Saturday, February 26, 2011

Found an Old Schooldesk

I was wandering around a local antiques mall yesterday and spent a considerable amount of time chatting with an old guy asking how he got started selling antiques.  I had already checked out his booth and hadn't seen anything of interest.

But after about 30 minutes with him, I noticed something under a box and asked him (Fred) about it.

 Bingo, jackpot! It was an old school desk which is one of the items I've been searching for over the last year.

This school desk could date from anytime between the 1950s back into the 1880s. I base this on the fact that are there are two spots for inkwells, a feature that disappeared in the 60s as ballpoint pens and cartridges for fountain pens replaced traditional fountain pens that were loaded by filling them directly from ink bottles.

 Also pictured are two other items that I found: an old blackboard that students would use at their seats and a school lunchbox talking about the US going metric.

The student blackboard feels really old to me, perhaps around 1900.  It was obsoleted by the introduction of reasonably price paper and pencils.

Metric Lunch Box
Metric Lunch Box

I can date the metric lunchbox without taking such wild guesses, it says right on it: "c 1976 King-Seeley Themos Company".

Of course, we all know that the US failed in its modernizing and internationalizing effort to move to the metric system which is one of the many disadvantages that we carry with us as our educational and economic system struggle to keep up and compete in the modern world.

Not for us the celsius or centigrate system, no liters or meters or grams. Just inches, feet, miles, gallons, and pounds.

We failed at it because in the short-run, it was hard. Shame on us! Now we are the backward company with a less efficient advantageous system and the rest of the world has the benefit and efficiency of the metric system. I think we are the only country that couldn't seem to make the shift.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Viewmaster

My grandparents kept the Viewmaster in the top drawer of the side table in the den. Every Friday when my sister Jody and I would visit them, we would promptly take the plastic machine out, spread out all of the reels, and start clicking away.
The Viewmaster was developed in Oregon by a company named Sawyer's. Like the stereoscope, it afforded 3D viewing, but because The Viewmaster used full color Kodachrome film rather than printed postcards, the images were crisper.
Originally the Viewmaster focused on geographic and scenic imagery. Our grandparents were world travelers and they made sure to bring the world to our fingertips. My sister remembers flicking through Rome; I was rather impressed with Hawaii. Jody says, "I guess at the time without cable or Video or DVDs I was hungry for images that included broader scopes of the world."
Later on, stills from popular TV shows and children's stories were included. Hands down, my sister and I loved the Barbie reels the most. But we also liked Laugh In and Dark Shadows.
Thinking back, my sister liked the privacy of the whole viewing experience a la Viewmaster. I, however, remember that we'd argue about whose turn it was to look through and pull the trigger. For the most part though, we shared nicely, passing the Viewmaster between us, and commenting on the decor of Barbie's home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Technology du jour: The DeJur

The world headquarters of Vocabulary SpellingCity is located in an office building in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The building, like most, is serviced by a cleaning crew. One evening one of the workers dropped off this DeJur vintage film projector.

When the Mayor of Spelling City saw it, he didn't recognize it as one of his own dusty doohickeys. He promptly asked his team about it. Someone said, "The cleaning lady brought it a few nights ago." The curious mayor stayed late one evening to ask her about it.

The cleaning woman said the projector was "junk from her attic," but after seeing all machines in the office, thought she would add to the collection. The mayor smiled, thanked her, and handed her an appreciative cash token.
The projector was last seen in good company high up on a shelf.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Return of the Slide Rule

slide rule
Slide Rules Like I had in High School
When I posted the first blog about the slide rule, my very creative friend Terri from California was quick to comment and send a photo (above). Her father, O.J. Gilmore, a University of Nebraska Engineering grad, was a slide rule-carrying aeronautics specialist. A professor of O.J.'s bequeathed a Vector Type Log Rule to him upon graduation and from then on it was safely stowed in his briefcase. Apparently this particular rule is a very valued model.

After Terri wrote to me, I remembered that another dear friend, Charlotte, was the daughter of an engineer. I emailed Charlotte and asked if she might have any fond slide rule memories. I caught my friend and fellow writer on the verge of a deadline, but she responded regardless. "My dad had various size slide rules all over the house, in their little cases, and I was fascinated with them but never saw him use one!"

And since we're on the subject, just one more photo.
Circular Slide Rule
Circular Slide Rule
This circular slide rule is also part of Vocabulary SpellingCity's permanent collection of educational technology. And with that I conclude my portion of this blog devoted to the logarithm-loving device that I will surely never know how to use.

One more thing, the Apollo Program including the trip to the Moon was based on calculations mostly made on....SLIDERULES!

Speaking of classic technology, check out the old chemistry set. And remember the best way to get a well educated science population is to start with a solid elementary science program.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Polaroid

Polaroid cameras offered immediate gratification. While photography in general was amazing, the ability to see the picture within minutes of taking the picture was an astounding novelty and innovation.

Before digital photography revolutionized picture taking, Polaroid film produced results quickly and allowed us to see our marvels as well as our mistakes. Used in work and for fun, the Polaroid enjoyed a reputation as the ultimate party camera.

Invented by Edwin Land, and first sold in 1948, images started developing inside the camera and then continued for another minute once outside. The familiar mechanism sounded and spit out a murky image which, after some arm waving back and forth, went from fuzzy to fine before our eyes. Little did we know back then, that waving it dry was completely unnecessary.
This diagram was printed in The Golden Handbook "Photography: The Amateur Guide to Better Pictures (copyright 1956 by Simon & Schuster). The handbook is co-authored by two University of Illinois professors, one of education and the other of science education. In the forward they write:
"Photography, in just a century, has become a great medium of communication. It is a universal language, equally effective whether its task is factual or fanciful, scientific, artistic, or recreational."

Regarding photography and photographic equipment in the 60's and 70's, Vocabulary SpellingCity's mayor and techno-collector remembers, "We took pictures with cameras that had flash bulbs. The Polaroid was incredibly cool back then. I remember when the Instamatic arrived and you could 'point and shoot.' Today, that all sounds unbelievably quaint!"