Apocalypse-Proof - 33 Thomas Street
A windowless telecommunications hub, 33 Thomas Street in New York City embodies an architecture of surveillance and paranoia. That has made it an ideal set for conspiracy thrillers.
When it was completed in Lower Manhattan in 1974, 33 Thomas Street, formerly known as the AT&T Long Lines Building, was intended as the world’s largest facility for connecting long-distance telephone calls. 1 Standing 532 feet — roughly equivalent to a 45-story building — it’s a mugshot for Brutalism, windowless and nearly featureless. Its only apertures are a series of ventilation hoods meant to hide microwave-satellite arrays, which communicate with ground-based relay stations and satellites in space. One of several long lines buildings designed by John Carl Warnecke for the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T, 33 Thomas Street is perhaps the most visually striking project in the architect’s long and influential career. Embodying postwar American economic and military hegemony, the tower broadcasts inscrutability and imperviousness. It was conceived, according to the architect, to be a “skyscraper inhabited by machines.”
Utopia to blight: Surviving in Henry Ford’s lost jungle town
Nearly a century ago, the Ford Motor Co. spent heavily in blood and coin to construct what became, practically overnight, one of the Amazon’s largest cities. Thousands of acres of forest were razed. Millions of dollars were spent. Hundreds of workers died.
But neither Ford nor the Brazilian government, which assumed control of the property when the company departed in 1945, has done much of anything to preserve this historic town whose brief heyday came at so high a cost. William Clay Ford Jr., Henry’s great-grandson and now the company’s executive chairman, reportedly supported in 1997 the opening of a rubber museum here, but nothing came of it. Meanwhile, the Brazilian government, according to federal attorneys, has for more than 30 years ignored pleas to endow the town with historical protections.
Mis-swiping the Point: NYC Subway Payment Systems
The NYC subway system—a mishmash of new and old technology—still struggles to build payment systems that work for everyone. And often, the tech often separates the haves and have-nots.
It’s Time to Stop Talking About “Generations”
From boomers to zoomers, the concept gets social history all wrong.
Washington is a city of great bridges and terrible bridges. These are their stories.
Cincinnati Built a Subway System 100 Years Ago–But Never Used It
The Cincinnati subway stations are still there. But if you’re still waiting for a train to come, you’ve been waiting for almost a century. To this day Cincinnati remains home to the largest unused subway system in the world, with over two miles of empty tunnels. Engineers who inspected the tunnels recently deemed them in “very good condition.”
A Cryptologic Mystery
Did a broken random number generator in Cuba help expose a Russian espionage network?
I remember concluding that the most likely, if still rather improbable, explanation was that the 9-less messages were dummy fill traffic and that the random number generator used to create the messages had a bug or developed a defect that prevented 9s from being included. This would be, to say the least, a very serious error, since it would allow a listener to easily distinguish fill traffic from real traffic, completely negating the benefit of having fill traffic in the first place. It would open the door to exactly the kind of traffic analysis that the system was carefully engineered to thwart. The 9-less messages went on for almost ten years. (If I were reporting this as an Internet vulnerability, I would dub it the “Nein Nines” attack; please forgive the linguistic muddle). But I was resigned to the likelihood that I would never know for sure.
Hasselblad, Kodak, & Apollo 11
A probably not entirely wrong history of cameras developed for the moon.
In 1927, a Baltimore man was on a mission to blast off to Venus. Nearly a century later, a documentary crew is on its own mission to find the rocket built for that journey.
Some great illustrations, too.
"Kharkovchanka" - The Colossal Soviet Antarctic Cruisers
“The Kharkovchanka” - Russia’s Colossal Antarctic Cruisers which have been continuously operating in some of the most extreme environments on Earth for over 50 years. Produced in Kharkiv, Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic and originally operated by USSR, the ’Харьковчанка’ (literally ‘Kharkiv Women’), these amazing Snow Cruisers were built in the late 1950s and featured everything a polar explorer could need in the field. In their half-century mission, they have crossed thousands of miles on Antarctic Ice, visited the South Pole, the pole of inaccessibility as well the dozens of outposts and research stations on the continent.
Previously: “The Snow Cruiser“-Antarctica’s Abandoned Behemoth
A Century Later, the Expensive Lesson of Reversing the Chicago River
Way back in 1673, the French Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet noticed that the land around present-day Chicago had “a very great and important advantage, which perhaps will hardly be believed.” The area, he foresaw, could become the great node of a huge continent, with the Great Lakes on one side and, just a few miles to the southwest, the Illinois River and the entire Mississippi Basin. Jolliet envisioned, rather hopefully, that connecting the two — and creating a water route from Lake Erie all the way to the Gulf of Mexico – would be as simple as building a canal through just “half a league of prairie.”
Pictures from inside the German intelligence agency BND
The German foreign intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) is moving to a brand new headquarters in Berlin. Here we show some unique pictures from inside the former headquarters in the village of Pullach and also give an impression of what the new building looks like.
Engineering and Technology History Wiki
The ETHW is not a “how-does-technology-work” site. The scope of the ETHW is historical; instead of focusing on the inner workings of technology, it aims to explain how the technology was developed, who were the major players involved, and what long term significance the technologies have. The ETHW is not only an encyclopedia of the history of technology, but it also contains a full range of materials that relate to the legacy of engineering, including personal accounts, documents, and multimedia objects. In that sense, it is a combination reference guide, blog, virtual archive, and on-line community.
A Codebreaker's Dream: The Bombe!
What is this, sporting dozens of colorful knobs, almost like a “turn-the-knob” toddler’s game at a playground in a nearest mall? This the awesome British Bombe electro-mechanical codebreaking machine which only had one purpose: to determine the rotor settings on the German cipher machine “ENIGMA” during WW2.
Turbojet SVL - the “forgotten” train of Russia and its American predecessor
What if we put a jet engine on a train engine? In Russian.
Cognitive scientists have identified a number of common ways in which people avoid being gullible. But con artists are especially skillful at what social scientists call framing, telling stories in ways that appeal to the biases, beliefs and prominent desires of their targets. They use strategies that take advantage of human weaknesses.
Good collection of cons.
Cross post: https://theconversation.com/why-do-people-believe-con-artists-130361
How to explain the KGB's amazing success identifying CIA agents in the field?
Their argument was simple. How could these disasters have happened with such regularity if the agency had not been penetrated by Soviet moles? The problem with this line of thought was that it did not so much overestimate CIA security as underestimate the brainpower of their Russian counterparts.
David Rumsey Historical Map Collection
The David Rumsey Map Collection was started over 30 years ago and contains more than 150,000 maps. The collection focuses on rare 16th through 21st century maps of North and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. The collection includes atlases, wall maps, globes, school geographies, pocket maps, books of exploration, maritime charts, and a variety of cartographic materials including pocket, wall, children’s, and manuscript maps. Items range in date from about 1550 to the present.
This is fantastic.
The 1918 Parade That Spread Death in Philadelphia
The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed between 50 and 100 million people around the world, more than died in the battles of World War I. In the United States, the hardest-hit city was Philadelphia, where the spread of the disease was spurred by what was meant to be a joyous event: a parade.
Point Of Saturation
75k - The number of restaurants around the world that use the Aloha point of sale system. Aloha is an industry stalwart that has managed to stay relevant while often still looking like it was designed in 1998.
Plus some NCR history.