November 19, 2014

Oooo. . .real game archaeology!

Filed under: Media, Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:12 pm

Bangor native plays key role in designing children’s archaeology game

“Dig Quest: Israel” is a free educational app for iPhone and iPad users ages 7 to 11 that allows children to learn about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Lod Mosaic. During the game, users piece together the scrolls to discover their meaning, and “dig” for the mosaic.

“We wanted this to be something where kids feel like they were the expert … that’s empowering,” Rosenblatt said.

Must not be out yet because it’s not in the App Store yet.

UPDATE: See comments. I got a copy and started playing it. Kinda fun. I did the first level of putting together pieces of scrolls. They were not that difficult, but hard enough to have to think about some. And they added in a bit of high tech, as you had to scan the scroll to “read” it; I would have liked a bit more explanation of that process, but whatever. So go for it and come back and tell us what you think.

November 14, 2014

I survived the 1980s. . . . .twice!

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:32 pm

I’ve almost made it through the 1980s. But I just cheated by checking the ArchaeoWife’s flight status online. Back then we would have the paper itinerary and would just go to the airport when it was supposed to arrive. If it was late, we sat there and waited. At some point we realized we could call the airline to check, which is better, but not like checking the flight status whenever you want. I would have called, but I would have sounded like a moron (or an old fart) calling up when I could check it online.

But otherwise, I made it through. Being out in the field the last couple of days was easier to make it through, although I was checking email and text messages quite often. I tried using the iPod today but it kept playing the same song over and over, so I quit. Was well-rested anyway, so I didn’t mind too much.

What did I learn this week? Well, I know why I drank so much, there was nothing else to do! Seriously, a couple of lessons, both applicable to archaeology actually. I’ve criticized ‘experimental archaeology’ a lot, the sort where a bunch of people decide they’re going to try to build a pyramid or a boat or whatever in two weeks or something like that. I’ve maintained that while it can kind of clue you in to some of the complexities of doing certain things, the time is too short to really learn how to do it with the tools and techniques of the day. It does well when a specific hypothesis is being tested, although most often that’s only a portion of the process and could just as easily be done in the lab.

Relevance to this: It was more difficult than I’d thought, largely because I soon realized that there were hundreds of little things that I’d forgotten about. I mentioned the bread situation earlier in the week, and also that we didn’t have Mr. Coffee Iced Tea pots so I hadn’t really drunk much iced tea back then — until I had one of these things to make it easily with. In essence, I didn’t have the infrastructure already in place that would have really let me work within the limitations of the 1980s. For example, I would have had a phone book handy, and I also would have known more off the top of my head about the way things work than I do now. Nowadays, if I need to know something I look it up on the Web. Back then, a lot of things I’d just make sure I knew about, like store hours and such.

I would have had a Walkman or whatever for work. I would have had whatever tapes I wanted to play on it. I would always have a watch on to know the time, instead of relying on my cell phone. I would know where to get coffee or soda if I needed it that didn’t involve a Starbucks. And who knows what else I’ve not thought of?

It’s that store of accumulated knowledge that makes a big difference, and it’s what is limiting about experimental archaeology: Unless you’ve spent years building, say, Viking ships, you wouldn’t really know the ins and outs of Viking ship building that the average Viking ship builder would have. It’s a lot of “knowing what you know” and also “knowing what you don’t know” and how to find out with the tools of the day. Or just being good with not knowing.

I guess the short way of saying that is, things don’t exist in a vacuum. When we didn’t have the Internet, we made sure to know most of the things we needed to know by asking other people or making things part of our general knowledge base. When we didn’t have cell phones and the Web, we made sure we had phone books around, or at least a lot of numbers close by. I remember setting our clocks by calling a certain number on the telephone, rather than looking at our radio-controlled clocks, or phone or computer. Who would know anything about that in a few hundred years?

So I’ve learned quite a bit, I think. I learned that I forgot an awful lot about what I was doing back then and how I was doing it, from the bread that I ate to how I made tea. I learned a few new/old exercises from the weight room that I’d quit doing for whatever reason; some I may integrate back into my workouts, though to be fair I may have dropped many of them because they were doing bad things to certain muscles or joints or whatever.

I also learned that I can actually survive daily life without obsessively checking Facebook and various web sites. I’ve been wondering for a while if I needed to start disconnecting a bit. I may even stay somewhat disconnected. Who knows, I might try to Live In The 1980s once a week just to remind myself of how good and bad we have it now compared to then.

I suppose the biggest difference is still computers and especially the Internet. So much is basically the same: We drive cars with gas engines (mostly) that are better, but largely the same; we still wash clothes in washers and dryers; still cook food on the stove, mostly the same stuff but with less seasonality; we (or at least I) exercise by moving a bunch of cast iron around; we watch a box with pictures and sound; etc. But now we have instant access to virtually any sort of information you could ask for, from “What time is the hazardous waste station open?” to academic papers (given the proper access), to recipes for just about anything, to videos from whenever, to any number of guitar chords for almost any song ever written, etc. etc. etc. All this week I’ve seen something and wanted to “look it up”; but I couldn’t. The name of a song on the radio. A book that I wanted to read (Hawthorne’s “The Custom House”). Info on valerian root. Now we take it for granted if you want to know something, you can search for it on the Web. Send email to nearly anyone. Post a photo on Facebook for your family and friends to see. That, I think, is both a quantitative and qualitative change.

The things I really missed or would miss if I really had to Live In The ’80s again:
– Streaming music (aka, Pandora).
– Caffeine free diet soda.
– Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker
– Being able to search for anything on the Web

Things I really miss about the ’80s:
– Actually hanging out with people more of the time (preferably with lots of beer)
– Being able to talk to people at the gym without earbuds in their ears
– MTV with VJs playing videos and telling us something abut the bands
– Wordperfect 5.1!

Oddly, I had a really difficult time with that last part. I’ve always looked nostalgically back at the ’80s, but thinking about it. . . . I guess I don’t miss “The ’80s” so much as I miss the person I was in the ’80s.. Hmmmm. That shouldn’t surprise me but it kind of does.

November 12, 2014

Living in the 1980s: Day 2

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 3:44 pm

Day 2 of the 1980s! How’d it go? To start with, I cheated again by driving the Forester. Had to take four 5 gallon cans of roof paint to the hazardous waste station and wasn’t going to try to fit them in the Civic (or my Mustang). Come to think of it, what would I have done in 1984 with that stuff? Probably. . .I don’t know. Taken them to the dump and just tossed them in? Also cheated by having to look up the hours and address of the transfer station (=dump) because I didn’t have a phone book. Turned out I didn’t go anyway (too small of a load) but I felt bad looking it up on the Web. I was also going to have to look at my paper map to figure out how to get there instead of just looking it up online or on my phone. I also, because I couldn’t check the time by phone, went by the hazardous place before it was open.

Couple other observations: Appliances and food. Our new refrigerator isn’t that different, although the freezer is on the bottom and it’s probably more efficient. The stove is another matter: it’s got a glass/ceramic top. No open burners. On the one hand, it’s easier to keep clean and looking nice because there aren’t burners and the aluminum dishes to get all gunked up. OTOH, it requires cleaning nearly every day to keep it that way AND with specialty cleaner. And there’s some junk baked onto the bottom of the oven that we can’t get up, so it’s not that different after all. Our cookware is anodized nonstick (Calphalon), much better than the Teflon-coated junk we used to have. Still, we also have plain aluminum Revere Ware that we use most of the time anyway. We always make popcorn in the microwave as well, no popper anywhere here.

From yesterday, I mentioned tea; Yes, the Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Pot was introduced in 1989, so it was either boiled-and-cooled tea or sun tea before this. I love love LOVE my Mr. Tea (as I call it). I had one for like 15 years and finally had to get a new one. Use it twice a week at least. That, combined with the Luzianne, changed my tea drinking habits considerably. Chalk another one up for progress there.

As for food, the supermarket isn’t really recognizable. Back then, you went there for groceries and beer (okay, and other junk, too). Now they have pharmacies, delis, banks, etc. Produce is radically different. Nowadays, I can get watermelon almost year round. True, in February they’re small and $5 each, but they’re there. Some things are still pretty seasonal, squash for example. And pomegranates, which I never would have been able to get back in Wisconsin (maybe still can’t for all I know). Oh, and gas at many of them. And let’s not get started on loyalty cards — no more coupon clipping! Well, some.

I came to some resolution on the sweetener issue. I learned that Sweet ‘n Low was introduced in 1957, but I’m not sure when it was readily available for home use. I’m pretty sure it was common in restaurants in the 1980s. So I’m using regular sugar at home, but if I get something outside I’ll use the pink packets. I kind of cheated and went to SBux twice. Yes, it was cheating, more or less. I only got tea in the morning, but got an herbal tea in the afternoon. There were places in Madison, and I suppose some restaurants, where you could get a tea back then, maybe not an herbal one though. Its rather striking how much I relied on myself back then to bring anything to drink wherever I was. We had coffee vending machines (blech) in some buildings on campus, but unless you had a thermos or a coffee maker at work, you were kinda stuck going to the donut shop or nearby restaurant.

Cats: For one thing, they’re chipped meaning if they get lost, they can be located. Even without a collar. We are also using some clumping litter made out of walnut shells or something. That’s totally different. Actually, I may prefer the plain clay litter myself. They have a wider array of food, of course. No more Tender Vittles though! But a much bigger variety. Tons of structures for them to goof around on, too. But, you know, they’re still happy with a spot in the sun and a ball of yarn to play with.

Was still kind of difficult not to surf the Internet when I was getting a bit bored.

LPs are kind of a pain. They’re fun every now and then, but they take up an awful lot of space and you have to flip them over every 20 minutes.

How did we do archaeology back then? Man. Topo maps were hard to come by. Aerials were hard to come by — now we just go to Google Earth. Mapping in the field was done by hand. We’re still writing stuff down on forms though, and taking lots of notes. But we have pictures to look at with our digital cameras immediately. We can call from the field, most of the time, and be in touch with the office. We write our reports with graphics and such embedded in them, and send them to clients and such by email so we can get nearly instant feedback. I remember a few weeks ago we had a client who didn’t use email and it was really a pain. Everything happened so slooooowly! That’s probably why reports have gotten so much bigger and more elaborate, they figure if we can do it, then we must do it.

Fortunately, one of my favorite shows is on at 8 so I can watch it. Otherwise, I’d stay up late or just not see it. No On Demand in the 1980s. . . .

Living in the 1980s: Day 1

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 3:43 pm

[Decided to enter daily observations anyway]

Here in 2014 it’s the 1980s again! Day 1 of Living In The 80s. How has it gone? As I’m typing this, I have a Steely Dan LP playing on my 1980-vintage stereo, albeit with different speakers (those are downstairs), these are 1973ish Advents. Very 1980s, although I didn’t have any Steely Dan albums back then. From the get-go this morning I found some small things that I hadn’t thought of going into this. But let’s go a bit chronologically:

I woke up to the same sort of clock radio I’ve been waking up to since the mid-’70s. This one has digital tuning and some minor bells and whistles, but nothing too different. I also shave with an old double-edge razor and Foamy, so no 4- and 5-bladed multi-pivoting vibrating cartridges for me. That’s one huge change, razors. Also a lot more exotic creams and foams and gels and what-not. Back then it was cream in a can, Edge Gel, or maybe shaving soap in a cup with a brush.

I also put in my contacts. That was a difficult one to decide, but I finally went with wearing them for a few more safety-related reasons. But it’s arguable.

Clothing also hasn’t changed much, although for one thing there are far more choices in underwear these days. Back then it was boxers or tighty-whiteys and that was about it. Probably the biggest change is the boxer-brief. Also, shoes: I have both dress shoes and work boots that are water proof. That was unheard of back then except maybe for speciality shoes. A very welcome development in my book. Other than that. . . .Thinsulate and Gore-Tex are probably the biggies in outwear, yes?

A couple of things struck me right off the bat having to do with food and drink. My pre-workout toast was a problem: we didn’t have the variety of dark-grained commercial breads, back then it was white or light wheat, maybe dark rye or something in delis. Also tub margarine was just margarine, not the sorts of “heart-healthy” things we have today. The toaster is about the same, too, maybe a bit better-made controls though.

Oddly, tea presented a difficulty. I’d not thought much about iced tea; we made iced tea back then, what’s the big deal? This: I’ve bought Luzianne iced tea bags from the manufacturer ever since the Internet made it possible. Before that, in Wisconsin or Washington you just couldn’t get the stuff. Iced tea would be made with whatever local tea bags you had around, mostly Lipton or Bigelow or red Rose or something. Luzianne always was my favorite as it didn’t turn cloudy. But I still have my jar of Nestea Instant. Heh. Not sure if I’d decided artificial sweetener packets were cheating or not. I have a feeling they weren’t common at home.

I drove the Civic to the gym, which isn’t really a 1980s car but it’s close.

Now, the gym. For the most part, my workouts aren’t really affected since I’ve always done mostly old-fashioned bodybuilding type routines, using dumbbells, barbells, and simple cable machines. Ours are all rubber-coated; I think most were just plain iron back then. Some things are new, particularly the cardio machines, but also some of the weight machines. The former are far more sophisticated than we had. I think we had stationary bicycles and that was about it. Now the cycles are much smoother in terms of resistance, all electronically controlled, etc. Treadmills are probably way better, too, if they even had powered ones back then. Of course, we had no ellipticals or anything like that (which I don’t use anyway). If I wanted to do cardio I’d go running outside or on an indoor track.

Some weight machines are more complicated, too, mostly having to do with tracks and counterweighting. Notably, the assisted pull-up/dip machine, which I’ve used for dips. The regular ones were tough on my shoulders and wrists. They still have the dips bars from way back in the 1980s, so I used them and my wrist really hurt afterwards. Some of the squat racks also have fairly sophisticated rails that control the way the bar moves. I use that for bench pressing and lunges; today I used a regular free-barbell bench for that and it was difficult. Some ab benches and things are much different as well. We’ll see what’s sore tomorrow.

And there wouldn’t have been females in spandex booty-shorts doing dead lifts back then either.

Gym clothing: Much different, even for us guys. Back then I would have worn pretty short nylon shorts and a jock strap, with a t-shirt, probably running shoes, and socks halfway up my lower leg and possibly even almost knee-socks. Now I have longer baggy cloth shorts with a jock strap and spandex shorts underneath those, tiny little ankle socks, and a tank top (tank tops were okay then, too). Women of course are far different. If there were even women in the weight rooms, they would have been in sweats, or maybe shorts. Later in the 1980s maybe “aerobics” leotards, but usually black spandex shorts or longer tights and a baggy white t-shirt. Now, sheesh: tiny little spandex booty shorts (aka, volleyball shorts), short nylon shorts, tights or yoga pants, spaghetti-strap tank tops, etc. Really a far different looking place in that respect.

When I got home, I ate bagels: another problem. All we had back in Wisconsin (probably even here in Washington) were the store-bought Lender’s Bagels, which I never liked very much. Now I get really good ones from Einstein Brothers: chocolate chip, blueberry, pumpkin, etc.! No plastic bag and much better. Chalk one up for progress there. I’m just going to cheat on those and note it. Also, Diet Coke/Pepsi: they had that in the 1980s so I’m not worrying there. Caffeine free ones, no, I don’t think. They did have diet root beer, so I’m drinking that when needed.

Also no Starbucks. That saddens me greatly, but I can probably do without mochas for a week, though I can at least still make “tea lattes” (although I didn’t drink those then) or hot chocolate.

At work, I needed to make an appointment to take the car in, and so I had to use a paper phone book to look up the number. And then I couldn’t put the day and time in my phone’s calendar! This was where a paper calendar would have been handy, though I never used “appointment books” back then. Otherwise, I used my phone as sort of a Walkman for listening to local radio stations, and didn’t do any web surfing (except job-related stuff, and a couple of links here) all day. It was amazing how reflexive that’s become for me. It was harder when I got home, although I had a lot of little chores to do so I wasn’t really looking around being bored either.

For TV, I restricted myself to a few channels we would have had on cable, and didn’t watch the HD channels. I don’t watch that much TV anyway, but I usually sit there and change channels like a maniac. I’m going to watch Monday Night Football on ESPN, not technically correct, but I could have watched it on ABC back then if I’d wanted to.

So, I survived pretty well, although I did drive the Forester most of the day (had to take the Spousal Unit to the airport). Will use it tomorrow, too, to take some stuff to the dump.

November 9, 2014

Signing off for a week. . .but for good reason!

Filed under: Blogging update, Modern artifacts — acagle @ 4:53 pm

Actually only singing off for five days (M-F). Why you ask?

Desert Fox

Yes, around ArchaeoBlog manor it will be. . . .THE 1980S!!!

In other words, I’m going to live like it was the 1980s for five days. What an odd idea. Yes. Well, I’ve been contemplating something like this for a couple of years now, although mostly planning for a Live Like The 1970s Week instead. But I’m doing the ’80s instead. I got the original idea when I had an hour and a half drive back from a field project in my Mustang II and, as men my age are often wont to do, started wondering what Teenage Me would think of my life as it is now. And then, as a little bit of a mental exercise, started wondering what all was really that much different from when I was a teenager in the 1970s. That’s not so odd, as I was driving a 1978 car at the time.

So I started ticking off my daily routine and seeing what all was really different from what I would have been doing in the 1970s, what all was pretty much the same, etc. Really down to the most minor things, like, say, toothpaste. When I got home and throughout the next few days I took mental notes of things I was doing and using with the same questions in mind. Could I go back to those days and actually survive with sanity intact?

I’d actually seen a couple of news stories of families provided with the accouterments of the 1960s or 1950s for a week to see how they’d react, not to mention the occasional news article about someone who’s tried to do their work with an old computer. So it’s not like the idea is unique to me.

Then for Halloween I dressed up as ‘1980s Me’ complete with vintage t-shirt, jacket, sweatshirt, and glasses from those days and started wondering anew what it would be like to time travel back to 1983 or so. And since the ArchaeoWIfe is traveling on business for the week so I figured now would be a good time to have a go at it, without inconveniencing anyone else. So, here I go.

Now, obviously I can’t recreate the world of 30 years ago in anything approaching true fidelity. And I do have a job to do which might cause some problems if I showed up with no cell phone and no computer and tried to get anything done. So in some part, I’ll still have to exist in the here and now. At the same time, I can still insert some of the ’80s into my routine without causing too many problems, for me or my compatriots. For example, back then we didn’t have an Internet with streaming audio so I’m going to avoid that. Also I shan’t be fiddling on the Web for recreational purposes, either at work or at home.

I’m already going into withdrawals. . . . .

There’s some tech that I can really recreate and use and others that I have to improvise. For example, I would, at work, usually have a Walkman to keep me entertained. Since finding one is rather difficult, and I’m not going to buy a new, similar one just for a week’s use (not to mention not having a single cassette tape to play on one), I’m going to improvise. I’ll use my smart phone to stream a couple of local radio stations to listen to (through headphones only!), and perhaps if I convince myself it’s acceptable to play some albums, mimicking cassettes. At home I have my old 1980-vintage stereo complete with tuner and vinyl LPs, so that won’t be much of a problem. And no CDs either (more on that in a bit).

I have an old car that I can use — though not the CD player — although I’ll probably substitute the 1997 Honda Civic instead if it’s raining because the old Mustang doesn’t do well in the rain.

Trying to decide if I should still wear my contact lenses or not. True, they had soft lenses in the 1980s, but I didn’t get them until the 1990s. And it might be more of a pain than it’s worth. But we’ll see.

I will take time out every evening to type in a journal for the day. I thought about handwriting everything (I still may), but then I’d have to transcribe it all and I think I’d probably not do that. Instead, I’ll open up the old computer and type it into a simple Word document, sort of mimicking a simple word processor from those days. I will also need to be at least monitoring my email and cell phone because, well, it needs to be done.

Oh yeah, I’m using my baseline as 1983/1984 or so. Just because.

One thing is problematic (well, more than one thing, but this is the really interesting thing): What do I decide wasn’t there in the 1980s? What’s the evolutionary angle? For example: Yes, there were cell phones in the 1980s. For that matter, there were cellular phones in the 1970s, although not really that common or available. And for an even other matter, there were mobile phones available back in the 1940s. So how does one say “No, this technology wasn’t available” when in some cases — probably most cases — it really was in some form or another? I’m mostly just winging it, and will be taking notes — handwritten ones! — as I go. For the most part, I’ll be trying to live how I experienced the 1980s. I didn’t have access to cell phones in the 1980s, so I won’t be using one. Same thing with CDs, they were around, but they weren’t all that widespread for most of the decade, and I certainly didn’t get any until into the 1990s (I think).

So yeah, it’s not perfect, but that’s part of the intellectual fun of it.

It’s also got some cultural evolutionary implications in there as well which I’ll try to focus on.

So there you have it: 1980s week. I urge readers to have a go with it yourselves. Look around and ask yourselves what around you is different from your personal world when you were, say, a teenager. What’s the same? Are things qualitatively different or quantitatively so? When you do ‘x’ consider how you might have done the same thing then. For example, finding out whether a store is open when you want to go: now, you’d punch it into your web browser to find out. Then, you’d probably have to find the store’s phone number — probably in a physical telephone book — and call the store yourself on a fixed landline telephone. That sort of thing.

See you in 30 years!

October 23, 2014

Back to the future?

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 8:46 am

Something came up twice in recent days and I’m wondering if it hasn’t occurred to anyone else. Let’s start with this, the humble wristwatch:

Many of you may be somewhat unaware of these? I’ve worn one almost my entire life, at least since I was in my teens at least.

Lately, however, or at least for a few months in the last year or so, I kind of quit wearing one. Why? Because I always had either my computer or cell phone to look at for the time. I found myself putting my watch on every morning and then taking it off in the evening and realizing that I hadn’t looked at it even once all day. So I shelved it (them, actually, I have three) and did without. Eh. Sometimes I’d catch myself looking at my wrist, maybe when I was out on the street or something and my phone was buried in a pocket somewhere but I mostly got along without it.

One advantage in the summer was that by the end of August I didn’t have brown arms with a little white band where the watch was.

But I started wearing it again recently. Dunno know why, it just seemed kind of like a nice retro kinda thing to do. Most days I still don’t look at it, but it’s kind of nice to know it’s there.

But the other day I was in a watch store getting a new battery for the new Mickey Mouse watch I gave the ArchaeoWife for her birthday, and was looking over a display of these:

Again, for some young’uns, that’s a pocket watch. I’ve always kind of liked pocket watches, or at least I always liked the idea of pulling it out of one’s vest pocket to check the time. I was kind of half debating maybe getting one — I’ve done the same thing at estate sales — but then decided (again) that it would probably go into my pocket in the morning, rarely come out for the same reason as the wristwatch, and probably end up broken or something.

Of course, then I realized: I keep my phone in my pocket and pull it out to check the time. Hence, we’ve kind of come full circle with the new pocket watch: the mobile phone.

And maybe in a few years the cell phone will become the cell watch and we’ll be back there again, too.

UPDATE: Today, obviously, I didn’t wear my watch and I’ve looked at my bare wrist about half a dozen times. . . .

July 1, 2014

Now and then.

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 6:52 pm

I just purchased a new computer. That might not seem like a big deal and why are you posting about it, but it really is in a way (and not just because of the wad of dough I just laid out). This is the first one I’ve bought in like 10 years for one. For another, it’s almost 30 years since I bought my first one. So I thought I’d do a little comparison.

In raw dollar amounts, I spent about the same: around $1500. That seems to be the same amount I spend every time, btw. There was an old saying in computer circles, the computer you really want always costs $3000; the one you actually buy always costs $1500. So in some way I spent the same amount of money in 1987 and 2014. But:

Adjusting for inflation, the $1500 I spent today is, in 1987 dollars, only $716.
Put another way, that $1500 I spent in 1987 now has the same buying power as $3141 in 2014 dollars. So I guess I got the computer I really wanted!

The other huge difference is that this new one is an Apple, a CrapMacintosh Macbook Air (hereafter, AirBook).
Desert Fox

The first one was a Leading Edge PC-XT, ca. 1987.
Desert Fox

At the time I thought the Macs available then were expensive toys, with a little toy screen and a little toy keyboard and a cutesy little ‘desktop’ for people too dim to figure out a command line interface. Actually, I still think that (about the originals), so flame away if you must.

Other differences:
PC-XT: 12-inch phosphor green monochrome CRT screen with 80 columns by 25 lines resolution.
They were also available in phosphor orange/amber, but I liked the green better. Almost as good as the phosphor white on mainframe/mini terminals.
Airbook: 13″ color LED screen with 1440 by 900 pixel resolution.

Processor:
PC-XT: 8088 at 4.77-7.16 Mhz. It had 29,000 transistors and operated at 0.33-1 million instructions per second.
Airbook: 1.4 gigahertz Dual-Core Intel Core i5 etc. That means 1400 million transistors and operates at around 6.6 billion instructions per second.

RAM:
PC-XT: 640kb = 655,360 bytes = 655 thousand (.00065 billion) bytes
Airbook: 8 gigabytes = 8,589,934,592 bytes = 8.5 billion bytes or 13,107 times the RAM of the XT

Hard Drive:
PC-XT: 20 megabytes = 20,971,520 bytes = 0.021 billion bytes
Airbook: 512 gigabytes flash memory = 549,755,813,888 bytes = 550 billion bytes or 26,214 times the drive space of the XT

Keyboard:
PC-XT: 102-key clicky keyboard.
Airbook: Built-in. Have to say, I liked the Leading Edge’s keyboard. Wow.

Sound:
PC-XT: Beeped.
Airbook: Dual stereo speakers and microphones. And a headphone port. And a camera.

Dimensions:
PC-XT: Hard to say. CPU housing was probably 14×5x18 inches or so and weighed maybe 7 pounds. CRT was probably another 10 pounds and the keyboard was bigger than the Airbook itself and probably weighed as much.
Airbook:
Height: 0.11-0.68 inch
Width: 12.8 inches
Depth: 8.94 inches
Weight: 2.96 pounds

Software:
PC-XT: WordPerfect 5.1 (bootleg), Lotus 1-2-3 (bootleg), SPSS for DOS (bootleg; can you see a pattern here?), some sort of menu system (don’t remember the name), and everyone’s favorite Leather Goddesses of Phobos (it is both naughtier and tamer than you probably imagine).
Desert Fox
Airbook: What don’t I have on here? A huge pig of a Word for Mac has replaced the fast and efficient WP 5.1, a huge pig of an SPSS for Mac has replaced a slightly less huge pig of an SPSS for DOS, and I don’t have Leather Goddesses.

Connectivity:
PC-XT: Could be connected to a 300-baud audio modem for what that was worth.
Airbook: 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking;4 IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless

Admittedly, the Leading Edge looks pretty pathetic. Relatively speaking, yes it was. OTOH, that may be the single most productive computer I’ve ever owned, except perhaps for the last Airbook. I did numerous papers on it, lecture notes, all of the material for my comprehensive exams, and my master’s thesis. The latter included running statistics in SPSS that often took 45 minutes to run a single cluster analysis on a fairly small data set. There was something almost inherently productive about a monochrome screen; no Internet to go twaddle on to waste time, no videos, no email (well there was, with the modem attached), no texting, no video, no sound except that provided by an external system, etc. Despite all of the layout capabilities of modern “word processors”, the almost blank screen of WordPerfect kind of lent itself to concentrating on the written word. Yes, including graphics was a PITA — you had to leave appropriate space, print it out, physically tape the graphic on the paper, and then photocopy it — but for the most part you had primarily text to get your meaning across and you used that to maximum extent simply because the graphics took so much time and effort — you had to make those count.

Every now and then I think maybe I should go out and buy an old XT and use it for writing, but that never really comes of anything. Cutting and pasting text is fairly difficult, as is any navigation, and then you still have to export it somewhere so someone else can actually read it. Supposedly you can still run it on both Windows and Macs but I’ll pass. As much as I hate Word — both then and now — it’s about the only game in town, much to my dismay. That is, if you want to be able to share documents with anyone.

Then again, I often wonder how much we’ve progressed. Last week I spent two hours fighting with a printer just to print a couple of pages. Hellooooo!? Back in the ’80s I was fighting with printers to print out correctly and here it is 2014 and I’m still fighting with printers to print out correctly. Seems like it still takes the same amount of time for an application to load as well. Yeah, they’re far more capable, but they still foul up and bomb a lot. No rose-colored glasses here, but I’m not a Luddite either: I’ll take the modern computer with its connectivity, speed, memory, etc. Do I want to march down to the library every time I need a journal article, only to find it checked out? No. Or spend half an hour copying a graphic, cutting it out to size, pasting it onto a document, and photocopying it again several times until no lines appear? No.

But sometimes I think a bit wistfully about maybe sitting down at a computer for a while just to work on something and then go seek entertainment elsewhere. And that pale green phosphor sure was easy on the eyes. . . . .

May 1, 2014

A bit of cultural trivia

Filed under: Modern artifacts, Pop culture — acagle @ 8:17 pm

So, Alan Parsons Project, Ammonia Avenue from way back in the 1980s. There’s the line that goes “And those who came at first to scoff, remained behind to pray”. I always liked that line and was totally impressed that they’d come up with that.

And then I’m reading a book of English poetry (shut up) and come across “The Deserted Village” by Oliver Goldsmith (1770) where there’s this:

“And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.”

So, harumph.

April 28, 2014

Things that just didn’t make it

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 1:22 pm

The Monowheel

The taxonomy and lineage of the monowheel and its cousins is tough to pin down. Various photos of the device appear with names of inventors that don’t necessarily correspond to who’s pictured riding the thing. Ads for the devices are also floating around, suggesting that some in the general public actually—gulp—bought and rode these one-wheel widowmakers. The apex of monowheel fascination appears to be embodied in the Motoruota, built by Messrs Cislaghi and Goventosa of Italy. Their designs apparently caught on in Europe, especially in Italy and France through the late ’20s and ’30s, but versions like the Nilson were made in the US. (For a more complete list of models and makers, visit Douglas Self’s online museum dedicated to the monowheel.)

Last time I saw anything of these was in the last Men in Black movie. They seem cool, but I guess they’re just plain dangerous and less easily maneuvered than a 2-wheeled motorcycle. So, natural selection seems to have made them a rarity.

But check the photo of the guy riding it. Seems a little Indiana Jonesish.. . . .

April 26, 2014

Atari update

Filed under: Modern artifacts — acagle @ 4:12 pm

Looks like they were successful.

Although the one cartridge looks pretty unplayable to me.

UPDATE: MOre detail from ARS Technica here and here.

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