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Toys for boys: Tech Hifi catalogs of vintage stereo equipment are bizarre fun
11:48 am

Pop Culture

Tech Hifi

This 1981 system, featuring components from Cerwin Vega, Hitachi, Philips, and Audio-Technica, cost $829 at the time.
Only the staunchest of old-school stereo dorks remember it today, but from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, Tech Hifi was one of the best-known retailers of audio equipment on the East Coast.

The chain was founded by two MIT academics, mathematician Sandy Ruby and engineer John Strohbeen. According to the New York Times, Tech Hifi’s franchises were known for their “knowledgeable salespeople who could satisfy the comparison-shopping stereo connoisseur”—a type so gorgeously satirized by Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope in Boogie Nights.

Another of the hallmarks of Tech Hifi was apparently its expensive and imaginative catalogs, which presented elaborate tableaux of the store’s stereophonic offerings being used in fanciful and even borderline bizarre situations.

Seizing on a ripe market of affluent audiophiles, Tech Hifi grew rapidly, and by the 1970s it had become one of the nation’s largest sources for consumer electronics, with upwards of 80 stores, mostly in the Northeast, including more than a dozen in and around New York City.

Nobody knew it when these catalogs were being produced, but Tech Hifi’s days were numbered. Unanticipated competition from discount retailers and a wobbly economy forced it out of business in the mid-1980s.

Note that inflation has increased the prices of equivalent goods by roughly 289%, so you have to triple the prices listed here in order to get an accurate assessment of the pricing at that time. All of the photos in the 1979 catalog were taken by Al Rubin, and all of the photos in the 1981 catalog were taken by Clint Clemens. You can enlarge all photos by clicking on them.

The cover of the 1979 catalog.

This 1979 system featuring components from Crown, Nikko, Infinity, Micro Seiki, Ortofon, Micro-Acoustics, Tandberg, and Phase Linear, cost $10,000 at the time.
More goodness from vintage Tech Hifi catalogs after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Crazed loner builds a robotic tongue to lick images of his favorite anime characters
02:49 pm



So this guy created a little device where he attached an artificial tongue to a little robotic contraption, and now whenever he presses the button, the tongue swings into action and strokes a vertical surface in an up-and-down motion until he removes his finger.

He designed it specifically to lick the screen of his computer while it has images of his favorite anime characters displayed on it. In other words the device was created to enable him to worship his favorite characters without getting his regular human tongue involved. Seems to me his “worship” has certain limits…...

Then again, I suppose he intended it tongue-in-cheek, right? (runs away)

via The Daily Dot

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Serial killers, death masks and other strange 100-year-old wax anatomical anomalies
07:52 am


Morbid Anatomy Musuem
wax figures

100-year-od wax head/bust of a man showing its age
100-year-old wax head/bust of a man showing its age.
What is said to be the largest collection of anatomical wax figures to ever be on public display, including a life-sized version of horrific German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann (called the “Vampire of Hanover” and “the Wolf Man” due to penchant for sawing through his unfortunate victims throats with his teeth), can be seen at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum.
The wax feet and legs of German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann and pieces of his victims
The wax feet and legs of German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann and pieces of his victims.

“Moulages” (the casting and molding of “mock” injuries for training/instructional purposes) of patients with lupus and leprosy.
A female anatomical figure displaying the effects of wearing tight corseting
A female anatomical figure displaying the effects of wearing tight corseting.
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
This is ‘What the Future Sounded Like’: Meet the pioneers of ‘music without frontiers’

If you’re British and of a certain age then Doctor Who was most likely your first introduction to the sounds of electronic music. Apart from its famous theme tune, Doctor Who used an electronic soundtrack composed by Tristram Cary to underscore the arrival of the Daleks onto TV screens in 1963. At the time, most people considered electronic music as weird, alienating noise. Using it in a primetime TV series like Doctor Who was—as one commentator explains in the fascinating documentary What the Future Sounded Like—a rather subversive act.

Tristram Cary struck upon the potential of tape and electronic music while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. The son of the Irish novelist Joyce Cary (The Horse’s Mouth), Tristram was one of the earliest pioneers of electronic music during the 1950s. A classically-trained composer, he had scored such movies as The Ladykillers and Town on Trial but found traditional music inhibiting. Reasoning that music was just the organization of sound, Cary began to experiment with electronic sounds, tape recordings and musique concrète, in a bid to create “music without frontiers.”
At the same, two other electronic music pioneers, the aristocratic Peter Zinovieff and engineer David Cockerell were separately testing out their own ideas. The three eventually came together to form the Electronic Music Studios in 1969. Their intention was to produce a versatile monophonic synthesiser, which could be cheaply produced for public use. While this proved tricky, Cockerell did manage to design one of the first British portable commercially available synthesizer—or Voltage Controlled Studio—the EMS VCS3. This once futuristic-looking “suitcase synth” is what Brian Eno was seen using during his tenure in Roxy Music.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Creationists prove that dinosaurs and people coexisted in goofball ‘X-Files’ parody skit

Recently we’ve seen the return of one of the most popular TV shows of the 1990s, The X-Files, scratching that conspiratorial itch for millions of fans (who probably are more interested in Mulder and Scully getting it on than the truth value of the UFO theories the show so hysterically presents).

So it’s a good a time as any to resurrect this chestnut that dates from the early to mid-Bush years, a spoof of The X-Files called The X-Tinct Files purporting to uncover the hidden truths scientists are too fixed in their ways/arrogant/brainwashed to countenance, mainly that history does not stretch millions of years back and that dinosaurs lived a short time ago, alongside human beings.
More cringeworthy creationist fun after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pictures of women using boxy office computers from the early 1980s
11:40 am



In early February Tara McGinley ran a really wonderful post on DM with the title “Photos of Women and Giant-Ass Mainframe Computers from the 1960s”—I don’t know if the people at Retrospace were paying attention, but in any case a couple weeks later they ran a pretty rad gallery called “Women at Computers,” which focused on the go-go years of 1979 to 1991.

This is the era in which most of the Michael Fassbender movie Steve Jobs takes place, but you won’t see a single Apple product anywhere in this gallery—in fact, nothing could make Jobs’ case of the importance of his company’s success in that movie better than the clunky DOS-munchers on display here. The big boxy models pictured here in the gray casings are all Radio Shack products—in the early 1980s their signature product was called the TRS-80. Most of the rest are from Xerox, which famously pissed away mountains of valuable interface research in the early 1970s.

For an amusing history of the era in which most of these things were manufactured, you can’t go wrong with Robert X. Cringely’s Accidental Empires.

Added bonus: some of the earliest documented examples of mansplaining in the tech world!



More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Today’s best country music songwriter is a Twitter bot

In 2016 the most interesting and prolific lyricist in the genre of American roots music is a twitter bot named horse_bluegrass.

Programmer Jared Wenerd fed the lyrics of 1,796 bluegrass songs into a text prediction algorithm. The algorithm creates sentences with a certain degree of randomness, but using predictions of words likely to follow the preceeding word, based on the input of the original songs fed into the program. The end result are lyrics that are at times nonsensical, but at other times quite poignant and profound.

The code takes text, parses it into individual words, to create a model where the algorithm knows the likeliness that one word will follow another or end a phrase. For instance starting with the word “in” it knows that a likely word to follow will be “the”, “a”, or 43 other different words. The algorithm decides to go with “the” due to the statistical likeliness and randomness. It then continues and chooses the next word after “the” using the same process… and so on until the algorithm decides the phrase should end. Once it has a complete phrase, it publishes the text to Twitter


The twitter account updates every couple of hours.

Here’s some of horse_bluegrass’ fine work. Certainly as good as, if not better than, anything coming out of Nashville in 2016. Check it out, no songs about pick-up trucks or beer:



More robotic country music lyrics after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Steampunk style guitar effect produces vibrato with fire—for only $6000
10:16 am



The Minneapolis, MN ZVEX guitar effects company has been an extremely reputable builder for a couple of decades—their Fuzz Factory distortion box was one of the devices that kicked off the mania for boutique effects in the first place—and they may have crafted THE ultimate boutique pedal: a terrific sounding, incredibly lovely, prohibitively expensive, and completely impractical vibrato. It’s called the Candela, and at $6000, you’re not going to see it on many pedalboards very soon. In fact, its unique 19th-Century-meets-Rube-Goldberg construction and 15lb weight make it totally unsuitable for live performance regardless of its price. But its most notable feature is its power source. Where most guitar effects take a 9-volt battery, the Candela is ingeniously powered with a tea candle. I suppose it must go without saying that holy shit I totally want one.

Read more after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Take this mind-blowing virtual tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’
11:14 am


Hieronymus Bosch

There’s a stunning website dedicated to Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights,” one of the great (and enduringly popular) treasures of “Early Netherlandish” art. If you should check it out, you’ll be treated to a high-res image of the painting, Dolby-esque sound effects like snarling animals and lapping water, and an erudite series of audio clips explaining certain aspects of the painting, which you can take in sequence (as a tour) or investigate after your own fashion.

The real thing is at the Prado in Madrid.

The full painting, with little notes everywhere
The different areas of the massive triptych have titles like “The Mountain Landscape,” “The Circuit,” “City on Fire,” and “Tree Man.”

Here are the three favorite things I learned while screwing around with the website:

1. People of that time didn’t necessarily know what an elephant looked like.
2. The Dutch word for “birds” is basically the same as the Dutch word for “fucking.”
3. The bagpipe is a symbol of “sloth and idleness.”

Who knew? Scotland explained.

After the jump, a kind of trailer for the “transmedia triptych” of which the website is a part…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
For $400 a night, you can rent this literal ‘Netflix & Chill’ room on Airbnb
02:22 pm


Netflix & Chill

Someone clever on Airbnb is renting out what looks to be a pretty ordinary NYC apartment space in Manhattan’s West Village as a “Netflix and Chill” room. To quote their ad: “We bring the famous ‘Netflix & Chill meme’ to life and offer it as an IRL experience that people can rent for a night.” So they can binge watch. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

The fundamentals for a night of movies and sex are all present, including a laptop, an HD projector, a bed with cute Netflix bedspread and pillows, a “fully stocked” mini-fridge containing champagne and various other types of alcohol, and so on. There’s also a nice shower.

Remarkably, there’s no mention of prophylactics in the ad, which would at least have been self-aware considering that some of the earliest invocations of the phrase “Netflix and chill” (going back a whopping two years now) used visuals of condoms in order to get the cheeky point across.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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