October 21st, 2006

krazy koati

Turn the dial to the right with a little bit of speed

A couple more bits from the Innovationation exhibit. They had an array of old telephones, unfortunately all dark in a dark room sitting on lighted tables so they were impossible to photograph. The first, a 1920s Candlestick model, had a caption asking if the viewer could figure how to dial it. Parents had fun telling kids about these old-fashioned phones and dials, and one pointed out how long it would take to dial 999 (which is local for 911). It took me surprisingly long to realize why the phones all looked odd. They were of local manufacture. This was a parallel phone evolution, not directly from Bell Labs. (Nobody, me included, could hang up the receiver right the first time, but with a few tries I got it to look reasonably smooth.)

I didn't see Apple listed as a corporate sponsor, but they should have been. Among the timelines in technology -- on one panel -- was listed 1976 and the founding of Apple Computers, and sale of Apple I; 1984, the Macintosh design; 1989 for the Mac Portable; 1991 for the PowerBook; 1994 for Quicktime 2.0; and 2002 for the flat-body iMac. They had surprisingly few computers on display but among those they did have were an original Macintosh 128K, a Color Classic II, one of the Macintosh TVs -- they said it was one of Apple's rare attempts at a black-cased computer; you may recall it as one of the models from back when Apple saw no need to sell more than about twelve units of each design -- and one of the Snoopy-helmet iMacs and a similar eMac. The original IBM PC was represented as part of a slide show-style presentation on a screen, and one man looked at it and said, ``Whoa!'' and tried eagerly to interest his kids in it. He mentioned the keyboard.

I'm sorry Singapore isn't likely to host a World's Fair or Olympics -- just no room -- since they have these bursts of odd whimsy that suggest they'd be really good at a bigger thing. One of the many enchanting things was a sort of ``audio garden'', with dozens of speakers hanging on long cords from far above. Each contained an audio clip explaining some piece of technological history -- the origin of the NETS debit card system, early computer installations, audio from Space Invaders or early Nintendo games. It was simply delightful. And then over by the question about hand phones that got me into trouble, they had three examples of the inner workings of the Xindi Death Ball of Death, used to menace Earth in the third season of Enterprise. I'm not saying Singapore is actively seeking world-exploding technology, but they're ready in case there are more delays in the British space mission to destroy Mars. (The spheres were studded with holes, each with a tiny screen for short informational videos.)

Trivia: Captain Cook's expeditions on the Resolution and the Endeavour brought along soda water. Source: The Lunar Men, Jenny Uglow.

Currently Reading: Empire Express: Building The First Transcontinental Railroad, David Haward Bain.