If you go to Japan be sure to send someone a telegram

Friday, 22 August, 2014

How to describe telegrams when there may be people here reading, who have no idea what they are? A text message that can only be sent in print format, perhaps? In earlier days much of the world’s communication was carried out by way of telegrams, but not any more obviously.

Unless you are in Japan, that is, where the mode is still in use, for a variety of reasons:

Japan is one of the last countries in the world where telegrams are still widely used. A combination of traditional manners, market liberalization and innovation has kept alive this age-old form of messaging, first commercialized in the mid-19th century by Samuel Morse and others.

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Windows 94, is that what we could call Microsoft’s first website?

Thursday, 21 August, 2014

Microsoft website, 1994

Did Bill Gates really utter the words “I don’t believe in the internet” in 1991? Whether or not the Microsoft co-founder said such a thing didn’t stop the company launching its first website just over twenty years ago though.

Maybe Gates said he didn’t believe in easy on the eye web design instead, if the inaugural front page of the Microsoft site, above, is anything to go by. Mind you, he wasn’t alone in that regard, that’s what much of the web at the time looked like.

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The combat gear of British soldiers since 1066

Tuesday, 19 August, 2014

Photo by Thom Atkinson

I was into the knights of old when I was a kid, so this photo series, by Thom Atkinson, of combat outfits worn by British soldiers from 1066 through to today, was absorbing to say the least.

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Putting a name to the place where grandpa took these photos

Friday, 15 August, 2014

The family of an Australian man, Stephen Clarke, who recently moved into a retirement home, are looking for help nailing down the locations of a stack of photos he took while travelling the world in decades past. Maybe you know some of the places that still haven’t been identified?

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How old is the oldest industrial complex? Older than you think…

Wednesday, 13 August, 2014

After taking some time to look through the History of Information it seems to me everything on Earth is older than I had previously thought. For instance the first known, so far, industrial complex dates back more than two and a half million years.

We’re sure not talking car manufacturing or the like here though, but organised production activities of some sort.

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Hit songs that ended up fading into obscurity

Wednesday, 30 July, 2014

Not all of the songs that reach the top of the music charts are destined to become classics, or end up even being remembered. In fact some of these tracks may find themselves vying for the title of most obscure of all time

Surprise. With a few exceptions, songs popular during the adolescence of people still alive today are much more popular than songs and racist comedy routines recorded during the reign of Queen Victoria.

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Have hipsters and the cashless society put paid to pick pockets?

Monday, 28 July, 2014

Pickpockets may soon be a thing of the past, as changes in fashion, that sees men wearing tighter fitting trousers, and a reduced reliance on cash, that results in people carrying less money generally, says Wilfred Rose, a former New York City wallet lifter, who spent the best part of forty years pilfering the pockets of its residents.

Then there was the time, he claims, that he decided to show off after spotting an off-duty sergeant, a renowned chaser of pickpockets, on his way to Yankee Stadium. Mr. Rose sidled up to him in the crowded train, plucked a roll of $300 from the man’s pocket and slipped $30 or $35 of his own money, in smaller denominations, into the sergeant’s pants. When the sergeant recognized Mr. Rose one stop later, he patted his pocket, reassured to feel money there. (In an interview, the sergeant, now retired, denied ever being bested by Mr. Rose.) But that was a long time ago. These are lean years for pickpockets. People carry more credit cards and less cash; men wear suits less, and tightfitting pants more. The young thieves of today have turned to high-tech methods, like skimming A.T.M.s.

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A 1785 guide to creating fireworks

Thursday, 10 July, 2014

I’m not sure what’s the more fascinating, a book, published in 1785, choke full of recipes for fireworks, or the tome, complete with hand crafted text and illustrations, itself.

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Taking a second look at “Catcher in the Rye”

Thursday, 10 July, 2014

I read “Catcher in the Rye” at high school, but don’t recall being all that focused for some reason. Perhaps it is time for a re-read, something US economist Tyler Cowen did recently, an exercise that brought forth some new insights into both the story itself, and its writer, J. D. Salinger.

Salinger took part in the D-Day invasion with part of the manuscript in his backpack. Salinger also fought in some of the toughest battles of WWII and later in his life sought extreme withdrawal. It all supports the notion of WWII as the major event in his life and one which he never got over. It is no accident that the deceased younger brother is named Allie.

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Into the wide blue coloured internet

Tuesday, 8 July, 2014

If there’s one colour that web designers and brand strategists have a preference for, it would be blue, but you don’t need me to tell you that. But why is so much blue used on the internet in the first place? Might it be because blue was one the first colours, aside from black and gray, to make an appearance online, back in the day?

The man who invented links was writing them to a grayscale screen. The first popular browser, Mosaic, later turned links blue because it was the darkest color available at the time that wasn’t black; they needed to stand out, but only just. Blue was the best alternative. Blue always survives the focus group. Blue wins the a/b test. Which is convenient, because blue is usually already there.

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