Behold The Machine…! Hugo Gernsback’s Radio Police Automaton

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Hugo Gernsback’s Radio Police AutomatonScience and Invention magazine, May 1924

Radio Police Automaton

AS is well known, radio can be used today to produce mechanical effects at a distance. This new art is known as radio-telemechanics. Many years ago already it was possible to start and operate vehicles and machinery entirely by radio. The United States Navy a little over a year ago operated the warship “Iowa” entirely by radio. The firing of the boilers, the steering of the ship and all the controls were entirely effected by radio.

The Automaton is kept erect by the stabilizing gyroscopes. The machine does not really walk like a human being, but rather glides along the road over all obstacles by the small caterpiller tractors attached to the feet. This makes it unnecessary for the Automaton to take steps, and the machine will therefore progress by a gliding motion which is quite rapid.

Stabilizing Gyroscopes and Caterpillar Treads

Stabilizing Gyroscopes and Caterpillar Treads

Such a machine would seem to be exceedingly valuable to disperse mobs, or for war purposes and even for industrial purposes. In the upper illustration is shown the police car which controls all the movements of a regiment of such automata.

Radio Control Car and The Thin Automaton Line

Radio Control Car and The Thin Automaton Line

For fighting mobs use is made of tear gas which is stored in a tank under pressure and which alone will quickly disperse a mob if necessary.

Tear Gas Tank and Oulets

Tear Gas Tank and Outlets

The arms are provided with rotating discs which carry lead balls on flexible leads. These act as police clubs in action.

Rotating discs which carry lead balls. on flexible leads.

Rotating discs which carry lead balls on flexible leads.

For night attack the Automaton is provided with eye-lights and the loud speaker is used to shout orders to the mob which orders can be given direct from the radio control car. Inasmuch as this car is always in the rear of the Automata it can watch their movements and direct them as necessitated by circumstances.

Eye Lights, Loud Speaker, and 'Telegraphone'

Eye Lights, Loud Speaker, and ‘Telegraphone’

As a close hand-to-hand lighting machine the Radio- Automata have no equal. Bullets do not affect them and if equipped with a twenty to forty H.P. engine, they will be well nigh irresistible. They probably have no superior for fighting mobs or for war purposes.

The Radio Police Automation - Run for your lives!

The Radio Police Automation – Run for your lives!

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The Marriage Of Movement And Music And Their First Child Named, Gumbasia

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When Art Clokey was a boy he would spend his summers on his grandfather’s farm in Michigan. He had a good pal who lived on a neighboring farm and, as boys liked to do in those days, Clokey and his pal often played with toy soldiers. Sometimes, when the battles were particularly fierce, they would need more troops. Clokey would raise them up by fashioning them out of a mixture of soil and water known as ‘gumbo’ – clay.

Some years later Art Clokey would create a children’s television icon – a kind of strange little character made of clay named Gumby.

Gumby - he's known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Gumby – he’s known to skate on one foot rather than walk.

Before Art Clokey created Gumby he was an early claymation pioneer. It was his 1953 experimental claymation short, Gumbasia, that excited 20th Century Fox producer Sam Engel into giving Clokey his big break. ‘Art, that is the most exciting film I have ever seen in my life,’ Engel said. Engel envisioned a children’s television show using the idea of little claymation figures in various storylines. Giving free reign to Clokey he financed the Gumby pilot, introduced it to Tom Sarnoff at NBC Hollywood, and the rest is history.

Art Clokey’s Gumbasia was a fascinating project. Inspired by his mentor in film making, Slavko Vorkapich, Clokey wanted to work with the idea of ‘kinesthetic film principles’ which enabled him to show film forces through moving objects.

The movements exert a force on your nervous system. They pinch on your nervous system through your eye cells. When you organize the images in the movement from cut to cut, it stimulates the autonomic nervous system. It gives you added excitement and it can start a feeling of movement.

Combining the kinesthetic film principles with Vorkapich’s philosophy of film as poetry and music, Clokey created a short film unique for its time. Music wasn’t used just as a cover – it was an intrinsic part of the experience. The transformation of the objects along with their movements blend with the lyric and the pulse of the jazz. It’s a visual sound experience. It’s also the concept for what would become music video. Gumbasia might properly be considered a prototype for music videos into the future.

The Spook Machine Enigma – A Box Of Secrets

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TOP SECRET ENIGMA FILE

[Enigma is] the legendary World War II ciphering machine developed by Berlin engineer Dr. Arthur Scherbius and first manufactured there commercially by the Chiffriermaschinen Aktiengesellschaft [Cipher Machines Corporation] Berlin in 1923. So complex was the Enigma, it was considered capable of producing over 22 billion code combinations without a single repetition. According to an early prospectus, ‘if someone worked continuously day and night and tried a different cipher-key every minute, it would take 42,000 years to exhaust all combination possibilities.

Enigma in action on the Russian front.

Enigma in action on the Russian front.

In operation, each keystroke illuminated a different character and caused one or more rotors to shift fractionally, so that a different combination was created every time. Decryption required codebooks and a list of daily key settings.

How Enigma was finally figured out – and its messages decoded by the Allies – is a storied affair. It began in 1938 with Polish Cipher Bureau cryptologist Marian Rejewski developing his bomba kryptologiczna (Polish for cryptologic bomb). Due to the ‘deteriorating political situation,’ Rejewski and the Poles shared the Enigma-breaking techniques and equipment with the French and British in July 1939. Alan Turing then produced the initial design of the bombe at the UK Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park. Turing’s original design, while brilliant in theory, presented a major impracticality in the physical realm. This was solved in 1940 when Gordon Welchman devised an important design refinement, the ‘diagonal board’, that rendered the device substantially more efficient in the attack on ciphers generated by the German Enigma machine. The engineering design and construction was the work of Harold Keen of the British Tabulating Machine Company. If you are interested in the details of The Turing Bombe you’ll find a wealth of info here.

The Bombe Front and Back. Designed by Alan Turing. Bombe took the form of emulating several hundred Enigma rotors, as well as functioning as a logical electrical circuit to automate the deductions needed to rule out flawed possible attempts.

The Bombe Front and Back. Designed by Alan Turing. Bombe took the form of emulating several hundred Enigma rotors, as well as functioning as a logical electrical circuit to automate the deductions needed to rule out flawed possible attempts. (Photo by Peter Oram)

That’s a lot of computing power and a lot of machine. It emphasizes the incredible cryptologic power of Enigma itself. Wikipedia’s entry on this fascinating machine is quite thorough, click here to learn more about its design and operation, as well as a host of other interesting info. A point well made at Wikipedia is this:

Though Enigma had some cryptographic weaknesses, in practice it was German procedural flaws, operator mistakes, failure to systematically introduce changes in encipherment procedures, and Allied capture of key tables and hardware that, during the war, enabled Allied cryptologists to succeed.

There is beauty in simplicity. Below are some pics of an Enigma K-Model machine, manufactured by Chiffriermaschinen-Ges. Heimsoeth und Rinke, Berlin, c. 1939. Looking at it one would not expect it to be such a robust mystery machine.

4-Rotor Ciphering Machine Enigma K-Model set, with an external lamp panel and a separate power supply in an oak case.

4-Rotor Ciphering Machine Enigma K-Model set, with an external lamp panel and a separate power supply in an oak case.

4-Rotor Ciphering Machine Enigma K-Model set, with an external lamp panel and a separate power supply in an oak case.

Enigma K-Model set, with uplifted covers showing the minimal rotor, key, and external lamp panel design.

The Compact Internal Lamp Panel Fits Between The Key Board and The Rotors.

The Compact Internal Lamp Panel Fits Between The Keyboard and The Rotors.

Expertly Machined Removable Rotors

Expertly Machined Removable Rotors

A Separate Power Supply In An Oak Case

A Separate Power Supply In An Oak Case

A four-rotor German Enigma cypher machine with a second operator display (a 'remote lampboard'), made during World War II. This type of machine, devised by the German Navy in 1939, was used to encode wartime messages requiring a particularly high degree of security. The cracking of German cypher codes by Allied intelligence was a major achievement in cryptanalysis and played a key role in the outcome of the North Atlantic U-boat engagements. The search to crack the the Enigma codes also resulted in 'Colossus', the first all-electronic digital computer. This rare machine is thought to have been used in the post-war years for coding diplomatic traffic in Switzerland.  (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

This type of machine, devised by the German Navy in 1939, was used to encode wartime messages requiring a particularly high degree of security. The capture of German U-boat U-110 on May 9, 1941 in the North Atlantic by the Royal Navy played a key role in the outcome of the North Atlantic U-boat engagements. The Royal Navy had recovered an Enigma machine, its cipher keys, and code books. The recovered materials were taken to Bletchley Park in England, where cryptographers, including computer pioneer Alan Turing, succeeded in breaking the naval code. The codes allowed the U-boat traffic to be read for several weeks, until the keys ran out. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

As can be imagined, history and tech buffs would probably love to get their hands on one of these extraordinary and significant machines. On May 30, 2015, at 10:00 AM CET, someone has an opportunity to do so. Auction Team Breker, in Köln, (Godorf), Germany, have two Enigma machines that will be up for auction on that day. An Enigma M4 Cypher Machine, c. 1942, and an Enigma K-Model, c. 1939. Both are in pristine museum-quality condition. The starting bid for the M4 is €26,000. The starting bid for the K-Model (shown above) is €10,000. Although it is a live auction, bids are being taken now at the Invaluable on-line auction site.

For the rest of us who don’t have thousands to spend on rarities such as this, there are a number of Enigma computer simulations to play with. A few of them are listed below.

The Time A Catholic Priest Dared To Challange Convention…And Was Destroyed

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Father Alfred Juliano at the wheel of his Aurora Car

Father Alfred Juliano at the wheel of his Aurora Car, Developed with the object of maximizing safety for both occupants and pedestrians.

Despite having no mechanical knowledge, Father Juliano set out to put his heart and soul into that car. I think the whole story is so sad. He died a broken man, because he lost his dream.
– Andy Saunders, Present Owner and Restorer of the Aurora, New York Times, 2007

Father Juliano’s Aurora car certainly is an unusual looking vehicle – the story that goes with it is unusual as well. The photo and the narrative below can be found in Giles Chapman’s fascinating 2009 book, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Automobiles, published by DK Publishing.

Aurora was unveiled [in 1957 and] was fully functioning (rather than a static exhibit). More importantly, the Aurora took careful account of pedestrian safety. This remarkable-looking car was the four-year project of a Catholic priest, Father Alfred Juliano of the Order of the Holy Ghost, with financial help from his congregation. His safety-first outlook led him to include seatbelts, side-impact bars, a collapsible telescoping steering column, and a curved, deeply-padded dashboard free of sharp projections. The seats could be swiveled around in the face of an impending, unavoidable accident. The Aurora’s tinted ‘Astrodome’ roof had three thick, built-in roll-over protection bars. Reporters roasted the car’s unveiling at Manhattan’s Hotel New Yorker, but entirely missed the point because the bizarre plastic contours, with wheels, radiator grille, and lights tucked deep away, were meant to stop a pedestrian from sustaining injury in just about any accidental contact. At a tentative US $12,000, it was almost as costly as the top Cadillac of the era; Father Juliano didn’t receive a single order despite offering a choice of power units. He was later forced to leave his church after allegations of misappropriating parishioner’s cash and personal bankruptcy.

A tragic spin on the proverb: The road to hell is paved with good intentions…?

The 1964 Visual Telephone System From Bell Labs

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60s Skype - the world’s very first “PICTUREPHONE set” unveiled at the World’s Fair, 1964. (From the Bell Telephone Magazine, 1964, via Prelinger Archive)

60s Skype – the world’s very first “PICTUREPHONE set” unveiled at the World’s Fair, 1964. (From the Bell Telephone Magazine, 1964, via Prelinger Archive)

One wonders why such a huge time lag in developing this technology for everyday use.
(via THE PUBLIC DOMAIN REVIEW)

The Highway Hi-Fi Phonograph…The Music You Want Wherever You Go

Highway Hi-Fi Detail
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The Forward Look - Inserting A Record Into The Highway Hi-Fi

The Forward Look

Innovation was the name of the game in the 1950s. The decade was also a time for the always anticipated family vacation and long road trips. It was on one of these trips that Dr. Peter Goldmark, head of CBS Labs, found inspiration for a novel idea from a question thrown out by his son.

‘Dad,’ Peter suddenly blurted out. ‘Why don’t they have adventure stories on the radio? Something you can put on yourself. This stuff can be so boring.’

The question stuck in his head and soon he went to work. Goldmark invented the Highway Hi-Fi – an under-the-dash ‘ultra microgroove record turntable‘ designed specifically for the automobile (and all the challenges of the American roads.)

I started to wonder how much information one can put on a small record for use in a car without a changer. The answer, it turned out, is easy to figure. To give us forty-five minutes of playing time on a side, as much content as both sides of an LP, and to give us a record small enough to fit with its mechanism inside the glove compartment, the record would have to be seven inches in diameter and would have to revolve at 16 2/3 rpm, one-half of the LP speed. In addition it required almost three times the number of grooves per inch as did the LP.     – Dr. Peter Goldmark

Maverick Inventor by Dr. Peter Goldmark (Copyright (c) 1973 by Peter C. Goldmark and Lee Edson)  (via Imperial Club)

Goldmark chose to approach Chrysler with the prototype:

We all piled into one of the executive cars, which had been outfitted with one of my sets. Lynn Townsend, who later became president of the auto company, sat in back with me while the then president of Chrysler drove. The executives gave the tone arm the same test as before-over cobblestones, around curves, over washboard roads, slowing down, speeding up, even emergency stops. The jolts were incredible. But so was the record player. Nothing could stop it from carrying out its appointed mission…

With music filling the air, the president wheeled the car into the company garage. Townsend turned to me and said, ‘I must have it for the Chrysler.’ Everybody else agreed and chanted, ‘Yes, we must have it.’    – Dr. Goldmark

Maverick Inventor by Dr. Peter Goldmark (Copyright (c) 1973 by Peter C. Goldmark and Lee Edson)  (via Imperial Club)

Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi Advert 1956

Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi Advert – 1956 (image via The Art Of Sound)

Chrysler featured the unit in their automobiles for the 1956-1958 model years. The records for the system were manufactured exclusively by Columbia Special Products. The Boxed Set of records that came with the Highway Hi-Fi contained an eclectic mix of music and drama. The set contained:

Romantic Moods (Side 1) & Quiet Jazz (Side 2)
Music of Cole Porter (Side 1) & Music of Victor Herbert (Side 2)
Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett (Side 1) & Champion (Side 2)
Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #6 in B Minor (Side 1) & Borodin: Polovtsian Dances (Side 2)
The Pajama Game (Sides 1&2)
Paul Gregory Presents (Side 1) & Don Juan in Hell (Side 2)

(source: Imperial Club)

Dr. Goldmark felt that the loss of consumer interest in the Highway Hi-Fi ‘lay in the fact that Chrysler and Columbia Records failed to do proper marketing by not advising potential customers how to obtain additional records. Dealers failed to stock them, and little or no attempt was made to see that they did. Without this stimulus to buying, the car buyer didn’t order the optional record player in the numbers…envisioned.’ The price for the Highway Hi-Fi was also a bit exorbitant – nearly $200 (over $1,700 today). (source: Consumer Reports)

Popular Orchestra and Band Leader Lawrence Welk Endorsing The Highway Hi-Fi in his 1956 Dodge Convertible

Popular Orchestra and Band Leader Lawrence Welk Endorsing The Highway Hi-Fi in his 1956 Dodge Convertible (image via The Art Of Sound)

In 1958 the Dutch electronics company, Philips, introduced the Philips Mignon to the European market. The Mignon was an automatic record player designed for use in automobiles as well. Unlike the Highway Hi-Fi that required the long-play 16 2/3 ultra-groove records, Philips’ record player played standard 45rpm discs.

Philips Mignon Automatic Record Player Advert - 1959

Philips Mignon Automatic Record Player Advert – 1959 (image via DUAL board)

Even though one could just slip the record into the player and have it automatically eject when the content was over, changing the disc every few minutes was not only tedious, it was also a dangerous distraction for the driver. Despite these inconveniences, the Philips Mignon stayed in the market until the late 1960s. Philips offered the Mignon in the States via Norelco.

George Harrison had a Philips Mignon record player fitted to his brand new 1964 Jaguar E-Type 3.8.

George Harrison had a Philips Mignon record player fitted to his brand new 1964 Jaguar E-Type 3.8. (image via The Art Of Sound)

In 1960 Chrysler decided to offer a less expensive under-the-dash record player – The RCA Victor AP-1 aka Victrola. It cost $51.75 ($410.47 today) and played standard 45rpm records. The Victrola also held 14 records and could play for 2½ hours continuously, if extended play 45s were used.

RCA AP-1 Automobile Record Player Advert - 1960

RCA Victor Victrola Auto Record Player Advert – 1960 (image via Motor City Radio Flashbacks)

After testing both the Philips Mignon and the RCA Victrola, Consumer Reports decided that the Victrola ‘was, overall, more satisfactory than the Norelco “Auto Mignon,” as a means of bringing self-selected music to the lonely motorist.’ Despite the advantages of the Victrola, RCA decided to discontinue production after the first model year.

So, why did the least favorable of all three automobile phonographs end up having the longest life on the market? It’s clear that the Highway Hi-Fi was the best engineered and the most high tech. The Victrola offered the convenience of standard play records and less interruption compared to the Mignon, yet it had a shorter market life than the Highway Hi-Fi. What the Mignon had that the others did not was availability. Both the Hi-Fi and the Victrola were auto specific. The Mignon was available for installation for most car brands – the other two were only available in Chryslers.

In 1981, Philips (in a collaboration with Sony Electronics) introduced the digital compact disc (CD) to the world on the BBC television program Tomorrow’s World. This would signal what many thought to be the end of vinyl recordings all together – and at first it looked inevitable. But, in recent years music lovers have created a comeback of sorts for the rich sound and the quirky pops of the analog record.

Still, don’t expect to see an attempted reintroduction to the automobile phonograph. That idea will forever remain a novel ‘cultural addition to (the) American autointoxication’ of the mid 20th century.

Exposing The Device – The Unbelievable ‘Miss Honeywell’

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In the 1960s there was a flurry of electronic and computer innovation and breakthroughs. Near the end of the decade, in 1968, London, England, hosted a trade fair – the Instruments, Electronics and Automation Exhibition at the Olympia conference center. One would imagine that it should have been filled with all kinds of new and exciting examples of modern ingenuity. After a very thorough search through several databases, only one exhibit appears to have made an impression.

The video below is from the fantastic British Pathé collection on YouTube. It features Miss Honeywell – “a futuristic ‘robot girl’ demonstrating various pieces of equipment by computer company Honeywell Controls Ltd..” The commentator is skeptical. The observers seem fascinated.

 

Yes indeed. The commentator is correct – the man at the controls is illusionist Mark Wilson. Wilson has been credited as the man who brought stage magic innovation to television. He’s since had a very successful career, earned the title of Master Magician, and has been honored with numerous national and international magician awards by his peers. ‘Miss Honeywell’ was more than likely Wilson’s wife and longtime assistant, Nani Darnell.

It appears that the innovation that stole the show in 1968 wasn’t an electronic computerized automation at all – it was instead a dazzling low-tech illusionist invention. Below are two pages of Mark Wilson’s ‘APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR PRODUCING DISPLAY ILLUSIONS’ abstract. It was filed in January 1969 and was patented October 1971.

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract

US Patent 3,612,516 Abstract  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2

US Patent 3,612,516 Figures 1 and 2  (Image via cyberneticzoo.com)

Just one last thing about the ‘robot girl’ – she wasn’t a one-trick-automaton. Wilson’s creation traveled to a number of exhibitions and trade shows. Earlier in ’68 she did a gig for Hamilton Beach as the highly efficient housecleaner ‘Roberta the Robot’ at the Home Furnishings Exposition in San Francisco. By 1970 she developed a glitzy glammish look and took to speaking French – La ‘femme robot ménager’ can be seen here.