Posts filed under ‘Links’

The hPhone prototype

Soon after the news that Gizmodo had gotten their hands on the next iPhone, I stumbled on a photo of one of the earliest prototype wireless phones, code-named the hPhone.

The hPhone predates the iPhone by about 105 years.  It made its appearance at the International Electrical Congress in September 1904, held on the grounds of the Saint Louis World’s Fair.

The “h” in hPhone is short for Hutchison, Miller Reese Hutchison, its inventor, the guy who also invented the klaxon, and the first electrical hearing aid.  M.R. Hutchison later became Thomas Edison’s chief engineer.

The hPhone, whose full name is the Hutchison Wireless Telephone, can be seen on page 105 of the St. Louis Electrical Handbook, available here. The Handbook itself is a quirky travel guide that reads like Let’s Go St. Louis tailored for an engineer.  For example, it describes the city boundaries of St. Louis as resembling a “double convex meniscus, with the longer axis running north and south, its eastern boundary being formed by a wide sweep of the [Mississippi] river.”


April 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm Leave a comment

Another dysphemistic retronym

Snail Mail“Snail mail” dates back to the days when bang paths were used for email (this search on Google Groups show examples of the use of “snail mail” that date back to January 1982).  As the Hacker’s Dictionary explains it:


Mail sent via the Postal Service rather than electronically,
sometimes written as one word:  SnailMail. At its worst, electronic mail usually arrives within half an hour. Compare that to the typical three days for SnailMail. If you ask a hacker for his mailing address, he will usually give you his network address for electronic mail. You have to say “What’s you SnailMail address?” if you want to send him a package.

“Snail mail” is both a dysphemism and a retronym. It’s “dysphemistic” because it’s a disparaging expression, and its a retronym because the advent of email meant we needed a term that emphasizes old school mail.   Other retronyms include “acoustic guitar” (needed since the invention of the electric version), “film camera” (the pre-digital version), and “World War I” (before the start of WWII). as well as “first wife” (don’t know who came up with that).

Snail PrintI recently send some email to a couple of friends, telling them about a story I had read in a newspaper someone had left in a restaurant.  In the email, I sent them a link to the online version of the story, and as I began to explain how I found the story, I realized I needed a way to refer to the printed newspaper version.   Since it’s almost embarrassing nowadays to read newspapers (why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?), I called it the snail print version.   After I sent the email, I got curious about how common the term “snail print” was in this era in which a week doesn’t go by without the newspaper industry reporting a layoff or a loss of advertising revenue due to the Internet.

My Internet searches for “snail print” were unsuccessful.  Does that mean no one else has ever called the old school version of news the “snail print” version?  I like “snail print” and plan on using it in the future, but  I am curious whether there’s another term with the same connotations.  Any ideas?

August 30, 2009 at 8:49 am 1 comment

International Design Excellence Awards

Light Lane (prototype)New Scientist picked their nine favourite items from the 2009 International Design Excellence Awards.  They include a cookbook you can taste,  a better cheese grater, and (my favorite of their favourites) a laser-based personal bicycle lane projector.

August 5, 2009 at 8:32 am Leave a comment

Pizza from a vending machine

Pizza ready in 150 seconds

A company in Italy has created a vending machine for pizza.  It’s called Pizzaly, and it’s the result of a 10 million euro R&D investment.   The pizzas?

They are baked over a wood fire in Treviso, then flash-frozen.  The vending machine guy then loads 104 of these frozen 10-inch pizzas in the machine, where they stay frozen until someone buys one.  You can get the frozen pie to take home to bake yourself, or wait 2½ minutes and it will bake it for you in a mini-oven (not a microwave) built into the vending machine.

As of early June, 100 of these vending machines are in use in Italy.  Read more here or see it in action on YouTube.

June 3, 2009 at 2:26 am Leave a comment

Update on the BarackBerry


April 24, 2009 at 5:35 am Leave a comment

Google CADIE, Google Gulp, and April 1st RFCs

Gulp Sero-tonic water
By now, inquisitive Google users will have taken a look at CADIE and maybe even read about CADIE for a bit before remembering earlier Google April 1st announcements like Google Gulp (BETA)™ with Auto-Drink™ (LIMITED RELEASE). or its PigeonRank™ announcement from 2002.

Google’s hoaxes are high-profile continuations of an Internet tradition that dates back to at least 30 years, when the Internet Engineering Task Force published RFC 748, entitled “Telnet Randomly-Lose Option”; PigeonRank harkens back specifically to RFC 1149 (A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers).

April 1, 2009 at 10:40 pm Leave a comment

Geek Pop

Fans of “Code Monkey” and related songs by Jonathan Coulton should check out Geek Pop.

“Geek Pop”  got mentioned on the Nature journal podcast from March 19.  That journal’s podcast is mostly about science; the “Geek Pop” blurb was preceded by stories on molecular machines (“by combining tiny metal rings with carbon-based axles, scientists are making components for molecular machines”), hot rocks (“a nifty laser experiment helps us investigate heat flow in the Earth’s crust”), Antarctic meltdown (“a new model shows that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could collapse in just a few thousand years”), and the state of science communication (“as the recession hits mainstream media, are blogs replacing traditional science journalism?”).

March 24, 2009 at 9:52 pm Leave a comment

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