New entry in my Kilt blog 9/21/2011

Friday, March 20, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Steampunk and dieselpunk too

Friday March 20, 2009
Spring has Sprung

That time from 1800 to the 1970's I find technically and socially fascinating and I have since I was about 9 years old. It was a time when the marvels of technology could be opened, looked at, parts identified and repaired. Devices that were ingenious and never seen before were so obvious upon examination that many a boy engineer wondered why they had taken so long and had “why didn't I think of that” thoughts. Many thought “I can do th
at” and many did.

The inside of your wind up alarm clock. You do have one don't you?

I myself made cars, boats and radio's before I ever had a television. Some worked some didn't but I didn't know that I couldn't do that. (You should have seen my three wheeler made with rough boards, nai
ls and rope. It was an engineering disaster.) My biggest problem early on was a shortage of wheels. I think I was warped by that as I now hoard wheels. From age ten until age sixteen I had a long wire antenna strung up in my backyard and by age 13 had constructed a number of crystal radios and disassembled my tube radio to modify it. The crystal radios started out large and clunky with coils hand wound on oatmeal boxes and variable capacitors salvaged from old discarded radios. They became successively smaller using manufactured parts until I had one that would fit in my shirt pocket. I won't bore you with how it went from there. I wasn't exactly a boy genius but I never got over the fascination. I went on to build and modify amateur radio equipment.

The first television I owned was a large (by today's standards) console floor cabinet with a round 10 inch screen and I was married by that time. As late as 1985 I owned a TV that I could repair and I did. Now I am sitting in front of a 17” LCD screen a few inches thick on which I can watch TV (up to 17”) in color. On the same machine I can communicate two/way, type, compose, print and publish all at the same time. On top of that I can listen to the radio. It contains the library of the world and it will tell me in infinite detail how it works. It is my connection to the internetwebtubes. I can open it up and look at it but my ability to fix it is limited to replacing parts. Just the shear smallness of it limits me. In my wildest dreams when I became interested in radio and electronics at about ten years old I did not foresee this. I could foresee what it could do but not how small it would be. I am reduced to buying another when one breaks and then scavenging the old one for shiny parts, magnets, light bulbs and metal. I feel like an ignorant savage turning magically high tech devices into trinkets to wear in my nose, around my neck and into flower boxes. Sort of like one of neighbors when I lived in Mexico. She would stuff wood in the pan tray of a modern gas cook stove to heat the oven so she could bake pies (in her back yard next to the pig pen). It was not as good as a stove designed for wood but it worked. Good pie too

I love this machine. It does nothing it just runs.

Modern electronic equipment does not have the smell and sounds of old surplus vacuum tube equipment. The sound of a fan does not take the place of the hum and crackle or the heat and glow of fila
ments in the old tube sets. There is no romance in modern equipment. The looks of modern electronic equipment is about as exciting and inspiring as a stainless steel and Formica kitchen. Which leads me to why things are steampunked. Look it up. Steampunk has more than one definition and if you look you'll find one you like and that perhaps fits you.

I was already living in a technically diverse world when I first read Jules Verne. We had electric lights, telephones, radio, running water indoors, indoor toilets and internal combustion engines had well overtaken steam at the common mans level. (Ladies I use Man here to indicate the species not the gender). Verne wrote about technology in our future and he wrote it from our past mixing it with the industrial world, art and fashions of the Victorian
and Edwardian times. The illustrations in those old books showing elegant parlors traveling to the moon with men in top hat and vest as passengers really captured my imagination. How about walking on the bottom of the sea then dressing for dinner or enjoying listening to a pipe organ recital while perusing classic literature. It is classic elegant future history full of romance and style. In our sterile square cornered shiny plastic world there are those of us that would like to create and write our own classic future history using modern technology incorporating it into round and oval forms pleasing to look at. A parallel history where steam develops and rules with electrics and tolerates the upstart diesel. Not to mention what can be done with a number of power sources and power plants that Verne never thought of and most people are not aware of now. A future history where thoughtfulness and good manners prevail against evil.

I believe that if you can think of it then it can and will be done. I believe that if you can think of it then in this universe it is, has and will be done again an infinite number of times. I don't know about the other universes in this multiverse ours is in. (I know universe means one. See Michia Kaku on you tube for that)

I do not wish to return to the technology of the past. I don't even want the technology we have now. I want what's coming and I want it to have flare, be colorful, have style and be frivolously artful from a mad engineers point of view. Incorporate the old with the new. I want it to never break down and if it is delicate then be repairable.

Meanwhile I will be steam punking and dieselpunking stuff by making old wood an brass things work with new tech.

If you are looking for Steampunk love this will give it to you.

I've got to build one of these.


Clint Galliano said...

There was an episode of Boston Legal that had a storyline based on a divorcing couple's fight over ownership of a similar machine to the steam-powered dildo. They even demonstrated it in a courtroom scene. It was hilarious!

Not sure how much TV you are into watching, but there is a show on SyFy(lame new name for the SciFi channel) called Warehouse 13. There are a lot of steampunk-inspired gadgets in the show. If you are not already watching it, check out to catch up on back episodes.

Oldfool said...

Thanks Clint, I don't watch much TV so I'm not really up on whats on. I do know about Warehouse 13 and watched the first season but this latest round has not captured me yet. I am a sci-fi fan and if I watch anything it's usually that or documentaries.
Thanks for the link to cast tv.

Steel Fabrication said...

I love your blog and I look forward to reading up more of your writings.