Author Topic: items of yore  (Read 24520 times)

Re: items of yore
« Reply #50 on: 06 August, 2021, 11:20:21 am »
Index medicus!  The listing of every medical paper ever published which was eventually put online in 1996. Whole Amazon rainforests were destroyed every year to create the monthly versions which were then replaced by the alphabetised  final listing each year.  Searching for the citation of paper could literally take a whole working day!

Re: items of yore
« Reply #51 on: 06 August, 2021, 11:22:16 am »
Back in the 80s some of my colleagues worked on a system involving a microfiche "tank" and a computerized retrieval system using keywords. I never saw it working - or heard it, thank God - but the pharmacy in the next village has a retrieval system for medicines that works in similar fashion. Every time they type in a prescription item there's a series of clunks and whooshes like the last gasps of an iron lung, then your meds pop out into a handy tray. Every so often it jams, and the pharmacist has to squeeze in the front (it's all visible, behind glass) and get the stuff out himself.

That reminds me about 20 years ago going to a media museum in New York where the crown jewel was a huge archive of TV shows you could watch on demand from a massive robotic archive of Video8 tapes. Imagine being able to watch old TV shows at the touch of button on your own personal viewing screen!

The multiple layers of obsolescence amuse me.

The website is delightfully vague about whether the archive still exists in that form. Although you can still only view their collection by visiting in person.

ian

  • why would any decent person have such thoughts?
Re: items of yore
« Reply #52 on: 06 August, 2021, 11:46:15 am »
Index medicus!  The listing of every medical paper ever published which was eventually put online in 1996. Whole Amazon rainforests were destroyed every year to create the monthly versions which were then replaced by the alphabetised  final listing each year.  Searching for the citation of paper could literally take a whole working day!

That's what I was talking about earlier (well, the Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index). These days you stick a search term into a box, back then it was scrolling down endless dense pages with your eyes and scribbling down notes.

Even when it came to CD-ROM, you still have to search yearly, swapping the CD for each year.
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets, the Putin of pandas

Re: items of yore
« Reply #53 on: 06 August, 2021, 11:54:26 am »
The Internet's blindness to pre-1995 popular culture is a real handicap when searching for that Guardian article which incorrectly named the Captain Pugwash characters, the many flavours of Spangles, or whether King Dong was a real person and whether it was 4 feet long.
Through the angel rain, through the dust and the gasoline, through the cruelty of strangers, to the neon dream

ian

  • why would any decent person have such thoughts?
Re: items of yore
« Reply #54 on: 06 August, 2021, 12:09:17 pm »
Which takes us around to the surreptitious find of prime hedge grumble, a delight for any teenage (ok, any age) boy, and useful playground swapsy currency (one Knave = two Fiestas).

The internet ruined that.
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets, the Putin of pandas

Re: items of yore
« Reply #55 on: 06 August, 2021, 12:24:06 pm »
Talking of paternoster lifts, there was one in the Genetics building at Glasgow Yoonie.
What happens if you 'go over the top; in one. Anybody ever done it?

Kim

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #56 on: 06 August, 2021, 12:32:51 pm »
You stare at a blank wall for a bit as the lift moves up and sideways, then find yourself heading down again.  Unless some sort of modern safety interlock has been retrofitted to stop the whole thing.

Not that I've actually done it.  Haven't been in a paternoster since the one at Northwick Park Hospital in the early 90s.  This is in spite of (briefly) being a student at Sheffield Uni, home of the Paternoster Party.   :facepalm:

Re: items of yore
« Reply #57 on: 06 August, 2021, 12:38:11 pm »
There are inevitably lots of Youtube videos. You get some mildly interesting wall:
https://youtu.be/YgJBD1wf-YQ?t=78

I made a special trip to Sheffield to have a go on their lift. I think I went round the bottom but that might be a false memory.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #58 on: 06 August, 2021, 12:48:42 pm »
Talking of paternoster lifts, there was one in the Genetics building at Glasgow Yoonie.
What happens if you 'go over the top; in one. Anybody ever done it?
Yes.  It goes dark, then one of your mates presses the emergency stop button and pegs it.
Through the angel rain, through the dust and the gasoline, through the cruelty of strangers, to the neon dream

Beardy

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #59 on: 06 August, 2021, 12:55:13 pm »
Talk of big fax machines reminds me of on of my early career duties of patching up part time ‘private wires’ between the local papers and the big London ones. Nothing exciting about it though.

Then there were the database archive stored on 3270 tapes. There were two distinct types of tape robots; the silo and the roller coaster. The silo was a silo sized cylinder storing the tapes and a robot arm that was on a spindle; it whizzed round and up/down to select the tape and shove it in a tape reader, the Roller coaster was an altogether more complicated system where the tapes all whizzed around on tracks (staked one above the other) and the robot arm only went up and down. They were quite mesmerising to watch because they’d move without warning and they moved FAST.
Sorting my life out, one shed at a time.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #60 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:00:17 pm »
Robotic tape libraries are still a thing.  The ones with a little camera on the end of the grabber are cool.
Through the angel rain, through the dust and the gasoline, through the cruelty of strangers, to the neon dream

Re: items of yore
« Reply #61 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:12:08 pm »
You stare at a blank wall for a bit as the lift moves up and sideways, then find yourself heading down again.  Unless some sort of modern safety interlock has been retrofitted to stop the whole thing.

Not that I've actually done it.  Haven't been in a paternoster since the one at Northwick Park Hospital in the early 90s.  This is in spite of (briefly) being a student at Sheffield Uni, home of the Paternoster Party.   :facepalm:
None of this prevented students at Leeds from going over the top, doing a quick handstand while out of sight, and coming down the other side upside down ;D

Mrs Pingu

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #62 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:20:00 pm »
I remember my parents having twin tub washer and then later several top loading automatics (they were quite late getting a front loader).
The problem with the top loading automatics was that they came with a little lid/work surface to hide the door, which invariably my mum covered in teetering piles of crap which had to be moved every time she needed to do a wash.
Do not clench. It only makes it worse.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #63 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:20:35 pm »
Index medicus!  The listing of every medical paper ever published which was eventually put online in 1996. Whole Amazon rainforests were destroyed every year to create the monthly versions which were then replaced by the alphabetised  final listing each year.  Searching for the citation of paper could literally take a whole working day!
It wasn't quite that primitive in days of yore! Index Medicus is part of Medline, which went online in 1971. Generally, large sites could get tapes of such databases delivered as regular updates for their in-house services. Smaller sites used remote access over the kinds of Telenet and Tymnet connection that I mentioned earlier, in describing working for another such database. Services such as Lockheed Dialog developed to host collections from different providers and make them remotely available. Of course, they did all switch to the Internet when that came along.

The story goes that the producers of the abstracts journals that you are describing computerised their typesetting in the 1960s. Large customers quickly realised that they'd be better off getting hold of the typesetting tapes, and searching those, than relying on print, for all the reasons that you state. And people could build profiles and get custom updates of everything matching, shortly after its publication.

I've always assumed that Lockheed set up an in-house service for their engineers, and then realised that they could sell it to everyone else. The European Space Agency had a similar public (charged) service, ESA-IRS. Different services tended to have different focuses - chemistry, engineering, business, etc. - but to offer fairly broad collections nonetheless.

ian

  • why would any decent person have such thoughts?
Re: items of yore
« Reply #64 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:29:08 pm »
Dialog, by the by, is still going, though long removed from Lockheed Martin.*

*my mothership is just about to (re)acquire it via an acquisition, after selling it off in 2008.
Authoritarian Thought Leader, the Pol Pot of Powerpoint, the Stalin of Spreadsheets, the Putin of pandas

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: items of yore
« Reply #65 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:29:55 pm »
Electronics jibblers will remember databooks.  Back before the mid-2000s or so, if you wanted to know the specs of a component you had to look it up in a book, and every well-equipped electronics lab would have shelves of these telephone-directory-sized publications, and hopefully a photocopier somewhere nearby.  These days you can just type the part number into google and get the manufacturer's datasheet PDF in the first few results.

You can accurately date the rot setting in by when the Maplin catalogue abandoned the middle chapters of pinouts of all the common 4000-series logic ICs, op-amps, power regulators and such that hobbyists were likely to need.  I think they may have offered them on CD-ROM for a while, but I had access to university facilities by that point.

I'm not sure how accurate my perception is, but it seemed that hobby electronics almost died out in the 1990s and 2000s, as consumer goods became increasingly difficult to fettle, and the suppliers of parts became more and more industry-oriented.  Fortunately, the Maker movement seems to have re-kindled interest, albeit where the electronics aspect is often an incidental part of a larger project.  Today's tinkerers are more likely to learn electronics as they work out how to interface some sensor or actuator to their Arduino or Raspberry Pi project than by mucking around with jellybean transistor circuits, radios and 555 timers.  And in today's world, that's a lot more useful.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #66 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:36:13 pm »
Last week my daughter came back from a 4th birthday party with a Pop-a-point pencil. I don't think I've seen one since the 1980s.

Essentially someone in the '70s decided that the biggest problem with pencils, was the wood and the sharpening, so they decided it could all be fixed with more single use plastic, and little sharp stabby bits of lead (if you lost a piece of the plastic eg you dropped it changing the lead and it rolled away and fell down a hole etc, they then became useless). I was actually shocked that they are still available, and that a parent would put one in a party gift bag.
They have been very useful while diving, for writing on hard plastic "slates". Pop-a-point pencils don't go soggy like real pencils, and "sharpening" can be done without tools.
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Feanor

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #67 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:39:23 pm »
Electronics jibblers will remember databooks.  Back before the mid-2000s or so, if you wanted to know the specs of a component you had to look it up in a book, and every well-equipped electronics lab would have several shelves of these telephone-directory-sized publications, and hopefully a photocopier.  These days you can just type the part number into google and get the manufacturer's datasheet PDF in the first few results.

You can accurately date the rot setting in by when the Maplin catalogue abandoned the middle chapters of pinouts of all the common 4000-series logic ICs, op-amps, power regulators and such that hobbyists were likely to need.  I think they may have offered them on CD-ROM for a while, but I had access to university facilities by that point.

BITD, the RS catalog had complete application notes and sample schematics for lots of stuff!

It was a place of discovery.
You could come across a device and think 'cor, that's interesting! I could do $stuff with that!'
You could pretty much work up the outline design for something whist sitting on the toilet browsing through it.

It's just lists of part numbers now, and you need to know what it is you are looking for.
Now you need to know that such-and-such a device actually exists.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #68 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:40:08 pm »
Dialog, by the by, is still going, though long removed from Lockheed Martin.*

*my mothership is just about to (re)acquire it via an acquisition, after selling it off in 2008.
There seems to have been endless buying and selling of the big hosting companies. It was always fun doing customer training as a database provider; I sometimes taught six different command-line syntaxes (for users of our database on different hosting companies) in the same class. I could probably still teach you to search Dialog in a language that is no longer available, given point-and-click Web interfaces.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #69 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:51:56 pm »
The ski-slope tape player:- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rObG3GddYGk
I've actually seen one in use once.

Record players that let you stack records and would play the top side of each record. For use with those, mult-disk sets with the first half on the A sides of each disk, the second half on the B sides, so the whole stack only needed turning over once.

In car record players, which often played the underside of the disk.

Endless magnetic tapes. Two types, the 8 track cassette and the special compact cassette used in a twin tape answerphone for the outgoing message. Both types were looped around so that the capstan wheel was all that was needed. The "start" was designated by a short conductive section so the machine would know when to change tracks or stop.

Which reminds me:-
Physical answerphones with real tape. The fun of needing to buy a new outgoing message tape for messages that weren't 30 seconds long.
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Cudzoziemiec

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #70 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:53:25 pm »
some mildly interesting wall:
Damning with faint praise.

Obviously there must be a mildly interesting wall club (probably with a discussion group on IRC and a large intersection with audaxers) and inevitably a mildly interesting wall sub-genre of porn.
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: items of yore
« Reply #71 on: 06 August, 2021, 01:56:08 pm »
Record players that let you stack records and would play the top side of each record.
My parents had one of those. Made by Bush some time in the 1960s, I guess it was ideal for all those groovy parties everybody had then before they invented discos.
Riding a bike through a city is like navigating the collective neural pathways of a vast global mind.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: items of yore
« Reply #72 on: 06 August, 2021, 02:03:57 pm »
BITD, the RS catalog had complete application notes and sample schematics for lots of stuff!

It was a place of discovery.
You could come across a device and think 'cor, that's interesting! I could do $stuff with that!'

I think I came up with the idea for my A-level project[1] in exactly that manner.


[1] Abusing a digital volume control chip to spoof commands from a minidisc player's inline remote control.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #73 on: 06 August, 2021, 02:05:48 pm »
Minidisc player.
I still have a functioning one of those.
I bought it, and about a month later Apple released the first iPod.

Re: items of yore
« Reply #74 on: 06 August, 2021, 02:10:01 pm »
Electronics jibblers will remember databooks.  Back before the mid-2000s or so, if you wanted to know the specs of a component you had to look it up in a book, and every well-equipped electronics lab would have shelves of these telephone-directory-sized publications, and hopefully a photocopier somewhere nearby.  These days you can just type the part number into google and get the manufacturer's datasheet PDF in the first few results.
I remember having to phone up manufacturers or distributors, who would send out datasheets in the post. It slowed down the design process, but a lot less than the current component shortage*.

One USA-based IC manufacturer had an automated line that you could call, and type in a code, and they would fax back a data sheet. Data sheet number 0 was an index of data sheets. We were surprised that they would let us direct the fax to the UK, where we assume that the fax call cost them money.

I think that is still much cheaper than paper copies posted from UK distributors. Obviously a big web server is cheaper still**.

* I must check if that IC that Farnell are expecting in February 2023 is still on schedule.

** The Americans seem to have worked out that national standards are a service, and that charging for paper copies still leaves the standards agency unprofitable, while being a disproportionate cost on small and start-up businesses, so they might as well publish the whole lot on the web for free. The UK and EU don't seem to have learned that, with a 10 sheet .pdf often costing >£50.
Quote from: Kim
Paging Diver300.  Diver300 to the GSM Trimphone, please...