Yesterday I showed a technology book produced in the late 1940s that I picked up at a local car boot sale. In the same car boot, but on a different stall I found this curious looking book titled Infantry Training Training and war 1937 which has two date-of-issue stamps on it dating from 20th January 1941. I can’t read the stamps properly, but they say “home guard” on them which is probably why it has survived 73 years as it doesn’t look to have been read much, contains all its pages and is in very good condition considering its age. Someone has scrawled “P I G S Are snobs” inside the first few pages in white chalk for reasons unknown.
The book has a rather serious warning on the front cover stating
“Not to be published. The information given in this document is not to be communicated, either directly or indirectly, to the Press or to any person not holding an official position in His Majesty’s Service.”
Here is another book I found in a local car boot sale. Coming from a time when education and intelligence was assumed and the dumbing down disease hadn’t yet taken hold How and why it works is a book that does exactly what it says on the cover. It tells you how things work, and explains why they work that way using neatly labelled diagrams and paragraphs of text. Everything from how a coal mine operates to electricity generation.
The fascinating part is the section on the television receiver. According to Wikipedia, television was first transmitted in 1932 by the good old BBC but this was a mechanical system at first, eventually using an electronic scanning method by 1936. Then it all stopped during the war and wasn’t resumed until 1946. The book I have was published in 1948, and the television is introduced by relating it to a radio set and to a cinema, making it look to be a fairly new concept compared to the radio on the preceding pages which starts with “The programmes you listen to on the radio” where it’s assumed everybody knows what a radio is. I scanned the television section in as a series of images, and have also created a PDF from it.
The book is really interesting, it contains a mix of brand new technology such as the TV and very old more traditional technology like the plough, electric torch and ratchet screwdriver. It’s a snapshot of time before the transistor existed, everything electronic contains valves and there is no mention of computers whatsoever.
Tomorrow – Infantry Training and mortars in the attack.
While wandering around a local car boot sale this book caught my eye. I quite like the old science and computing books from the 80s and 90s. There’s a certain style to them that doesn’t exist any more. They’re books I used to read from the library or have bought for me at Christmas. Books aimed at children, but books that assume the children reading them aren’t stupid and can cope with complicated words.
I also like the hand drawn images. No computer rendered images in these books. The World of Science is the usual affair telling us all about atoms, space, magnets and gravity. None of it goes into any particular depth, but it’s enough to make an enquiring mind think “that magnetism stuff… what’s it do, where can I get a magnet from? Dad, buy me that science book on magnets please it can be an early birthday present”. Don’t forget, in 1990 there was no Wikipedia so information wasn’t instantly available, it had to be paid for in books. Yes teenagers… books… you didn’t just fire up Google and type “what is magnetism” into the PC; a time when libraries actually contained more books than computers.
The best part of this book is the Tomorrow’s World section at the back where the book’s authors attempt to predict the future. Yes, there’s the assumption we’ll all be in space in little 2001 style pods, flying cars and the like. And like all books of the era, it totally and utterly fails to predict the popularity of computers or mobile phones. I wonder what blindingly obvious things we’re missing right now…
Here’s a two page scan of that section to read. Click it for a bigger image.
It’s amazing just how cheaply we can talk to each other now. The other day I had a two hour Skype video call with someone, later that same person phoned me using a cheap call service and it cost him zero pence per minute; so after finding out the name of this company and signing up I can also now make free phone calls during the day.
On Friday I needed to demo some software I’d created, and talk about some design ideas for it. After five minutes of attempting to talk through the stuff over the phone we both gave up and used XP’s Remote Assistance to great effect. I was able to speak on the phone (using the previously mentioned free call service) while waving my mouse around his screen. It was really productive and worked extremely well.
Today I received a letter from BT telling me my cheap mobile discount plan was due to expire, and unless I phoned them they’d start charging me for it. So I phoned them to cancel the plan as I never really got any benefit from it. While on the phone BT told me that I now have free evening and weekend calls to all BT landlines.
So now I can ring people for free, which is how it should be.
I find this all quite interesting since I am ploughing my way through the Best of 2600 book I bought earlier. Right now I’m at the part where the American phone system is being split up, resulting in loads of little phone companies, confusing dialling systems, long distance providers and the general confusion that arises when something like this happens. There’s a lot of articles from the 80s in this chapter of the book where people attempt to guess what the future will be like, and whether it’ll be just as confusing. Well 20-odd years on and it’s not as confusing in general – we can at least direct-dial numbers for most places on the planet now, but choosing just who should carry your calls can be a complicated and time consuming process.
(There’s no Internet in Wiltshire and barely any phone signal either. This post will get sent when I get back home).
Wiltshire is very pretty, lots of greenery and flowers, fields and all the nice stuff you expect in the countryside. It’s also got very old and very expensive houses full of rich people swanning around in their open top cars. You know you’re in a posh part of the country when the cheapest supermarket in the town (Marlborough) is a Waitrose.
A nice change to usual was driving down the night before in daylight, it only getting dark as I left the motorway and started going through the twisty roads and lanes around Amy’s grandma’s village. I like driving down single-track roads in the dark, it reminds me of living in the Lake District.
We were given some money by Amy’s mum to go and buy food for the weekend. I was given a list and set about buying food – from Waitrose. It was a uniquely bizarre experience shopping for someone else with their money, but also buying stuff for yourself with it. Normally I scour the shelves for cheap things and almost-out-of-date food. This time I was instructed to buy the good stuff.
The good stuff tastes good, but you don’t get much of it. Me and Amy and her dog went for a walk around Marlborough in the sun and I managed to buy two books:
I’m currently making my way through the weighty Redemption Ark and it seems like a good read so far. It has Space, Sci-Fi and enough of a storyline to keep me reading.
I’ve just resurrected my LibraryThing account, paid for a “lifetime” membership and ordered a CueCat barcode scanner. For the past half hour I’ve been merrily typing out ISBNs from my books, reliving the days of working in a shop with a broken till. All I needed was a queue of frustrated people and some crap music for the illusion to be complete.
Now in a queue waiting to be munched is 46 of my books. Hopefully soon they’ll all be added to my LibraryThing account, ready for people to look at. I’ve also added a LibraryThing sidebar to my website which shows random book covers. There’s currently a lot of Terry Pratchett books 🙂
It’s my aim to keep a catalogue of my books so that I know what not to buy. I’m assuming that LibraryThing will at some point in the future be able to offer me books that I might also like. It’s hard choosing a new book when confronted with so many.
My copy of Count Zero has just been shipped, along with The Guide to Computer Games which is an old 80s computer book aimed at kids, but being the 80s the kids are treated like intelligent people who might understand what RAM is. It can sit on my shelf next to my ZX Spectrum +3 manual and early BASIC programming books.
Also in the post to me is a Proclip car mount for my Nokia N810 Internet Tablet since the current suction-cup mount I have is incredibly wobbly and a great advert to car thieves. The new Proclip mount will fit near the radio and be easily removed. Also, since Nokia provide a proper N810 car mount that fits the Proclip system, I’ll know that my N810 isn’t about to come unstuck and try to escape while driving. I’ve had the suction cup on the current mount fail several times before; either the window is curved too much, or the suction cup is made from plastic that isn’t bendy enough to maintain a suction.
I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s Thief Of Time, and I think the History Monks are messing with the time around me. Either that or I have the ability to speed through time without noticing. It’s Wednesday and I still have a clear memory of this time last week.
Maybe the “daily” blogging is making me more aware of how quickly time passes. There is something about scribbling down mundane happenings.