized issues, now collected in a gorgeous hardcover from Dark Horse. Read the rest

Remembering the original, Harold Pinter screen adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale

Zachary Smith writes, "Almost 30 years before Hulu's take on Margaret Atwood's feminist classic, a less-successful adaptation was filmed in Durham, NC. Here's a well-researched look at the making of that film, and its strange parallels to the community." Read the rest

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