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The Story of Jumbo the Elephant

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Jumbo the Elephant was one of the most famous animals in the world. Bought as a calf in Sudan by a European animal dealer in 1860, Jumbo found fame first at the London Zoo and later as the centerpiece of the Barnum & Bailey Circus in the US. Jumbo was so beloved in London that news of his sale to P.T. Barnum prompted 100,000 children to write to Queen Victoria, urging her to nix the deal. In the video above, Andrew McClellan recounts Jumbo’s too-short (and probably unhappy) life and the impact he had on society.

The word “jumbo” hadn’t been known or used in the English language before he came along and has since become the byword for anything humongous or supersized. So every time we use the word “jumbo jet” or “jumbotron”, we’re actually referring back to Jumbo the elephant.

(thx, ben)

Tags: Jumbo   language   video
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kryptothesuperdog
56 days ago
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London, UK
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A decade and a half of instability: The history of Google messaging apps

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Take the Google Messaging quiz! Can you name all the icons?

Enlarge / Take the Google Messaging quiz! Can you name all the icons? (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Google Talk, Google's first-ever instant messaging platform, launched on August 24, 2005. This company has been in the messaging business for 16 years, meaning Google has been making messaging clients for longer than some of its rivals have existed. But thanks to a decade and a half of nearly constant strategy changes, competing product launches, and internal sabotage, you can't say Google has a dominant or even stable instant messaging platform today.

Google's 16 years of messenger wheel-spinning has allowed products from more focused companies to pass it by. Embarrassingly, nearly all of these products are much younger than Google's messaging efforts. Consider competitors like WhatsApp (12 years old), Facebook Messenger (nine years old), iMessage (nine years old), and Slack (eight years old)—Google Talk even had video chat four years before Zoom was a thing.

Currently, you would probably rank Google's offerings behind every other big-tech competitor. A lack of any kind of top-down messaging leadership at Google has led to a decade and a half of messaging purgatory, with Google both unable to leave the space altogether and unable to commit to a single product. While companies like Facebook and Salesforce invest tens of billions of dollars into a lone messaging app, Google seems content only to spin up an innumerable number of under-funded, unstable side projects led by job-hopping project managers. There have been periods when Google briefly produced a good messaging solution, but the constant shutdowns, focus-shifting, and sabotage of established products have stopped Google from carrying much of these user bases—or user goodwill—forward into the present day.

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kryptothesuperdog
61 days ago
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London, UK
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When London Had 'Formula 1 Races' In the Sky

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L L Carter winning the handicap section of the 1922 Aerial Derby
L L Carter winning the handicap section of the 1922 Aerial Derby, Croydon. © RAF Museum Collection

Motor racing was all the rage in the early 20th century, bringing with it the world's first petrolheads. At the same time though, thrill-hungry spectators looked to the skies — thanks to London's annual Aerial Derby.

Aeroplanes would become a common sight during the first world war, but many people's first glimpse of one would have been as part of an aerial race encircling the capital — the inaugural one held in 1912.

Aircraft lined-up for the start of the 1920 Aerial Derby
Aircraft lined-up for the start of the 1920 Aerial Derby. © Jack Bruce Collection, RAF Museum

With its starting and end point at Hendon Aerodrome (today home to the RAF Museum), the race took in a route of roughly 81 miles (later closer to 100), encircling much of London, in a series of 'control points' at locations including Epsom, Epping and Hertford.

45,000 spectators showed up to Hendon to watch the first race in 1912, with an estimated three million people looking skyward across London and the home counties, to watch these strange contraptions vie for the trophy.

The start of the Aerial derby, 1914
The start of the Aerial derby, 1914. © RAF Museum Collection

Flying at speed was only half the battle; you had to be nimble too. The control points were manned by officials, to ensure pilots were sticking to the course, and not cutting corners a la Dastardly and Muttley.

This meant swooping their planes pretty darn low so they could be seen — all in a day's work for the derring-do pilots.

George Barnwell with his Martinsyde Monoplane, entrant in the 1913 Aerial Derby
George Barnwell with his Martinsyde Monoplane, entrant in the 1913 Aerial Derby. © Jack Bruce Collection, RAF Museum

Who were these pilots anyway? Andrew Renwick from the RAF Museum explains that many represented the companies which built the aeroplanes. "Tom Sopwith, for instance, winner of the first race and founder of Sopwith and Hawker aircraft companies, was one of the best know figures in aviation.

"John Alcock, one of the competitors who competed before and after the war, is better known as the man who flew non-stop across the Atlantic with Arthur Whitten Brown in 1919."

Bert Hinkler — AKA the "Australian Lone Eagle" — was another repeat competitor; his biggest claim to fame was as the first person to fly solo from England to Australia.

Although there were already woman pilots pre-war, none that we know of took park in these races.

These being the nascent days of air travel, there were some unfortunate incidents. Gustav Hamel went missing while flying from France to take part in the 1914 race. Frank Courtney crashed his plane, Miles Semiquaver, just after winning the derby in 1920. And Harry Hawker died while practicing for the 1921 race.

But amazingly, there were no fatal crashes during any of the derbies themselves. And, as Andrew Renwick explains, "Bad weather probably caused more pilots to fail to finish rather than mechanical problems."

Quite something, given that many of these planes weren't exactly tried-and-tested.

The Miles Semiquaver plane crashed just after winning the 1920 Aerial Derby
Miles Semiquaver crashed just after winning the 1920 Aerial Derby. The pilot, Frank Courtney, was unhurt. © Jack Bruce Collection, RAF Museum

Between 1912 and 1914, the aerial spectacles commanded huge attention, but then war came. On the derby's return in 1919, the speed of planes had improved so much, pilots now had to do the circuit twice — a total of around 200 miles.

Another handful of glorious racing years followed, with more pilots (including more private entrants) and bigger prize money.

The DH.4R flown by G Gathergood to wind the 1919 Victory Derby
The DH.4R flown by G Gathergood to wind the 1919 Victory Derby. © RAF Museum Collection

But what goes up must come down. The Daily Mail and Shell stopped sponsoring the event, meaning the organisers, Royal Aero Club, faced some hefty bills.

Says Andrew Renwick, "Air Ministry control of Hendon also forced them to find new venues for the start, when agreement couldn’t be reached for suitable dates."  

RAF SE.5a at Croydon for the start of the 1922 Aerial Derby
RAF SE.5a at Croydon for the start of the 1922 Aerial Derby. © Jack Bruce Collection, RAF Museum

Though a race was scheduled at Lympne aerodrome in Kent in 1924, a lack of entrants meant it was cancelled. After just eight active years, the Aerial Derby had come to an end.

Not its legacy, though. That was continued in the cross country King's Cup — started in 1922 and still flown to this day. Modern day air shows also have a debt to pay to the Aerial Derby; a short-lived, but thrilling chapter in aviation history.

Tom Sopwith, winner for the first Aerial Derby, held aloft in 1912
Tom Sopwith, winner for the first Aerial Derby, 1912. © RAF Museum Collection

With thanks to Andrew Renwick, Curator of Photographs at the Royal Air Force Museum, where you can see and learn about many incredible aircraft.



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kryptothesuperdog
80 days ago
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London, UK
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Custom device just plays the Monkey Island theme on a PC speaker

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No other music is required, obviously, and the methodology used to recreate the 1990 DOS experience here is incredibly fastidious; code is provided!

Thanassis Tsiodras:

TL;DR:
I modified DOSBox to extract the frequency/delay value pairs of the Monkey Island PC-Speaker songs.

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kryptothesuperdog
88 days ago
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London, UK
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AWS in Plain English

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kryptothesuperdog
92 days ago
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3D Printed Cartridge Turns Any 35mm Film Camera into a Digital Camera

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YouTuber befinitiv has published a video where he shows how he updated an old Cosina Hi-Lite film camera with a cartridge based on a Raspberry Pi that turned the analog camera into one capable of capturing digital photos and videos.

Befinitiv’s video shows any curious minds how to build a custom film cartridge that turns any analog camera into a digital camera. With it, a photographer is able to drag any analog 35mm camera into the modern-day.

“It can do everything you would expect from a digital camera nowadays,” he says. “It can do video, it can stream video over WiFi, and can store things on an SD card.”

As noted by Hackaday, the design swaps the film canister that would normally be used with a Rasperry Pi Zero that is attached to a 3D-printed case which mimics the shape of the film canister and also houses and affixes the Pi camera in the location where the film would normally be exposed to light — behind the camera’s shutter.

He removed the Pi camera’s lens to instead use his Cosina camera’s own optics and shows how he is able to take digital photos with the film camera that are of surprisingly decent quality.

“[The Pi camera] behaves like the film did,” he explains

The custom cartridge is powered by a small battery and converter that are housed in the 3D-printed film cartridge section. The whole unit fits nicely into the camera and allows the rear plate to cleanly close over it.

In addition to turning the film camera into one that can capture digital photos, as noted it is also capable of video features. Video can be broadcast to a phone or computer over WiFi via the Raspberry Pi.

In his video, befinitiv shows that this particular implementation has, as he says, “quite insane zoom” because of the Pi Camera’s tiny sensor, which makes it hard to see what he is looking at. That said, he has full access to focusing that allows him to get sharp images, despite the zoom.

“I couldn’t really tell from this that it was shot on a 50-year-old camera,” he says when analyzing the video feed. “It looks pretty much like a digital camera to me.”

That’s likely because it is, and the optics on the old film camera are perfectly suitable for the small sensor on the Pi Camera.

“I am really happy how this turned out,” he concludes. “It actually gives some interesting and nice-looking images. And it feels so weird having this old-school camera doing live streams here over WiFi and recording video. It’s really an odd feeling, but a really fun one. I can only recommend to also build something for your cameras because it is really fun and gives these things a new life, which is I think always great for great, high quality, retro-tech items.”

For more from befinitiv, subscribe to his YouTube Channel.

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kryptothesuperdog
101 days ago
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