Out of the chaos of World War II came the greatest economic boom the world has ever seen. Fueled by a rapidly modernizing workforce, productivity increased in the years between 1948 and 1973. Then war in the Middle East and the oil embargo put a stop the boom and the productivity increase.
But it wasn’t just the oil crisis. The improvements in education, the transfer of workers into manufacturing and the move of women into the workforce had all peaked. Despite minor blips here and there the sad fact is productivity has not significantly increased since 1973, there’s simply no more improvement to be gained.
Countries that elected left-leaning governments tried electing right-leaning governments in hope of changing things. It didn’t work. The old ways simply don’t work and no knows what will. Keep this in mind as the year progresses.
Today I visited one of the more overlooked parts of the Genesee River, the Lower Falls. It’s not quite as scenic (or as high) as High Falls and gets far fewer visitors. Unlike High Falls, however, it’s still an active hydroelectric site under the control of RG&E. Among other things it was once home to a small settlement, with a mill and other buildings that exist now only in bits and pieces.
Next to the Lower Falls site, is Maplewood Park. The park boundaries have been changed over the years, likely because of proximity to the steep cliffs of the river gorge. This structure was abandoned and placed well behind a fence. Nevertheless it gets lots of visits. I would have been one of them but I didn’t have the proper gear with me and thought it best to visit another day.
When I first encountered what we now call the Internet, it was called NSFnet and was run by the National Science Foundation (although references to the ARPAnet still abounded). Finding information or any kind of file was difficult at best unless you already knew where it was stored. My grad school was connected, as were most universities, but we didn’t have DNS set up so you actually had to use IP numbers to specify hosts to connect to. It was the opposite of user-friendly.
By 1992 the governing committee of the Internet realized it needed a better way to connect this growing network to its users. Among the contenders was the Gopher protocol that was created by programmers at the University of Minnesota.
Gopher did very, very well for a while, greatly exceeding Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, one of the others proposed. Then the University decided to charge users to use Gopher. The rest is, as they say, history.
I need to buy a car to replace my present one, which is on its last legs (so to speak). Part of that unpleasant task is dealing with the haggling necessary to settle on a price. The reason we do that for cars and not for other purchases is firmly rooted in history and tradition.
Last week I hopped on the Bumblebeemer and took a long ride to the Southwestern corner of NY State. One of the places I stopped was Wellsville where, as the name suggests, oil was discovered. Most if not all of those old wells have either gone dry or become to expensive to maintain. This old pump was visible from the road and was apparently part of a system of wells and pumps long since abandoned.
Further down the road is Salamanca. It’s an odd place as the city is entirely on the Allegany Reservation of the Seneca nation. As a result, the Senecas own the land and homeowners lease the property. It’s been controversial and has scared a lot of people and businesses away. Salamanca was a major rail hub at one point but that has long since lost its importance. These are some of the remnants of its rail yard (along with a museum).
Google Maps shows that there was a large roundhouse and turntable in the yard at one time so I’m going back to check that out sometime.
August Belmont Jr. founded the Interborough Rapid Transit subway line in NYC which became the IRT line and built the horse racing track which bears his name. As you’d pretty much expect, he had his own custom-built subway car that he used to travel to and from the track. When he died in 1924 it went out of use and has been moved around and stored in multiple places. In 2001 the NY Times reported that it still existed and was being kept at a trolley museum in Connecticut. Recently, Untapped Cities confirmed it was still there and was able to photograph the interior.
If you’ve ever studied WWII history the name Otto Skorzeny will resonate with you. He was Hitler’s top Waffen-SS commando and considered by the Allies to be “the most dangerous man in Europe”. He earned that name. Not just a dedicated Nazi, he was Hitler’s go-to guy for difficult jobs. Among his accomplishments during the war was the rescue of Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after he was deposed in 1943.
Skorzeny was acquitted of war crimes for his plot to interfere with the D-Day invasion by having Nazi soldiers impersonate Americans and was living freely in Spain.
Following the war and the establishment of Israel in 1948, Egypt began a program of employing former Nazi rocket scientists to create and manage a missile program the Israelis felt was a direct threat. To deal with this threat, the Israeli spy organization Mossad made a difficult and surprising decision, to try and employ Skorzeny to trap and eliminate these former Nazis. Even more surprisingly, Skorzeny accepted.
No one knows why he took the job. Skorzeny wrote multiple books on his WWII adventures but was silent about any post-war activities. His motivations, what ever they were, went with him when he died in 1975.
If you’ve done anything with electronics in the past forty years or so you’ve likely come across the 555 timer IC. It’s small, simple and incredibly useful. I used one as the timing source for a “T-Bird tailights” project in a digital electronics course I took as an elective. The actual chip is fairly small and easy to understand, especially with the interactive die explorer near the bottom.
Don’t forget to check the notes at the end, especially the large-size 555 timer created by Evil Mad Scientist Lab.