Machines that Pick Your Pocket – AND MAKE YOU LIKE IT! (Dec, 1932)

Excellent exposé about all of the ways slot machines are rigged to screw you.

Machines that Pick Your Pocket – AND MAKE YOU LIKE IT! —Inside Story of the Slot Machine Racket


No matter how clever you are, you can’t beat the slot machine racket. If you play the game, you’ll have to reconcile yourself to seeing your nickels flowing away in a steady stream, paying tribute to the engineering brains which have designed these mechanical pick-pockets so efficiently that they can’t fail to keep half or more of the coins fed into them, giving the player nothing in return except the thrill of seeing his money vanish.

“GOSH!” you’ve probably said more than once, as the symbols halted, hesitated, and then swung tantalizingly away from the center row, “I almost got the bells that time. Watch this one” —and out of your pocket and into the slot machine goes another hard-earned nickel.

Airborne Beavers Fight Floods (Aug, 1950)

This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Beaver paratroopers!

Airborne Beavers Fight Floods
OUT in Idaho, the Department of Fish and Game is teaching eager beavers to yell “Geronimo!” These busy little creatures are being dropped by parachute to terrain where they can do their bit in the conservation battle.
Idaho state caretakers trap unwanted beavers which may be a nuisance in certain areas, round them up at central points and pack them in pairs in specially constructed wooden crates. After they are dropped, the boxes remain closed as long as there’s some tension on the parachute shrouds but pull open as soon as the chute collapses on the ground. Then, out crawl Mama and Papa beaver, ready to start work.
After they’re settled, the 40-pound, web-footed rodents multiply and become outpost agents of flood control and soil conservation. Fur supervisor John Smith reports that in carefully observed early operations,
the beavers headed straight for water and started building a new dam within a couple of days.
However, one problem still remains to be solved—a question of ethics more than conservation. Are these eager beavers bona fide members of the Caterpillar Club?

Bringing Primeval Monsters to Life for Chicago Fair (Jun, 1933)

Behold! The most dreadful of Primeval Monsters, the Holstein Cow!

Bringing Primeval Monsters to Life for Chicago Fair

A remarkably life-like model of the saber tooth tiger, which ranged the primeval forests, is here seen nearing completion for display at the Chicago Century of Progress Fair, opening on the first of June.

Helium Plasma Speakers (Jun, 1979)

Coneless speaker uses plasma driver

“Jack’s Welding? My loudspeakers are low. Fill ’em up with helium, please.”

Strange phone call? It’ll be routine for affluent audiophiles using a new speaker system, the Hill Type 1. Type 1 cabinets contain a helium bottle good for about 300 hours of playing time. Minute amounts of helium bleed into a glowing plasma, or highly ionized gas—heart of the speaker from Plasmatronics Inc. (2460 Alamo, S.E., Albuquerque, N.M. 87106).

First U.S. Digital Computer (Oct, 1944)

This is a fantastic article about the IBM ASCC (Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator), or Harvard Mark I. The first large-scale automatic digital computer in the USA.
Some interesting facts about the ASCC:

  • It cost $250,000 in 1944 dollars.
  • It could calculate using numbers with up to 23 signifigant digits. These were set with an array of 1,440 dials (check out the picture below)
  • It took 3/10 second for add/subtract, 5.8 for multiplication and 14.7 seconds for division.
  • It weighed 35 tons and was powered by a 2 horse-power motor. (With mhz, ghz, mb, gb, tb, dpi, ms, bps, etc don’t you think it’s time hp got back into the computer lexicon?)
  • It contained 500 miles of wire

I was surprised to see a reference to the Harvard Supercomputing laboratory. I would have thought that supercomputing was a much newer term, but according to Wikipedia, it dates from 1929.

Robot Mathematician Knows All the Answers

Thirty-five tons of dials, wheels, and wires knock out problems that would take the best human expert a lifetime.


SOME boy may soon work his way through Harvard University by watching a 51-foot switchboard all night in an air-conditioned basement. Behind its polished panels, electricity will be solving the longest and most difficult mathematical problems ever conceived. It will be doing everything that is known to be mathematically possible with such numbers as 12,743,287,341,045,502,372,098.

TWILIGHT CITY — Where Snapshots are Born (Feb, 1936)

Very interesting article about how film and photographic paper is made:

“The story behind the actual film-making begins in a huge vault where five tons of bar silver —a week’s supply of the precious metal— may be stored for almost immediate consumption.”

That’s a lot of silver, and this was only 1936!

TWILIGHT CITY — Where Snapshots are Born

“It’s easy to take a snapshot,” as 500,000,000 pictures a year will testify. But behind the click of the lens there lies a story of high speed chemistry fascinating in its scope.

The early amateur photographer carried a bulky apparatus in a portable, tent-shaped darkroom into which he plunged for a freshly-sensitized glass plate every time he wished to take a picture. Today’s amateur, exposing some 500,000,000 snapshots yearly, has at his command a vast array of lightning-speed emulsions in convenient sizes and shapes, which are ready for instant use.


These are pretty sweet. I would love to have a kit-built paper tape reader at home.

They’re Here!

H8: 8-bit Computer $375

H11: 16-bit Computer

H9: Video Terminal

H10: Paper Tape Reader/Punch

The new VALUE-STANDARD in personal computing systems! Play exciting and challenging computer games, exercise your imagination and ingenuity with do-it-yourself creative programming, store and retrieve personal records like taxes and budgets, solve complex mathematics and scientific problems almost instantly, control your home appliances for best energy savings and efficiency — literally thousands of fascinating, exciting and practical applicatons. The Heathkit computer systems are low-priced, versatile and reliable — they’re the ones to have for REAL power and performance!

O-Gauge Pike Highballs Hot Cargo (Jun, 1949)

This is a really cute hack using model trains to transport radioactive materials throughout a hospital.

O-Gauge Pike Highballs Hot Cargo
KIDS long ago became resigned to seeing Daddy play with their toy trains most of the time. Now some grown men have taken over a model railroad full time—and they are not just playing. The miniature electric train carries highly radioactive radon gas, used in cancer treatment and research, back and forth between a storage room and a laboratory, eliminating dangerous handling.

The model—a standard Lionel O-gauge locomotive copied from the Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG-1—shuttles over a 21-ft. right of way, hauling its “hot” cargo in a lead-lined flatcar. It is the first part of a completely automatic system for transporting radon in the Cleveland Clinic. Eventually, reports Dr. Otto Glasser, medical physicist, the train will be equipped with an automatic dumping device to drop the radon capsule into a pneumatic tube. This will shoot the capsule directly to the hospital’s surgery room. When this system is completed, technicians will hardly need come near the radon.

Artillery Spotter Has Vertical Lift (Feb, 1936)

This thing looks like it would make a really cool unit in a Real Time Strategy game.

Artillery Spotter Has Vertical Lift

Pulsating through the skies in much the same manner as employed by the jellyfish in propelling itself through water, a weird parachute artillery spotter is expected by its inventor, John A. Domenjoz of New York City, to supersede the ordinary kite-balloon in observation work during war.

Greater maneuverability with resultant greater safety for the pilot, economy, and the elimination of ground crews are among the advantages claimed for this type of craft.

Einstein Blurb (Jun, 1953)

How cool would it be to have a cover blurb on your book written by Einstein?

A Scientific Inquiry By KENNETH HEUER
Can our world be totally destroyed? How? When? Can we do anything about it?
THE END OF THE WORLD explores the scientific possibilities among the ways the world actually can end:
• comet collisions
• moon, asteroid and star collisions
• the death of the sun
• the explosion of the sun
• atomic war

ALBERT EINSTEIN says: “Very good . . . rich in ideas and offers much solid knowledge in an easily digestible and very attractive form.”

KENNETH HEUER is a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, former lecturer at the Hayden Planetarium, author of Men of Other Planets.