Of Dreams and Patent Medicine

Early narrative phonography was as creative and conceptually groundbreaking in its way as early narrative film.  Take just one example: Muggsy’s Dream (1908).  The audio presented here was transferred from a cylinder in my collection by Dan Figurelli and Melissa Widzinski of MDPI on the Endpoint Audio Labs Cylinder Playback Machine (to get some practice…

Shorthand on the QWERTY Keyboard, 1875-1917

“kn u rd ths? gr8!” That might look like twenty-first-century mobile phone text messaging slang, of which it would in fact be a perfectly good example.  But that’s not what I’m using it here to illustrate.  Instead, I wrote it in one version of nineteenth-century “stenotypy,” following the guidelines put forward in a book published…

The World’s Oldest Aerial Photographs

A few months ago, I picked up a photograph on eBay showing a view of a town with a body of water in the background, evidently taken from a great height.  The seller described it as an “early aerial photo ca. 1860 from balloon” but wasn’t sure quite when it had been taken or where,…

A Document From 1656 Linked To Scotland’s Most Haunted Pub

It’s always interesting to browse the old handwritten documents that turn up for sale on eBay.  Often mysterious and illegible to the people selling them, they can repay careful attention by revealing the occasional text of unusual age or interest.  Here’s one recent acquisition that the dealer identified as “LARGE ENGLISH PAPER 1600s,” although it’s…

101 Algorithmic Autoportraits

Here for your consideration is an online gallery of 101 algorithmic autoportraits—pictures generated by computer based on nothing more than simple search expressions.  Each one was made by relaying the unvetted results of a Google image search to a program I wrote to hunt for faces in them, extract whatever it finds, align positions of…

Face Averaging and Google Image Search Results

“Okay Google, I’d like to connect you with this algorithm I’ve worked out to create pictures of faces by averaging your image search results.  First, show me what you think Man, Woman, Girl, and Boy look like.” “Well, that gives us a baseline of sorts, but let’s see what you can do with something more…

Time-Lapse Video From National Park Service Webcams

Time-lapse imagery spanning multiple years is fairly uncommon, but some promising sources for it turn out to be hiding in plain sight. The National Park Service maintains a number of air quality webcam archives that now reach back in time as much as twenty years.  Each of the webcams is trained on a view within a…