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One of several “forgotten” communication and entertainment media lovingly “restored” to working order (there’s even a bunch of movies) at the Museum of Lost Interactions in Dundee:

The Richaphone, ca 1900

The Richophone was a multi-player based game found in prestigious hotels and cafes in and around London in 1900. The game was played from special Richophone booths, where players connected to the game through a system of telephones. The prizes to be won were very generous.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.

1998

Jun. 17th, 2005 12:03 pm
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I'd better talk about 1998, because I'm three years into my memories of grad school, and I've managed to say nothing about school itself. Here goes. )

Don't forget: Doyle's, 3484 Washington Street in JP, tomorrow night at 7.
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Oy, my aching head. I went to Minneapolis this weekend for a business history conference, the aptly-named Business History Conference, actually. I had one very good day there sandwiched by two disappointments. I was giving two talks on Friday: the first as part of a panel on the history of the Bell System, and the second as one of four nominees for the association's big dissertation prize. The first disappointment was that my flight Thursday night was delayed so much that I missed the last connection to Minneapolis and thus my own talk on Friday morning. The good day came after I gave my other talk. It was a plenary session, so basically everyone attending the conference was there, and my talk was probably the very best short summary of my work and its significance that I've done to date. I rocked it. All that night and all the next day, people were coming up to me to rave about how great my project was—and to whisper that it was, they thought, the best of the talks, and that the prize was mine to lose. Which is exactly what I did, so that was the second disappointment.

Ah well. My profile was nicely raised for a few hours at least, and I saw some excellent talks. Plus I got to catch up with some people I rarely see, meet some very smart new people, and have several awkward little moments with folks who've turned me down for jobs in the last two years. I didn't see a lot of Minneapolis, but what I saw was friendly and green. (And it was about twenty degrees warmer than Boston, omg wtf.) There was a Canadian-themed restaurant across the street from the hotel—mounties, moose head, canoes and float planes—which I enjoyed on all seventeen levels of irony and sincerity. And the big reception took place in a gorgeous old flour mill converted into one of those zinc-y museums of industry, complete with multimedia show and breathless tour guide spiels about the awesome destructive power of, well, flour. "And so it was, on that fateful night in 1882, a single blast reduced the flour milling capacity of the entire city of Minneapolis by one-third!"

Other highlights: Dinner with the telephone history mafia. I do feel for all the other people at that restaurant, though, whose romantic evenings were drowned out by three hours of alternating toasts to AT&T and its demise, interspersed with insanely animated and arcane debate over telecom rate structures and long distance-local separations. And then the cool kids' invitation-only party after the awards banquet, where it is possible we took the names of certain leading business historians in vain. As the fun of that wore off and the night rolled on towards dawn, someone came up with the scheme of watching Sideways as a drinking game, complete with all the appropriate wines for every scene. Hence the headache. But that was Saturday night, or at least Sunday morning. Should my skull still be hurting like this?
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Say, who's that pictured in your LJ icon, [livejournal.com profile] robotnik? Why, it's Doctor Robotnik!

DOCTOR

Robotnik.

Get it?

Tenacious D
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So Warren Ellis (tangent: new Planetary out! it's a good 'un!) enlisted a bunch of his friends to offer predictions, sermons, and manifestos for the new year. The photogenic model / writer / activiste / "erotonaut" / sycophants in Ellis' posse (but they hate labels) replied mainly with lame Spider Jerusalem imitations. But Cory Doctorow had this gem, which I wish every computer geek would read and take to heart:

The last twenty years were about technology. The next twenty years are about policy. It's about realizing that all the really hard problems -- free expression, copyright, due process, social networking -- may have technical dimensions, but they aren't technical problems. The next twenty years are about using our technology to affirm, deny and rewrite our social contracts: all the grandiose visions of e-democracy, universal access to human knowledge and (God help us all) the Semantic Web, are dependent on changes in the law, in the policy, in the sticky, non-quantifiable elements of the world. We can't solve them with technology: the best we can hope for is to use technology to enable the human interaction that will solve them. [more Chuck D]

If you grant him a little hyperbole (the policy choices of the last twenty years didn't matter? the next twenty years won't be about technology too? how can twenty years be "about" anything, anyway?), this message seems to me exactly right. In 2004 as in 1904, the technological is political. This happens to be one of the central arguments of my dissertation, so I hope you'll forgive me a mildly hung-over rant. Read more... )

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