2021-09-27 5 min read


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Notes, 2021-09-27.

I have a large collection of vintage tech, including 1900s multimeters, electrical curiosities, and the occasional absurdist vintage toy. My favorite thing about collecting this stuff is posting an obscure item on Twitter, and learning the most specific details about it in the replies. It turns out this "Benign Girl" toy phone I found in a dollar store is well known in the circuit bending community.

Recently, I was excited to find a FishTV at a garage sale. It's a CRT screen with a fish-shaped camera on a long wire for looking underwater while ice fishing. I know I can tie all kinds of tiny wireless cameras to strings and put them in the water, but CRT screens are always fun to hack because of their delightful mix of analog and electrical components. It reminds me of this vintage TV turned into an oscilloscope and this hand built video card. I’m always amazed at how hacking vintage tech brings together the electronics community through experimentation and remixing, like running Doom on a pregnancy test. With all the hacking, mixing, and matching, it's sometimes hard to tell what is real and what is fake.

-lee wilkins

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~15% of opens) was Refuse Uline, a microsite with alternatives to the ubiquitous packaging supplier founded by a family that funds extreme right-wing causes. In the Member's Slack, we've been chatting about the ways tech wear and the tech industry are intertwined.

Planning & Strategy.

  • Mars tends to hog the spotlight, but there's a dedicated group of folks in the Venus Society advocating for the exploration of Venus. There have been over 40 missions to Venus since the 1960s. In 1967, Venera 4 and Mariner 5 confirmed Venus was a hot, dry, desert planet, which seemed to detour popular interest. However, there is a case to be made about terraforming Venus instead of Mars.
  • My doctoral research focuses on nationalist images of space flight, which has led me to the High Frontier, a breakdown of the US pro-space movement from 1972-84, exploring its social, mechanical, and political challenges. Canada's vision of space was focused on satellites and has featured proudly on stamps since the first 1966 stamp of the Alouette 1. As far back as 1962, China produced posters of Taikonauts that boast some adorable space babies and pets.
  • Mercury astronauts ate their highly engineered preflight meals at “Bea’s Diner,” a purpose-built facility near the crew quarters. Beatrice Finkelstein was responsible for the meals aboard the Mercury space flights, but did more than just feed the astronauts - she also provided them with emotional support, and was a key media contact. These days, astronauts eat food that is either dehydrated, thermostabilized by heat treatment, or preserved by exposure to radiation. Irradiation kills microbes but does not make food radioactive!

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

  • Energy Vault uses cranes to stack heavy composite blocks into towers when electricity is cheap. When energy is needed, the blocks are lowered back to the ground, with the kinetic energy converted back to electricity. Energy storage is a key piece in the global energy crisis.
  • Manifest is an interactive toolkit that allows researchers to view and analyze global supply chains. My favorite is their reconstruction of the supply chain for the Western Electric candlestick style telephones of the late 1920s.
  • Due to recent increases in shipping costs, Chinese businesses are paying premium rates to return containers, making it more profitable to send empty boxes than to refill them. In an industry that has typically been reliant on the broker to make a deal, digital solutions offer another path to help buyers and sellers. Digital platforms work by connecting buyers with suppliers near to them to reduce costs. Small businesses might use Alibaba to assist in securing suppliers, while larger companies might need services to analyze the market and data-based purchasing decisions through data and intelligence services.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


The strange beauty of underground Neutrino labs.

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