“Please join me in a drive for better letters”

As a follow-up to the 1951 'No Idle Words' booklet, comes this gem of a letter about writing letters. Its author was Charles Hill, a doctor turned broadcaster and politician who briefly held the office of Postmaster General. Note also the lovely simplification of the royal coat of arms - just remove all the fussy heraldry … Continue reading “Please join me in a drive for better letters”

View – History – Flatten layers: part 2. Anniversaries

From the optical illusion of the Russell Square aeroplane to the temporal plywood of anniversaries. At one level, anniversaries are meaningless folds in the map - artifacts of an arbitrary time-system force-fitted onto the relentless drift of natural history. An ocean liner strikes an iceberg and sinks. The-square-of-the-number-of-fingers-a-human-has multiplied by the-time-it-takes-for-the-Earth-to-circumnavigate-the-Sun later, we're watching a … Continue reading View – History – Flatten layers: part 2. Anniversaries

“That even space travel is now a reality”

And now for today's news from the Department of Serendipity. Quote Investigator digs diligently, delightfully and with positive results into the provenance of William Gibson's lumpily doled-out future|present. But the bit that stands out for me is Ralph Thomas' 1967 criticism of Marshall McLuhan... McLuhan suffers also from a mixed-up time sense. He believes the … Continue reading “That even space travel is now a reality”

Down with Façadism: a provocation for Culture Hack North

I was honoured to be asked to do a short talk on the opening afternoon of the brilliant Culture Hack North event in Leeds this weekend. For one thing, it was a chance to appear alongside Rachel Coldicutt's dream team of Rohan Gunatillake, Natasha Carolan, Lucy Bannister, Helen Harrop, Frankie Roberto and Greg Povey. Also, … Continue reading Down with Façadism: a provocation for Culture Hack North

“If they could sentence me for thinking, I would have been sentenced for life”

This Ada Lovelace Day I'd like to introduce you to Laura Ann Willson of Halifax. The way into this tale, the loose thread that first attracted my attention, is a 1920s advertisement. But tugging that thread a little, Laura Willson's story just gets better and better. Her achievements, it seems, are so diverse that no … Continue reading “If they could sentence me for thinking, I would have been sentenced for life”

On the (past, present and) future of the a city

One of my favourite things of 2010 was the chance to share my love of Leeds' industrial history with a roomful of the city's finest technologists, artists and designers at TEDxLeeds. The video is now up on the TEDx site. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWyeJZPPyb4 My notes from the talk are here, along with the Prezi slideshow. You should … Continue reading On the (past, present and) future of the a city

The Dissolution of the Factories, or Lines Composed a Few Days After Laptops and Looms

In the corner of an attic room in one of Britain's oldest factories a small group are engaged in the assembly of a Makerbot Thing-O-Matic. They - it - all of us - are there for Laptops and Looms, a gathering of people whose crafts cross the warp of the digital networked world with the … Continue reading The Dissolution of the Factories, or Lines Composed a Few Days After Laptops and Looms

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party

I have been using the word "machine" in this connection, because it was the only name by which it was designated at that time. The adoption of a suitable name, however, was being discussed at this time by Mr. Sholes and his associates. "Printing machine" was first suggested, but the name did not meet with … Continue reading Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party

History and the copy machine: the economist’s price of everything

The Economist (and it could only be the Economist) blog makes an astonishing attempt at quantification with the following chart, titled "When history was made": The underlying equation is this: SOME people recite history from above, recording the grand deeds of great men. Others tell history from below, arguing that one person's life is just … Continue reading History and the copy machine: the economist’s price of everything

The past is a platform from which we launch into the future*

In my dayjob, mobile media, we spend a lot of time talking about platforms. Curiously we like to think of these platforms as eternally new and shiny. “Legacy” is is not a windfall from the preceding generation. It's a perjorative term. Sometimes we even set our old platforms on fire, which is strange, because, as … Continue reading The past is a platform from which we launch into the future*

Rev. Dr. Priestley in the Library with the lead type

"Si j'etais bien en fonds, j'achèterais une presse !" - French Revolutionary Camille Desmoulins The role of the printing press as transformational communication technology is a commonplace so powerful that it is frequently invoked as a parallel to the Internet. We think of it in terms of the spread of ideas, of bibles hitherto copied … Continue reading Rev. Dr. Priestley in the Library with the lead type

D-block GB-588000-207000, a textual criticism

"Textual criticism (or lower criticism) is a branch of literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of manuscripts. Ancient scribes made errors or alterations when copying manuscripts by hand. Given a manuscript copy, several or many copies, but not the original document, the textual critic seeks … Continue reading D-block GB-588000-207000, a textual criticism