Archive | June, 2012

Costs of building a house

30 Jun

From 1917:

In the suburbs of the more important cities an expensive wooden building will cost about 17 cents per cubic foot at the present time. Concrete, stucco, and hollow tile will cost about 20 cents, while a brick dwelling of the better type will cost about 10 per cent more. In ordinary times a well built house of the type shown in the sketch may be put up for from 8 to 12 cents per cubic foot, depending upon the cost of labor and materials in different localities, but at present the cost would range from 10 to 15 cents. Probably 14 cents per cubic foot would pay all the bills connected with the erection of such a dwelling in the vicinity of most cities, while present building conditions prevail.

So;  we could say 14 .. 20 cents / cubic foot.

Our insurance company obtained a quote for rebuilding our house after the earthquake:

Price in 2012;  $18 / cubic foot.


Before there were Chinese keyboards, there were Chinese printers

29 Jun

From an August 1917 Popular Science magazine:

How Would You Like to Hold a Chinese Printer’s Job?

Chinese characters do not express sounds although the pitch of the voice is significant. Their letters are ideographs, or writings of ideas or things. Hence the Chinese have no alphabet, strictly speaking.

For this reason the Chinese must employ an astounding number of characters. It takes about ten thousand characters to print a book in the Chinese language; yet sometimes an entire thought or a whole sentence is represented by one character!. The word “black” is one character, and so is “mother,” “dead,” “yes,” “yellow,” and a great many other words. With such a conglomeration, is it any wonder that the American printer wonders how it is possible to print anything in Chinese?

The illustration shows a frame containing one complete font (a font is an asortment of type of one size and style) of seven thousand Chinese characters. It required a month’s, time to arrange the type in place. The frame is sixteen feet long and five feet high.

Thinly sliced rocket fuel

28 Jun

This man is cutting solid rocket fuel into thin slices with what looks exactly like a meat slicer:

(Caption: Cold Cuts)

Solid rocket propellant is sliced by machine in much the same manner as bologna. A slice placed in a small rocket motor will get a five-pound rocket going 120 mph in seconds. The method is used by Lockheed Propulsion Co.

From May 1968 Popular Mechanics magazine.

Welcome to Cliché Island

27 Jun

“Welcome to Cliché Island … have a nice day!”

The ancient and the modern

25 Jun

Here’s some surprisingly ancient machinery (1860s)  making a spacecraft – from April 1968 Popular Mechanics:

Space Age Antique

A massive turret lathe, built 40 years before the Wright Brothers flew the world’s first airplane, shapes ablative heat sheilds for Apollo space vehicles. It’s used by Space Systems Div. of Avco Corp.

Technology applied for the ?benefit? of mankind

24 Jun

Here’s a little item from June 1916;

A Whipping Machine to Cure Nervousness

(caption: His nervous, tired body is receiving a soothing series of slaps)

There must have been merit in the “birch tea” of childhood, for the same remedy is prescribed in sanitariums nowadays for invalids. In other words, it is considered that a healthy reaction may be gained from a “spanking.”

In the mechano-therapy departments of up-to-date institutions, the “whipping post,” a mechanical device for therapeutic paddling is an accredited healing machine.

You are whipped by straps of heavy cloth or leather attached to two rapidly revolving posts. When you take the treatment you step backward into the flying whips and receive their blows upon your legs, back, abdomen or chest, depending upon the malady from which you are suffering. The impact of the straps is just sufficient to set the blood in free circulation. There is no smarting, stinging sensation because the straps are broad enough to eliminate any possibility of a cutting blow. You are paddled rather than lashed.

The “whipping post” is valuable in many types of nervousness. It is also valuable in increasing blood circulation and relieving numbness. Certain forms of paralysis though not responsive to other treatment, are benefited.

Of course, this isn’t the only time I’ve seen machines used in such ways. Here’s a wife beating machine from 1886.

NOTE: In case you might think this was acceptable at the time, the accompanying text (which I’ve lost) told how the inventor was fined by a tribunal of his peers for “misusing his inventive genius”.

Pirates in New York Harbour

23 Jun

I was very surprised to find this item in the April 1916 Popular Science magazine. Apparently, back at the start of the previous century, piracy was rife.

Taming Those Harbor Pirates

(caption: Only Hong Kong surpasses New York in the number and activity of harbor pirates. New York’s police boats are therefore armed with machine guns.)

The problem of the harbor pirate has perplexed the police of every great port of the world. Perhaps thev have been more notorious in the cities of the Chinese coast than any other part of the world because of the wantonness and the dare-deviltry of their attacks. Even now, in the port of Hong Kong which usally bristles with the warships of all nations, a dark, ghostly junk often slips quietly up out of the night. Throat-cutting, and loot occur before the unsuspecting crew is hardly aware of the attack. Armored, shallow-draft gun-boats have done away to a large extent with these cut-throats in the south of China.

Next in prominence to the Chinese ports is the harbor of New York It would he difficult indeed to estimate the number of cheap melodramas that have been based on New York harbor pirateering. Within the last few years, however, the vocation of pirate in New York waters has lost the greatest part of its profitableness. River pirates when caught are dealt with so harshly that the pirates have been discouraged, and the recent addition to the New York police boats of automatic riflec, or gattling guns has removed almost all of the remaining desire.

Mounted conveniently on the root of the pilot houses of the New York police tugs are rapid-firing rifles which can be swept entirely around the compass. These guns will literally squirt bullets of the regulation army size at any desired target within a range of twenty-eight hundred yards, or considerably farther than a mile, with accuracy. They are not aimed. When the searchlight of the launch discovers a pirate craft, the gun is pointed in its general direction – and the trigger is pulled. The business of hitting the target is just as easy as squirting water from a hose on a man who is passing your front yard.

The crews of the eleven New York police boats – were given daily practice all last summer in the Ambrose Channel off Staten Island.

Each launch carries five hundred rounds of ammunition. When pirates are pursued, one of the three men who comprise the crew, is stationed at the gun, another steers the boat and directs the searchlight, while the third takes care of the engine.

When the character of the enemy is believed to he more dangerous than usual, the patrol boat which is equipped with a Hotchkiss one-pounder, projecting a shell about two inches in diameter, is called into service. It will throw a projectile accurately more than two miles.