Posts filed under “History”


A certain software program has updated its icons. The “save” icon used to be a 3½-inch floppy disk, which no one under thirty recognizes anymore. Can you guess what current technology, universally recognized even by the youngest among us, pictorially represents saving a file now?


From our occasional Department of Things Everyone Knows:

In the days of typewriters, every American knew that there were two “pitches” of type: Pica and Elite. The “pitch” was the number of characters per inch of typed text. Pica, the standard for most work, was ten characters per inch. Elite, often preferred for correspondence because of its neater appearance single-spaced, was twelve characters per inch.

Like most facts every American knows, this fact is wrong, because it relies on limited American experience. Once you cross the Atlantic, all bets are off, as we can see in this comparison.


Top to bottom: Royal HH (Pica), Olympia SF, Royal Quiet De Luxe (Elite), Olivetti Valentine.

The Olympia is from West Germany; the Olivetti is from Italy. The Olympia writes at about eleven characters per inch; the Olivetti at eleven-and-a-half-ish. Why is this? Clearly it is because Germans and Italians do not use inches. They use foreign satanic Metric incantations to measure length. When you abandon the simple sanity of twelve inches to the foot, sixteen and a half feet to the rod, four rods to the chain, then everything falls apart, and you might as well do what you like.


Who needs a Tesla when you can have this beautiful Ohio Electric?

Readers more familiar with the back alleys of science-fiction subgenres will doubtless be able to tell Dr. Boli the answer to this question, but he suspects he already knows it: Is there a genre of “electropunk” alternate-history fiction in which electric vehicles like this elegant machine won out over their gasoline-powered competitors, and we built a world of quiet and fume-free streets and occasional catastrophic spills of battery acid?


Some readers apparently believe that Dr. Boli invents, out of his own imagination, the organizations and associations mentioned in these pages. Occasionally, in order to dispel such misconceptions, it may be necessary to cite one’s sources. The article from which this extract is taken was published during the First World War, but in every respect it fits well with the style and content of our celebrated Magazine.

After the present awful tragedy in Europe is ended and the nations of the world have taken an inventory of the losses of war, not measured by material standards of value, but in terms of blood, suffering and sorrow, of wounds that can never heal, the nations of the earth may decide that war shall end and, in the words of Robert Burns,

“Man to man the world o’er,
Shall brithers be for a’ that.”

While the rivers of Europe run red with the blood of the best and the bravest of the sons of earth, it requires imagination and faith to visualize such a picture today.

If that day shall come, the history of the future will be the record of peaceful industry and the men whose names will be held in honor and loving remembrance will be those whose lives have been helpful to mankind, and who, out of the strain and stress of today, have made possible a better tomorrow; and the men who have been connected with our industry will have done their part in this work and the record of their work ought to be preserved.

What would be more interesting or inspiring to us of today and to the men of the future than the record of the work of the men who laid the foundations of our industry? The inscription on the new Post Office building in Washington well describes the mission of the envelope:

“Carrier of news and knowledge,
Instrument of trade and industry,
Promoter of mutual acquaintance,
Of peace and good will among men and nations.

“Messenger of sympathy and love,
Servant of parted friends,
Consoler of the lonely,
Bond of the scattered family,
Enlarger of the common life.”

We ought to feel honored to have a part in the production of such a messenger of good will among men.

A Museum of the Envelope Industry.

Not only should the story of the work of the pioneers be preserved, but so far as possible examples of their handiwork should also be preserved; and with that end in view we are having erected in connection with the Logan, Swift & Brigham Envelope Co. Division, at Worcester, Mass., a building in which a room is to be set apart for a museum in which, so far as we are able, will be collected as many as possible of the old types of envelope machines which have served their day and have taken their places among the honored “has beens” of the envelope industry.

I have been able to secure photographs of many of the pioneer inventors and manufacturers in our industry, and while the record cannot be complete, it is my hope with the co-operation of the other members of our craft to make the record as complete as possible. Photographs have also been secured of some of the earlier types of envelope machines, which have gone the way of all the works of man. Some eight years ago, before they were packed up and taken to the basement of the Patent office, I had photographs taken of all the envelope machine models in the Patent office at Washington, D. C. These photographs of both men, machinery and models it is our intention to have reproduced in enlarged form to adorn the walls of this museum which will be a “Hall of Fame” for the pioneers of the envelope industry.


Sir: It has been an honor to serve in this cliff-diving expedition. However, in light of recent events, I must regretfully submit my resignation.

When we all jumped off this cliff, I was very proud of what we were accomplishing. As I watched our mob of enthusiastic supporters plummet toward the bottom, it gave me great satisfaction to see how our work was accelerating at a rate of nearly 9.81 meters per second per second—a rate I believe to be unmatched by any previous expedition. I am still proud to have been part of those early successes.

More recent events, however, have left me at a loss for words. The mob of supporters, whom you encouraged to precede us, did not float lightly to the ground as we had all been led to expect. They have made a considerable mess where they landed, and it will take some time to clean it up. I must be blunt and say that this outcome raises serious questions about your own leadership.

After the events we have all witnessed, I cannot in good conscience remain a part of this expedition. Although we have only a few yards to go before we hit the rocks below, I can no longer be associated with this endeavor for even that short distance. History will judge me if I do not take a stand now. I will be leaving this plummet immediately. I thank you for your confidence in me, and I urge you to conduct the remainder of your descent in an orderly fashion.


Third Series.

Elevators. The earliest models of elevators were small and used mostly for freight. They were not adopted for passenger use in better hotels and apartment buildings until they could be made large enough to accommodate a small orchestra, a practice that continued until the advent of recorded music made the orchestra redundant.


Do you have trouble sorting out the events of the Wars of the Roses? No more. In galloping Elizabethan fourteeners, William Warner gives us a complete English history called Albions England. When he comes to the Wars of the Roses, he finishes his narration by giving us the whole story “digested in this sum”:

Fourth Henry first Lancastrian King put second Richard downe:
Fourth Edward of the House of Yorke re-seazd sixt Henries Crowne:
Lad-Princes twaine were stabd in Field, of either Linage one:
Foure Kings did perish: Sundry times now-kings anon were none:
Sixe, three of either faction, held successively the Throne:
But from the second Richard to seventh Henry we pretend
Eight Kings this Faction to begin, continue, and to end.

Now you never need to worry about sorting out the Wars of the Roses again.