Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Romance of the Skies - TWA Circa 1944

What was your last commercial aviation experience like? Was it in an Airtran plane that looked like it came out of a desert storage yard? That's what replaced the Midwest Express Kansas City to Washington National run. You know, the one that used to have hot chocolate chip cookies.

The one good thing I can say about air travel is that it has been democratized. Many people can afford a quick trip from Point A to Point B. Sure, the planes are cramped cattle cars; this is especially true for tall and large travelers. Can you believe that air travel used to be romantic?

Once upon a time, taking an airplane was an exotic experience and the DC-3 was the best thing in in the air. I came across a wonderful bit of ephemera that helps drive this home: a 1944 TWA promotional calendar.

Back in the glory days of unlimited, virgin pulpwood, promotional calendars were serious business for TWA. This is over two feet high.

1944 would have been a strange time for recreational and business aviation. World War II was still in full swing and the geopolitical map was being drawn and redrawn at a terrible and deadly pace. In the context of the war, TWA's World Air Map is interesting, indeed.

The workhorse for TWA in 1944 was the relatively new Douglas DC-3. With a quiet and pressurized cabin and flight attendants that catered to passenger's whims, it represented the best in travel experiences.


Oh, and the interesting locales you could fly to! Back in the day, these were still exotic and foreign places. There was no Twitter delivering instant news of what was happening on the ground or massive data cloud of photos and blogs about every statue and back alley. Heck, I remember back in the '80s a trip to Chicago was pretty special. Now it is a skip and a jump on a Southwest plane - that is provided they don't combine two flights to optimize profits. You didn't really need to make it to your destination in time for a meeting, did you? Mooo!!!!

And China? That was the place with the big wall and temples featured in the dead tree version of the National Geographic. By the way, reading an issue from the 1940s is a real treat. If kept from light and moisture, old National Geographic magazines are remarkably well preserved and full of graphic goodness.

Malaysia? You might as well have been flying to Shagri-La!

Of course, TWA could whisk you across the United States in style.

With so many routes to choose from...

And lest you forget there is a war going on, they will remind you of the other way DC-3s are used to move people.

Here is a little bit of a history lesson on cross-country travel in the prewar era:

"TWA was the third airline to put the new DST in service. They accepted the first eight in April, 1937. On June 1, 1937, they put their "Super Sky liner Sleeper" DSTs outfitted with eight berths up front and nine divan chairs in the rear, in service between New York and Los Angeles. TWA called this flight the "Sun Racer," although it never quite won the race. It chased the sun across the country, leaving New York at 8:30 a.m., and arriving in Los Angeles at 11:30 p.m. the same day."  Source:

I saved the best part for last.  Geopolitics is a delicate subject with many alliances shifting over time.  My favorite pages from this calendar represent countries we were once friendly with.  Iran, of course, is our sworn enemy today, but it was a tourist destination in 1944.

And then there is our on again, off again friend/frenemy and rival/mortal enemy, the Soviet Union.  It would seem to be a stressful place to visit in the midst of WWII.  But it is a large country and the fighting was most likely far away.  Just a few years later, the Cold War began in earnest.

I have been coveting a framed page advertising travel to the Soviet Union from a 1948 TWA calendar for over a year.  It appears this antique mall seller is resistant to discounts.  I was overjoyed to find an entire calendar elsewhere for next to nothing.  I hate to break it up, but I very much want these last pages framed and up on my office walls.

Decisions, decisions...

Thanks for joining me on this little voyage. Rest assured, this blog has not been abandoned. This article is proof that I can create multiple drafts and let them marinate for months on end before I decide to grab one and complete it. 

More random copyright things: All of the words and images, other than those sourced elsewhere, are mine. Use with attribution, but not for commercial purposes, you must. Please share the Blogger love. Use the handy Google+ sharing feature at the top of the frame. You can find me and a whole bunch of really awesome photo communities over in that ghost town of a Facebook competitor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Remington Typewriters Practically Assemble Themselves

This great video shows some of the manufacturing steps in building a 1935 Remington 16. The self-assembly steps occur at around the four minute mark.  Enjoy and happy International Typewriter Appreciation Month!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Voyager 2: Thirty-Five Years in Space

Honestly, after all of the excitement surrounding the arrival of Curiosity on Mars I had not intended to write another space related blog entry for awhile.  But Voyager 2 is pretty amazing and I need to recognize this day.

Thirty-five years ago, NASA launched the second of two deep space probes.  As of August 6, Voyager 2 was located on the fringes of the Heliosphere over 99 Astronomical Units (AU) from Earth.  An AU is the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun.  Yeah, pretty much meaningless.  Let's put that in miles since that is a distance we can grasp.

9,222,142,686 Miles from Home
Space is a lonely place for a little probe.
 To put this in perspective, it would take roughly 15,000 years for this 1977 classic to drive to the edge of our solar system at an optimistic 70 MPH average speed.

This one might get there a little bit faster.

I am a totally unapologetic fanboy for the amazing Opportunity Mars rover because of its extreme durability.  But Opportunity is just a toddler compared to Voyager 2.  This probe is still transmitting useful data today from the inky, black vacuum of space where it is nearly impossible to tell a particle ejected from our Sun from background material. 

To add even more perspective, let's consider what 1977 looked like.  I was in eighth grade.  Had I lived in New York City, I might have seen these bands...

And the technology... it was amazing!  This what the state of the art in office computing looked like this...

And the diehard home hobbyist might have owned one of these...

Um, you might have had an Apple II, not the guy who co-founded Apple.
1977 was also the year that an iconic space opera came to the big screen...

Voyager 2 has seen some amazing things and sent back some stunning photos.

Up until this image came back, we had no idea that anyplace in our solar system could have liquid oceans under ice.
Once again, thanks to NASA for being an extraordinarily competent government agency.  According to NASA's mission timeline, the nuclear power source is good to around 2025 with sequential powering down of various instruments.  Sometime in 2015, Voyager 2 will cross the theoretical heliopause, a point at which the solar wind can no longer push back steller winds from other stars.  More good science is yet to come from our deep traveler.

Nerd moment coming on... Maybe someone will find the golden record and bring it back to Earth!

Total Nerd moment:  Spock mind melding with V Ger.  Yes, this was a totally forgettable movie, but it's Star Trek and may eventually be forgiven.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Maker Faire KC: Fun with Electricity!

Welcome to the second installment on the 2012 Kansas City Maker Faire!  You can find background on the event on installment one presented on the topic of printing technology.  Today's post features a subject near and dear to me:  Fun with Electricity!  Let's get started.

The Quantum-Encabulator

This device lives in the "stuff and nonsense" category.  Every switch and dial makes different things happen including flashing lights, moving dials and fog. I didn't have a chance to chat with the maker, but it appeared to live with the stuff from the Cowtown Computer Congress, a Kansas City maker collective.
User beware!  Perhaps when I read a sign that says "DO NOT USE THIS SWITCH!" I should respond by leaving it alone.  Or not.  This little sucker actually delivers a mild electric shock!  At least I was not the only person that fell prey to this little prank.  I saw at least one high school age boy touch the handle.  Talk about impulse control issues!

This typecast is brought to you by a Remington Mark II.  It has the snappy and precise guts of a Torpedo 18 in a solid plastic body that looks something like the aftermath of a stingray becoming one with the Borg.  The machine does not look fabulous, but I got it for the the unique cursive typeface and a craving for Torpedo feel.
At Vintage Technology Obsessions, we support the excessive use of Nixie tube displays.  We have a Fluke multimeter equipped with Nixie tubes and have considered acquiring a clock kit on more than one occasion.

The Mad Scientist's Laboratory

Welcome to the mad scientist's laboratory!  As you feast your eyes on this display, keep in mind that all of this was brought in and set up just for a two day event.  The huge tube houses a home brew Jacob's Ladder.  Most impressive.

Unfortunately, there were always willing volunteers waiting in line for diagnosis and treatment.  I only got to see the act without hearing it.  In the next image, the Doctor is approaching the patient with great care lest he still harbors residual electrical energy from his first round of treatment.
Given his petulant nature, it became obvious that enhanced treatment was in order.  Be sure to click the photo below so you can read the labels.

Repeat after me:  Mwah, ha, ha.

Power Wheels Racing League

Our next stop transitions from the world of AC to the wonders of DC.  Have you ever noticed the jawas that cruise neighborhood trash piles the night before the real trash hauler comes?  The amount of useful detritus that ends up by the curb is truly sad :( 

Fortunately, it isn't just flea market, Craigslist and ebay flippers plucking good bits from the garbage!  When the right maker gets hold of one of those old battery powered kiddy cars the magic and madness of Power Wheels racing can begin!

You might guess from this pit area scene that the Power Wheels Racing League isn't about stock vehicles.  Nope, these are like the nitro burning funny cars of the kiddie car world.  Most of these have at least two deep cycle marine batteries in their customized chassis.  A day at the races includes endurance laps, drag racing and trips around the road course.

Yeah, I want to do this in the worst way.  The participants get bonus points for flair.  There are more photos from the 2011 event at

Real Cars with Electric Style

This little car got a lot of attention.  It has a hybrid drive train with pedals for the driver and passenger and a battery powered electric motor.  It is a street legal 1998 import from Europe.  While it is a daily driver, the lack of air conditioning probably causes it to be parked during heat spells like what we have been experiencing.  As I write this, it is 95 degrees at 10:00 PM after an afternoon high of 104.  Thank goodness for Tesla and Westinghouse!

This car is more for show than go.  Still, who wouldn't love to cruise around in a reproduction of the Back to the Future Delorean?
Looks like the flux capacitor is up and running.  Engage the time circuit!

Arc Attack

And now, welcome to the madness that is Arc Attack!  This band hails from Austin, Texas.  They built these two Tesla coils that crank out 12 foot, 500,000 volt streamers.  On top of that, they vary the input frequency so  the coils "sing".  The act started in 2005 and has been refined along the way.  The coils were redesigned after an unfortunate fire.  Just this year they added a robotic drummer to the crew.

I was unable to upload one of my videos, but there are plenty of samples on YouTube.  The sound may be a little garbled because these things are incredibly loud!  The microphone on my Sony NEX3 was totally overwhelmed.

The front man walks around in a chain mail Faraday suit.  It was a 100 degree day and at least ten degrees warmer inside the tent.  This form of insanity takes dedication.

Yeah, he is getting hit in the head with a streamer.  So jealous...
Part way into the performance, the band rolls out a Faraday cage and asks for volunteers from the audience.  Children must have parental permission and adults have to promise to dance like crazy people inside the cage.  Sadly, I have not been selected from the audience.  It would be a very Star  Trek experience!

Thanks for reading!  I'll do one more post to close out the series and hope you can come along for the fun!

A friendly reminder about the archaic concept of copyright:  all photos are copyright Dwayne F. at vintagetechobsessions.  Please cite the source if you liberate my images.  They are not to be used for commercial purposes with or without citation.  You could wake up with an Oliver 99 hovering over your bed.  You have been warned.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Your Career at NASA - Circa 1966

In The Birthday Blog Post From Space, I shared some images from a 1964 National Geographic magazine featuring the United States' plan for getting to the moon.  President John F. Kennedy proposed to Congress in May of 1961 that we should establish a national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s.

Remember in the movie Apollo 13 all of those guys in shirts and ties with their cigarettes?  Welcome to your career at NASA!
 With this audacious goal in mind, we did indeed deliver Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Sea of Tranquility on this day in 1969.  In eight short years, the United States committed its resources to the mission and creation of new technologies and infrastructure.  In the process, we gained a whole generation of engineers and scientists.  To celebrate Apollo 11 day, I'm sharing a great bit of ephemera I found at a local antique mall:  NASA:  A Guide to Careers in Aero-Space Technology" revised in July, 1966.

Our youngest daughter, the one who wants to go into engineering, was looking over my shoulder just now and commented on the first photo that it "looked like something promoting a job".  The expression on her face said "meh".   Marketing rockets and space travel is a whole lot easier than marketing math, science and engineering.

This is a page from "The Question and Answer Book of Space" copyright 1965 and 1970.  Herein witness the kind of kids' book I grew up with.

Still, with a shared vision, people can dream of working together to do something really great.

 To put this 1966 publication in perspective, our first one man capsule made a 15-minute trip above Earth's atmosphere on May 5, 1961.  The rocket with lift capacity to reach the Moon was still a concept in 1966.

Factoid of the day:  the 1961 Redstone missile delivered 78,000 pounds of thrust.  To escape Earth's gravity and make it to the Moon and back, the  first stage of the Saturn V generated 7,610,000 pounds of thrust.

Basically, it took a lot of this...

To get from the Mercury program in 1961...

At 5:14 AM on May 5, 1969, Lt. Commander Alan Shepard steps from a transport van and walks to a waiting Redstone missile.  This image is scanned from the book "LIFE Science Library; Man and Space" copyright 1964 and 1966.
To the Moon on July 20, 1969...

Image from "Album of Spaceflight" copyright 1983.
You can find more great Apollo 11 ephemera at one of my favorite blogs:

I grew up with the Apollo space program and have fond memories of watching the first lunar landing at the tender age of five and the final missions featuring the lunar buggy.  May your dreams of space be as pleasant.
P.S.  The House Full of Nerds celebrated Apollo 11 day by watching the Star Trek episode Assignment: Earth.  I'm pretty sure that Roberta Lincoln is using a computer controlled Royal Electress.  Please correct me if I missed the typewriter identification.