Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Paleo-Futurism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paleo-Futurism. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Good Morning Pyongyang

Good Morning Pyongyang, North Korea © by Alexandre Spalaikovitch/Yemaya Productions. Reproduced non-commercially under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Today's post reveals the incredible city-wide wake-up call broadcast at 5:00 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. in Pyongyang, North Korea. It looks and sounds a lot like Blade Runner, which drew heavily from 1980s' Asian aesthetic influences. Compare to my similar posts, 1968 on the Way to 2019 and Kowloon Walled City, the Faux and the Real. See this interview for some reflections from North Korean defectors on what life was like there before they left for South Korea, by way of China.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Orthodox Christmas: Life in the Adjacent Possible

Image Source: The Culture Concept.

Any apiarist, keeping watch over a hive of bees sleeping through the winter, would tell you that civilization can only function under certain circumstances. Apiculture is one of the world's oldest professions. It is a founding pillar of agriculture. In colony collapse disorder - now threatening beehives across Europe and North America - workers stock up a hive but then abandon their helpless queen. The plague is blamed on pesticides, pathogens, and mobile phone towers, with bee-keepers reporting that roughly one third to one half of their hives have been dying over winters every year for the past decade, despite various high tech solutions. It is hard to say how new this disaster is. There were reports of 'mystery diseases' and 'disappearing diseases' in hives in 1918-1919 and in the mid 1960s. Whatever the causes, the insects' tiny world of flowers and pollination remain critical to human survival. In 2010, the United Nations estimated that the worth of global crops pollinated by bees was 153 billion euros, or "9.5 per cent of the total value of human food production worldwide."

Image Source: My Greek Spirit.

The remarkable way bees organize themselves remains symbolically powerful. Their honey production makes their system seem much friendlier than the terrifying laws that govern your average ant hill. Any agricultural society would see bees as the civilized agents of the natural world, a properly arranged mini-society with a sweet output.

Today, 7 January 2015, is Eastern Orthodox Christmas. Due to the traditional symbolism of the apiary, beeswax candles are held in special esteem in Orthodox rituals. At Mystagogy, John Sanidopoulos explains that for Orthodox Christians, beeswax candles symbolize purity, adaptability of the heart, forgiveness of sins, and divine grace garnered from the wax's floral sources. Candlelight and the sweet smell of burning beeswax recall summer days to illuminate and banish darkness caused by fear, corruption and misery.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Retro-Futurism 25: Tozo - Empire of the Spider

Tozo (4 September 2013) © By David O'Connell.

You may recall this post and this post, in which I described a great Web comic that is a perfect example of Millennial retro-futuristic style. The cartoonist, David O'Connell, combines steampunk-ish early-modern-to-nineteenth-century costumes and imagery with futuristic tropes. He sets his hero's story in a world that looks like a cross between Renaissance Venice, the fin-de-siècle Ottoman empire, and 1970s' sci-fiction, all at the same time. One minute, the characters have Elizabethan lace collars, the next minute they are interacting with Star-Wars-type robots. It's just great. O'Connell finished his first odyssey with this character, Tozo the Public Servant, in 2012. Yesterday, after a long hiatus, he started a new story, Tozo - Empire of the Spider (see the beginning here).

See all my posts on Retro-Futurism.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Retrofuturism 23: Baby Boomers and Alien Astronauts

The Galle smiley face crater on Mars. Other smiley face craters have been found elsewhere on Mars and Mercury. Image Source.

My blog series on Retrofuturism departs from the term's normal definition of past visions of the future. Here, I define the term differently to describe symbols from the past which are appropriated for the current purpose of painting pictures of the future.

In addition, one earlier post in this series returns to Baby Boomers' ideas in the 1960s as they were originally conceived. Occasionally, this blog will be examining ideas from that era and assessing their impact now.

One of the more curious corners of the often-stereotyped Boomer preoccupation with esoteric spiritualism in the 1960s and 1970s is the notion that that generation was somehow celestially blessed. Unseen worlds of magic, transcendental universes, and the very heavens lined up to bequeath a great destiny to them: from the Age of Aquarius to the alignment of the planets, to pseudo-science and astrology, a bizarrely egotistical mythology evolved that the universe recognized the brilliant fate of this generation.

NASA's Viking 1 Orbiter view of a face on Mars (1976). Image Source: NASA via Al Jazeera.

That mythology encompassed a host of 70s' fads: UFOs and aliens, ESP, telekinesis, the Bermuda Triangle, ghosts, exorcists and demonology, and New Age magic. These fads got mixed up with the popular understanding of space exploration. In 1976, a face on Mars, which disappeared when photographed from another angle and over time, was heralded in the tabloids as proof of an alien civilization.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Retrofuturism 22: Go Back to 1968 with the Situationists

Leading Situationists, London (1960) (from l. to r.): Attila Kotányi, Hans-Peter Zimmer, Heimrad Prem, Asger Jorn (covered), Jørgen Nash (front), Maurice Wyckaert, Guy Debord, Helmut Sturm, and Jacqueline de Jong. Image Source: Wiki.

There is always a big difference between the ideas of the moment as they were at seminal points in history and what they became. Dismal outcomes alter our understanding of concepts that once inspired. A good example is flowering of thought that graced the year 1968. As economic problems and other tensions drag on in the new Millennium, criticism of the Baby Boomers is reaching raw points and promises to become ever worse.

One of history's most valuable lessons is to take the past on its own terms, and not to bend it anachronistically with hindsight. Sometimes, looking at the past without thinking about what was to come recovers lost information and neglected perspectives. An arbirtary enforced reading from those looking back is disarmed. Accordingly, this blog will in coming weeks occasionally review some visions of the Millennium which developed during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, before the Boomers' future was set in stone.

First up: the Situationists. They were really a Silent Gen movement, a short-lived and limited European movement, which was a weird type of Marxism enacted by means of artistic creation. The Situationists tried to recover freedom as an imperiled source of creativity in modern capitalist societies. They drew conclusions that are now commonplace among Millennial conspiracy theorists, marketers, spin doctors, hackers, gurus and visionaries: "Their theoretical work peaked with the highly influential book The Society of the Spectacle in which Guy Debord argued that the spectacle is a fake reality which masks capitalist degradation of human life."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Exponential Times

From Jean Paul Gautier's Fall 2010 Couture Collection. Image Source: Daily Fashion and Style.

See some Youtube videos below the jump, which once again confirm the pace of the exponential growth of digital culture (thanks to -J. for sending the link).

Given the breathtaking pace of change, where are we headed? One site discusses the future, Future Timeline Events. Bear in mind that almost anyone who predicts the future, with the occasional lone exception, is usually wildly wrong.

You can see some predictions for the coming two centuries, with which you may or may not agree. One thing these predictions make clear: if we survive, sooner or later, our destiny lies in the stars.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Retro-Futurism 21: Twitter Not New at All -(STOP)-

The latest electronic gadget, straight from the 1890s to your desk: the Tworse Key, which digitally translates your telegraph-style Morse Code messages into regular Tweets. Image Source: Economist.

In their heyday, my parents and their friends were the last generation to travel by ship and communicate mainly by telegrams. Their collections of old private letters have wads of telegrams in them. We now see the seemingly obsolete brevity of telegraphy as romantic, and recall its peak as a form of global communication during the 1890s to the 1960s. There's even an Aussie company called Telegram Stop that lets you send old-styled faux telegrams to your friends; they say: "Our telegrams are made to look and feel like a classic telegram from the original days when telegrams were one of the only forms of national and international communications, we’ve taken great care to ensure the experience to the recipient is one that garners surprise and a sense of warmth." They've caught on like wild fire, and are especially popular in lieu of e-cards.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Millennial Extremes 8: BASE Jumping in Singapore

Here's a 2012 Happy New Year video from BASE jumpers in Singapore, done against the city's skyline from the Marina Bay Sands Skypark. Hat tip to The Atlantic: "As if leaping from the top of a 55-story resort weren't spectacular enough, this video uses Singapore's futuristic skyline and Marina Bay Sands Skypark as a backdrop. The video was directed by Snow R. Shai of Snowdrum Audio Visual, and the BASE jumpers are Marta Empinotti, James Pouchert, Amanda Vicharelli, Anne Helliwell, Tim Mattson, Brendon Cork and Jeb Corliss."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Predictioneer

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Image Source: Good Magazine.

One of the alarming trends of the turn of the Millennium is its extreme literal mindedness. The notion that all information on Earth can be pooled and tabulated to yield the ultimate secrets of human existence and the mysteries of the universe is a great fallacy. This assumption shows how the new technology has bewitched us and altered our judgement in the post WWII era. At the same time, however, science and tech are genuinely pushing the boundaries of what we understand at an exponential rate. It is a great time to be alive, to see this incredible revolution in human thought unfold, along with all its unforeseeable ramifications, and the amazing tension-filled overlap it generates between fact and fiction.

Maybe it's all good, just so long as everyone understands that any random accumulation of information does not necessarily constitute 'a fact.' Looking at it from another angle, perhaps there's no worry that extreme literal mindedness will lead to an official bean counters' version of reality, since scientists, computer researchers and logicians are showing a marked taste for mysticism and other esoteric arts.

Perhaps we may count Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, eminent Professor of Politics at New York University and Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution among these Millennial figures, who has turned number-crunching into the fine art of discerning oblivion. He has developed a rational choice theory computer model over the past 25 years, which purportedly predicts the future in international relations and politics.  In other words, he believes he is cracking the ultimate mystery: time.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Web Bot Algorithm for the Future Stops at 2012

Things to Come (1936) © London Film Productions (based on H. G. Wells's 1933 book, read it here). Image Source: Love for Life.

In a January 2011 episode of Brad Meltzer's Decoded, Web Bot expert Mel Fabregas casually asserted that "remote viewers cannot see beyond" 2012. He then spoke of the use of the Web Bot.  The Web Bot is an online bot, conceived in 1993 and created in 1997 to predict the stock market.  From there, its creators began using it to scan changing emotional values as correlated to key words on the Internet.  After crunching the data with something called Asymmetric Language Trend Analysis, they have begun to predict the future.  This software is what creator Clif High calls, "superset theory in complex aggregation at multiple different levels."  The closely-guarded Bot algorithms were developed by High and George Ure.  These self-proclaimed 'Time Monks' have made various predictions, with some success.  They claim to have predicted 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.  Their Website is Half Past Human. Clif High discusses the Bot's predictions, which he calls 'future viewing' via his blog, here, with the following disclaimer:
"Please note that our interpretations are provided as entertainment only. We are to be held harmless for universe placing substance behind our words. Or not, as it so chooses. The interpretations provide a broad brush view of the future over the next few years. The broad view of the future is based on set theory and provides a collection of linguistic clues which can be used to forecast developing trends." 
Clif High does assert that the Web Bot generated claims are, "twice as good as chance would allow."  The 2010/2011 (rather wild and woolly) report is entitled The Shape of Things to Come - Volume Zero.  You can see a report on the Bot here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Retro-Futurism 20: iPod Breadlines

Image © Stephanie Fox for I09.

I09 recently photoshopped a Great Depression photograph for an article on how to prepare in the worsening world economic crisis.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Retro-Futurism 19: Last Master of a Martial Art Reborn

May the Force be with you: Nidar Singh of Wolverhampton. Image Source: Rajbir Hundal via BBC.

The BBC reports that the last remaining master of an ancient Sikh martial art is searching worldwide for an apprentice (Hat tip: Ben Hammersley):
"A former factory worker from the British Midlands may be the last living master of the centuries-old Sikh battlefield art of shastar vidya. The father of four is now engaged in a full-time search for a successor.

The basis of shastar vidya, the 'science of weapons' is a five-step movement: advance on the opponent, hit his flank, deflect incoming blows, take a commanding position and strike.

It was developed by Sikhs in the 17th Century as the young religion came under attack from hostile Muslim and Hindu neighbours, and has been known to a dwindling band since the British forced Sikhs to give up arms in the 19th Century.

Nidar Singh, a 44-year-old former food packer from Wolverhampton, is now thought to be the only remaining master. He has many students, but shastar vidya takes years to learn and a commitment in time and energy that doesn't suit modern lifestyles.

'I've travelled all over India and I have spoken to many elders, this is basically a last-ditch attempt to flush someone out because if I die with it, it is all gone.'"

Nidar Singh Nihang Mr Singh is searching for a young successor.

"He would be overjoyed to discover an existing master somewhere in India, or to find a talented young student determined to dedicate his life to the art.

Until he was 17 years old, he knew little of his Sikh heritage. His family were not religious - he wore his hair short and dressed like any British teenager. He was a keen wrestler, but knew nothing of martial arts.

He spent his childhood between Punjab and Wolverhampton and it was on one of these trips to see an aunt in India that he met Baba Mohinder Singh, the old man who was to become his master.

Already in his early 80s, Baba Mohinder Singh had abandoned life as a hermit in a final effort to find someone to pass on his knowledge to.

'When he saw my physique he looked at me, even though I was clean-shaven and he asked me: "Do you want to learn how to fight,"' recalls Nidar Singh. 'I couldn't say no.'"
A master warrior trained in these techniques could kill 250 men. In the Empire, the British were so alarmed by the deadly threat of shastar vidya that they banned its practice. The art is now, perhaps ironically, making a comeback in the UK. See a video news report on this story below the jump. The sudden renewed interest in shastar vidya is part of a global trend that is seeing a resurgence of training in ancient martial arts.  The trend is so noticable that boxing gyms in the United States are reporting the change (see reports here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here - there are many more).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Retro-Futurism 18: Ukrainian Steampunk Computer Tower

Images Source: ÜberReview.

Here's another installment in my Retro-Futurism series, a cool Ukrainian gothic Steampunking of a computer tower, hand-carved in wood and hand-painted, by the man in the picture below, who is apparently Valerie Beetle from Pervomayske (Pervomaysk in Mykolaiv Oblast? or Pervomaiske in the Crimea?) city in southern Ukraine. I have not confirmed Mr. Beetle's name, but it sounds at best like a bad translation. The computer tower modification is amazing. Imagine playing the Cherynobyl video game S.T.A.L.K.E.R. with it. It looks like a tiny satanic woodstove!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Retro-Futurism 17: Pre-Raphaelite Arthurian Korean Girl Band Mash-Up

Image Source: Tumblr via Il Bonito.

Here's another image for my series of Retro-Futurism, redefined on this blog as a Millennial phenomenon, wherein images and symbols from the past are reworked through digital tech into futuristic settings.

This image comes from the blogger at IlBonito, who found it on Tumblr: "Here is Taeyeon, singer of Korean girlgroup SNSD (aka Girls' Generation) re-imagined as a lady of the Round Table, knighting her squire with a light sabre." The Photoshop mash-up is taking Pre-Raphaelite imagery, which was in its time a 19th century look back on early medieval Arthurian legends, adding a Star Wars light sabre, and of course, Taeyeon. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Retro-Futurism 16: The Retro Charm of the Millennial Man

"Becoming Superhuman in 2011." From: The Art of Manliness. Batman © DC Comics. Batman is one of the most enduring surviving masculine cultural icons from the 1930s, a man who has taken matters into his own hands. 

Today, the blog pays tribute to a growing movement among men who are looking to the past to find themselves, their role models, their direction, but recasting it in a Millennial style.  One of the most useful, funny and poignant blogs in that regard is The Art of Manliness, which states as its goal "reviving the lost art of manliness"; it's something I know a few Millennial women would appreciate (Hat tip: Kate Sherrod).

There's been a lot of commentary about feminism using reverse-sexism to weaken Millennial males.  One sign of the aftermath is advertising campaigns that always make men look like bumbling idiots, perpetual teenagers or comical liars. Fight Club, a critical novel (1996) and film (1999) that struck a chord with Generation Jones and Gen X men, probably expressed the backlash best: "We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need."  A simmering misogyny, weirdly combined with apathy, arose from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, perhaps most evident in the appearance of players who joined movements like the Pickup Artists (profiled in 2005 by Neil Strauss) and their Seduction Communities; this is a group that promises the self-appointed alpha male a chance to find his true mate, a real alpha female.  There was also a backlash against the feminist-approved male, the Millennial Metrosexual.  This argument has been strangely subjected to the seeming rigours of scientific authority, whether through studies that say the sexes are alike - or through the 2005 firing of Harvard's president, Larry Summers, for suggesting that men are better at high-level scientific research than women.

Slowly, the masculine rights movement has moved away from anti-feminism and misogyny and concentrated on self-improvement.  Meanwhile, third-wave feminism has stepped back from full-blown man-hating, and focussed on practical issues.  This debate famously caused a rift between Boomer feminist Alice Walker and her Gen X third-wave feminist daughter, Rebecca Walker (who is also the goddaughter of Gloria Steinem).  In 2008, Rebecca Walker wrote some pretty jaw-dropping stuff about her mother's negative responses to her decisions to have a baby and not reject men as fellow contributors to society (here, here and here).  When you see what Rebecca Walker has gone through (see: "The day feminist icon Alice Walker resigned as my mother"), you get a glimpse of how Boomers have sometimes confused their generational narcissisms with their ideologies, idealism and goals.  Rebecca Walker seeks to discuss the place of emancipated women in a Millennial society that does not blankly accept that gender wars must be the norm.  As a result, she has to fend off Boomer feminist attacks without pulling punches. When you see stories like this, you realize that the first and second waves of feminism had important, needed struggles - as well as terrible blind spots that ravaged not just Generation X men, but also their female contemporaries.

This malaise is not just about ideology, politics, feminism, and generation and gender wars.  Fight Club also talked about the impact of tech on the workforce, our daily lives, our slipping grip on the self and the erosion of time: "You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time. You wake up at Air Harbor International. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?"

The Art of Manliness comments on the modern male malaise, and pegs it on a combination of modern life conditions:
What’s Plaguing Modern Men?
There has been a copious amounts of hand wringing lately about the state of modern men, about the fact that men appear to be falling behind in life and seem unmotivated and listless.

Why all this concern? The statistics are familiar to anyone who has read this genre of articles:
  • Women are more likely than men to graduate from high school.
  • Only 44% of undergraduates at community and four year colleges are men.
  • Female college students have higher grade point averages than men and are more likely to graduate within four years.
  • According to the US Census, “Among young adults 25 to 29, 35 percent of women and 27 percent of men possessed a bachelor’s degree or more in 2009. This gap has grown considerably in the last decade: it was only 3 percentage points in 1999 (30 percent for women, 27 percent for men).”
  • Women are 60% more likely than men to earn a bachelor’s degree by the time they are 23.
  • According to the US Census, for the first time in history, more women than men are earning advanced degrees. “In the 25-29 age group, 9 percent of women and 6 percent of men held either a master’s, professional (such as law or medical) or doctoral degree.” Nearly six out of ten adults holding advanced degrees between the ages of 25 and 29 are women.
  • Men lost 3/4 of the 8 million jobs that disappeared during the recession.
  • For the first time in history, there are now more women in the workforce than men.
  • 1/3 of men ages 22-34 still live at home with their parents. An increase of 100% in the last 20 years. According to the census, among young adults ages 18-24, 56 percent of men and 48 percent of women still live at home with their parents.
Plenty of theories have been offered as to what is behind these statistics. Some say the economy is to blame, as traditionally male industries have been moved off shore or gone extinct. Another reason given is that corporate culture and bureaucracy have sucked the soul out of men and taken away their manly autonomy. Others say it’s our consumer culture and the rise of particularly time-sucking hobbies like video games. And some say the root of the problem is feminism, the changing dynamic of male/female relationships, and the “cheapness of sex.”

But I would argue that there isn’t just one thing that you can point at and decisively say, “That one. That one was the man killer.” Instead, the source of the modern male’s lack of motivation is a conglomeration of all these factors. In short, the “problem” is modern life in general.

To me the modern world is the best possible world to live in, without a doubt. The advancements we’ve made in technology and culture have made life safer, freer, and longer than ever before.
At the same time, no matter how unmitigated a good is, there are always unintended consequences that we have to grapple with. And the unintended consequence of modern life is that men feel lost and adrift.
In a way, the Tech Revolution was the cold bath we needed; it reinforced the fact that we're all in this together.  One post comments that the reason men feel aimless is because we are all moving through a period when we have lost old values and new ones have not yet replaced them.  This is a state of anomie, or normlessness, caused by radical changes in society and technology:
Anomie, which literally means “without law” in German and French, was defined by Durkheim to be a state of “normlessness.” Durkheim posited that in times of social change and upheaval, clear societal standards and expectations for individuals vanish. Without “clear rules, norms, or standards of value” people feel anxious, rootless, confused, and even suicidal. Life in an age of anomie can often feel empty and meaningless. 
Thus, The Art of Manliness steps back from the gender wars and makes a retro move that focusses on reexamining and revamping old standards which used to constitute what it took to be a man.  These values are not (or are no longer), as feminists would contend, about forcing women to submit or obliterating the feminine contribution to society.  Rather, they concentrate on the male condition, a suprisingly nebulous concept that nonetheless indicates that men have to drag themselves out of their existential funk by finding a balance between the past, present and future:
The solution means moving beyond the all-or-nothing proposition we sometimes feel we are stuck with. Men feel like they cannot fully embrace the old ways nor move into the new ways, and so they decide to do nothing at all. But it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to become a sensitive ponytail guy OR a Neanderthal.
Here are some of many retro-futuristic articles, which recall manuals, books and culture from the 19th and 20th centuries, but speak to current and future masculine concerns and problems:

See all my posts on Retro-Futurism.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Retro-Futurism 15: Millennial Women and Future Tech as Seen from 1966

Women's wear vintage op art (1966). Image Source: Flickr.

Below the jump, I've posted a video today from 1966, which predicted what life with computers would be likeby the turn of the Millennium (thanks to -C.).  They didn't quite peg the combined impact of feminism and technology on Millennial women.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Retro-Futurism 14: Electric Dreams

One of the gizmos in the Electric Dreams home: Pong, the first home video game (1977). Image Source: BBC.

Caption for the above image: Launched in 1972 as an arcade game, Pong became recognised as the first home video game when it was developed into a console that plugged into the back of a TV. A simulation of tennis, Pong saw families interacting with their TVs for the first time. The console was quickly copied with over 500 similar systems flooding the market. How many instructions did the arcade version of Pong have when first released in America? Famed for its simplicity, Pong had only two instructions: 'deposit quarter' and 'avoid missing ball for high score'.

A couple of weeks ago, a comment on this post from pblfsda (see his excellent blog on DC's Doom Patrol, here) pointed me toward a BBC 2009-2010 three-part series entitled Electric Dreams (thanks pblfsda!).  The show played on PBS in the United States in late April.  From TVRage: "Electric Dreams is a reality [TV show] which see[s] the Sullivan[-Barnes] family giving up their lifestyle and modern gadgets as their house is converted into a typical 1970's property. Each day the house is updated by a year and any new technology that was developed at the time will be available for them to use. The family will experience a different year for 30 days until they reach the end of the century."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Retro-Futurism 13: The Analytical Engine

A section of Charles Babbage's difference engine, assembled after his death by his son, using parts found in his laboratory. Image Source: Telegraph.

Last October, the Telegraph reported that a British computer programmer was raising money to build the original archetype for the first steam-powered computer from the original blueprints by mathematician Charles Babbage:
The Analytical Engine – conceived in 1837 – remains one of the greatest inventions that never was as Babbage died before he could see out its construction. However, John Graham-Cumming, a programmer and science blogger, now hopes to realise Babbage’s vision by raising £400,000 to build the giant brass and iron contraption. He plans to use Babbage’s original blueprints for the device, which are contained in a collection of the inventor’s notebooks held at the Science Museum in London. The campaign has already attracted 1,600 supporters who have pledged funds to kick-start the project. Elements of the engine have been built over the last 173 years, but this would be the first complete working model of the machine.
The machine is controlled by punch cards, which you can see here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Retro-Futurism 12: Professor Xavier Steampunk Wheelchair

 Steam Punk Professor Xavier's Wheelchair © Daniel Valdez. Image Source: Steampuffin.

This month, an exhibition is wrapping up at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts: Steampunk, Form & Function: an Exhibition of Innovation, Invention & Gadgetry.  The exhibition runs until the second week of May and is sponsored by ModVic and Steampuffin.  Interior designers from ModVic will give your home a complete Steampunk overhaul under the motto: "move into your old new home."  The style is also called neo-Victorian; it features new tech incorporated into nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century English and European designs with Jules Verne and H. G. Wells touches.

Steampuffin specializes in housing our modern tech in Steampunk designs and gadgets.  One of the no-miss items in the exhibition is the Professor Xavier Steampunk Wheelchair, designed by Daniel Valdez.  There is a demo video below the jump showing the chair's various features, including smoke-puffing, noise-making, and vodka cocktail churning.  Actually, it kind of reminds me of that 1980 horror film, The Changeling. The Museum's catchphrase is View the Past, See the Future.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Retro-Futurism 11: The New Commodore 64

Computers were never so cool. The CommodoreMAX keyboard (a predecessor to the 64) in 1982. Image Source: Wiki.

This month, the Commodore 64, home computer extraordinaire, which first launched 1982, is being rereleased with the old shell but new tech, as the Brits say, under the bonnet.  From a NYT report:
The new Commodore 64, which will begin shipping at the end of the month, has been souped up for the modern age. It comes with a 1.8 gigahertz dual-core processor, an optional Blu-ray player and built-in ethernet and HDMI ports. It runs the Linux operating system but the company says you can install Windows if you like. The new Commodore is priced between $250 to $900.

The company’s Web site says that the new Commodore 64 is “a modern functional PC,” and that although the guts of the device have greatly improved, the exterior is “as close to the original in design as humanly possible.” Most people would not be able to visibly tell the old or new versions apart, it says.

“The response has been completely dramatic,” Mr. Altman said. “We’ve been averaging about five registrations per second on our Web site. This is from people giving us their name and e-mail address to be kept abreast of updates on the new Commodore.”
Never underestimate the selling power of nostalgia.  Ironically in a field like high tech, it's even more pleasing to consumers. A fansite has already been set up to hail the arrival of old-new Commodore and Amiga (which Commodore is also reviving - see here) computers. This is typical Millennial Retro-Futurism, where the combination of old and new tech makes a product hot again. According to the Commodore site, the new version lets you open the old blue BASIC screen and play all the "8-bit era" games. I have a feeling that Commodore just made a lot of Gen X men very happy, along with everyone else.

The new C64. Image Source: Commodore.