April 3rd, 2013

Twenty Awesome Covers From The US Space Program. My favourite is the cover for the manual for the NASA/Grumman Apollo Lunar Module: nothing else looks like the LM.1

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

  1. Who, reading the documentation these covers contained back in the 1960s and even the early 1970s, would have believed that forty years on manned space travel still wouldn't have ventured further out into the solar system than the Apollo missions did? Don't get me wrong, I know the human race has plenty of robots exploring various interesting corners of the solar system and peering out into the wider universe. That's all well and good and I love reading about the things they're finding, but let's cut to the chase: we're running way behind schedule if I'm to live out my retirement years in a modest little cottage with a view out over the Mare Crisium!

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USB Typewriter

January 9th, 2012

The USB Typewriter is a hilariously anachronistic yet strangely beguiling piece of kit.1

I strongly suspect the image of an iPad strapped to the USB Typewriter is causing the late Mr Jobs to do somewhere in the vicinity of 200rpm even as I type this.

[Via Memex 1.1]

  1. Personally, if I were in the market to replace my eight year old Mac keyboard with something a little louder I'd be inclined to look for a way to hook up my Mac Mini to an IBM Model M keyboard, for nostalgia's sake. Be sure to listen to the audio of the sound of a Model M in action on that page: what a glorious racket!

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Future Drama

November 22nd, 2011

Future Drama: a compilation of designers of the (mostly quite recent) past's visions of the future, with a particular emphasis on videos depicting futuristic technology being deployed in real world situations.

You know the sort of thing: currently the trend is to depict elegantly dressed rich people toting around ultrathin tablet computers that they control via touch interfaces (often with some form of holographic display) whilst engaged in their job as a knowledge worker and/or high powered executive. Back at their hotel room after a hard day's collaboration, they use the device as a fancy videophone to chat with their cute pre-teen daughter back home about how school went today. 1 2 3

I snark, but I do find this sort of speculative work fascinating. Also, the Matt Jones blog post that pointed me in this direction is well worth a read: I've always seen this sort of video as a marketing tool aimed at gaining mindshare, but he's found that for designers placing their ideas on screen in the context where they'll be used can be immensely valuable, insofar as it helps them assess whether their ideas 'fit' in the real world. Good stuff.

[Via Comment #4 on a post at BERG Blog. TED Talk on a real-world Minority Report user interface via Wikipedia]

  1. Just like how ten years ago the future was going to involve lots of sharply dressed rich people organising their work and their lives via big screens employing Minority Report-style user interfaces whilst engaged in their job as a top executive or senior knowledge worker. Back at their hotel room after a hard day's collaboration, they'd use the device as a fancy videophone to chat with their cute young daughter back home about how school went.
  2. By contrast, fifteen years ago, our senior knowledge worker executive would have been using a stylus-based tablet that seamlessly and instantaneously translated their handwriting into computerised text ready to email to their bosses over the internet, whilst also displaying a pop-up reminder to call their daughter when they got back to the hotel.
  3. I can't help but notice that none of these devices ever has a red battery power indicator blinking away in one corner, reminding the user that they need to find a USB socket some time in the next thirty minutes if they want to keep using it. Funny, that…

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Digital Nostalgia

January 8th, 2011

Jonathan McCalmont on Digital: A Love Story: Nostalgia, Irony and Cyberpunk

Look beyond the retro stylings, the dodgy music and the revisitation of old game-play mechanics such as making you scribble down important pieces of information, and you'll see that Digital: A Love Story is a game that is fiercely nostalgic for the idea of the internet's lost frontier.

Once upon a time, the internet was seen as a kind of digital Wild West, a wild and woolly frontier just outside of the embrace of civilisation where you were liable to encounter all kinds of things, both pleasurable and horrific: a cultural shatter zone outside of the purview of government. However, just as new settlers brought civilisation to the American West, the popularisation of the internet and its gradual integration into every aspect of our daily lives has brought civilisation to the online world.

By creating a fictionalised past with one foot in the 1980s (when computing was very much a niche hobby) and one foot in the 2000s (when the internet was large enough to start supporting discrete cultural communities), [Digital: A Love Story's author Christine Love] is offering us the chance to feel nostalgia not just for the by-gone age of an uncivilised internet but also for a fictionalised frontier where all kinds of technological possibilities seemed only a few inches out of reach.

[Via Tomorrow Museum]

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Closing down

March 9th, 2010

YouTube Closes Down For The Night. Strangely soothing, that music…

[Via Qwghlm]

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