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Thomas Edison's Kindle 98

harrymcc writes "In 1911, Thomas Edison bragged that he could make a 40,000-page book by printing the pages on thin pieces of metal. In the mid-1930s, newspapers experimented with transmitting special editions into homes via early fax machines. In 1956, Chrysler tried to sell Americans on buying 7-inch records that could only be played on a tiny turntable built into its cars' dashboards. Over at Technologizer, I rounded up these and a dozen other fascinating, forgotten gadget ideas that didn't work out — but which foreshadowed products and technologies that eventually became a big deal."
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Thomas Edison's Kindle

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  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:43PM (#30898646)

    In France, by a guy named Caselli, called a Pantelegraph: []

  • by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @08:45PM (#30898670) Journal

    The author of TFA seems to have misunderstood what he has posted:

    Even the pages of books may be made of steel, though Edison regards nickel as a better substitute for paper”Why not?” asks Edison. “Nickel will absorb printer’s ink. A sheet of nickel one twenty-thousandth of an inch thick is cheaper, tougher, and more flexible than an ordinary sheet of book-paper. A nickel book, two inches thick, would contain 40,000 pages. Such a book would weigh only a pound. I can make a pound of nickel sheets for a dollar and a quarter.”

            Hereis a prospect of real culture for the masses Forty thousand pages in a volume! A single volume the equivalent in printing space of two hundred paper-leaved books of two hundred pages each! What a library might be placed between two steel covers and sold for, perhaps, two dollars!

    He wasn't talking about having a small device that could 'download' content remotely. He was just talking about using nickel as a substitute for paper, but the book would still essentially be a printed one and the content would be 'hard coded' in ink, albeit you'd still get a lot more pages in there.

    Either that or I'm missing something.

  • by ChinggisK ( 1133009 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:01PM (#30898832)
    The author is saying that Edison's idea could give you a lot of books in one object, like a Kindle does; the relation he is drawing has nothing to do with downloadable content.
  • Hellschreiber (Score:5, Informative)

    by leighklotz ( 192300 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @09:08PM (#30898890) Homepage

    Hellscrhreiber was used in the 1930's. It uses a font to send text over a wire (or radio) link, as off-on pulses for pixels. []

    Some hams still use it, for kicks. It's got good performance in noise (weak signal mode).

  • Re:Hellschreiber (Score:4, Informative)

    by gyrogeerloose ( 849181 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:11PM (#30899706) Journal

    Some hams still use [Hellschreiber}, for kicks. It's got good performance in noise (weak signal mode).

    Easy on your transmitter too (low duty rate) and a pretty narrow bandwidth (75Hz), but slow (35WPM) compared to PSK31. Hell does have a couple of big advantages, though, one being that the operator is in the translation process and can interpret when the reception gets dodgy. Another is that, being a facsimile process, the sender can use any font he/she chooses. And it sounds cool [], too--sort of like crickets.


  • "Fiche" technology (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday January 25, 2010 @11:59PM (#30900046) Journal

    Article: When did the basic idea become practical? In the late 1960s and early 1970s, libraries got excited about PCMI and similar technologies-collectively known as "ultrafiche"-and began using them to cram massive amounts of information into small spaces. But the trend lasted only a few years. By then, I assume, it became clear that the future was digitization, not miniaturization.

    That's not entirely accurate. Variations of "fiche" technology were quite common in university libraries. When doing reports with newspaper citations, "Microfiche" (flat film plates) and/or "Microfilm" (scrolled film) were quite common into the mid 1990's. This was cheaper than storing gajillion actual newspapers and magazines, especially in bigger cities where floor-space is a premium.

    Thus, "the trend only lasted a few years" is off because it had about a 25-year run and was quite successful in its heyday.

    An interesting variation that allows computerized retrieval is the aperture card []. However, it's not as compact.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @02:23AM (#30900870)

    Nah, just leave the main URL blank and it will go through, even if someone has sent in a crappy submission before you. Or find another source to use as your main link (pretty much everything gets reported on several different sites these days). But do NOT try to rewrite AP or Reuters stories. I think their EULA thingy is BS, but Slashdot seems to feel otherwise, so don't even bother and don't link directly to them, either. You can almost always find a better source than them, anyhow, if you Google the story. This generally only matters if you're linking to, so don't worry too much if you're linking to some newspaper website with AP credits or something.

    Also, they're definitely NOT beholden to posting the first guy to submit the story. There's at least some small window before they've accepted any story on the subject where anyone has a shot at it. It's really not that hard to get stories submitted here, though you do have to be able to find hot news while it's still (relatively) new. If the story is important enough and you do a decent job on the writeup (at least as compared to anyone else who sent it in), you have maybe a 1-in-4 shot of getting accepted. What you do need (sadly) is to hype the story a bit. Like that in that Facebook story, the big deal was how open your data was to insiders, but the most eye-catching detail was that stupid thing about how the internal master password spelled out 'Chuck Norris'.

    If all you want is to say that you've successfully submitted a story here, just trawl the main geek news sites, find something hot, and give it a decent writeup. Back when I was really trying to find news, I could get several submissions per day more often than not. Just one caveat: be careful of oversimplifying anything. Some people will get upset over the smallest things, even if you bend over backwards to try and write decent stories reasonably quickly and do your best to cram all the important details from a long story into a tiny summary. It gets to be quite a bit of work for each story once you start doing things like looking up the names of the researchers who rarely get named in the stories about their discovery, or adding Coral cache links for small sites and Wordpress blogs, etc. These days, I simply don't have enough free time to report as much as I used to. I mean, I don't get paid for this and I don't even have a blog to advertise.

    - I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @06:52AM (#30902082)

    We offered that at my university in the late 1980s. Students from some jungle overseas could post in forms with mainframe code on them (COBOL rather than C of course), they would be typed in, run, and the listings posted back to them. This was a painstaking way to get a correspondance degree in Computer Science. Some time later, having a personal computer was made a requirement of the course.

  • by hrimhari ( 1241292 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @07:35AM (#30902274) Journal

    That or there was a little lack of Google skills after all. The article completely neglects portable CRT TVs over LCD ones. Took me 5 minutes to find a more verbose list. []

  • by niks42 ( 768188 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @07:44AM (#30902314)
    Not so different from so-called cafeteria systems of the 60s and 70s, when we poor students used to submit our deck of punch cards at the Ops counter in the machine room, and pick the deck up and associated printout from our pigeon hole the following morning. Even after terminals arrived, we still picked up printout from Ops well into the 80s. When IBM started cost reducing in the UK, more remote locations didn't have a laser printer, so anything printed nicely was delivered in the mail.

    Compilers for cafeteria systems often had a quick first pass phase that threw out jobs with syntax errors; most student programs failed that step, so it saved on CPU time when it was precious.

  • by Elektroschock ( 659467 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2010 @08:15AM (#30902508)

    In Fritz Lang's movie Metropolis Feder talks with the worker over a video telephone []. The technology was operational in the thirties and presented, it just didn't happen. When cable TV was introduced the concept of a return channel was discussed, e.g. for home shopping.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 27, 2010 @02:06AM (#30914096)

    The FAX machine was invented in 1843. How a 1930's FAX machine could be considered "early" escapes me.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe