If you’ve got a half-hour or so to spare, you could do worse than this video trip through a Philips factory in the 1930s.
The film is presented without narration, but from the Dutch title cards and the fact that it’s Philips, we gather that this factory of gigantic proportions was somewhere in the Netherlands. In any case, it looks like something right out of [Fritz Lang]’s Metropolis and turned the rawest of materials into finished consumer products.
Much of the film focuses on the making of vacuum tubes; the sheer physicality of the job is what really stands out here. The upper body strength that the glassblowers had to have boggles the mind. Check out the chops — and the soon-to-be very unfashionable mustache — on the glassblower at the 12:00 mark. And it wasn’t just the gents who had mad skills — the fine motor control needed for the delicate assembly of the innards of the tubes, which seems to be mostly staffed by women, is just as impressive. We were also surprised by the amount these manual crafts were assisted by automated systems.
Especially interesting is the section where they build the luidspreker. Without narration or captions, it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on, but it appears that they used an enormous press to form chips of Bakelite into sleek covers for the speakers, which themselves are super-chunky affairs made from scratch in the factory. We’re also treated to assembly of the radios, packaging of finished products, and a group of dockworkers who clearly didn’t read the “Fragile” labels pasted on the boxes.
One can’t help but wonder if these people had the slightest inkling of what was about to sweep over them and the rest of the world. And if they did, would they even begin to comprehend how much the very products that they were making would contribute to both the slaughter of the coming war as well as to the sparing of so many lives? Likely not, but the film is still an interesting glimpse into the creation of an industry, one that relied very much on craftsmanship to get it started.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Philips Factory Tour, Circa 1930s”
Say what you will about the centrally planned economies of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War, but their designs had a brutal style all their own. When one comes across an artifact from that time, like a defunct Polish Geiger counter from 1971, one celebrates that style the only way possible: by sticking Nixies tubes on it and making it into a Geiger clock.
Right off the hop, we’ve got to say that we’re in love with the look of [Tom Sparrow]’s build. And we’ll further stipulate that most of the charm comes from the attractive Bakelite case of the original Geiger counter. This looks like the real deal, with the marbleized look presumably caused by different color resins mixing in the mold. [Tom] did an admirable job bringing back the original shine with some polish and elbow grease; no doubt the decades had taken their toll on the original shine. The meter was gutted to make room for the clockworks, which is an off-the-shelf Nixie module. The tubes stick through holes drilled in the top; a pair of LEDs adorn the front panel and an incandescent bulb provides a warm glow behind the original meter. Combined with the original rotary switch and labels, the whole thing has a great look that’s perfect for a desk.
We’ve featured a lot of retro-classic Nixie builds, from digitizing a 1940s radio to a 1970s multimeter turned into a dice-roller. As for Nixie clocks, we’re just glad to take a break from the Nixie steampunk trend for a bit.
[via Dangerous Prototypes]
If ever there was a quintessential weapon of science fiction, it would have to be the ray gun. [lonesoulsurfer] built this one-of-a-kind stunner from his impressive collection of junk. It’s centered around a vintage Bakelite soldering gun, a vacuum tube, and a portable stove burner, all of which contribute to the fantastic mid-century look.
Inside is a slightly modified version of a ray gun sound effects circuit from MAKE: that squeezes square waves from a lo-fi synth builder’s favorite IC, the 40106 hex inverting Schmitt trigger. [lonesoulsurfer] was able to reuse the soldering gun’s trigger to start the pew-pew-pew, and he can adjust the death ray’s output with potentiometers. The gun is powered by an old cell phone battery and a combo Li-ion charger/step-up module from the world’s largest virtual auction house. Blast past the break to watch the build video.
If one little green LED isn’t enough for you, maybe you’d prefer this light painting gun.
Continue reading “A Stunning Ray Gun Built From Junk”
We have to admit that this retasked retro phone wins on style points alone. The fact that it’s filled with so much functionality is icing on the cake.
The way [SuperKris] describes his build sounds like a classic case of feature creep. Version 1 was to be a simple doorbell, but [SuperKris] would soon learn that one does not simply replace an existing bell with a phone and get results. He did some research and found that the ringer inside the bakelite beauty needs much more voltage than the standard doorbell transformer supplies, so he designed a little H-bridge circuit to drive the solenoids. A few rounds of “while I’m at it” later, the phone was stuffed with electronics, including an Arduino and an NFR24 radio module that lets it connect to Domoticz, a home automation system. The phone’s rotary dial can now control up to 10 events and respond to alarms and alerts with different ring patterns. And, oh yes – it’s a doorbell too.
In general, we prefer to see old equipment restored rather than gutted and filled with new electronics. But we can certainly get behind any effort to retask old phones with no real place in modern telecommunications. We’ve seen a few of these before, like this desk telephone that can make cell calls.
Continue reading “Retro Wall Phone Becomes A Doorbell, And So Much More”
[ColdTurkey] sent in a really great video for this week’s Retrotechtacular. It’s a half-hour promo reel about Bakelite Plastic. There is so much to enjoy about this film, but we’ve been overlooking it because the first six minutes or so consist of an uncomfortably fake interview between a “Chemist” and “Reporter”. They are standing so close to each other that it’s violating our personal space. But endure or skip ahead and the rest of the video is gold.
Bakelite is an early plastic, and putting yourself in the time period it’s very easy to see the miracle of these materials. The dentures being molded above are made out of phenol formaldehyde resin (to us that sounds like something you don’t stick in your mouth but what do we know?). The plastic pellets take on the shape of the mold when heated — we don’t know if this where the name comes from or if it’s a variation on the name of the chemist who discovered the material: [Dr. Leo Baekeland]. This was the first synthetic plastic, and came at just the right time as it was heavily adopted for use in the electronics and the automotive industry. Both of which were forging new ground at the time.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Bakelite Plastics”
[Simon] is in the middle of restoring/building himself an Austin 7 Special out in his garage, and like most tinkerers, found that music helps to move the process along. He happened to have an old Bakelite generator phone out in the garage as well, and figured that he might as well have it do something other than simply hang on the wall.
Playing music from the 1930 seemed like a fitting enough task, so he picked up an Adafruit Waveshield and spent some time wiring it up to the old telephone. His new radio works simply enough, piping .wav files through the handset, provided someone has cranked the phone’s generator recently.
While cranking the generator is required to play music, the Arduino is actually powered off a pair of AA batteries. The cranking is all cosmetic, but he did program the Arduino to slow the music down every once in awhile, requiring that the generator be turned to get things back up to speed.
It really is a neat way to repurpose the old phone, and we like the fact that [Simon] did not gut it to put this project together.
Continue reading to see a short video of his new music player in action.
Continue reading “Antique Phone Provides A Soundtrack Perfect For Restoring Old Cars”