SSTL – Surrey Satellite Technology – is what one might describe as a ’boutique’ satellite builder, specialising in compact, low-cost multi-application satellites that can do everything from communications to scientific observation. SSTL launched the STRaND-1, a ‘satellite smartphone’, earlier this year as a way of exploring ultra-small ‘nano-satellites’. But although the company is at the forefront of small scale manufacturing and dealing with the complex route to space (‘Launch negotiation is an intensive process and the launch itself is a significant cost to the overall programme’), they’re dependent on one rather old piece of technology.
Small satellite firm seeks ‘old’ chipsets: ‘Surrey Satellite Technology uses 386 chipsets to run software to provide operational functionality on its micro-satellites’. It turns out that Intel’s 386 chipset, which date back to 1985, are ideally suited to space applications. “Ironically, the limited performance of the 386 chipsets means they are perfect for our needs. The chipsets create little heat and require little power. Modern processors require big fans, which are ruled out by the absence of convection in space.” Even a 386, however, would run rings around the Space Shuttle’s systems.
Any historical discussion of British railways has to include the Beeching Report, ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’, now excoriated as ‘one of the most notorious government reports of the 20th century… The report often adopted an overly-simplistic analysis of the economics of the routes, failing to recognise how the branches contributed traffic to the core network. The Beeching closures failed in their attempt to eliminate BR’s losses, and led to the belated recognition that the railways serve a social role which should be financially acknowledged.’ (the network before Beeching). Much criticised now, and then, the report recommended the removal of about a third of the network, ‘amounting to 5,000 miles of track and 2,363 stations‘.
Less well known is the Serpell Report, issued in 1982 (and the full text of which can be found at the Railways Archive). Serpell’s findings were almost totally ignored, all for the sake of a single suggestion buried deep in his report. In looking at ‘new network options,’ Serpell proposed an ‘Option A’, a plan for cuts that would have made Beeching’s eyes water. In total, some 84% of the existing network would be scrapped, leaving a grand total of 1,630 miles of railway (less than 10% of the pre-Beeching total). A bit more background, including a mention of the polemical 1957 book, Twilight of the Railways – What Roads They’ll Make! and the machinations of the virulently anti-rail and pro-road Railway Conversion League.
Related, consulation on station change and overhaul at Peckham Rye, courtesy of the AOC / the above image is from A Practical Treatise on Rail-roads and Interior Communication in General… and Tables of the Comparitive Value of Canals and Rail-Roads, 1825.
Behind the Facade, Witold Rybczynski on Poundbury (via Providence Journal): ‘[T]here is a lot more to Poundbury than meets the modernist critic’s jaundiced eye. The place is neither anachronistic, nor utopian, nor elitist. Nor is it a middle-class ghetto. In fact, Poundbury embodies social, economic, and planning innovations that can only be called radical.’ / The Homewood: A Modernist Masterpiece by Patrick Gywnne, at MidCentury Magazine / T-R-E-M-O-R-S, an architecture magazine / the Evolution Sale at Summers Place Auctions is a treasure trove of depressing Victorian taxidermy / 1970 De Tomaso Mangusta Coupé.
After the Domino’s Drone, Amazon has seized the media initiative, ‘announcing’ Amazon Prime Air, the retail equivalent of a motor show concept car (looks great, sounds great, totally unavailable). Sure, start-ups exist, but cost, legislation and a host of other worries make this a good silly season story rather than a sure-fire future bet. More thoughts. Try also reading My week as an Amazon insider for a hefty dose of reality about the company’s pared-to-the-bone approach and the resulting human cost. We’re all complicit in this, in one way or another. Related, via tumblr, We attempted a drone delivery. See also introducing O.W.L.S (via).
‘The Mexican immigrant worker in New York is a perfect example of the hero who has gone unnoticed… The Mexican economy has quietly become dependent on the money sent from workers in the US.’ From Superheroes, a photographic series by Dulce Pinzon.
Other things. The subconscious overtones in The Tiger Who Came to Tea /old comics scrutinised and fetishized for their print quality at 4CP (Four colour process) / made on the Isle of Wight, the Enfield 8000 Thunderbolt, a forgotten electric car. See also the Zagato Zele / old images of abandoned Russian space shuttles / My Things (2001 – 2009), a dense photographic project by Hong Hao / art by Elizabeth Harbour / the Blank Tape Gallery / the above image comes from this superb flickr stream.
The Tape Recorder and Synthesizer Ensemble (via MeFi), a self-recorded album (made on largely self constructed equipment) that lay dormant for several decades. See also the great Bedroom Cassette Masters series, now on its fourth volume. BCM began as an archival project, compiling forgotten demo tapes, but subsequently evolved:
I began to be approached by people who wanted to have their music on the compilation but who had not even been alive in the eighties. They were contemporary bedroom musicians, usually with a small collection of vintage analogue instruments and equipment who were committed to producing work using authentic vintage methods. So I had an idea: let them produce their music in-the-style-of lo-fi, cassette-based, bedroom-recorded demos and provide a short biography suggesting they had in fact been produced between 1980-89. They had to carefully date their recordings based on the manufacture dates of the vintage synths they were using to avoid any anachronisms and think of artistic motivation based on age, sex and geography.
Historical Remedies make homeopathic ‘First Aids for Active Lifestyles & Modern Stress’, including things called Stress Mints, Moon Drops (a sleep aid), and the rather more self-explanatory Calm Drops and PickUp Drops. Yet somehow HR has found itself with a class action lawsuit on its hands, with plaintiffs complaining that the company ‘has misrepresented Calm Drops, Moon Drops, and/or PickUp Drops as an effective treatment for anxiety, sleeplessness, and lack of energy, respectively.’ It’s all part of California’s ongoing attack on homeopathy (link from the Alliance for Natural Health, hence the alarmist wording). What puzzles us is how one proves homeopathy works? Should be one to watch.
Ladies and Gentlemen, a richly atmospheric music and video performance / a time-lapse of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta / car crash studies, a series by Nicolai Howalt / speaking of car crashes, an interview with Sergei Polonsky. And the TripAdvisor review of his Cambodian beachside bar / huge amounts of aviation imagery at kitchener lord’s photostream, including this set of classic aviation art.
The Sochi Project: ‘Sochi is the Florida of Russia, but cheaper. It is famous for its subtropical vegetation, hotels and sanatoria. People from all over the Soviet Union associate the coastal city with beach holidays and first loves. The smell of sunscreen, sweat, alcohol and roasting meat pervades the air. Nothing happens here in the winter. But that’s about to change. The Winter Games are coming to town…. Sochi is a remarkable choice. The train journey from Moscow to Sochi takes 37 hours. Thirty-seven unbroken hours of birch forests, wheat fields, farms, factories, abandoned land and here and there a village or town.’ Related, Sochi 2014: the costliest Olympics yet but where has all the money gone?: ‘The initial $12bn (£7.5bn) cost has risen almost fivefold, with critics putting much of the inflation down to the corruption endemic in the Russian construction industry.’
Sale No 397 – The Robert Elliott Meteorite Collection / Dear Customer Relations, a book about the art of complaining / London Blitz then and now, a gallery with one picture in it. Infuriating / the making of a home4self. The story behind a house design and the story of its build / a short film about Convent de la Tourette / imagined digital landscapes at Dead End Thrills / Unintended Consequences of Design: Cargo Ships’ Hidden Cargo Leads to Ecological Disaster: the scourge of the zebra mussel.
The unofficial guide to The Pyongyang Metro, a network that doesn’t just include stations and track: ‘The underground square, built as a bunker command post for the Supreme Command of the People’s Armed Forces and a space for storing manpower and equipment during a war, is located in Anhak-dong, near the Rakwon Subway Station, famous for the Central Zoo at the foot of Mount Taesong. The square is said to be comparable in area to the Kim Il Sung Square, which can accommodate a rally of over 100 000 people.’