When I read old books, I like to look for predictions of the future. Since we are living in that future, it is fun to see how they did. Case in point: I have a copy of “The New Wonder Book of Knowledge”, an anthology from 1941. This was the kind of book you wanted before there was a Wikipedia to read in your spare time. There are articles about how coal is mined, how phonographs work, and the inner workings of a beehive. Not the kind of book you’d grab to look up something specific, but a great book to read if you just want to learn something interesting. In it there are a few articles about technology that seemed ready to take us to the future. One of those is the Televox — a robot from Westinghouse poised to usher in an age of home and industrial mechanical servants. Robots in 1941? Actually, Televox came into being in 1927.
If you were writing about the future in 2001, you might have pictured city sidewalks congested with commuters riding Segways. After all, in 2001, we were told that something was about to hit the market that would “change everything.” It had a known inventor, Dean Kamen, and a significant venture capitalist behind it. While it has found a few niche markets, it isn’t the billion dollar personal transportation juggernaut that was predicted.
But technology is like that. Sometimes things seem poised for greatness and disappear — bubble memory comes to mind. Sometimes things have a few years of success and get replaced by something better. Fax machines or floppy drives, for example. The Televox was a glimpse of what was to come, but not in any way that people imagined in 1941. Continue reading “Televox: The Past’s Robot of the Future”
We figure we have to start off this week’s links post talking about PETMAN. Boston Dynamics shows off the humanoid robot donning a full chemical suit. It’s a lot scarier than when we first saw it as a couple of legs a few years ago [Thanks Joshua].
Seeing something like that might drive you back to smoking cigarettes. But since that’s pretty bad for your health perhaps you just need a mechanical chain-smoking machine to take the edge off. That thing can really suck ’em down! [Thanks Mike]
Last week’s links included a bit about the Raspberry Pi 2.0 board version’s reset header. [Brian] wrote in to share a link for adding reset to a 1.0 revision board.
Speaking of RPi, [Elvis Impersonator] is using it to automate his garage door with the help of Siri.
In shop news, [Brad] needed to sharpen a few hundred pencils quickly and ended up melting the gears on his electric sharpener. Transplanting the parts to his drill press gave him more power to get the job done in about six minutes.
And finally, you can forget how to decipher those SMD resistor codes. Looks like surface mount resistors might be unmarked like their capacitor brethren. We were tipped off by [Lindsey] who got the news by way of [Dangerous Prototypes and Electronics Lab]
If you’re going to freeze your butt off smoking in the middle of winter you might was well have company while you’re out there. [Zach’s] company wanted to crunch some data about smoking breaks and worker productivity. Instead of just meeting the bland data collection needs he decided to add functionality.
He took time to explain the different parts of the system. Above you can see the web interface that lets you know which of your coworkers are smoking right now. It also lets you click to check in and out from your breaks. After this was up and running he found that often the smokers forgot to ‘clock out’ before a break. As a backup system he build a physical interface on the way out of the office. Each smoker has their own button with a corresponding LED. If the light’s on you’re having a break and when it’s off you’re working. This controller is Arduino based and uses a Perl script to monitor the input and sync both that physical display and the web interface. [Zach] posted a few pictures if you want to take a look at the rest of the system.
6502 Gate Simulator
Ever wondered what’s going on inside that chip as the program executes? Now you can take a look at the die itself with this visual gate simulator for the 6502 processor. [Thanks Puli and Svofski]
[Moogle] cracked open his DockStar to find corroded copper. It seems that Seagate left a portion of the ground plane unprotected and it reacted badly with the shielding metal. If you have one of these devices you might want to crack it open and tin the exposed copper so that it will hold up over time.
Don’t want your Segway to flop over when you park it? Follow [Paul’s] lead in building a kickstand for the self-balancer. You can just make it out in the image above. It’s a dumbell that folds down from the handlebar tube when you’re not on board.
Tesla makes everything better
Do you like the song Iron Man? We think it’s better when our friend Nikola takes part.
Smoking is really quite bad for you. Plus you can’t chain smoke nearly as efficiently as this mechanical smoking machine can so don’t even try. [Thanks Ferdinand]
Nice try, Fujitaka. They manufacture cigarette vending machines in Japan, and were all set to roll out a new system of age verification cameras on their machines, which would scan the face of the buyer to look for sagging skin, wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of legal smoking age. The system is easily circumvented, however: people with a photo of an older person clipped from a magazine can fool the machine by simply showing the photo instead of their own faces.
Another aspect to Japan’s cigarette control is the Taspo card, which is an age verified ID issued to smokers of legal age or older (20 years old is the legal age in Japan). Taspo cards are required for over the counter purchases, and the majority of vending machines require them as well. Relatively few machines are outfitted with face recognition systems, but many more are set to ship in the coming months. Fujitaka claims they are working on a solution by improving the face recognition software, but we think it would be a lot easier to simply check the background of the image. Since the camera is static and always pointed in one direction, the portraits it captures should always have the same background. Someone please tell Fujitaka we just saved them a boatload of R&D money… until Guy Fawkes masks become more popular.