Showing all posts tagged: history

Iconic Sydney Park chimneys to be further restored

20 July 2022
Chimneys, Sydney Park, photo by John Lampard

Anyone going anywhere near Sydney Park, in Sydney’s inner west, will have seen the iconic old chimney stacks rising skyward from the corner of Sydney Park road, and the Princes Highway. If you’ve not been to the area, you’ve possibly seen photos of the chimneys on Instagram, where who knows how many thousands of such images reside.

The chimneys are part of a long closed brick manufacturing facility, which began operating at the site in the 1870s. Having restored two of the heritage listed stacks several years ago, Sydney City Council is embarking on a project to further preserve the four chimneys, while making the area of the park they are located in more accessible to the community.

The Sydney Park brick kiln and chimney precinct contains substantial remains from the brick making industry that once dominated the area. Shale was extracted from deep pits, crushed and pressed into green bricks that were fired in the large kilns.

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Why do young people in old photos look old?

19 July 2022

This is something I’ve often wondered about. I’m looking at a photo portrait that might be one hundred years old, of a person who is, or was, aged about twenty at the time the photo was taken. Despite their obvious youth, they still somehow look… old. Why should that be though? It’s a question that Michael Stevens, host of Vsauce, explores in a recent video.

The phenomenon of people who seem to be older at a younger age, is something Stevens calls retrospective aging. People today, he tells us, are aging at a slower rate than those who came before us. Lifestyle and nutrition changes, better healthcare, less smoking, and even the wider spread use of sunscreen, all make a difference. But there’s more to it, as Stevens explains.

As to the one hundred year photo of the twenty year old, who indeed looks twenty and not thirty-five, but still seems old, is something I call the illusion of age.

Compare photography of a century ago with the casual nature of selfie snaps today. One hundred years ago cameras were not as ubiquitous as they are today. Back then, having your photo taken was an occasion. People dressed elegantly. Put on their best clothes. Suits, evening dresses. Tidied up their appearance. People also tended to pose more formally, and seldom smiled. They looked serious. Not to mention their hairstyles, which also suggest a bygone era. All of those factors could combine to present someone in a more mature, older, light.

Then there’s the fact we know said photo is a century old. We’re looking at someone we know, were they still alive, would be aged well over one hundred. The image, the illusion, of an old person, therefore presents itself in our minds. The young person — unfortunately — looks old to our eyes.

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Drawing program interfaces from the 1980s and 90s

15 July 2022
Micrografx Windows Graph graphs and charts software interface

Here’s a truly awesome blast from the past… a Twitter thread, by California based data storyteller RJ Andrews, with images of drawing program software used on computers in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

The image above is the Micrografx Windows Graph interface, which was released in 1987, used to create graphs and charts on computers running the Microsoft Windows 1 operating system, which launched in 1985.

While some people might say the bold fluorescent pink, green, and yellow colours against the black background clash, the more you look at them, the better they begin to look.

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A guide to designing and building websites in 1997

11 July 2022

It’s 1997 and you want to build a website, a history of the early days of website development, by Jay Hoffmann. The first version of disassociated went online in 1997. I even held a small launch party. We went to an internet cafe so I could see disassociated on a third-party device that was not mine, nor anyone I knew.

They were the good old days of web design. Designers would stay up all night working on a new website, only to pull it apart, and start all over again when some new trend came along, which seemed to be all the time. Javascript image rollovers, anyone? TV lines? Some of the best experimental web design was to be found in the late nineties. Partly because there was a new-frontier exuberance, and the rules were few.

Despite this, I worked to the HTML 3.2 standard — a non-proprietary specification for building websites to — published by the W3C. My desire to use standards was two-fold: they promised to make the web a little more accessible, and hardly anyone else was working with them. It made me feel like some sort of counter-culture rebel.

When the HMTL 4 spec came along in April 1998 though I quickly adopted it, because, you know, it was shiny and new. I only talk about standards because they were the only paper resource I referred to when coding — sorry, marking up — a website. I didn’t rely on text books to teach myself web design, but rather the online tutorials of the time. Plus a little, actually considerable, trial and error.

I worked at some big-end-of-town company for a short time in 1998, where I furtively printed out the HTML 4 spec, twenty pages at a time, here and there, throughout the day, for several weeks.

Why I needed to waste all that paper — once printed the spec was almost the size of a telephone directory — when I could’ve referred to the document online (via dialup), eludes me now. I think having the spec, bound in a ring-binder, sitting on my desk at home, validated my then fledgling web design aspirations.

For somebody surfing the web in 1997, a book might feel a bit… 20th century. If you already knew the basics of getting online, why not poke around some sites that might help, right there in your browser.

Hoffmann’s article also mentions a bunch of early-on-the-scene web design agencies, including Razorfish, who were behind the production of This Girl, the monthly serialisation of the life of a fictitious twenty-something living in New York, called Phoebe. The work of Razorfish, and the exploits of Phoebe, were one of thousands of web influences I absorbed.

I wonder what became of Phoebe. And that print out of that HMTL 4 spec.

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Photos of the construction of Sydney Opera House

27 June 2022

A collection of incredible photos of the Sydney Opera House, taken during its construction. Today the Opera House is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, but it seems Sydneysiders were not enamoured by the iconic structure while it was being built.

Today the building is loved, yet while it was under construction attitudes were very different. The local press continually attacked its cost, its delays, and its architect; headline writers gave the now familiar white shell roof nicknames such as ‘the concrete camel’, ‘copulating terrapins’ and ‘the hunchback of Bennelong Point’.

What’s also compelling about these photos is both how much has changed, and how much has remained the same, when looking at the areas surrounding the land the Opera House stands on.

Via Things Magazine.

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QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection

9 June 2022
QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection, bookcover

QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection, published by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), is not only a catalogue for the exhibition of the same name running until Sunday 21 August 2022 in Melbourne, but also a collection of LGBTQIA+ stories and histories, edited by Ted Gott, Angela Hesson, Myles Russell-Cook, Meg Slater, and Pip Wallis.

More than 60 essays from authors with comprehensive knowledge of the historical and contemporary subjects encompassed by the NGV’s QUEER project are presented along side stunning reproductions of more than 200 works from the NGV collection, either by queer artists or engaging with queer issues. The essays in QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection explore the history of LGBTQ+ activism; the creation of queer spaces and communities; queerness as an artistic strategy; the expression of love, desire and sensuality; queer aesthetics; and the concepts of camp and the fantastic.

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What did Earth look like in the distant past?

1 June 2022

A fantastic visualisation of ancient Earth, as it is thought to have appeared in the distant past, going back 750 million years, created by Ian Webster, based on plate tectonic and paleogeographic maps made by C. R. Scotese.

Even better, type in your location’s name and see it where it was in the past, relative to the landmasses of the time. 750 million years ago, during the Cryogenian Period, the major city nearest me, Sydney, sat in the ocean. Might’ve been the best place to be, given glaciers covered the then landmasses, and the world was in the grips of the biggest known ice-age.

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How did dinosaurs spend their last day on Earth?

2 May 2022

Riley Black, writing for the Smithsonian Magazine, depicts the last day in the life in of an Edmontosaurus, a dinosaur focussed on finding food and avoiding predators, while trying to divest itself of lice like creatures feeding on his flesh.

There was no impending sense of doom. There was no shift to the wind, or darkening of the clouds. No lightning, no thunder. In this little patch of Hell Creek, Montana, all is as it ever was as far as the dinosaurs are concerned. But more than two thousand miles away, a chunk of extraterrestrial stone more than seven miles across just slammed into the Earth.

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Saving the roof of Jane Austen’s Hampshire cottage

3 November 2021

Good news for Jane Austen fans who like, or are one day hoping, to visit the house in the English village of Chawton, Hampshire, where she spent the final eight years of her life, and wrote several of her novels… funds have been raised to repair the roof of her old cottage, which was built in the seventeenth century.

The roof was last refurbished in 1948 before the House opened to the public. Over 70 years on and over a million visitors later, major repairs are required to ensure the watertightness of the building and preserve the museum collection.

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A short history of the letter J the alphabets last member

14 April 2011

While sitting in the tenth place in the English alphabet, the letter J, which split off from the letter I, was actually the last addition to the writing system.

“J” is a bit of a late bloomer; after all, it was the last letter added to the alphabet. It is no coincidence that i and j stand side by side — they actually started out as the same character. The letter j began as a swash, a typographical embellishment for the already existing i. With the introduction of lowercase letters to the Roman numeric system, j was commonly used to denote the conclusion of a series of one’s – as in “xiij” for the number 13.

Originally published Thursday 14 April 2011.

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The ghost stations of East Berlin by video train

6 December 2010

After the German cities of West Berlin and East Berlin were completely partitioned following the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, accessing one side of the city from the other — was at first — pretty much out of the question for all but a small number of people.

One group unaffected — to a degree — by the separation of the city were West Berlin train commuters who used a small number of underground services whose lines crossed into parts of East Berlin, as they travelled from one area of West Berlin to another.

While trains still ran through East Berlin, they did not stop at stations on the eastern side of the border. Many of these stations closed during the period the city was divided by the wall were dubbed “ghost stations”, and were usually heavily guarded by East German troops.

The YouTube video, above, contains footage filmed from the driver’s compartments of West Berlin trains as they passed through a couple of East Berlin’s ghost stations.

Update: unfortunately the original YouTube video has been taken down as a result of a copyright claim.

Originally published Monday 6 December 2010.

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