Category Archives: Function

The Onward March of Progress

How Two Generations Have Changed The World

My grandparents lived in back-to-back housing, with outside toilets, and no hot water.

The height of technology available to them was the Wireless. No, not “Wifi Internet Connection“. Radio. The BBC News Broadcast.

When one says “Almost 100 years ago …”, it is easy to think “oh, back in the Olden Days“, but my grandparents, that I knew and loved, lived through that.Image result for 1920s housing derby terraces

Although Electricity Suppliers were available, they were expensive and diverse, and it was not until 1935 the the National Grid was created, and it was unreliable until the ’60s. Houses were lit by gas, or candles, and most household tasks, such as laundry and cleaning were done by hand. There were no Automatic Washing Machines, or Dishwashers, or even Vacuum Cleaners.

Penicillin was not invented until 1928, and took years to be available to the general public. “The Youth of Today” do not realise what a Big Thing this is. Infections that we now think of as minor were considered Killers. My own father spent time as a child in an Isolation Hospital with Scarlet Fever.

So, your web-page is taking an extra 5 seconds to load? Cry me a river!

Managing Expectations

Everyone sees the world through their own experiences.

A public Telephone Box

My dad regales anyone who will listen with his tale of my nephew (his grandson. Now in his early 20s) asking what my dad’s first mobile phone was like, when he was a kid … cue “When I were a lad ...” Pythonesque rant. He had to walk down the street to a public telephone box. (For our younger readers, this is a Land Line, shared with everyone, situated at the Village Green. You  had to pre-pay shilling coins. People did not have their own land-line! ) But I digress. This is “New-Fangled Gadgets”

While I bemoaned my parents’ frugality (read: stinginess) regarding a VHS recorder, today’s hard-done-by children are rationed Mobile Phone credit and have curfews on their games consoles.

The youth of today have grown up with microprocessor technology. My niece had a mobile phone in her cot on Day One (playing soothing womb-sounds). Why would she not think everyone did?

Even those of us who remember dial-up internet (and its interminable screeching) now get frustrated at a 5-second delay on web-pages loading, or ‘buffering’ on our Netflix movies.

Time moves ever on, and we judge our relative position against those around us, not those who came before.

Next Generation

While my grandparents would be astounded at the technological accomplishments that we have made, and the ready availability of such, my generation will likely be just as amazed at what the next advancements will be.

Image from www.fanpop.com

A 1950s television.

From the 4″-9″ TV sets used to view the coronation of King George in 1937 to the 49″+ sets now used to watch ‘celebrities’ eating bugs, we have come a long way. Where next? There is talk of home projectors, or even Active Wallpaper, able to turn an entire wall of your living-room into a video display.

Our current Super-Fast broadband will be the poor-man’s speed of the 2020s. But what will this mean? Comparing to previous technology, we struggled to stream video, yet now it is expected, and even my parents have upgraded so that they can both be watching different programs (What? TWO computers? Are these people Aristocrats, or Merchant-Princes? Actually, they also have a laptop AND an iPad!) without buffering. They also both have mobile phones, which, in my opinion, are the major step forwards, and where the advancements will come.

On The Move

Imagine, if you can, dear reader, a time when all of the peoples of the world will carry a device that links them to every other person on the planet. At the touch of a button, they can call forth any piece of information from the Global Databases, read any book ever written, watch any movie ever made, or listen to any music ever recorded. The latest news from even the furthest reaches of the world are broadcast immediately to all of these devices. All of the Academic courses, History, Geography, Mathematics, Philosophy, the Arts, are there in your hand, and even Teachers available to discuss with.

That time, my friends, is upon us!

Related image

Alcatel Pixi 3. £20. All the phone you need.

Even my dad’s most basic of mobile ‘phone’s is capable of full internet access, and although its on-board processor is limited, it can off-load much of the work to online servers, storing photos and documents in The Cloud, utilising the network of “4G” Mobile Masts around the country.

The communicators, and even ‘tri-corders’ that Captain Kirk relied upon so much pale besides our “Phones”.

I have friends who no longer even use a Home Computer, their phones and tablets providing all of the functionality they need to survive a Modern Lifestyle, and the next generation will consider our desktop PCs quite quaint!

There may  be black-spots, and no-signal zones, but these are disappearing fast. Optical Fibre connections are being rolled out to even the most remote locations. Soon there will be no place without constant, reliable connection to the Global Village!

When the youngest of our families become grandparents, what marvels will the new generation be privy to?

Epilogue

It is my opinion that:

  1. The Internet, mobile phones, etc are a natural progression from Marconi’s initial radio experiments, and Shokley et al‘s transistors.
  2. We are still in the early days. Compare to other technologies in our homes: TV is nearly 100 years old. Radio even older. Electric lighting 150 years. We have a long way to go before Instant Global Communication is considered a mature technology, and it’s social effects (little touched upon here) are fully felt.

 

The Mother(board) of all Art!

I’ve had my P.C. Wizard hat on most of today, up to my elbows in dismantled computers.

ATX Backplate

ATX Backplate

In between cursing the components for their lack of cooperation and scraping my knuckles on solder-spikes, I took a little time to examine the Art to be found inside a computer case.

I quite like the connector-plate, with its regular rows of plugs and sockets, with their tiny numbers and colour-coded pattern. These plates have changed many times over the years, while keeping within certain form-factor limits, but have always had a certain charm.

Row of Capacitors

Row of Capacitors

This set of capacitors, regulating voltages around the circuit board, sit in a neat row, but their regularity is offset by the cross-cuts twisting at different angles. An artefact of the manufacturing process, this adds an organic twist to an otherwise sterile, mechanical scene.

PCB Tracks

PCB Tracks

The tracks leading between components have to be precisely laid out, never touching, and never crossing. Acute corners are avoided, keeping to 45′ wherever possible, as the tracks wind their way across the board.
Probably my favourite view of a motherboard, this close-up shows the emergent patterns that form from computer-generated layouts, defined by the locations of components and the connections that must be made.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.
Have you noticed any emergent art, in technology or elsewhere? What is your favourite gadget, when viewed close-up?
Or does the whole idea of looking closer at Technology repel you?

The Art of Art (A Peek Behind The Scenes)

Paint Pots

Paint Pots

While not working on The Crystal Wizard website, or out finding new Art, I sometimes create my own. My usual medium is miniature figurines, and the scenery to go with them. But it is not these that I am writing about today, but instead the side-art that I find in them.

In this first picture, we see pots of paint, each marked with its colour, and variously faded by use. Although the pots themselves are hexagonal, the rounded lids prevent them from fitting together closely, and the opening-tags point in random directions, as the pots are pushed back once not being used. There are other sets of colours, including inks and washes, that are kept separate, and larger scenery paints and sprays that stay in drawers until needed.

More Paint Pots

More Paint pots

This untidy mix of of pots shows the chaos that can ensue after a long, diverse painting session, if some regimen is not kept to!

In frequent bouts of organisation, the pots are split by type, keeping the washes and inks away from the base-coats, and then ordered by colour and shade, with metallics to one side (I have not yet mastered the arduous “non-metallic metallics” technique!).

Tools

Tools of The Trade

Beside the main painting area lies the tool tray. A plethora of utensils, built up over years, for removing the models from their frames (or ‘sprues’), filing down rough edges and applying moulding-putty as needed. Pens and pencils not only serve to jot notes, but can be used for extra shading, with graphite giving a shiny edge to black surfaces. A pin-vice is also useful when trying to connect parts together, drilling small holes for paper-clips to fit into.

Tissue

Tissue paper for cleaning brushes

And to the other side we have our tissue paper, for wiping excess paint and drying brushes. Regularly replaced, each one holds a unique record of the work it was used with. Some paints bleed into the absorbent paper, forming strange, almost organic, patterns, while others (such as dry-brush techniques) leave straight trails across the surface.

Missing from this collection are the brushes, which I can’t seem to get a satisfactory picture of, and the water pot, for cleaning said brushes. The water pot does build up paint around its edge, but is refreshed so frequently that it would take too many shots to do it justice.

Palette

Artist’s Palette

Last, but by no means least, we have the palette. Used for thinning paints before use, and mixing colours, layers build up on the surface, dry out, and the area used again. Care must be taken that the underlying layer is fully dry! I use an old CD, with sections removed to use on the models themselves (it is an excellent material to work with!), and here it shows the more recent colours to be used.
Hopefully, these pictures are not only a record of the tools needed for making this form of Art, but are actually Art themselves. Meta-Art, if you will:

The Art of Making Art.

 

Badass prosthetics…

Badass prosthetics!
From DarkChildOneFalseLeg

From the sublime, to the ridiculous, these replacement limbs take Functional Art to a new level.

With metals, ceramics, crystal and realistic skin, a lot of real work has gone into making these essential items into stunning works of art!

I’m not sure what there is to say, apart from WOW!

EDIT: Managed to track down the origin of these fantastic pieces.
Designed by Sophie de Oliveira Barata from the Alternative Limb Project, whose works include the Crystallized Leg made for Viktoria Modesta playing the Ice Queen at the London 2012 Paralympic Closing ceremony.