Two Bits A Gander: Of Premature Babies, Incubators, And Coney Island Sideshows

Newborn humans are both amazingly resilient and frighteningly fragile creatures. A child born with a 40 full weeks of gestation has pretty good odds of surviving the neonatal period these days, and even if he or she comes along a few weeks early, things usually go smoothly. But those babies that can’t wait to get out and meet the world can run into trouble, and the earlier they’re born, the greater the intervention needed to save them.

We’ve all seen pictures of remarkably tiny babies in incubators, seemingly dwarfed by the gloved hands of an anxious parent who just wants that first magical touch of their baby’s skin. As common as such an intervention is now and as technologically advanced as neonatology is, care for premature infants as a medical discipline has a long and interesting history of technical and social hacks that’s worth looking at.

There was a time when most infants were born at home, and childbirth was strictly woman’s work. Mother and midwife, and perhaps the future grandmother or aunt, were generally the only ones allowed in the birthing room. Doctors, uniformly male at the time, were not welcome and generally not needed.

Complications were common, of course, and the medical community gradually began to increase the doctor’s role in childbirth, particularly in unusual cases such as premature delivery. A Paris obstetrician, Stephane Tarnier, began to notice that premature infants, most of whom lack the insulating body fat of full-term babies and a fully developed thermoregulation system, need more than warmth to survive. He realized that infection was also a risk to the neonate with a still-developing immune system, and started using “incubator cribs” in the Paris Maternité in 1881. These incubators were inspired by poultry-egg incubators and were little more than wooden boxes with a glass lid. Warmed by water bottles, they required constant attention, but the combination of heat, humidity, and isolation, along with proper nutrition and round the clock care, reduced the infant mortality rate in the Maternité by 28% in three years.


1909 Baby Incubator

Despite the advances made by the good Dr. Tarnier, he still faced an uphill battle bucking conventional medical wisdom at the time, which said that helping premature infants was a fool’s errand. Dr. Tarnier stuck to it, though, attracting students to his methods. He passed the torch to Dr. Pierre Budin upon his retirement, and by the last decade of the 1800s incubators were becoming more accepted, and the treatment of premature infants was becoming expected.

But there remained a problem: the round the clock care demanded by these tiny humans was expensive. On top of that, incubators were getting more sophisticated – gone were the days of hot water bottles; incubators were now thermostatically controlled and automatically ventilated — and therefore more expensive. Many parents lacked the means to care for a premature infant using the latest methods, with predictably tragic results.

As a way to fund neonatal care and bring it to parents of more modest means, Dr. Alexandre Lion, inventor of a new and sophisticated incubator, hit upon the idea of setting up a neonatal care ward in a street-level storefront in Paris. Passersby were enticed to enter for a fee and observe the very latest in neonatal care. These “incubator charities” were wildly successful, and they began to spring up throughout France. Eventually, Dr. Lion put together a Kinderbrutenstalt, or “child hatchery,” for the Berlin Exposition of 1896, which was a huge hit that raised a lot of money and educated the public about neonatal care.

Incubators Taken on World Tour

Enter one Martin Couney, an associate of Dr. Budin. Couney is a shadowy figure — he was born somewhere in Germany sometime in either 1860 or 1870, and he may or may not have actually been a medical doctor. Whatever his professional credentials, he was clearly a showman. He was tasked by Budin to take part in the Kinderbrutenstalt where he made contact with a London-based promoter to bring the show to England for the Victorian Exposition.

Dreamland 1907, one of the Coney Island amusement parks

Dr. Couney’s success in London, which came despite the fact that local doctors refused his request for preemies, forcing him to import a shipment of Parisian preemies for the occasion, led to appearances at multiple expositions across Europe over the next few years. Eventually he brought his incubator show to America for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, again to rave reviews. The tiny baby business was booming, and as a consequence, a lot of preemies were being saved.

When Dr. Couney eventually decided to move to the United States permanently in 1903, and settled in the one place where a showman of his magnitude could — Coney Island, NY. There he set up a shop on the boardwalk, showing off his “All the World Loves a Baby” show every summer for the next 40 years. His show competed with dozens of others in the typical way; colorful signs, waifs distributing handbills in the crowds, and barkers entreating folks not to miss the show. One struggling actor who did time as a barker for Dr. Couney’s show was a young Archibald Leach, whom the world would later know as Cary Grant.

The End of an Odd Era

Couney always stated that he never took a dime from the parents to care for the babies. He took his show on the road frequently, culminating with a last hurrah at the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. He closed down the Coney Island sideshow a few years later, since by then incubator care for preemies had become more or less mainstream. That means the last crop of Dr. Couney’s sideshow preemies is just hitting their mid-70s.

To our 21st century sensibilities, putting babies on display to raise money is perhaps a little unseemly. The early “incubator charities” seem a little more refined than a boardwalk sideshow for “two bits a gander,” but at the end of the day, Dr. Couney and his showman-physician predecessors did what they could to keep the babies alive and advance the technology to do so. Is it really that much different than any modern-day crowdfunding effort? And as for its unseemliness, is it any different than your reality-show Duggars or Honey Boo-Boos or OctoMoms? At least the sideshows ended up advancing the state of the art while coarsening the culture.

So spare a thought for Dr. Couney and the others the next time you see a preemie in an incubator, which might not be as advanced without their showmanship.

36 thoughts on “Two Bits A Gander: Of Premature Babies, Incubators, And Coney Island Sideshows

  1. There is an interesting followup to this story. When oxygen started being introduced to the incubators for very premature infants,the survival rate went up, but in many cases it blinded the children. The Washington Post had a good story about this:

    1. My uncle was born in 1950 and has dealt with partial blindness throughout his life as a result of this. He was born 3 months premature!! In 1950!! That he survived is amazing given the technology at the time.

    2. My son was born at 23 weeks last year. Apart from been smaller then he should be for his ago he has zero issues. There is still a large amount of trials and clever calculations used as medicines aren’t approved for use on premature babies.

      It was an amazing experience to see truly how advanced our technology is now. The biggest breakthrough would be a way to oxygenate the babies blood without relying on the lungs which are only developed in the 30th week.

      I am unable to describe how thankful for Dr. Couneys work.

      Great article!

          1. Extra-corporeal life support (of which ECMO is one part) is almost impossible at the size countered in extreme prematurity. The size limit is partially a practical one (connecting plastic tubes to <2mm diameter blood vessels for many weeks) and partially technical (the turbulence of pumps causing cell destruction and shredding blood cells, the clots that form, the need to anticoagulants causing bleeding complications, and the inflammatory response to having an immune organ – blood – in direct contact with plastic)

            Additionally, if the lungs are not mature enough to oxygenate at birth then it is felt unlikely that they will develop further given the vastly more hostile environment air is compared to the uterine environment

            Neonatal ventilation is a competitive balance of therapies that prolong life but cause ongoing damage to the lungs, and the rate of development, healing and growth of those lungs.

            Unfortunately liquid ventilation doesn't solve the issue in prematurity, which is primarily one of insufficient surface area for gas exchange, and the need for surfactants and pressure to maintain gas flow (else the airways collapse- see the minutephysics video at Replacing the gas with a liquid (a more viscous fluid with less ability to carry the gas per volume than pressurised gas)

          2. Forgive me for seeming obvious, but why can’t they use the umbilical cord as a ready-made connection to the baby’s blood system? Splice in a heart-lung machine, and maybe dialysis, whatever else a placenta does, and connect it to the umbillical cord. Artificial placenta, which, the natural one, is already a life-support system.

            The blood vessels in the cord look pretty big too.

          3. The umbilical cord naturally constricts and closes via a number of enzymatic pathways and temperature. The internal connection closes off as well. All this would have to be tightly managed along with making the connections. Hydrogen Peroxide is toxic to the bodies cells by oxidative stress and has caused a number of deaths in the alternative medicine crowd by both injection and oral consumption.

      1. Giving hydrogen peroxide by IV should work. It’s well-tolerated in adults, but I’ve never seen anything about it being used for premature babies. It’s normally pretty safe because even if so much is given that gas bubbles form in the blood, the oxygen is rapidly absorbed as soon as the IV is stopped.

    3. Read the comments on that article. So much scientific experimentation is baloney due to failures to rigorously apply proper scientific method – either by the people doing the research or by someone ‘adjusting’ the procedure because they *know* something is not being done “correctly”.

      There have been many experiments, especially in medicine, that have produced products which have underperformed, failed entirely or caused harm or deaths in practice because the people who developed them faked the experiment results or biased the testing to prove their theory or product.

      It also gets done to “prove” something is harmful. For example, salt. The medical community has been claiming since the early 1970’s that too much salt is terribly bad for humans. The problem is the test that showed that was no more valid than the one that supposedly showed a ‘link’ between vaccination and autism.

      The Centers for Disease Control decided to do a proper scientific study on salt in the human diet, over a long period of time. Their results were released in 2014 and showed the opposite of the commonly accepted knowledge. Human biology is very tolerant of salt. (Should be a big DUH there because sodium is critical for proper functioning of the brain, nerves and muscles.) The CDC study found that too little salt causes heart damage, not too much. They also found little link between high salt and high blood pressure except in people with very high pressure – but there may also have been other factors in those people – things the study was not testing.

      Hooo-boy was the Salt Is Bad industry upset. There are a lot of people who have made the anti-salt campaign their life’s work and to have an actually scientific study refute them – they just couldn’t swallow it. They just keep pointing back to that old quickie study as “proof” they are right and the CDC is flat out wrong *and dangerous*. “No! You can’t believe them! Don’t salt those french fries! Eat bland vegetables!”

      1. I thought, that too much salt can be deadly, by upsetting your electrolyte balance. At least I have been told, that eating e.g. 500g of NaCL is fatal with very high probability.

  2. I was born at 23.5 weeks, had oxygen and said that it could have blinded me, the doctors said that I’d wouldn’t be able to walk or talk or I’d have other defects. I’m 23 years old now and perfectly fine. I was 1lb 3oz and 7/10oz when I was born, almost died a few times too but I made it. My dad said I looked the size of a barbie doll.

  3. I have a project idea that is somewhat related: SIDS is still a common cause of death for newborns. What if I re-purposed a theremin to make sure the baby is breathing and sound an alarm if not? I think it would be sensitive enough to detect the rise and fall of even the smallest baby’s chest. One of my theories for SIDS is they just forget to breath… Anyway, just an idea, please offer whatever criticisms you have

    1. As a father, from what I’ve heard off various people, including midwives etc is that you’re basically right – however it seems to be related also to how deeply they are sleeping. If left to sleep in their own room too young, they can fall into a sleep so deep, that it disastrous results :/

      1. Sounds a simpler solution is to just… ensure your baby sleeps with you. Why western cultures shoves kids away on their own, into their own room, sometimes from the very beginning if not some other early age… is so weird to me (and I’m from the U.S.). My (Indian) girlfriend slept with her parents until SHE got sick of them, which was late in high-school. Seems like flipping the situation means these western parents are sick of their babies pretty quickly. Sad.

        1. and sleep where then exactly? Once you let your baby sleep in your bed (which of course is very nice) you run the risk of rolling onto it in your sleep, potentially suffocating it…

          1. In a cot next to your bed where they can hear you breathing. Or if you’re fancy, in a “side sleeper” which is like a sidecar that attatches to your bed, and has a drop down side to make it easier to reach your baby to comfort them, but stops you rolling onto them.

    2. The common solution is a pressure sensitive mat under them. Not many parents use them as they’re pricy (~£100 extra on top of a premium baby alarm), and prone to false alarms.
      I don’t know how effective they are.
      A theremin could be more sensitive, certainly.
      Unfortunately, it’s very hard to properly test such things, as SIDS is (thankfully) pretty uncommon.
      The key issue would be to get the price, ease of setup, and reliability (low false positives) to the point where most parents would use them, not just those with known increased risks. It also doesn’t have to be 100% reliable. If the false positive rate is very low, then even if it only detects 25% of cases, it’s still going to save a lot of lives.

  4. My twin would not have been a twin if not for incubators! Wouldn’t have had to share birthdays! The downside? No HAD-reading ambulatory pile o’ spare parts sometimes called “blodgar”

  5. One of the most impressive works of electronics engineering I’ve EVER been responsible to support was the portable Transport Incubator, powered from US and foreign AC standards, aircraft 400 cps, AC or DC, 48v, 24v ac or dc, 12v ac or dc, and WIDE tolerances for the input power. It used remarkably few components and had a small battery supply onboard for moving from vehicle to vehicle as needed. It would charge from any of the sources, just get the right cable set for your country. The schematic was the impressive part, true piece of elegant art by an engineer. No switches other than on/off, diodes and resistors only, no transistors, very very low component count, single tiny board, uber reliability.

    Preemie’s of course need a regular incubator. Others are more commonly served by an Infant Warmer System which is an open bed with overhead IR radiant heating controlled via a tape-on skin temp sensor. It gives the nursing staff a great deal better access to work with the infants.

    Did the bilirubens lamps too. Favorite one was a fiber optic blanket and fat light pipe to keep the light source separate and away.

    I was mfg engineer for ventilators, and tech advisor for anesthesia, monitoring, critical care, and the misc product lines.

      1. Just my personal opinions here, and why.

        True I’ve done mostly medical, but why restrict it to just that? I’ve done flight simulators, research analytical devices, network engineering (certified), high reliability electronics, working alone on the first in major hospital robotics (size of a mobile home) that went worldwide and cuts patient incident rate from 2% down to .1%! A state lottery network, casino security systems, a long list of more with many as firsts, and hacking the whole time for a hobby, as well as maintaining just about every hospital/laboratory/medical device imaginable. It has been a great enjoyment to work with equipment the same as my hobby, only difference is the toys are bigger!

        Dad started teaching me electronics way too early. At something like age 5 got my fingers across a hot circuit and nearly electrocuted… pissed me off this electricity thingy stuff did! Such that I had to defeat it. And he kept teaching it, at 10 was great with the o-scope, then small engines, welding (certified), automotive, minibikes, motorcycles… took me through cobol in 8th grade… never had time for sports which is why I was unfamiliar with the “Heidi Incident” (even though I was watching the game live waiting and hoping the game would end soon so Heidi could come on as scheduled) and despite testing #1 for a broadcast engineering position at the interview had to JUMP out of my chair and back out of the room the Director came flying over the table at me cause his best bud was bumped off the interview list for some geek that didn’t know what the “Heidi Incident” was.

        Oh yah! It’s been fun and interesting!!! You would not believe the stories! Not all good, like losing my best friend when his aircrew went down 2 mi short of the runway due to a loss of cockpit civility distracting the nav from flipping a switch to give the pilot radar altimeter instead of barometric on final approach during weather restricting visibility. They went right into the trees. Pity was it was double-manned, the two best crews at that location, one performing a checkflight on the other, too many mouths. Many years later at different job lost a best friend for the second time, also due to common civility issues. Hearing the news was devastating, and I’ve concluded from those and the many other examples that as a whole we as a race are not truely civilized… just loosely organized and overall failing due to mutual competition and being at odds for the most foolish of reasons. Pride and Profit. We don’t really have time to compete as we do. None of us. So excuse me for being flippant… my tolerance is gone. We have a world to compete against, not one another, and mother nature is the only one in charge till we get organized and take up the flag.

        As for my current pursuit it sits on the back burner waiting. A tornado detection and location system that for the cost of single doppler radar could cover a couple of states and be live and present everywhere continually. The beauty of the design is it DOES NOT require a trained operator to interpret… you just look at the map to see it’s path and which intersection it is crossing NOW. It should be able to give warnings of derecho as well, just as devastating but over a much wider area. Acceptance is difficult, it’s like pushing rope. One university meteorologist already discovered and documented the effectiveness of this sensing, but they don’t recognize what they have, or can’t act. This IS pushing rope! There was some support through legislation to easily distribute the system as needed, but lobbying manufacturers managed to kill that to keep a few dollars off the cost of their boxes. All that is needed to break the dam loose is an example system as once the public sees it they’ll demand it!! I need a mathematician (or extended personal time) to do the mapping, but everything else is already in hand. Just need one TV station to pick it up and demonstrate it to the public one place, one time. The thing is a forehead slap; “I shoulda thought of that!” once you get just a short explanation. There might be money in it, but I kinda like just managing to get a few lives saved and want be the one there to get it running.

        It’s that, or gimme a nice quiet seti station to maintain till I drop. Believe there HAS to be something better our there than us! WOW!

        There’s only one thing worth doing in life. Leaving the place better off than it was when you arrived.

        1. thanks for your stories!

          I am interested in the tornado detection, location/tracking system: could you provide some references for papers etc?

          “I need a mathematician (or extended personal time) to do the mapping, but everything else is already in hand.”

          I won’t promise to commit time to it right now, but perhaps I might later, if I get to understand the physics (my background) and the mathematical problem at hand, I like to keep such things in the back of my mind -one never knows when that light lits up- and also, I might explain the problem to mathematicians/physicists/engineers I know…

          not sure how we should exchange contact details on a public forum…

          1. Point for me is to get it out and in use… profit would be nice, but isn’t the point…. I was there the day after the Barneveld Tornado…. was anxiously watching the radar that night for my own family’s safety… but it didn’t tell a thing, doppler on local tv was a few years away yet, sat up most of the night, turns out I did see it live when happening but you could not tell, just left vcr taping the rest of of the night and gave up when it seemed to calm, went to bed. It, and all just looked like a bad rainstorm. No real clue. So here we go, this is one for Barneveld and souls since.

            A barometric pressure of 850 mb (25.17 inches) was recorded in a tornado near Manchester, S.D., which is likely the lowest pressure ever recorded in a tornado. The tornado occurred on June 24, 2003, and caused F4 damage. The measured pressure drop of 100 mb as the tornado passed is a record listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

            While it is very difficult to measure pressure and wind speeds inside a tornado, severe storm researchers have been able to do so using specialized equipment and by being in the right place at the right time.

            Engineer and professional storm chaser Tim Samaras has had success using 20 inch-wide, 45-pound, cone-shaped devices known as “turtles” to take measurements that include temperature, pressure and humidity at ground level as a tornado passes nearby or overhead. The “turtle” probes are aerodynamically designed to withstand the violent winds of a tornado. In fact, the stronger the winds, the more firmly the probes are pushed against the ground.

            (and here is what he got when one turtle was “struck”)


            For home use I just detect the sudden large pressure drop but it’s only a couple minutes notice with ONE sensor. The drop is profound and matches the samaras graph. I’ve got just a simple bme820 progenitor, arduino deviant, graphic lcd display, and rtc, and it graphed the same drastic drop in pressure as a Samara’s tornado. What I measured was not yet on the ground and it passed 5 miles north of me. The farther away the tornado, the less of the depth of drop you detect. For home use I can simply detect such a sudden large pressure drop but it’s only a couple minutes notice at best. To keep my butt safe it seemed wisest to distribute a few of these in a line a few miles in the direction the storms come from… and do just a little math… which immediately brought the idea that a grid of these devices laid out can pin down the location of the funnel to within a block or so if they all report home and a bit of math is done.

            Go to any hobby electronics supplier and look up the bme820. It’s an extremely sensitive barometric pressure sensor. On drones it’s used to determine altitude to within 10″ or better. It’s quite precise and repeatable. A 100mb tornado drop in pressure would begin being detected 15 or 20 minutes ahead of the tornado arrival (speed dependent).

            Then a remarkable thing happened! The esp8266 came out. Now the esp32. And we’re up to the bme820 now as well. With a wall wart and case and esp8266 plus bme820 that’s what? Maybe $30? Distribute these to many homes with internet and record the long/lat of each and connect to internet through the homeowner wifi… they send baro readings to the central home office regularly, and faster when the pressure is low or dropping fast. Home office likely would best be a tv station collecting all this data into a pc crunching the numbers, producing a realtime baro map that normally will be a nearly flat profile…. anomalies like an approaching storm gust front would show up in near real time as a line… a tornado as a circular pressure drop with an extreme low center in real time, live, and with reliability. It would warn of the even more hazardous but rarer derecho as well.

            Remarkably, this system has ALL ALREADY been proposed and pushed for by legislation! And it was shot down by lobbiests! It was proposed that every cable tv box manufacturer add a baro sensor to all cable tv boxes and centralize collection of the data to for NWS to perform JUST EXACTLY such tornado tracking. It was shot down because it increased the price of each cable tv box by $10. They refused. It was dropped. They cut NWS off at the ankles….

            The problem is not and has not been a lack of technology….. it’s been the public being unaware. Mind here… the project is to get an example out there so the public becomes aware…. And now the esp8266 and eps32 and BME820 have dropped it in our lap by making it within OUR reach. We get OUR shot at this now. If just ONE tv station in a tornado rich environment grabs this idea and puts a unit in just every employee’s home, and homes of volunteers, they WILL have a successful network giving live tracking on a map… and warn the public… save lives, then they and the public will spread the word wide and it will become demanded everywhere! Then our legislators will move… but the hackers will have made it happen.

            It’s not making money…. it’s getting this thing over the bump to save lives…. it’ll fly on it’s own just fine after a single tornado the public sees it working with.

            I’ve battled this elsewhere… through the supposed “right people”….
            I’ve spoken to a university meteorologist here… the reaction is “We do that with Doppler.” Not getting any traction there. The functional phrases there are “Doppler does it… and it takes a meteorologist to interpret it and make the call (so meteorologist remain important, it’s above your level).” Heh… it’s JUST math and DISTRIBUTED sensor machines now! This device is the right machine to bypass the doppler$$$ AND important meteorologist and just directly give you a cheap live real-time map anyone 12 or above can read and understand. Any untrained weatherman or radio announcer can see a big red dot moving on a screen and call it what it is, and tell you what intersection it’s crossing RIGHT NOW.

            And hey… remember the movie Tornado? We actually could even build Dorothy!!!! Configure as mesh net and they CAN be made light enough to fly now! And the wind always blows into and up the tornado. We could even use BEER CAN clippings to catch the wind, just like the movie!

            Amazing! Hackers have the power to do something the scientists are missing….

            Anybody in tornado alley got a neighbor that’s a tv weatherman?

            I’d like to have it out there for spring 2018. Bit late for 2017…

            I have a personal dislike of IOT… it’s a security risk and I’m a network engineer as well as some other things… ok… I heard that… nut, sure… fine… but you know this is gonna work and can save lives! I can get it out there myself but it will take longer. With HAD and hacker crew helping it can be next spring. We prove it and the industry will capitalize on it and take it to the utmost… and all will be well.

            Seem like I’m too motivated? Oh, heck… I check myself constantly… Go back to the top paragraph… Barneveld. The tornado for which the Fujita Scale was revised.

            Had you seen, you would not stop either.

          2. thanks for replying :)

            its great to see that the cheap pressure sensor is able to detect the samaras graph signal!

            so if I understand the political problem correctly, this was proposed as a bill to mandate inclusion of a miniature pressure sensor in TV set-top boxes? then killed by lobbyists presumably because it would force manufacturers to include it in their products world-wide, or make seperate production runs for specific regions?

            now the problem is to get some minimal scale network running in order to gain traction by showing its utility in practice? chicken and egg problem: as long as there aren’t enough participants/funds, only lone scientists can prove to themselves it works, and as long as they only convince themselves they have a hard time getting more participants/funds…

            it seems a lower barrier to entry is desirable to bootstrap utilization of this method.

            I was thinking: irrespective of the proper/ideal large-scale deployment of sensor network (i.e. some widely distributed already networked stationary device like set-top boxes, traffic lights, cell phone towers?) can we come up with a cheaper and easier (even at the expense of quality) implementation to illustrate the feasibility? so as to convince the public/government…

            Then I thought what about cell phones, I know some smart-phones have a barometer/altimeter, but I do not know how prevalent they are (i.e. what fraction of smart-phones have them these days).

            I.e. writing an app is very cheap and easy, and although their GPS location could be known the distribution of phones will be irregular, and different model phones may give different kinds of readings, making the mapping harder…

            It may be easier to convince local TV networks/radio stations to ask the audience to install an app during a storm, so that you get a bunch of participants (who may be interested in seeing the results somewhat realtime) and awareness at the same time… during the first run the visualization in the app would probably be not so good, as it would be the first collection of pressures to visualize without being able to test the visualization algorithm on representative randomly distributed pressure recordings… (it would be prudent to mention this in the app, so that participants are willing to give it a second try, knowing the first few storms they might not get immediately useful visualizations in the app, but know they are helping the system by providing data)

            just to be clear, I am not making claims about a superior way of getting the pressure sensors in the field, but merely proposing cheap quick way of demonstrating the potential utility of it, while getting some attention for the idea at the same time

            are you in contact with the people who proposed the bill?

        2. In reply to someone

          Lot of smartphones do have baro sensors. Could be done by writing an app and distributing it. A straight up app built to the purpose, or bury it in a game app, write a neat notepad app and bury it in that, stormchaser would likely be quite happy to include it, and Wunderground etc, etc, etc, …… and set up the home station anywhere. Need gps coordinates as phones move around, but again many have it.

          Genius! You’ve provided a 2nd avenue of potential success, and it.

          Best place in the world to go for ideas is hackers!

    1. The incubator sounds fascinating! I’d guess that for the power, it’s all rectified to DC early on, so frequency doesn’t matter. For voltage, I suppose a lot of the power goes on heaters, and you could series / parallel them to suit whichever voltage, with perhaps a mechanical multi-way switch.

      There’s other stuff though right? Lights and maybe a motor or two for pumping air and whatever else. Dunno how they’d work without even a transistor or semiconductor. I’d think maybe some sort of switch-mode thing, that can take a wide range of input voltages, with a bit of intelligence controlling it. Maybe you’d need a couple of extra coils, transistors, whichever, to more efficiently deal with a large voltage range.

      I dunno how you’d do it just with resistors and diodes. Only way would surely be to waste an utter shitload of power as heat, which isn’t efficient, just doesn’t sound practical. Or possible on a small PCB.

      You’ve piqued my interest with this very unusual sounding design. Surely designed to an unusual specification with unusual requirements. Any little details would be fascinating to lots of us I’m sure.

      As far as fibre-optic blanket, you don’t mean as in a blanket you’d snuggle underneath? Is it more some sort of illuminator, attached to the lid of the incubator? So the hot bright bulb can be somewhere out of the way?

      It sounds like something that uses a lot of power. To run off a small battery with simple circuitry, doesn’t seem possible, surely one of those 3 things would have to compromise for the others?

      Is a bilirubens lamp something as in bilirubin, as in liver, as in jaundice? Me, and a couple of my siblings, were born jaundiced, but it went away after a couple of days. Pretty normal I think. Well actually in my case the jaundice came back, but only in an intellectual sense. This can be managed!

      1. Jaundice, yes. The bilirubin blanket is a fat fibre optic bundle running to the blanket and the fibers are routed to spread out and provide illumination to one side of the blanket, you just wrap it around the infant right against the skin. It’s not very large, but neither is an infant. The light source is a large stack of led’s at the proper wavelength feeding the fiber optics bundle, and it’s a lot of leds. It’s AC powered and has a small fan for cooling. The hosp just borrow$ it to you as you need it only a few days. Tip: Just put the infant in direct sunlight for normal cases. I noticed jaundice with my son and did this. Couple days later the hosp called saying a blood test showed he needed the treatment, so we all went back in. They were puzzled when discovered it was already cleared up.

        The incubator you can look up. Air-Vac Transport Incubator. Look at the connectors, most of the magic was in the connection harness you purchase. They made harnesses for just about every nationality of voltage supply, and custom harnessing took care of the few additional unusual requirements. Very little electronics inside the cabinet. Again I’ll state… this was an impressive electronics design. It took hours of staring at the schematics to get every mode into your head… and that’s when it becomes impressive. A swift overview was not sufficient for that desk.

        You can download the schematics. Recall the component count as extremely minimal. The magic shows up when you examine how each component is used when this supply is in use, then differently used with another supply source… etc.

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