Links, March 2023

I got on a little kick for old-time telephone switching systems. I started with the Connections Museum playlist about how telephone calls used to work, where Sarah’s excitement about the whole thing was totally infectious. In one of her videos, she linked to Evan Doorbell, who talks about phone phreaking with the most delicious radio voice.

The story of the invention of automatic telephone switching is truly wild, starting with a business dispute between an undertaker and his local telephone company. And it happened in 1891 - just one year after Hollerith first used automatic tabulation and punch cards in the US Census. I’m blown away by the complexity of these information systems, starting roughly 60 years before the first modern, stored-program computer.

Tim Hunkin, of Secret Life of Machines fame, has been making a lovely series of videos about different components DIYers can use, based on his decades of experience making one-off satirical arcade machines and other magnificent gadgets.

Inside a megawatt radio transmitter, and part two

This is the month I became aware of Mr. Blobby - wow

I’ve been watching through Ben Eater’s series on building a 6502 CPU into a minimal computer. 6502 assembly language is gloriously easy to understand, and he does a great job of going from simple to complex one step at a time. His series on USB and on the “world’s worst video card” are also nice.

Cookie Monster makes John Oliver totally crack up

Music from the Demoscene - click Listen in the upper right. There are so many bad tracks in the world, it’s nice to have a streaming station of 90% good ones.

Why Clip Art Was Everywhere… Until it Wasn’t

Different types of panning demo - Increase stereo image - Dave Rat, a sound guy from huge acts like RHCP, has a youtube channel. I’ve been watching his videos about making live sound work better - maybe someday I’ll run sound for contra dances again, and it would be fun to try his tips like these, or double mic’ing, etc.

Quick documentary about how the FDIC takes over a failed bank - or the audio version from This American Life. Kind of fascinating, and relevant again. Calculated Risk has links to further info about how banks are evaluated.

Wildly compelling hambone performance

Making a production run of resin-cast figures - we used his cut-mold process to copy some chess pieces and make soap in their shape, and it worked really well!

This might be my year of 3D modelling, and if so, I plan to use Michal Zalewski’s Guerilla guide to CNC and resin casting

Spending the night in a Titan II Missile Silo

See, him face?

Tax Heaven 3000, a dating sim that does your taxes (my taxes are done in a much more sedate way but this is pretty funny)

Cheating and going back to earlier this year -

A Marxist View of Tolkein’s Middle Earth (via metafilter) - “J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy world is a medieval utopia with poverty and oppression airbrushed out of the picture. But Tolkien’s work also contains a romantic critique of industrial capitalism that is an important part of its vast popular appeal.” Wouldn’t call myself a Marxist but this was very interesting

TikTok’s enshittification - this seems to have a lot of explanatory power for how online spaces grow and die