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Category Archives: Technology

When retro is way better

That was my telephone number in San Francisco for many years. I apologize to whoever has that number now. A little Googling shows that the first cell phones became available in March 1984. I admit that I was fascinated and aspired to own one. It was not until 1995, though, that I first acquired a […]

Are you ready for power failure?

⬆︎ My solar panels can produce, at most, a modest 150 watts of power. That’s enough to keep some deep-discharge batteries charged at all times. The solar power also is a supplement to my small generator. Clearly the risks to the power grid are growing. This is true not just in the United States. Just […]

New trains!

The Washington Post has a story about yesterday’s announcement by Amtrak describing the $5 billion worth of new trains that Amtrak is buying. The trains will be named Amtrak Airo, and they’re beautiful. Yes, the trains will be made in America — Sacramento — though the company is German. Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg is not […]

Afraid of AI? Not me.

There’s a lot of buzz in the media right now about a new artificial-intelligence chatbot that anybody can try out. It’s ChatGPT, from a project called OpenAI. I tried it out. It’s interesting for about ten minutes, at which point it becomes apparent that, though it’s a beautiful piece of software engineering, its usefulness is […]

Western Union, now just an elegant ghost

Western Union and the Creation of the American Corporate Order, 1845-1893. Joshua D. Wolff. Cambridge University Press, 2013. 306 pages. There probably are not many people who think about Western Union today, but I do. In many ways, the disruptive creation of Western Union in the middle of the 19th Century resembles the creation of […]

How cheap bandwidth is used against us

When I was a newspaper copy boy back in 1966, I operated a Teletype Model 19 exactly like this one. Teletypes like this used long-distance telephone lines. If you remember how much long-distance telephone calls used to cost, then you can imagine how expensive it was to keep a long-distance telephone line connected 24 hours […]

Computers vs. reality: The war to sell it to us is on

Source: Wikimedia Commons We are fortunate that there is some competition in the market for technology. Even so, you get only two choices for your smartphone — an Apple iPhone or an Android phone. It’s starting to look as though there will be two choices for the next big thing. Facebook calls that next big […]

How much does cursive matter anymore?

⬆︎ Spencerian script, 1884. This was the ideal in business correspondence. Source: Wikipedia. The Atlantic has an interesting piece this morning by a former Harvard president: “Gen Z Never Learned to Read Cursive: How will they interpret the past?” The article mentions that learning to write in cursive was dropped from the standard American curriculum […]

The Royal family (of writing instruments)

⬆︎ A Parker Duofold Centenntial fountain pen, first bought in London in 1995, now in my hands Earlier today, Henry, who frequently comments here, sent me a link to a Washington Post story that I had almost missed. It’s “Beyond the keyboard: Fountain pen collectors find beauty in ink.” I was about three weeks ahead […]

Another forever home for another typewriter

I have written here in the past about empathy for mechanical things. The syndrome must surely be related to the feelings — should I call them moral intuitions? — that cause us to adopt homeless cats. The mechanical version is the conviction that beautiful old machines ought to have a home. They ought to be […]