What the sound of a dial-up modem looks like

This is a spectogram of a dial-up modem handshake sound.  Via FlowingData. When I plugged in my first modem for the first time I heard this sound sequence and thought something was broken. Took me a few goes to figure out it was supposed to sound like this. Finally got connected and discovered bulletin boards. #waybackwhen

[youtube http://youtu.be/vvr9AMWEU-c]



A career kicks off at 15 shillings a week


I found my Dad’s apprenticeship papers from 1942. He started a five-year Cabinetmaking and Machining apprenticeship on 15 shillings (less than one pound) a week and would have ended it on 67 shillings (over three pounds).


I tried to use the RBNZ inflation calculator to see what the equivalent wages would be in today’s money but unfortunately it wouldn’t throw back past 1961. So I looked at what 1 pound would buy in 1942 (about $85.66 worth of stuff in today’s money) and what 3 pounds would buy in 1947 (about $200.68 worth now).

http://evolvingnewsroom.nz/?attachment_id=13957       CPI-Q1-1947-vs-Q1-2013

I don’t understand the apprenticeship system in New Zealand today, but a good place to start researching might be this Step by Step Guide to Becoming a New Zealand Apprentice.

A 1-shilling coin in 1940 looked like this one, which is for sale on eBay ‘Buy Now’ for US$ 49.99.


This shilling would have been made of .500 silver. In 1947 the coins began being cast in cupro-nickel instead.

New Zealand switched to decimal currency in 1967. Some people will remember this tune from that year.

The Reserve Bank Museum is terrific for this kind of history (if you’re into that sort of thing).







“What a waste if you merely brawn your pig’s head”

My Dad died a few months ago, and my Mum a few years ago, so I am now in possession of a number of cardboard boxes filled with family things.

I expect I’ll eventually get through them but so for I’ve managed just one or two. From one came a little stack of recipe books bought during various school fundraisers.

These two recipes – for Roast Head of Pig and Roast Opossum – are from the charming 1970 Waharoa Kai Mana Recipe Book, which was created by the Waharoa Primary School PTA to raise funds for the school and sold for NZ$0.50 at the time.

First, select your pig’s head according to size of oven. Place head in your baking dish – clip off ear tips (so they don’t start a fire in the oven). Cover well with beef dripping and bake at about 350 degrees….





A comeback for pneumatic tubes

I kinda love this idea. The Economist reported recently on the concept of using pneumatic pipes to deliver goods.

“In the late 19th and early 20th century, underground tubes were used in many cities to speed up the transport of mail between post offices and government buildings.

“Letters were put into capsules, the capsules into the tubes, and compressed air was then used to push the capsules from one station to the next.”

“It was not uncommon at the time to think that pneumatic post of this sort would develop into a wide network, like telephony or electricity.”

Franco Cotana, an engineering physicist at the University of Perugia, in Italy, said the system didn’t grow because of technological limitations at the time – “air compressors are expensive to operate and maintain, and the energy they produce dissipates quickly, so capsules can cover only short distances. But technology now exists to overcome those limitations.

“Pipenet, a system Dr Cotana patented in 2003 and has been developing since then, is based on a network of metal pipes about 60cm (two feet) in diameter. Instead of air pressure, it uses magnetic fields. These fields, generated by devices called linear synchronous motors, both levitate the capsules and propel them forward.

“The capsules are routed through the network by radio transponders incorporated within them. At each bifurcation of the pipe, the transponder communicates the capsule’s destination and the magnets pull it to the left or the right, as appropriate.

“Air pumps are involved, but their role is limited to creating a partial vacuum in the pipes in order to reduce resistance to the capsules’ movement.

“This way, Dr Cotana calculates, capsules carrying up to 50kg of goods could travel at up to 1,500kph—so you could be wearing a pair of jeans or taking photographs with a new camera only a couple of hours after placing your order.”

Rest of the story is here.

Pneumatic Tubes in the NZ Herald newsroom
Pneumatic tubes carry news 'copy' in the NZ Herald newsroom

‘So let us begin anew’

Earlier today I tweeted a link to Business Insider’s post about Google’s latest doodle, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of former US President John F Kennedy’s inaugural speech:

Screengrab of Google doodle commemorating JFK's inaugural speech

We can’t see this in New Zealand on google.co.nz at the moment, but given we’re a bit ahead of the northern hemisphere time-wise we may see it yet (unless the folks at Google think we’re not interested – but since many of us grew up on a diet of US and UK television shows, re-runs and wire stories, we just might be:)

Anyway, it seems to have struck a chord so it prompted me to dig out the speech on YouTube (big thanks to CSPAN for posting it).

And Bartleby provides the text of the speech here. Here are a few pull-out quotes that may seem familiar:

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.

Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required—not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

In 1940 you got 15 minutes of foreign news a week

I was talking to my Dad the other night about what news looked like when he was young.

He said they didn’t have a radio or a television, and the paper wasn’t delivered.

“Only milk and bread were delivered in those days,” he said. The butcher and grocer would deliver if you called in your order. But not newspapers.

The only foreign news he saw was in the news reels shown at the “2 o’clocks” on a Saturday afternoon.

“Half the news you got was at the movies, and that was the first thing you knew about what was going on in London or wherever.

“I didn’t go for that though, I mostly went for the serials and things like that. They used to have some pretty good serials back in those days. (The Lone Ranger was a hit.)

“They had about 15 or 20 minutes of news but then you’d get straight into the good stuff. That was the only news you used to get.”

I couldn’t find any news reels that I could embed here, but NZ On Screen has some and the British Pathe films are here.

What interests me is how different our sensibility is now about how much news we need in a day.

Dad grew up with 15 minutes of foreign news a week. Now we have foreign news round the clock. We have all kinds of news round the clock. Does it make my life better?

NZ On Screen is where you go to remember things you don’t realise you’ve forgotten

Screengrab of NZ On Screen
Screengrab of NZ On Screen

I’ve forgotten more TV shows and movies than I remember, which is what makes the new website NZ On Screen so good.

In the past 20 minutes I’ve stumbled across McPhail and Gadsby, the first episode of Spot On and It’s In The Bag, none of which I’d thought about in years. Lots of years. (My, Selwyn Toogood had lovely enunciation.)

This is my first look around since the site launched late last week, and I’m sure I’ll be back. Funded by NZ on Air, NZ On Screen serves as a repository for all manner of New Zealand movies, TV shows and short films over the years.

Or, in some cases, a repository of parts of NZ movies, TV shows and short films.

Often you can’t see the whole movie, rather the movie trailer; and with TV programmes you get parts of episodes rather than shows in their entirety. Others, however, are there in full, and there are links to parent websites which hold more information on the content in question or offer it for sale.

The site strikes me more as a first port of call than a final destination for movie and TV buffs, but a useful one nonetheless.

I can easily imagine NZ On Screen becoming the first place I look for vintage TV footage, say, to use in a lecture or blog post. Especially since it’s nicely laid out and commendably usable. Hats off to the creators.

It hurts that you can’t embed any of the clips, a la YouTube, which is generally my first instinct whenever I come across something I want to share. (At least, I couldn’t see a way to embed.)

But it’s a fine start and with luck we’ll see ever more content added and more of it available for embedding before long. My thanks to all concerned.