Hacker Places To Visit: Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris

I think the restaurant is really close now...
I think the restaurant is really close now… CC: E. Broeks

The best way to pull off this deception: tell your significant other that you’d want nothing more than a romantic week in Paris. Arrive in Paris, stash your bags, and then take either the number three or eleven Metro. When you get to the station that looks like the inside of a giant steam engine, Arts et Métiers, get out. You’re now ten Euros away from one of the coolest museums a hacker could visit.

A significant portion of modern science’s beginnings is sitting in the Musée, polished and beautiful. Most of them are housed in cabinets so old they’re part of the exhibit. Now, the Henry Ford museum in Detroit Michigan is a monument to industrialization, and cool in its own right, but it leaves some questions unanswered. We’re all spoiled by desktop CNCs, precision measurement tools for pennies, and more. How did we get here? How did they measure a shaft or turn a screw before precision digital micrometers? What did early automation look like? Early construction?

Also did I mention it has Foucault’s Pendulum? You know, the one that finally convinced everyone that the Earth rotated around an axis? No big deal.

The museum has a few permanent exhibits: instruments scientifique, matériaux, construction, communication, énergie, mécanique et transports.

What kind of basic museum would have just one example of Pascal's work?
What kind of basic museum would have just one example of Pascal’s work? CC: Anton Lefterov

Instruments Scientifiques was one of my favorites. Not only did it include old scientific instruments, it had sections containing some of the original experiments in optics, computation, and more. For example you can see not just one but a few original examples of Pascal’s Pascaline, arguably the first mechanical calculators in the modern era to be used by the layman for every day calculation, signed by Pascal. It’s also worth noting just how incredible the workmanship of these tools are. They’re beautiful.

Matériaux was initially a disappointment as I entered it from the wrong end. For me it started of with a tragically boring and simplistic display on recycling materials designed primarily to torture children on field trips. Luckily it quickly ramped into a fascinating display on materials manufacturing technology. How did we go from hand looms to fully automated Jacquard looms (of which you can see some of the first examples) to our modern day robotic looms? How did ceramic evolve? What was early steelmaking like? It’s very cool and models are all in beautiful condition.

It reeked of copper, machine oil, and phenolics. They just don't make computers like they used to.
It reeked of copper, machine oil, and phenolics. They just don’t make computers like they used to.

By the time I got to Communication I was reaching the limit of my endurance and also what you can fit into a single day of the museum. It’s a large building. It was packed through many of the early examples of computing, television, and space. There was quite a display of early camera equipment. You could get close enough to some truly massive old computers to smell the still off-gassing phenolics.

Construction held my interest for a long time. It’s not my usual interest, but after living in Paris for a month or so I was absolutely burning with curiosity. How did anyone without a single powered crane or vehicle build so many buildings out of stone? It’s packed for four rooms and two stores from floor to ceiling of beautiful little wood models explaining exactly how.

Énergie was quite cool. It followed the development of steam power for the most part. It started with primitive waterwheels. Moved on to turbines. Then showed the gradual increase in complexity until the the modern day. It had some internal combustion too, but much of that was reserved for the transports section of the museum. It also had some interactive displays to entertain children and Hackaday writers. However they were in desperate need of an oiling and this is by far the most ear-piercingly squeaky exhibit in the whole building.

A lathe fit for a king!
A lathe fit for a king! CC: Rama

Mécanique is competing with instruments scientifique as my favorite exhibit. Have you ever wanted to see hundreds of examples of screw machines, old lathes, and the evolution of the milling machine? What about models of the factories that built steam engines or massive wagon wheels. They even had a lathe that belonged to a French king. Apparently he thought metalworking was the way to get in touch with the common people.

Transports was a nice exhibit, but it fell a little short for me since I’d been to the aforementioned Henry Ford museum. However, it covered the history of some of the European automobile manufacturers pretty well. Had a nice section on trains and subways. And even had some models of the ships used in the European Space Agency.

Musée_des_Arts_et_Métiers_-_Avion_III_de_Clément_Ader
The entrance of the school. Has some original, “flying,” machines. CC: King Boshi

The last exhibit is the museum itself. It’s an historic building. It was originally built as a school for training engineers in 1794 but as the school grew out of it, it slowly transformed into the museum it is today. The architecture is beautiful. It’s adorned in stone and statue like all the French museums. It also has sections cut out in some of the higher storeys of the building so you can see how it was constructed.

Part of its beauty is also related to the school swallowing up the Priory of Saint Martin des Champs (Google translate does a great job if you don’t read French). The Priory is a beautiful old church, founded in 1079. It was home to the last trial by combat the country would see. You can piece together the story between the two pages dedicated to the combatants Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris.

The muses of agriculture and industry now look over the sanctuary.
The muses of agriculture and industry now look over the sanctuary.

The final display in the museum is in the church. It holds Foucault’s pendulum, dangling from the center of the sanctuary. If you get there early enough in the day you may get to watch it knock over a peg or two and prove the rotation for yourself.

Rather than the statues of the saints there are statues of the muses of Industrie and Agriculture. The hall is filled with more exhibits. There are cutaway original automobiles. A model of the Statue of Liberty. A catwalk lets you take a high view of the surroundings. It is also beautiful in and of itself. The church is well maintained and painted in the style original to them.

If you find yourself in Paris with a few hours (or days) to spare I highly recommend this museum. Any technical person would be hard pressed to leave uninspired and unawed by the display. It’s good to get a perspective on the past.

Featured Photo CC: Roi Boshi

 

Review: The National Museum Of Computing

Here’s a question for you all: how will you know when you are no longer young? When you fall out of love with contemporary popular music perhaps, or start to find the idea of a cruise holiday attractive? The surefire sign for many people is having to ask a teenager how a piece of technology works — this is probably not that applicable to most Hackaday readers.

How about when you’re shocked to encounter a significant part of your youth in a museum? These are supposed to be places of The Olden Days, full of rustic agricultural tools or Neolithic pottery, yet here you are in front of your teenage years presented for all to see. You have two choices: you can surrender to the inevitable and henceforth only wear beige clothing, take up golf or maybe book that old person’s cruise holiday, or you can dive in misty-eyed and reacquaint yourself with everything in front of you.

The above is probably an experience many regulars of these pages would share on a visit to Britain’s National Museum Of Computing in a corner of the famous Bletchley Park site, home of Britain’s wartime codebreaking efforts. They describe what they do on their web site as follows:

We conserve, restore, reconstruct, and give hands-on access to historic computers and related artefacts – with a particular focus on those which were the result of pioneering British ingenuity.

For the visitor this means that their galleries contain a huge array of computing and associated equipment, many of which are presented as working exhibits without too much of the dumbing-down that pervades so many other museums, and that the staff are extremely knowledgable about them.

The museum is housed in one of the groups of wartime codebreakers’ huts, laid out roughly in the shape of a capital H with the top of one vertical lopped off. If you are a connoisseur of British wartime sites you’ll recognise these buildings, they were built to a fairly standard design all over the country. Internally this means that the galleries are structured around the long corridors that are a staple of that era, giving in particular the earlier exhibits a feel of their time.

Continue reading “Review: The National Museum Of Computing”

Belgrade Experience: MikroElektronika, Museums, and FPGA Computing

I recently had the chance to visit Belgrade and take part in the Hackaday | Belgrade conference. Whenever I travel, I like to make some extra field trips to explore the area. This Serbian trip included a tour of electronics manufacturing, some excellent museums, and a startup that is weaving FPGAs into servers and PCIe cards.

Continue reading “Belgrade Experience: MikroElektronika, Museums, and FPGA Computing”

Museum Shows Off Retro Malware

There’s some debate on which program gets the infamous title of “First Computer Virus”. There were a few for MS-DOS machines in the 80s and even one that spread through ARPANET in the 70s. Even John von Neumann theorized that programs might one day self-replicate. To compile all of these early examples of malware, and possibly settle this question once and for all, [Mikko Hypponen] has started collecting many of the early malware programs into a Museum of Malware.

While unlucky (or careless) users today are confronted with entire hard drive encryption viruses (or worse), a lot of the early viruses were relatively harmless. Examples include Brain which spread via floppy disk, the experimental ARPANET virus, or Elk Cloner which, despite many geniuses falsely claiming that Apples are immune to viruses, infected Mac computers of the 80s. [Mikko] has collected many more from this era that can be downloaded or demonstrated in a browser.

Retrocomputing is an active community, with users keeping gear of this era up and running despite it being 30+ years old. This software, while malicious at the time, is a great look into what the personal computing world was like in its infancy. And don’t forget, if you have a beige computer from a bygone era, you can always load up our Retro Page.

Thanks to [chad] for the tip!

Rehabbing an Historic Tool from Champion Blower and Forge Co.

Here’s a tale that warms our hearts. [Gord] is helping out the local living-history museum by rehabbing a historic woodworking tool that they want to add to their live demo woodshop. It’s a hundred-year-old manual drill press that has seen a ton of use.

acme-rod-tig-repairThere are three things that [Gord] has going for him. First off, the Champion Blower and Forge Co. built them to last. Second, he’s not really working on a deadline; the museum doesn’t need it back until May. And third, [Gord] has the tools he needs to do this right.

After cleaning and blasting [Gord] gets down to the really interesting repairs. First off, it wouldn’t be a drill press if someone hadn’t tried to drill through the table at some point. TIG welding filled it up and some milling brought it back. This same method was used again to make a beautiful custom replacement ACME rod. Throwing in a custom bushing replacement, turned wooden handle, and a several other fabricated parts, and [Gord] had the press working again. Check out the mechanism in the video below that shows the crank action turns the bit and a cam advances it through the work piece.

Continue reading “Rehabbing an Historic Tool from Champion Blower and Forge Co.”

Forbidden Fruit Machine

Here’s another example of how today’s rapid-prototyping technologies are allowing Artists and Craftsmen to create interactive works of art rapidly and easily. [Kati Hyypa] and [Niklas Roy] teamed up to transform a classic painting in to an interactive exhibit. It’s a painting of Adam, Eve and the apple with a joystick attached. Spectators can control the destiny of the apple with the joystick and thus explore the painting.

The “Forbidden Fruit Machine” is based on a painting called “The Fall of Man” created by [Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem] in 1592. The painting depicts Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, being tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit. A public domain, high-resolution scan of the painting is available for download from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Starting with that, the arms were edited out, and replaced with articulated versions (mounted on acrylic) driven by servos. The apple was mounted on a X-Y gantry driven by two stepper motors. These are driven by a motor shield, which is controlled by an Arduino Uno. The Uno also controls a Music Maker shield to play the various audio tracks and sound effects. Finally, an additional Arduino Pro-Mini is used to control the LED lighting effects via a Darlington driver and also connect to the end stops for the X-Y gantry. The joystick is connected to the analog ports of the Uno.

The LED’s give clues on where to move the apple using the joystick, and pressing the red button plays an appropriate audio or sound effect. For example, pressing the button over the cat at Eve and Adam’s feet elicits a heart-breaking meow, while letting Eve eat the apple results in an even more dramatic effect including a thunder storm.

The machine is open source with code posted on Github and 3d files on Youmagine. Watch a video after the break. The artist’s names may be familiar to some some readers – that’s because both have had their earlier work featured on our blog, for example this awesome ball sucking machine and another one too.

Continue reading “Forbidden Fruit Machine”

Video Spiel Kultur

Somehow, and don’t ask us how, the venue we chose for the Hackaday Prize party was perfect for Hackaday-related shenanigans. There was a Hackerspace right around the corner, a computer history museum in a warehouse nearby, and an amazing video game archive barely 100 meters away from our venue.

The VideoGamingArchive is an amazing collection of video games from the era where video games came in boxes with real manuals, and you needed to be sure you bought the game compatible with your system. Inside, one wall is dedicated to the old cardboard computer boxes, indexed partly by system and partly by how cool they look, while the other wall was dedicated to games from the previous five generations of consoles.

[Nils] was kind enough to give me a tour. You can check that video out below, with some more pics below that. If you’re wondering, yes, that is a sealed copy of Chrono Trigger, and no, I have no idea what it’s worth.

Continue reading “Video Spiel Kultur”