Amazon.com Widgets

History on Air

History Podcast and Blog Subscribe via iTunes Podcast RSS Feed Subscribe via Stitcher Blog RSS Feed Follow us on Twitter Friend us on Facebook Watch Us on YouTube

05 March
0Comments

Sinclair ZX81

Share

I wasn’t lucky enough to own a Sinclair when I was younger.  When the Sinclair ZX81 was released on March 5, 1981, I was only two years old.  Although, my father a fellow geek did give me his old Compaq portable when I was old enough to use it.  It was released two years later in January 1983.  But enough of my childhood memories this post is about the Sinclair.  The ZX81 was originally released only in the United Kingdom in March 1981 and later came to the shores of the US as the Timex Sinclair 1000.  It was designed to be a home computer.  It was designed on the cheap to keep cost down.  It didn’t even come with a monitor you had to connect it to a TV instead.  It used audio cassette tape for programs and had only 1KB of memory (could be expanded to 16KB).  I’m pretty sure the watch I’m wearing has more memory than that.  You could by the kit for 50 BP or assembled for 70 BP (162BP and 227BP in 2014 money).  It was hugely popular, selling more than 1.5 million until it was discontinued in 1984.  The entire thing only weighed 12 ounces.

Although they keyboard was laid out in standard QWERTY format, there may be some surprises for modern keyboard users.  Such as the RUBOUT key (delete) and the NEW LINE key (return or enter).

Clive Sinclair the owner of Sinclair research had a very good year when the ZX81 came out.  The company’s profit went from 818k BP to 8.5M BP in 1981-82.  He got a million pound bonus on top of his 13,000 salary.  He was knighted in 1983.

“…Sinclair, the British inventor, had a way of getting things right, but also exactly wrong. Foreseeing the market for affordable personal computers, Sinclair decided that what people would want to do with them was to learn programming. The ZX81, marketed in the United States as the Timex 1000, cost less than the equivalent of a hundred dollars, but required the user to key in programs, tapping away on that little motel keyboard-sticker. This had resulted both in the short market-life of the product and, in Voytek’s opinion, twenty years on, in the relative preponderance of skilled programmers in the United Kingdom. They had their heads turned by these little boxes, he believes, and by the need to program them…

…”But if Timex sold it in the United States,” she asks him, “why didn’t we get the programmers?”

“You have programmers, but America is different. America wanted Nintendo. Nintendo gives you no programmers. Also, on launch of product in America, RAM-expansion unit did not ship for three months. People buy computer, take it home, discover it does almost nothing. A disaster.” -William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition

Learn More:

Sources:

Share
04 March
0Comments

USS Cyclops disappears in Bermuda Triangle

Share
USS Cyclops

USS Cyclops

I’m a sucker for a Bermuda Triangle story, and this one fits the bill.  On March 4, 1918 USS Navy ship Cyclops set out for Baltimore.  She was heading there most likely to make repairs as her starboard engine had a cracked cylinder and in the previous port water had been seen above the Plimsoll line, the line on the hull that marks the legal limit to which a ship sits in the water.  The Cyclops was a collier, which is a cargo ship mostly used by the Navy to haul coal.  It was launched on May 7, 1910.  Cyclops was last known to be traveling through the Bermuda Triangle when she disappeared.  To add to the mystery both her sister ships were also lost as well during world war II, also in the Bermuda triangle.

The more likely explanation is that the ships had a weakened I-beam which runs the length of the ship at the keel.  Both the sister ships lost during WWII were lost with very full loads and Cyclops was loaded heavily when lost and may have hit a large storm as well, further weakening the keel.  She was deemed lost with all hands on June 1, 1918 by Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Books:

Non-Fiction:

Fiction:

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season

Quantum Leap: The Complete Fourth Season (Cyclops featured on episode 16)

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cyclops_%28AC-4%29

Share
26 February
0Comments

Blood and Tyrants: Chapters 17-19 *Spoilers*

Share
Blood of Tyrants Book

Blood of Tyrants

It has been a terribly long time since I posted any of my updates for this book.  Here is what happened.  First about 6 months ago my wife gave birth to a beautiful little girl named Emily.  Anyone who has a newborn knows that this means your personal times goes to zero.  And that is exactly what happened to me.  While I still had time to do a blog post here and there, I didn’t have time to read and highlight as I went through Blood of Tyrants by Logan Beirne.  When a little free time did crop up I realized that while I was enjoy this books content, I wasn’t enjoying read it as if for a book report, which is pretty much what these blog posts are.  But since I have started this I want to finish it.  So I will continue to do these posts, but it will take me long to get them done.  I hope you all can bear with me.  Here is a list of the other review posts I have done for this book:

Read more…

Share
25 February
0Comments

RIP Maria Von Trapp

Share
Von Trapp Family

Von Trapp Family

Maria Von Trapp was from the musical family whose escape from Nazi-occupied Austria was the basis for The Sound of Music.  She died at the age of 99 in her home in Vermont.  She was the last surviving member of the seven original Trapp Family Singers.  Maria was portrayed as Louisa in the film and musical.  She was the 3rd child and 2nd oldest daughter of Austrian Naval Capt. Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead von Trapp.  “The Sound of Music” was based loosely on a 1949 book by von Trapp’s second wife, also Maria von Trapp, who died in 1987.

Source:  

LA Times

Share
20 February
0Comments

Movie Review: The Monuments Men

Share
Monuments Men

TOP: Monuments Men commander Lt. Dale Ford and then 19-year-old Monuments Man Harry Ettlinger look over an original self-portrait by Rembrandt hidden by the Nazis in the Heilbronn-Kochendorf salt mines. BOTTOM: The discovery of the painting is depicted in the movie.  -Historyvshollywood

Earlier this week I wrote a book review of the  Monuments Men by Robert Edsel.  I just finished watching the movie and I did enjoy it even though, as I wrote in a previous article it didn’t get very good reviews.  The movie was filled with famous actors like George Clooney, Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett,  Bill Murray, John Goodman, etc.  I’m sure these names will be enough for some people to watch the movie.  But those who watch this film and have not read the book will be missing out on a lot.  Some of the scenes in the movie just didn’t happen.  Not according to the book.  I said it in my book review, but I’ll say it again.  The book is fairly slow, not too much exciting happens.  It is not a thriller by any means.  But it is real life and I believe the story is worth telling.  I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, so I’ll point out that this article may spoil things for you somewhat, but if you want to know where the history ends and the Hollywood begins, than this is a great article I found online.  It discusses the differences between what really happened and what made it into the movie and also of course what was totally fictional.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Were all of the descendants of the real Monuments Men happy with the film?

No. The descendants of Ronald Balfour, a British medieval historian and one of two Monuments Men who perished in the war, were upset that the film didn’t more closely represent Ronald. Actor Hugh Bonneville’s character, Donald Jeffries, has been linked to Ronald. Like Ronald, the character is an English historian serving with the MFAA who holds the rank of major. However, one of Ronald’s nieces, Polly Hutchison, says that the actor is “so different.” She says the family was astounded when they heard that Hugh Bonneville was going to portray the character they hoped would be her Uncle Ronald. It should be noted that the official Monuments Men movie website does in fact pair Hugh Bonneville’s character with Ronald Balfour, in addition to other online sources that have confirmed the correlation. -TheGuardian.com

Share
18 February
1Comment

Book Review: The Monuments Men

Share
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History

I just this moment finished the book the Monuments Men by Robert Edsel.  Initially I was very excited about this book, because I knew it was coming out as a movie.  It was released this month (February 7, 2014) .  As I write this the movie is number 4 at the box offices and has grossed $43.7 million dollars.  As far as how good the movie is, I don’t know…yet.  I plan on watching that now as I have finished the book.  I always like to read the book first.  However, I’m a little weary as its not getting great reviews.  On IMDB it has a score of 6.5 out of 10 and on Rotten Tomatoes it has a score of 34%.  Not steller by any means.

But this review is about the book, the movie review will come later.  First lets look at what others thought of the book.  Amazon reviewers seem to like the book, they gave it 4.3 our of 5 so far.  Goodreads reviewers were less kind to this historical work, giving it only 3.79 out of 5.  For those of you who don’t know the book is about  how WWII caused the greatest dislocation of cultural artifacts. Hundreds of thousands of items went missing. The main burden fell to a few hundred men and women, curators and archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations. Their task was to save and preserve what they could of Europe’s great art, and they were called the Monuments Men.

I felt the book was slow.  Interesting definitely, but not being as cultured as some, I could not picture many of the artwork that was discussed in the book and often found myself wondering if the monuments men time would have been better served rescuing the victims of the Nazi’s.  But I also understand that the artwork had a huge cultural significance.  I’m torn about all of this really.  Should we have helped Europe so much in finding these pieces of art?  After all, wasn’t this whole mess their fault?  Or was it just the fault of a few misguided souls and the monsters who lead them?  This war brings up some very strong feelings in everyone, even those like me who didn’t live through it.

Lets get right down to it.  Should you spend your time reading this book?  I spent a month reading this 479 page book.  I did keep picking it up and looking for time to read it.  So, it was a page turner.  Not like a thriller at all.  But I did keep hoping that something more exciting would happen.  It never did.  My notes from the book are brief.  I highlighted the name Errol Flynn, to remind myself to watch some of his cool old movies.  I also found it interesting that the word salt was the basis of the English word Salary.  Then there is a huge gap until the end of the book where I took note of the books that some of the people involved the saving the artwork wrote.  For your reference they are:

Makes me sad that they didn’t print many copies of the above books and now they are almost impossible to find.  Also, sad that the movie is the only reason these people are no remembered and they were not remembered for their accomplishments during their life time.  The only one still alive according to the book is Harry Ettlinger.

Lastly, there have been a lot of other online articles being written about the Monuments Men.  Here are just a few:

Share
16 February
0Comments

First 911 Service in US

Share

While the first emergency service telephone number was 999 in the United Kingdom in 1937, it took the United States a little long to implement the service.  Things started happening in the US during 1957 when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended that a single number be used to report all fires.  In 1967 this was seconded and built upon by the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice.  They suggested that it be used for all emergencies.  The project fell to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which meat with AT&T in November 1967 to discuss a solution.  By 1968, AT&T had the system implemented.  On February 16, 1968 Alabama speaker of the house Rankin Filte placed a call from the Haleyville City Hall to Tom Bevill at the city’s police station using 911.  When Tom answered he simply said, “hello”.

The system was not widely used however as it took many cities and towns time to implement the system.  The number itself was not widely know about until the 1970′s and it took until the mid to late 1980′s before most places in the US has 911 services.

Other places’ emergency phone numbers:

  • 000 (Australia)
  • 100 (India, Israel, Nepal)
  • 101 (Argentina)
  • 108 (India)
  • 110 (Macau – for mainland tourists)
  • 111 (New Zealand)
  • 112 (European Union, Macau (overseas tourists), Kuwait and on GSM mobile networks worldwide)
  • 117 (Philippines)
  • 119 (parts of South and East Asia)
  • 133 (Chile)
  • 155 (Turkey)
  • 190 (Brazil)
  • 999 (Poland, Ireland (alongside 112), United Kingdom (where it works parallel to 112), Hong Kong, Macau and several other non-EU countries)
  • 1122 (Pakistan – Punjab and KPK)
Share
15 February
0Comments

The First Teddy Bear

Share
Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear

Theodore Roosevelt Teddy Bear

The first Teddy Bear was the brain child of Morris Michtom who was inspired by the political cartoon above.  The cartoon was drawn by Clifford K. Berryman and called ”Drawing the Line in Mississippi,” where President Theodore Roosevelt is depicted showing compassion for a small bear cub.  Michtom liked the cartoon and showed it to his wife, Rose.  Rose went to create the teddy bear.  On February 15, 1903 the Russian Jewish immigrant placed the little teddy bear in his shop window at 404 Tompkins Avenue, New York.

It was donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where it is currently on display.  After the creation of the bear in late 1902, the sale of the bears was so brisk that Michtom created the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company.  Through many mergers the company was eventually part of Mattel.

Share
12 February
0Comments

Sikhote-Alin Meteorite

Share

The Sikhote-Alin meteorite that fell around 10:30 local time on February 12, 1947 in the Silkhote-Alin Mountains in the Soviet Union is the largest meteorite to fall in recorded history.  It was an estimated 70 metric tons, that survived the passage through the Earth’s atmosphere.  The large fireball was described as brighter than the sun, and from the north and fell at a 41 degree angle.  The flash and sound was heard for 190 miles.  The 20 mile smoke trail remained in the sky for several hours.

When it hit the atmosphere it was traveling at 8.8 miles per second.  At 3.5 miles up the meteorite broke up.

Learn More:

Share
11 February
0Comments

First Gold Record

Share

The very first gold record ever given to a musical artist was from RCA Victor to Glenn Miler for his 1.2 million copies sold of Chattanooga Choo Choo.  The idea of gold records were to publicize the large sales records that artist had achieved.  Glenn Miller’s gold record was given to him on February 11, 1942, two years before he would disappear over the English channel serving his country in WWII.

It was until 1958 that an industry level award was created when the Recording Industry of Association of America (RIAA) introduced their gold record program for records of any kind that achieve one million dollars in revenue.

Share