The March Of Technology

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Television from 1936 Is Britain's oldest set
A 73-year-old television has won a nationwide search to find Britain's oldest working set.
Published: 7:00AM BST 20 Jul 2009

The black-and-white Marconiphone telly dates from 1936 and is still in its original condition - albeit with the addition of a set-top box to convert it from analogue to digital.

The set, owned by consultant engineer Jeffrey Borinsky, was found in a competition launched in May by Digital UK and Iain Logie Baird, curator of television at the National Media Museum in Bradford and grandson of the inventor of telly, John Logie Baird.

It has a 12-inch screen and is estimated to have been manufactured around November 1936, the same month as the BBC television service from Alexandra Palace was first broadcast.

When new, it cost 60 Guineas, the equivalent of around £11,000 today. :shock:

Broadcasts it is likely to have screened include King George VI's Coronation Procession in 1937, the 1948 London Olympic Games and the Queen's Coronation in 1953.

Mr Borinsky, of Woodberry Grove, North Finchley, north London, said he has owned the set for 10 years.

He added: "I still enjoy watching my Marconiphone occasionally, especially cartoons from the 1930s, which the original owner might also have seen on the set.

"Converting the set to digital means I can continue to watch it for many years to come."

Iain Logie Baird said: "A small fraction of pre-war tellies still exist.

"Many fell into disrepair or were simply thrown out when a newer set arrived, and we know about 3,000 were lost in the London bombings.

"Today, most surviving pre-war sets are found in museums or in private collections.

"It's wonderful to find a Marconiphone 702 still in private ownership and in full working order more than half a century after it was first manufactured."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... t-set.html
 

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This is exactly the subject that this thread has been waiting for! :D

Evolution 2.0: On the origin of technologies
19 August 2009 by W. Brian Arthur

BARELY four years after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, the Victorian novelist Samuel Butler was calling for a theory of evolution for machines. Since then, a few hardy souls have attempted to oblige him, but none has quite hit the mark. Their reasoning, very much à la Darwin, is that any given technology has many designers with different ideas - which produces many variations. Of these variations, some are selected for their superior performance and pass on their small differences to future designs. The steady accumulation of such differences gives rise to novel technologies and the result is evolution.

This sounds plausible, and it works for already existing technologies - certainly the helicopter and the cellphone progress by variation and selection of better designs. But it doesn't explain the origin of radically novel technologies, the equivalent of novel species in biology. The jet engine, for example, does not arise from the steady accumulation of changes in the piston engine, nor does the computer emerge from accumulated changes in electromechanical calculators. Darwin's mechanism does not apply to technology.

So what would a theory of evolution for technology look like? Do technologies descend by some unambiguous process from the collective of earlier technologies? In my new book, The Nature of Technology, I argue that they do. But to see how, we need to tailor our thinking directly to technology, not borrow from biology.

To start with, we can observe that all technologies have a purpose; all solve some problem. They can only do this by making use of what already exists in the world. That is, they put together existing operations, means, and methods - in other words, existing technologies - to do the job.

Take the Global Positioning System. This measures the time that signals take to travel to a location in question from four or more satellites. Knowing these timings and the satellites' positions, the system can calculate the location's exact coordinates. To do this, GPS combines the existing technologies of satellites, computing chips, radio receivers, transmitters and atomic clocks.

So novel technologies are constructed from combinations of existing technologies. While this moves us forward, it is not yet the full story. Novel technologies (think of radar) are also sometimes created by capturing and harnessing novel phenomena (radio waves are reflected by metal objects). But again, if we look closely, we see that phenomena are always captured by existing technologies - radar used high-frequency radio transmitters, circuits, and receivers to harness its effect. So we are back at the same mechanism: novel technologies are made possible by - are created from - combinations of the old.

In a nutshell, then, evolution in technology works this way: novel technologies form from combinations of existing ones, and in turn they become potential components for the construction of further technologies. Some of these in turn become building blocks for the construction of yet further technologies. Feeding this is the harnessing of novel phenomena, which is made possible by combinations of existing technologies.

etc...

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 ... ogies.html
 

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Couple hold 50th birthday party for their fridge
A couple have invited their friends and family to a 50th birthday celebration – held for their fridge.
By Lucy Cockcroft
Published: 7:00AM BST 02 Sep 2009

Paul and Val Howkins, from Coventry, had banners, party poppers and even a cake to mark the milestone birthday.

They bought the Prestcold appliance for £65 on August Bank Holiday in 1959, four years after they got married, and insist it is almost good as new.

Their neighbours gathered for the party and enjoyed a buffet of cheese and wine, which had naturally been chilled in the fridge.

Mr Howkins, 75, a retired aeronautical engineer said: "Everyone tells us to get rid of it but we don't want to.

"Most people didn't have fridges 50 years ago but our kitchen faced south so it was warm.

"We had a piece of beef on a lump of concrete and it went rotten, so I said we had to buy a fridge.

"The thermostat went about 30 years ago and when I took it to Prestcold to get another one the man said where on earth did you get that?

"They didn't even make fridges any more by that point." :shock:

Mr Howkins managed to source a new part and the fridge has continued working ever since. :D

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstop ... ridge.html
 

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Reboot for UK's 'oldest' computer

Britain's oldest original computer, the Harwell, is being sent to the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley where it is to be restored to working order.

The computer, which was designed in 1949, first ran in 1951 and was designed to perform mathematical calculations; it lasted until 1973.

When first built the 2.4m x 5m computer was state-of-the-art, although it was superseded by transistor-based systems.

The restoration project is expected to take a year.

The system was built and used by staff at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

Speaking to BBC News, Dick Barnes, who helped build the original Harwell computer, said the research was - officially at least - for civilian nuclear power projects.

"Officially it was to help with general background atomic theory and to assist in the development of civilian power," he said.

"Of course, it [the Atomic Energy Research Establishment] had connections to the nuclear weapons programme," he added.

Although not the first computer built in the UK, the Harwell had one of the longest service lives.

Built by a team of three people, the device was capable of doing the work of six to ten people and ran for seven years until the establishment obtained their first commercial computer.

"We didn't think we were doing anything pioneering at the time," said Mr Barnes.

"We knew the Manchester Baby and Cambridge's EDSAC were already up and running. Both these projects had large teams and we felt like a poor relation.

"Looking back, hardly any of us were computer literate and it's astonishing that we managed stored computing at all," he said.

The Harwell machine is recognisably modern in that unlike some of its predecessors such as Colossus it used a single memory to store data and programs.

Kevin Murrell, director of The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, said it had some of the characteristics of contemporary machines.

"The machine was a relay-based computer using 900 Dekatron gas-filled tubes that could each hold a single digit in memory - similar to RAM in a modern computer - and paper tape for both input and program storage."

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8234428.stm
 

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A philosophical muse on culture and technology...

BMW taps into the British psyche
Remember, the Mini arrived before the mini-skirt
Stephen Bayley

History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce ... then as the Mini. An announcement that two new versions of Britain’s most successful car will soon be produced at BMW’s Cowley plant offers coruscating insights into national identity, consumer psychology and the realities of design today.

It was on August 26, 1959, when ice-cream coloured Ford Zodiacs with fluted chrome still wafted along dual-carriageways, that the Mini 1.0 appeared. As a small boy my father took me to see one of the first at the Rocket Garage in Liverpool.

What was obvious even — perhaps specially — to a child was ingenuity of a high order. Alec Issigonis’s insistence on compactness and his refusal of “style” produced the most unusual and influential car ever. But Issigonis had a demanding personality: he insisted, for example, that discomfort kept drivers helpfully alert.

Still, like all great art, the Mini defined, in fact predicated, the mood of an era. Remember: the car arrived before the skirt.

Woefully inept management did not realise that the Mini was manufactured at a loss until the Seventies — by which time rights to the name were owned by the industrial calamity that was British Leyland. BMW bought the remains of BL in 1994. It was an act of opportunistic gallantry. The chairman of the Bavarian company at that time was a relation of Issigonis; he did not want scruffy factories, gormless executives and a truculent workforce: he wanted access to the Britishness of Austin-Healey, MG and Riley. But most of all, Mini.

The Mini 2.0 appeared in 2001. Sales-wise, it was a clever way to extend BMW’s product-line without damage to a premium reputation. Art-wise, it was more clever still. Line-up Mini 2.0 against Mini 1.0 and you will see no true similarity; the new car is much larger, heavier, self-consciously cute. So in a sense, it is a travesty of Issigonis’s minimalist vision. The Audi designer Walter de’Silva damned it as “repetition”.

And, it seems, this — combined with the delicious sense of a quality toy — is exactly what consumers want. The success of the Mini 2.0 (and now Mini 2.1 and so on) has delighted and baffled by turns. It proves that car design is a matter of nuance and evocation. The Mini pillages and plays with collective consciousness: the design is of a fantasy, not of a machine. It is an idea, not an invention.

Failure, they say, is a bastard while success has many fathers. There are several claims to Mini 2.0 paternity, but that wonderful shape was the responsibility of Frank Stephenson, a 49-year-old American. Stephenson soon moved on to Ferrari and then McLaren, companies with interesting back catalogues of their own.

Is the future to redesign the past ? The Mini tells us yes.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/commen ... 820869.ece
 

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Another classic revival...

The Teasmade is back on the boil
A revival is brewing for the great British Teasmade.
By Elizabeth Grice
Published: 7:00AM BST 15 Oct 2009

Sometimes I am woken up by the sound of gentle snoring. Or it might be magpies arguing in the crab-apple trees outside the bedroom window. Or someone going down the street bellowing into a mobile phone. Yesterday morning it was a whooshing noise I couldn't immediately identity, followed by the manic gobbling sound that a drain makes when caustic soda is poured down the plughole.

For anyone who lived through the Seventies' craze for domestic gadgetry, a wake-up call of this rudeness – and that's before the bleeps start – could only mean one thing: the Teasmade is back. The alarm clock that delivers a fresh cup of tea to your bedside before you have even opened the curtains, an object of equal love and ridicule, has been revived by popular demand. Again.

In its curvaceous new form, with an LCD face like a blue moon and a swanky reading light, the Teasmade is not a bit like its squat old self with the funny little silver pipe sticking out of the top. It looks as if it might play music or make bread. It is unrecognisably lovely. The ceramic teapot wouldn't look out of place in Fortnum's.

In fact, it would be a serious disappointment to thousands of Teasmade traditionalists but for one thing: the manufacturers, Swan, have failed to soften its distinctive pre-brew cacophony. They're promoting it as "the quietest teamaker on the market" but those growling signals before the hot water spews out of its tank and cascades onto the teabags are just as we remember, in all their rasping urgency. For heaven's sake, anyone can make a gadget that just bleeps.

Teasmade, a peculiarly British fusion of alarm clock and kettle, is the gadget that refused to die. In the Seventies, it was desperately cool, though even then you could see it deserved a place of reverence in the Science Museum. Mostly it was bought by a middle-aged, middle-income workforce who needed help getting out of their suburban beds. Two million households had one. They were a staple of the b & b trade. Bruce Forsyth gave them away every week on the Generation Game.

Its decline co-incided with the rise of the espresso machine and by the 1990s the Teasmade, friend to John and Norma Major, seemed nearly as naff as the electric carving knife and the cheese fondue set.

etc...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/63 ... -boil.html
 

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Reinventing the wheel: New technology could banish stabilisers - and help children cycle in just one hour
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 8:36 AM on 19th October 2009

The sight of an anxious parent running close behind a child on a wobbling bicycle as they learn to ride it may soon be a thing of the past.
A company claims to have developed a front wheel that senses when the bike is starting to keel over and re-centres it beneath the rider's weight.
The wheel could replace traditional stabilisers for youngsters learning to travel on two wheels.

The Gyrowheel system is the product of several years of research by U.S, firm Gyrobike and could be in shops here by next year.

Gyrobike chief executive Daniella Reichstetter said: 'Gyrowheel is the only product of its kind. It will change how people learn to ride bikes.'
The Gyrowheel system has three stability settings - high, medium and low. As a rider's skills and confidence improve, the stability setting can be adjusted.

The wheel is the same size as an ordinary one but, instead of spokes, has a circular housing which contains an independently spinning disc powered by a rechargeable battery.
When switched on, this inner disc speeds up and spins independently of the outside wheel.
As the disc spins at high speed it creates a strong force that keeps the wheel upright. So, for example, if the bike begins to topple, the gyroscope compensates by leaning the wheel in the opposite direction. It works in a similar way to a child's spinning top, which is also a type of gyroscope.
When turned off the Gyrowheel, which will cost around £60, behaves like a standard bike wheel.

California-based Gyrobike's marketing boss Ashleigh Harris said: 'Our prototypes knocked the socks off parents whose kids tested Gyrowheel, and the real thing is ten times better.'
She added that the vast majority of children who tested Gyrowheel learned to ride in less than an hour.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... z0UN5O1vU1
 

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Dyson fan: was it invented 30 years ago?
The Dyson bladeless fan unveiled last week to great acclaim was first developed 30 years ago by a Japanese company, according to documents filed at the Intellectual Property Office.
By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor
Published: 7:00AM BST 20 Oct 2009

The desktop fan, costing £200, has won plaudits both in Britain and America for its sleek design and clever engineering. The Air Multiplier works by sucking in air at the base, and pushing it out at speed through a thin gap in the fan's ring, meaning there are no visible blades in the fan.

However, documents indicate that a Japanese company, Tokyo Shibaura Electric, developed a nearly identical bladeless desktop fan in 1981.

Documents at the Intellectual Property Office, formerly the Patent Office, indicate that Dyson was forced to re-submit its application for a worldwide patent last year, because it was too similar to the Japanese invention. The Dyson version, "cannot be considered novel or cannot be considered to involve an inventive step", the initial ruling from the IPO suggested.

Patents expire after 20 years, but even after that date they can not be submitted by a different person or company unless they have been changed or improved upon.

Dyson's most recent patent applications, which are still pending, however, have been changed substantially to include a key design feature of the Air Multiplier: a Coanda surface. This is the aerofoil ramp over which the air is pushed out of the ring of the fan. Because of the angle of the Coanda surface, the air sucks in surrounding air into the air flow, creating a smooth and powerful blast of air for any office worker using the fan.

Gill Smith, the head of Dyson's patent department, said: "We wouldn't dream of denying that the Japanese arrangement and our fan look very similar. The difference is all in the technology. We've spent many years developing the Coanda surface. The Japanese version does not have this feature."

She said that she "absolutely expected" Dyson to be granted a patent for its Air Multiplier.

Patent attornies said it was quite normal for companies to submit patents and for the IPO to discover similar inventions when they undertook its "search", a due diligence process the authorities always do before granting patents.

Russell Barton, partner at law firm Withers Rogers, said: "The majority of inventions do take old technology and improve on them. But you do need to demonstrate novelty to be granted a patent."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/n ... s-ago.html
 

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Are the days of the checkout worker numbered? Tesco pioneers first ever self-service only shop
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:32 PM on 21st October 2009

Tesco sounded the death knell for checkout workers today after opening Britain's first entirely self-service shop.
The Tesco Express in King's Langley, Northampton, has a total of five self-scan tills overseen by a single member of staff but no manned checkouts.
It is described by the company as an 'assisted service store' designed to increase efficiency and speed up the shopping process.

But critics warn that the move marks the end of basic human interaction during weekly shopping trips and could eventually cost thousands of jobs.
The major supermarkets employ around 750,000 workers in Britain and Tesco has the biggest workforce at around 221,000.
The retail giant says customer feedback had been positive as the new system removed the need for queueing.

A spokesman said: 'Customers like the fact there are always five checkouts available. Before you could have four manned checkouts but only one person working the till.
'It's a lot quicker but some people have never used them before so a member of staff is there to assist.
'If needs be there can be five members of staff assisting customers. We have had no negative feedback so far.'

Fellow supermarket giant Asda said it had no plans to follow Tesco's lead.
A spokeswoman said: 'Hell would probably freeze over before we had a store with no customer interaction at all on the checkouts.
'Many of our customers shop with us because they recognise Bill on checkout 10 and will go to the same person every week.
'You get to have a bit of a chat and some human interaction and that's very important for a lot of people.'

etc...

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... z0UeOwwNTv

They've started installing these self-service check-outs in my local Tesco - seems it could be the thin end of the wedge.

My local library has had automatic Borrow or Return machines for some time now.

Oh Brave New World...
:roll:
 

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rynner2 said:
They've started installing these self-service check-outs in my local Tesco - seems it could be the thin end of the wedge.

My local library has had automatic Borrow or Return machines for some time now.

Oh Brave New World...
:roll:
They have those at my library too - I find them very convenient (most of the time), but there are still real people to talk to if you have a question or problem. I suppose the intelligent way to use technology is alongside traditional face-to-face communication, which a lot of people prefer anyway. However, the neoliberal consensus seems to be that its purpose is solely for cutting costs - the so-called "convenience" to the public is almost an afterthought. A machine will not get sick and doesn't demand luxuries like lunch breaks or a pension... :roll:
 

rynner2

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Zoffre said:
A machine will not get sick and doesn't demand luxuries like lunch breaks or a pension... :roll:
One or other of the two machines in my library seem to get 'sick' quite often: sometimes it's "Returns only", others it's Out Of Order.

They're only specialised computers, after all, and we all know the problems computers can suffer... ;)
 

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rynner2 said:
Zoffre said:
A machine will not get sick and doesn't demand luxuries like lunch breaks or a pension... :roll:
One or other of the two machines in my library seem to get 'sick' quite often: sometimes it's "Returns only", others it's Out Of Order.

They're only specialised computers, after all, and we all know the problems computers can suffer... ;)
Post of the day. :yeay:

And, let's not forget the constant, expensive, upgrades to new software and hardware.
 

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This is a long way before my 10 Mpx little camera!

Nelson's Column under construction among old photographs exhibited by British Library
A picture of Nelson's Column under construction nearly 200 years ago is among a series of old photographs going on display at the British Library.
Published: 5:51PM GMT 29 Oct 2009

The picture was taken by William Fox Talbot, who helped to develop the newborn practice with his discovery, in 1840, of the calotype process which creates negative images.

The famous study of Trafalgar Square also shows St Martin-in-the-Field and Morley’s Hotel, later South Africa House, in the background.

The picture is one of 250 daguerreotypes, calotypes, negatives, X-ray and spirit photographs exhibited in Points of View, the British Library's first ever major photographic exhibition.

The pictures are drawn from its extensive collection of some 300,000 images and shows how the practice developed from its invention in 1839 by Frenchman Louis Daguerre to gentleman's pursuit then the primary means of visual expression in the modern age.

Also on display is Talbot's Dandelion Seeds, part of a study conducted in the early 1850s as he developed photomechanical reproduction, a process whereby images were etched onto a metal plate before being printed in a press with ink in the traditional way.

The hippopotamus at the Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park, London, taken by Don Juan Carlos, Duke of Montizon, in 1852 shows Obaysch, the first hippo to be seen in England, who doubled the number of visitors to the zoo following his arrival in 1850.

The British Library's Head of Visual Materials, John Falconer, said Points of View tracks the development of photography from the inventor's dark room to a major commercial industry.

It includes early X-rays of frogs, portraits of celebrities of the day and some of Kodak's first creations.

"Today we can't imagine life without photos but its invention in the 19th century opened up a new world of visual communication and personal expression," he said.

"Drawing on the unique collections held in the British Library, this exhibition examines the growth of the medium from the viewpoint of how and why it was used in the 19th century, in fields as diverse as travel, portraiture, war, science and industry.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/ ... brary.html
 

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English wine gets help from space

A number of English vineyards have signed up to make use of a satellite imaging service to boost harvests.

The satellite measures a vineyard's reflectivity in a number of colours in the visible and infrared.

The Oenoview system, first launched in France last year, analyses the images to determine vine leaf density, soil water content and grape bunch sizes.

The English Wine Producers trade group said that wines made using the system could be available as early as 2011.

Oenoview was developed by the Institut Cooperatif du Vin in France along with Infoterra, a subsidiary of aerospace firm EADS Astrium.

The system relies on the fact that reflectivity at different wavelengths can give information both about the vines' foliage and the soil in which they are growing.

The quantity of foliage is linked to the quality of the grapes because it is an indirect measure of the amounts of sugars and tannins contained in them.

There is an ideal time to harvest each bunch, but not all bunches are ready at the same time.

The satellite data cuts the vineyards into two-metre-square "pixels", corresponding to about four vines each, and the software assigns each pixel a colour-coded "leaf area index".

"If there is an even distribution of blue or red images in a field, the leaf area index suggests that the grapes can be harvested altogether," said Oenoview programme manager Henri Douche.

"But if the map shows defined red and blue areas, it helps the owner to care for and harvest sections of the fields to produce top quality wine."

Julia Trustram Eve from English Wine Producers said: "Innovation is at the heart of the English wine industry and vineyard owners are keen to use technology that complements their wine-making skills.

"Developing a pilot programme to use space technology is a smart and exciting next step."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8334688.stm
 

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We're getting a long way from my boyhood Kodak Brownie 127....

Computational cameras perfect your photos for you
17 November 2009 by Jim Giles

THE signs of the digital photography revolution are hard to miss, from cameras embedded in our cellphones to gigabytes of images stored on hard drives. But if you thought the revolution finished with the death of chemical film, think again. Computational photography promises equally dramatic changes, turning even the most ham-fisted of snappers into veritable Cartier-Bressons.

We are on the cusp of a new era in which every camera comes with a sophisticated built-in computer, says Ramesh Raskar of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who delivered a presentation on advances in computational photography at an imaging technology conference in Monterey, California, this week. Low-cost processing and memory combined with new digital sensors will deliver richer images created by fusing elements from multiple shots and even video.

Hints of the changes to come can be found in cameras such as Casio's EX-F1, which launched last year and has been dubbed the first computational camera. In poor light, photographers face a difficult choice: use a flash, which can produce a harsh illumination, or go for a long exposure, where the risk of image blur increases. The EX-F1 offers a third option. It shoots a burst of images at long exposures and its computer merges the shots into a single image, reducing the blur as it does so. The process may not yet outperform established anti-blur techniques, such as using a tripod, but its existence is a significant advance in itself.

In labs around the world, researchers are developing a slew of other computational tricks for cameras. "We're creating images that people have never been able to produce," says Marc Levoy at Stanford University in California.

Many of the new techniques tackle the old problem of capturing a fleeting moment. Imagine watching a kingfisher arrowing towards a lake surface. It takes a lot of patience, skill - and luck - to capture the precise moment at which the bird breaks the water's surface. Using an everyday digital camera, it is possible to switch to video mode to record the action and subsequently extract the right frame. But video's resolution pales in comparison to still photography, so the resulting images are low quality.

Michael Cohen at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, and colleagues think they have found a way round this problem. Their system captures a video stream and, every second or so, takes a high-resolution still image of the same scene. After the event, users can review the video and select a frame. The software then uses information from the stills taken immediately before and after that point to enhance the resolution of the video frame. :shock:

Cohen's software is computer-based at the moment, but he says it could be incorporated into a camera. One way that photographers might use it is by continuously recording video of a scene and only hitting the shutter when they see something of particular interest. The camera would then automatically create a series of stills from the frames captured in the half-second or so before the shutter was pressed, hopefully capturing that crucial moment.

Even cheap cellphone cameras could benefit from the advances. High-quality cameras can capture part of a scene in sharp focus while leaving the background blurred, by adjusting the camera's aperture. Now Raskar and colleagues have found a way of simulating the attractive background blur effect, known as "bokeh", using a cheap lens.

In their system, small motors move the lens and camera sensor in the same direction but at different speeds as the image is captured. This blurs the image. But by moving the sensor and lens at just the right relative speed, Raskar is able to select a vertical plane in the image in which focus is preserved. He says he is now talking to camera and cellphone manufacturers about licensing the technology.

Another feature cameras might one day include is panorama software, which could create 360-degree cylindrical panoramas by stitching together a series of shots, adjusting for slight tilts. A technique known as "all-focus imaging" could be used to create high-resolution close-ups in which, unlike current macro photographs, all of the image is in focus. The technique involves taking a series of macro images in which different layers of the scene are in focus, and then merging them to create a single image. Aseem Agarwala, senior research scientist at Adobe Systems in Seattle, has already developed an all-focus algorithm that has been incorporated into Adobe's image-editing package Photoshop.

Alternatively, when half of a scene is in shadow, a camera could automatically take two shots at different exposures and merge them to create an image in which all parts of the scene appear well lit.

etc...

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 ... r-you.html

I'm running as fast as I can, but I think I'm still falling behind... :(
 

rynner2

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rynner2 said:
Are the days of the checkout worker numbered? Tesco pioneers first ever self-service only shop

They've started installing these self-service check-outs in my local Tesco - seems it could be the thin end of the wedge.

It's not just me that hates 'em...

The problem with self-service checkouts
By Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine

Those unexpected items and the feeling you're paying and doing all the work. Self-service checkouts are expanding throughout the UK, but many of us aren't happy with them. So why is the relationship so fraught?

Unexpected item in the bagging area? Totally expected feeling of rage pumping through your body? You're not alone.

New research suggests 48% of Britons think self-service checkouts are a nightmare, neither quick nor convenient. Quite the opposite in fact, and their complaints are all too familiar.

COMMON GRIPES
Don't scan items properly - 46%
Can't use own bags - 39%
Customer doing all the work - 13%
Always have to get help - 12%
Source: Fatcheese

Firstly, there's the bag struggle. Shoppers who follow the "bag for life" mantra may feel they aren't as welcome as they would expect. Self-service checkouts often don't recognise them and shoppers may even be charged for plastic bags they haven't used.

Then there's the barcode blindness the machines experience with maddening regularity. There's nearly always something they refuse to scan, leaving customers repeatedly swiping, running the risk of repetitive strain injury and feeling a pang of sympathy for those who do this for a living.

Finally scanned? Now try and put it in the carrier bag. The phrase "unexpected item in the bagging area" is so synonymous with the 21st Century shopping experience it's become a T-shirt slogan. What's so unexpected anyway? You only swiped the item a second ago and were charged for it.

"It's like the machine is very publicly saying 'you are too stupid to do this - go home now'. It's far from ideal," says Bjorn Weber, of retail analysts Planet Retail.

Finally, after the palaver of paying, there's the nervousness about leaving the shop. Did I scan it all correctly? Did I select the right type of bread roll from the menu? Will I feel the long arm of the store (manager) on my shoulder as I walk out the shop?

"I spend half my time worrying that security will arrest me for selecting the wrong price Blueberry muffin," said shopper Sharon Adams when consulted in a survey on self-service tills conducted by Fatcheese.

But it's not as simple as all-out hate for these tills. The people who like them, really like them, say the supermarkets. And they're probably counting among them that contingent of people who have always secretly hankered after trying their hand as a checkout assistant.

etc...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8399963.stm


I went in Tesco yesterday, wanting just two items. They didn't have one of them, so I just took a bottle of Stella. I thought that just one item was pretty simple, so decided to try the dreaded machine again. But somehow I couldn't complete the transaction, until an assistant came over and pointed out that I had to press a button to say I was over 18! Doh!

In fact, I had a bad day with self-service machines. Before Tesco I was in the library to borrow a book. But the machine told me my library card needed updating. So I went to the desk, where two assistants were already busy with other people, and really taking their time over sorting out their problems. After about five minutes waiting, I decided to get my shopping first and come back. When I did, the staff were busy with new customers, and I still had a long wait before my card was finally updated.

And my doctor wonders why I have high blood pressure...


EDIT: And now the MB is messing me about - I've edited this post four or five times, and there's still a glitch with the italics function.... :evil:
 

Ginando

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rynner2 said:
rynner2 said:
Are the days of the checkout worker numbered? Tesco pioneers first ever self-service only shop
Self service checkouts are the work of Satan himself. I was using one recently, and had taken my own bag into the store. So, I try filling it up. But every time I place the bag on the platform where the carriers are hanging, I get the 'unexpected item in the bagging area' warning. At this point, a truly enormous supervisor, who can best be decribed as having a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp, comes over with her eyes slitted as if I am robbing them blind. I explain the problem and her response was to say 'Yes, they do that' and sidle off to stare at me again. So I ended up filling a carrier, then once I had finished paying, I transferred the stuff into my big bag.
 

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I'm sorry you have crappy self-checkouts. One grocery store near here has them, and I don't use them because I don't like to pay with plastic; but no one seems to have any trouble with them, and I don't think there's any "bagging area" involved - you just scan your stuff, swipe your card, and pile them into anything you like. My husband uses them and hasn't complained of any difficulties using our cloth bags at that store.

The self-checkout in our library has cut down on lines a lot and allowed prompter customer service for people who need actual help. Once in awhile it won't let me check something out, but I stack any such books to one side and can always get a clerk in a few moments. What I don't like is that you now have a printed receipt instead of a date stamp on each book. How am I supposed to keep track of that? Not to mention I'm likely to have several overlapping batches, as research takes me to the library in between due dates and books leap into my bag as a matter of course. Since I have internet access, the automated sending of courtesy notices three days before the due date and the ability to renew books online obviates the problem for me - but what about the large number of local people who for whatever reason don't have home internet and come to the library for their web browsing as well as book selection purposes? No system is perfect.
 

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BBC gets go-ahead for internet on television
By Liz Thomas
Last updated at 1:16 AM on 22nd December 2009

Viewers will be able to access the internet via their televisions after the BBC was given the go-ahead for controversial plans to bring the web to the small screen.
The corporation's governing body, the BBC Trust, is today expected to provisionally agree to the venture, which is also backed by ITV, BT, Channel 4, Five and Carphone Warehouse.

Known as Project Canvas, the technology will ultimately allow users to watch programmes, shop and download music on one set from the comfort of the living room.
It would make the BBC a leading player in the new generation of internet and TV technology.
But critics say the BBC should not be allowed to use public money for the venture.
Viewers will have to shell out £200 for a set top box, which will not only allow access to all Freeview and HD channels, but also websites such as the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, NHS Direct, YouTube and Amazon. Other sites will be visible if their developers translate content for viewing on a television, rather than a computer.

The technology means any number of online services could be delivered via the television screen, and accessed by the touch of a button - possibly from a remote control.
The set top boxes could be onsale as early as next Christmas. In an interview earlier this month, Richard Halton, Project Canvas programme director, said the service would have a ' transformational effect on TV'.
He said: 'By seamlessly converging broadband and broadcast content, Project Canvas can help secure the future of free-to-air broadcasting and create an open platform that gives online services a route to the TV set.'
BBC iPlayer has been a runaway success and is credited with getting more Britons to watch TV online. There have been 400million requests to download programmes since it launched two years ago.

Project Canvas will compete with a new generation of televisions which have some access to the internet including Samsung's broadband-connected TVs that allow access to YouTube, and the Apple TV set-top box which also allows YouTube access.

Plans for Project Canvas have come under fire from satellite firm British Sky Broadcasting. A spokesman said: 'Given its privileged position in receipt of public funding, the proposals remain inconsistent with the BBC's obligations to adopt the least intrusive and most proportionate means of fulfilling its core public service.'
The BBC Trust is expected to provisionally agree to Project canvas today but it is thought to have concerns about the cost, which is estimated to be £16million for each partner over the first four years.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... z0aPPfNwER
 

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Unveiled: China's 245mph train service is the world's fastest... and it was completed in just FOUR years
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 1:03 AM on 27th December 2009

In the week that Britain's high speed rail link closed down because the wrong sort of snow interfered with the engine's electronics, China unveiled the world's fastest train service on one of the coldest days of the year.
Days after thousands of passengers were left stranded when Eurostar services were cancelled, China's new system connects the modern cities of Guangzhou and Wuhan at an average speed of 217mph - and it took just four years to build.
The super-high-speed train reduces the 664-mile journey to just a three-hour ride and cuts the previous journey time by more than seven-and-a-half hours, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Work on the project began in 2005 as part of plans to expand a high-speed network aimed at eventually linking Guangzhou, a business hub in southern China near Hong Kong, with the capital Beijing, Xinhua added.
'The train can go 245mph, it's the fastest train in operation in the world,' said Zhang Shuguang, head of the transport bureau at the railways ministry.
Test runs for the service began earlier in December and the link officially went into service when the first scheduled train left the eastern metropolis of Wuhan on Saturday.

By comparison, the average for high-speed trains in Japan was 150mph while in France it was 172mph, said Xu Fangliang, general engineer in charge of designing the link.
Beijing has an ambitious rail development programme aimed at increasing the national network from the current 53,437 miles to 74,564 miles, making it the most extensive rail system outside the United States.
China unveiled its first high-speed line at the time of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 - a service linking the capital with the port city of Tianjin.
In September, officials said they planned to build 42 high-speed lines by 2012 in a massive system overhaul as part of efforts to spur economic growth amid the global downturn.

etc...

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldne ... z0asm5tjJm
 

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What an old bag: Britain's oldest vacuum cleaner still hoovering after 80 years
By Andy Dolan
Last updated at 8:18 PM on 03rd February 2010

Like most 81-year-olds, it is a little dented around the edges and takes its time to get around the house.
But Bill Whitwam's 1929 Hoover Senior is still in perfect running order and has never needed a replacement part.
Mr Whitwam, who at 76 is five years its junior, believes it must be Britain's oldest working vacuum cleaner.
'It comes from an age when things were built to last,' said the retired textile manufacturer at his semi-detached home in Aylestone, Leicester.
'It can suck up literally anything, even gravel in the garden.'

The vacuum was bought for Mr Whitwam's parents Willie and Phyllis as a wedding gift and was passed on to him following their deaths in the 1950s.
He said: 'It may be a battered old thing but it still does the job as well as when it was brand new.
'We hear a lot about our throwaway society ruining the planet, but if they could make things to last in 1929, then surely today's technology can do the same.'

Divorcee Mr Whitwam said the upright cleaner has been in constant use since it was built at the time of the Wall Street crash.
Finished in silver, it has a dust bag on the rear like many more modern equivalents, although as it is constructed largely from metal, it is somewhat heavier than its successors.

The machine's longevity led Mr Whitwam to start collecting vintage vacuums and he now has a collection of 20 stored in his spare bedroom.
Some are more than 100 years old, including one said to have been used to clean the carpets on the Titanic, but the Hoover Senior is the oldest still in working order.

etc...

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... z0eZ6boRau
 

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This sounds like good news:

The battery's dead: Scientists invent wafer-thin plastic that can store electricity
By David Derbyshire
Last updated at 1:29 AM on 06th February 2010

The battery, which has powered our lives for generations, may soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.

British scientists say they have created a plastic that can store and release electricity, revolutionising the way we use phones, drive cars - and even wear clothes.

It means the cases of mobiles and iPods could soon double up as their power source - leading to gadgets as thin as credit cards.
And it could even be used to create 'electric clothes' that charge up as a person moves around and which slowly release heat when the weather gets cold.

Dr Emile Greenhalgh, from Imperial College London's Department of Aeronautics, said the material is not really a battery, but a supercapacitor - similar to those found in typical electrical circuits.
His team's prototype - which is around five inches square and wafer-thin - takes five seconds to charge from a normal power supply and can light an LED for 20 minutes.

Dr Greenhalgh, who is working with car company Volvo on a three-year, £3million project to use the material in hybrid petrol-electric cars, said: 'We think the car of the future could be drawing power from its roof or even the door, thanks to our material.

'The applications for this material don't stop there - you might have a mobile that is as thin as a credit card because it no longer needs a bulky battery, or a laptop that can draw energy from its casing so it can run for longer.'
The material charges and discharges electricity quicker than a conventional battery, and does not use chemical processes - giving it a longer lifespan, he added.

The scientists plan to use it to replace the metal floor of a Volvo car's boot which holds the spare wheel.
This would mean Volvo could shrink the size of its hybrid battery - and cut down the weight of the car, making it more efficient.
Dr Greenhalgh said: 'No one has created a material like this - within ten years it could replace batteries.'

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... z0ekr37sAx
 

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Let's hope this is the breakthrough, most of the weight of electical gadgets these days is the battery....
 

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Glasgow's amphibious bus breaks down on first voyage
The amphibious bus broke down during a press preview on the River Clyde in Glasgow

An amphibious bus that can travel on water and roads was grounded yesterday, less than an hour after it took to the water.

Trials of the "amfibus" on the River Clyde had to be abandoned because of a technical problem.

Operators Stagecoach were carrying out a two-day test and demonstration of the bus between Renfrew and Yoker yesterday morning.

But the trial was interrupted on the second run when the bus developed a problem with its suspension as it drove up the slipway at Renfrew.

Engineers are currently working on resolving the glitch and the tests may continue today.

Stagecoach spokesman Steve Stewart said: "We had a couple of trips very smoothly back and forward across the Clyde but when we came back on one of the journeys part of the suspension which involves an airbag popped out so we are going to have to do some work to put that back in.

"But it’s all part of the challenges that you face when you have a technical trial and that will go back into the evaluation process."

Stagecoach had intended to have two hours of tests yesterday morning but had to stop after half an hour.

Based on a bus chassis, the amfibus uses a hull that allows the vehicle to float. While it operates like a normal coach on the road, when it is in water it is driven by twin water jets and can achieve a speed of eight knots.

The £700,000 Dutch-made vehicle can carry 50 passengers and may replace the ferry service between Renfrew and Yoker, which is to be scrapped to save money.

The 500-year-old service will stop running in March because operators Strathclyde Partnership for Transport said it needs to save money

An amfibus has never been used in the UK for commuters. The technology has only been used for leisure and excursions, Stagecoach said.

Mr Stewart said: "We thought that the bus would be particularly suited to linking the two sides of the Clyde where you can have one seamless journey from one side to the other.

"We often look at our rivers and estuaries and see them as a bit of a barrier to travel but we actually think they can be a link between two communities.

"This service we think has got big potential."

The amfibus would use slipways at Renfrew and Yoker although they would need to be extended beyond the sill at the end of the ramps so it can work at all tide levels.

Stagecoach has already tested the amfibus in Rotterdam, where it said the vehicle performed well. It is also involved in a joint project with New York Waterways operating an amfibus which does leisure trips on the Hudson River in New York.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/u ... 019264.ece
 

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Quantum logic clock loses a second every 3.7bn years
Robin Henry

Scientists have developed a clock so precise that if it had been started at the dawn of time, 13.7 billion years ago, it would be only four seconds out today.

The new quantum logic clock could lead to dramatic advances in satellite tracking and unmanned transport. While a modern GPS can pinpoint the location of an object on Earth to within 10 metres, the new clock system could allow moving objects to be tracked to within the nearest metre.

This may pave the way for automated cars and an autopilot accurate enough to land a plane through satellite guidance alone, without human intervention.

The clock’s US inventors at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) claim it has more than doubled the accuracy of any existing timekeeper and hope it may one day redefine the second.

Its new clock works by linking a laser to an aluminium ion (an atom with a net electric charge), which vibrates much faster than the atoms used in caesium atomic clocks.

Whereas early atomic clocks lost one second every 300 years, the new clock will lose one second every 3.7 billion years. “It’s very impressive. We could see its practical application within years,” said Dr Patrick Gill of the UK National Physical Laboratory. “Being able to apply such a high degree of precision in measurements will have a fundamental effect on how we understand the laws of physics, the theory of relativity and cosmology.”

A more accurate clock could help scientists to detect how gravity warps time, as implied by Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Caesium-based atomic clocks were first created by Louis Essen, a British physicist, in 1955. They still provide the standard for defining the second.

The NIST team, based in Colorado, is unable to tell exactly how many times their invention “ticks” per second, because that unit is currently based on the caesium fountain clock, which cannot measure the precision of a more precise machine. :?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/s ... 026255.ece
 

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This is a mind-boggling idea:

The end of washing-up! Revolutionary kitchen does away with pots and pans
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:40 AM on 17th February 2010

A cooker that doesn't use pots and pans could one day be taking centre stage in your kitchen.
Fancy a bite to eat? Tea for the kids? All you need do is press your hand down on the softened surface to create a hole and in go the ingredients.
Setting the temperature and time is then another simple flick of a finger.
This is the future according to Electrolux and their new tactile design concept called 'Heart Of The Home'.

The ingredients are placed on the mouldable surface and the same area then heats up and cooks your food.
Before it does this, it analyses what has been placed on it and offers you a range of recipe options to choose from.
If you need to cook larger amounts and need a wider surface then you simply press down on a bigger area.

And because there are no pots and pans, there won't be any washing up.
Although the firm's concept video doesn't explain how it is cleaned, it presumably takes just a swish of a dishcloth to clear away any remains.
In the video the user is shown creating a number of pans simply by pressing on the malleable surface.
Once a recipe is selected the user is able to move the 'hobs' across the surface. :shock:

Electrolux said the design had been prompted by the need to create energy-efficient devices that were of practical use for an increasingly urbanised society.
It pointed out that 2008 was the year when, for the first time in history, more people were living in cities than in rural areas.
The UN believes that the number will rise to a staggering 74 per cent in 2050. This compares with a mere 29 per cent living in cities in 1950.
Pressures on space and resources will mean that homes will need appliances that can carry out a number of functions as opposed to one specific function.

Although Electrolux have no immediate plans to create the device, they said the technology should be in use within 40 years.
The company said the design had been: 'Created for the person driven by culinary curiosity using new technology without removing the essence of cooking.'
Heart of the Home was presented for the first time at DesignBoost in Stockholm, last week.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/ ... z0fsfcdRvq
 

Timble2

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It's going to arrive at the same time as flying cars, personal jet packs and holidays on Mars....
 
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