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Nov 22, 2009

Laserdisc really took off in Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, but not in North America, which is why it's stuck around for so long.

Laserdisc hand a huge quality advantage over VHS and Betamax, but flopped in North America because the discs were expensive and non-recordable, as well as being confused by consumers with CED, which was marketed as Videodisc.



Nov 22, 2009

From 2003 to 2006 some areas in Toronto had access to an innovative solution in search of a problem, Dexit

Dexit was an RFID key tag that functioned like a debit card. You went online to load the card, and would tap it without having to put in a PIN or signature. In theory, it had the advantages of a debit card (you don't have to remember to pay it, no interest) and a credit card (no transaction fees), but in practice, it was one more thing to carry around, you could only put $100 on it (and had to remember to load it), very few places accepted it, and there were no perks for using it.

It was advertised heavily, but I never saw anyone use it.

Nov 22, 2009

Jibo posted:

$40 for a weather radio that can also play cassette tapes actually isn't such a bad deal.

Sony also revived the Walkman brand by sticking an mp3 player in an Xperia Pro case.

As for the Microsoft Surface, there's going to be the regular Surface which will run on a mobile/tablet OS, Windows RT, while the Surface Pro will have full Windows 8

Nov 22, 2009

Phanatic posted:

It would have worked wonderfully at its intended purpose, and so isn't really ridiculous: Nuke us and we send this your way, so Do Not Nuke Us. This thing would have done Mach 3 at ground level, even the shockwave of its passage would have broken things.

The reason it wasn't built wasn't because people realized it was a dumb idea, it was because ICBMs turned out to be a lot easier to develop than expected. So stuff like this, and the nuclear-powered B-36 bomber (yes, that's right, a big fuckoff airplane with a nuclear reactor in it, it was actually built and actually flown with an operating nuclear reactor on board, although at that point in the R&D the reactor was just along for the ride, not actually keeping the plane in the air), ended up being canceled because if you did want to salt the earth there were easier ways that also couldn't be defended against.

The B-36 is a cool piece of obsolete technology itself.

Development started in 1941 when the US decided that in the event Britain fell, they would need a bomber that could hit Germany from bases on the eastern seaboard.

This never happened, and the completed aircraft didn't fly until 1949 but now there was a new threat: a nuclear armed Soviet Union. The B-36 was the only aircraft with the range to reach the Soviet Union and back.

It was a truly massive aircraft- 185 feet long, with a 230 foot wingspan, and a 72 000 lb bombload. It was powered by 6 3500-horsepower piston engines, when even these proved to be not enough, a 4350-hp thrust turbine engine option was examined, but it was instead decided to go with four jets modified to run on aviation gasoline, for a total of 10 engines. It still holds the record for largest mass produced piston-engine airplane, largest bomber, and longest wingspan for a production airplane.

In the mid-1950s, it was the only aircraft large enough to carry the early H-bombs, which wouldn't fit into the B-47 or pre-Big Belly modified B-52. The final version, the J-3, had 3800-hp engines, were fitted with only tail guns, and could fly up to 50 000 feet. The final recon version, the H, could fly for up to 48 hours continuously.

It had its faults, though. Piston engines can only be made so large, and the larger they are, the greater the risk engine fires pose. The B-36 carried some of the largest ever made, and due to the wing design (very thick, smooth and long to produce a lot of lift), had to be installed in a pusher configuration, which exacerbated the risk of fire. It also burned through massive amounts of engine oil. The largely magnesium airframe burned easily too. It was also slow, being a piston-engine airplane that only used its jets to assist takeoff and over the target. It didn't have aerial refueling capabilities, relying on its size for endurance.

Fighters were another threat. It initially carried 15 20mm cannons in turrets, but even when directed with radar, were no match for jet fighters. No fighter had the endurance the B-36 had, so the USAF thought: "Why not bring the fighters with them"?

There were several plans, including putting 1 or more XF-85 Goblin parasite fighters in the bomb bay (the Goblin was no match for MiGs); TIP-TOW, which consisted of attaching 2 F-84s to the wingtips (turbulence was too strong, and the risk of a crash too high); and FICON, which consisted of a specially modified RB-36 and RF-84, in which the fighter was carried by a trapeze under the bomber. All were failures.

Then it was thought to simply fly over interceptors, or so high that by the time they were scrambled it would be useless. To achieve this, Project Featherweight was introduced in 1954. Featherweight 1 involved removing guns, 2, involved removing underutilized crew comfort features, such as bunks and a kitchen. This enabled them to fly much higher, but when the SA-2 missile was introduced by the Soviets, it was reliable to 60 000 feet, and fighters began carrying missiles too.

The B-36 was finally phased out in 1959, with the second generation of H-bombs now able to fit in a B-52 and with ICBMs and supersonic jet bombers on the way.

Nov 22, 2009

ol qwerty bastard posted:

Big planes are the coolest.

Here's a 1930s Soviet aircraft, the Kalinin K-7

Just look at it. What an ugly mofo.

It definitely counts as failed tech. It had crazy vibration problems starting from the first test flight, and the seventh flight crashed, killing 14 people. Then the project was canceled, and then just to add insult to injury (or vice versa?) the designer was executed for being an enemy of the state.

I'm fully convinced that its sheer ugliness is what destroyed it- matter cannot stand to be arranged like that!

As for the B-36, here is a clip from the 1955 Jimmy Stewart movie Strategic Air Command of a B-36 takeoff, using real planes. The actual movie was mainly a recruiting tool for the USAF, SAC in particular, and has some cool shots of planes with a pointless story that is as boring as watching paint dry. As a side note, Jimmy Stewart was a bomber pilot in WW2.

Here is a witness' take on an incident in 1957 when a 42 000 lb, 10Mt Mark 17 H-bomb fell out of the bomb bay of a B-36, and, if it had been armed, would have leveled Albuquerque

Nov 22, 2009

Ofaloaf posted:

Whereas the American steam turbine locomotives look like they belong in some caricature of the 1950s:

This locomotive, 1 of 3 built by Chesapeake and Ohio, is actually a turbo-electric locomotive. The steam turbine was connected to a generator, which powered the traction motors located on the bogies. One of the biggest problems with this type of locomotive is its fuel source- it was coal-fired. This made sense in the coal-rich region it operated (railways operating in the west typically used oil-fired steam locomotives from the late 1930s onward), but it simply did not work in the complicated turbine designs. From front to back, a typical steam locomotive is typically arranged like this: smokebox-boiler-firebox-cab-tender. The C&O turbine was arranged: coal bunker-cab-firebox-boiler-smokebox-generator-water canteen tender, with traction motors under everything except the tender. This arrangement meant that coal dust fell into the traction motors and fouled them, rendering the locomotives useless.

They were supposed to operate an express service between DC and Cincinnati, but neither of the 3 made it the whole way without breaking down. They were also too long and heavy for most of the C&O system.

Pennsylvania Railroad's S2, on the other hand, showed some promise.

This design stated during the war, and was grandfathered in under a prohibition on new designs (the government wanted production focused on types that were known to work), but the builders were forced to use heavier materials, resulting in the front and trailing trucks having 6 wheels instead of the planned 4.

This design, unlike the C&O turbine, was a direct-drive turbine. It had one big turbine for forward operation, and a second smaller one for reversing.

It actually had some advantages over conventional steam locomotives: because there were no pistons, there was no hammerblow on the tracks, so it was at once a smoother ride and easier on the tracks, and it was very efficient at speeds over 30 mph/ 50 km/h. It was more capable of sustaining high speeds than a traditional reciprocating locomotive. It was also extremely powerful, putting out 6900hp. A Union Pacific Big Boy, with twice the number of driving wheels and much longer length, only put out 6000.

However, in addition to melting its own firebox and blowing out rivets and bolts, it had extremely high fuel consumption at low speeds, making it unsuitable for freight trains, which doomed it as diesels took over passenger operations.

Perhaps an oil-fired turbo-electric steam locomotive would have worked, but by the early 1950s, it was clear that American railways were going over to diesel.

There was, however, one railroad that did things differently: Union Pacific. Union Pacific always did things big. They had some of the toughest hills and longest trains in the US. They had the most mileage to cover, and the biggest locomotives to match.

When locomotives with a single set of driving wheels weren't enough, they introduced articulated locomotives; the Challenger, with 2 sets of 6 driving wheels:

When the Challenger wasn't enough, they introduced the Big Boy; the largest steam locomotive ever built (there was one heavier, but the Big Boy was larger by dimensions):

Even this wasn't enough. To cope with the train lengths and weights of the late 1950s, 2 Challengers or Big Boys were often needed. The early diesels weren't particularly powerful, generating only 1200-1800 hp, meaning that you would have needed about 10 of them to pull a train through the Wasatch mountains.

UP had a solution: the gas turbine locomotive. It was essentially a jet engine on rails. Three generations were developed between 1954 and 1959.

The third generation was the most powerful locomotive ever built in North America. It was factory-rated by General Electric for 8500 hp, and Union Pacific often uprated them to 10 000 hp. Look at this monster:

The front unit contains the cab, a diesel engine for reversing and maneuvering in the yard, the associated generator and the electronics. The middle section is the gas turbine and generator, and the rear section is the fuel tender, a former steam locomotive water canteen tender filled with heavy fuel oil. They generated a lot of heat and noise, and were banned from Los Angeles after UP left one idling under a bridge- and melted a hole in it with its exhaust! There was also an experiment with running two of the earlier turbines back-to-back, which caused the rear one to flame out. In the rare instances extra power was needed, regular diesels were added to the train.

They operated until 1970, by which time diesel locomotives became more powerful and efficient, and the high maintenance costs and fuel consumption of the turbines outweighed the benefits they offered.

They also tried a coal fired turbine, but this exacerbated the problems with wear on the turbine blades the fuel-oil powered turbines had, and was less efficient and powerful than any of them

Sunshine89 has a new favorite as of 17:44 on Jun 28, 2013

Nov 22, 2009

Here's a diagram of a prototype:

There are some videos of the turbines in operation, but I've only seen dubbed-over previews for mail-order VHS tapes.

Nov 22, 2009

While we're still on track (har har) with locomotives, there's one more turbo-electric experiment in the US: the ominously-named Jawn Henry

(thank you Bob, whoever you are, for getting the one decent close-up I could find of the real thing)

This was Norfolk and Western's turbine attempt and one of the last new steam locomotive designs in the USA. It was built in 1954, by which time dieselization was well underway. Norfolk and Western did much of its business in coal-rich Virginia, and was one of the last holdouts operating steam locomotives.

Jawn Henry (offcially N&W 2300) was a one-of-a-kind design, similar to the 1947 C&O turbines, but had some improvements, such as semi-automated boiler controls and a water tube boiler (more efficient than a fire tube boiler, such as the C&O turbines had). However, Jawn Henry suffered from similar problems to the C&O turbines, albeit to a lesser degree -it actually completed runs. Again, the locomotive was coal fired, and coal dust fouled the traction motors and boiler controls. The locomotive was withdrawn in 1957 and scrapped the next year.

Also, a big thanks to Douglas Self's Loco Locomotives, a Web 1.0 treasure trove of information on obscure steam locomotives. The broader site focuses on audio equipment and other obsolete tech, as well as being an example of mid-late 90's web design itself.

Nov 22, 2009

Obsolete locomotives aren't necessarily bad locomotives. Check out the China Rail SY Class:

It's fairly unremarkable looking. It takes elements from the best contemporary Russian and American locomotives, and is designed to burn absolutely terrible coal and keep going with minimal maintenance. What's remarkable about it? Thousands have been built, and the type was in production from the 1950s to 1999.

Its larger sibling, the QJ 2-10-2, pulled the last regularly scheduled steam-hauled passenger trains, and ran the length of the newly-constructed Ji-Tong Railway in Inner Mongolia.

Several QJs and SYs still exist. There are many ppreserved in China. Private operators in China still operate them- SYs are often found in steel mills and coal and ore mines, while QJs pull power plant coal delivery trains. 3 QJs are in the US, 2 have been heavily Americanized in appearance, and one still remains close to its original Chinese appearance. Also, if you're interested in buying one, Motive Power Industries in New Jersey will gladly sell you one.

Nov 22, 2009

Lazlo Nibble posted:

Designed by GM—and given that blatantly car-like cab profile, there was probably at least one heated argument about whether or not it should have tail fins.

It did.

Nov 22, 2009

We don't need no steeenking electric traction motors that worked so well in diesel electric locomotives across the pond that they displaced the best steam locomotives yet built!

Nov 22, 2009

Axeman Jim posted:

British Rail Class 370 “APT” – Expensive Crap

By the 1970s, British Rail were the laughing stock of the world railway industry. They had rushed to replace steam with a motley assortment of unsuitable and defective trains, the tracks and stations were underfunded and falling apart and punctuality was literally a national joke. BR decided that it needed to show the world exactly what they were capable of. The APT did exactly that, but not in the way they intended.

The problem that the UK railways have, which other railway systems don’t, is their age. The British built railways first, when passenger numbers were low and trains were slow. So the UK railway system has all kinds of sharp curves and bottlenecks that didn’t bother Victorian trains that would putter around twice a day at 30mph, but are a real loving nuisance when you’re trying to run a 125mph service at 15-minute intervals.

The French had a similar problem, which they solved by building new lines, and giving a Gallic shrug to anyone whose house got demolished or who suddenly had 180mph TGVs blasting along the bottom of their garden all day and night. Well, that might be all good and well for the frightful Frogs, but we’re British, dammit, and we love our countryside too much for all that frightful line-building. (Plus we were broke.) So the challenge was on to find a way of raising speeds on the existing lines.

The solution BR came up with was to design tilting trains that could take curves faster. This had only been tried once before, in Canada, where it was a dismal failure. So this was precisely the sort of project for BR to get its teeth into.

The Advanced Passenger Train (APT) was originally going to be powered by gas turbines, but by the time pre-production trains were built that had changed to electric power. The APT was going to be so advanced that almost every component – power systems, tilt, brakes, controls, everything, was going to be totally new and radical. Not evolution, revolution! And it looked pretty cool in an 80's sports car sort of way:

The rest of BR told the Research division that that was all well and good, but they needed new trains and needed them right now. So they threw together some fast diesel trains to stop the other departments whining and got down to their revolution.

The problem with the APT was that not only was every single component new, it was also untested. In its first year of operation, it failed to complete a single test run without going wrong. The problem was that a different brand new and untested system would go wrong each time. The brakes would seize, the tilt mechanism (which made people feel sick) would jam, the power would go out, the controls would misbehave, each and every time necessitating a humiliating trip back to the depot and the drawing board. Even if the problem was fixed, it proved impossible to work out how each new system talked to each other system and any problems that would arise from the emergent behaviour of so many systems under test at once.

Eventually though, BR were confident enough to let some journalists ride it. And of course it broke down almost instantly on leaving the terminus. The write-ups sealed the APT’s fate, and the programme was abandoned, with billions wasted.

The tilt technology was sold to Fiat, who realised that if they just developed the tilt technology on its own without literally reinventing the wheel they could make it work, and suddenly perfectly functional tilting trains were running all over continental Europe. And in 2002, in one of the biggest ever embarrassments for the British rail industry, Fiat sold tilting “Pendolino” trains back to Britain, which now run, 20 years later, on the same timetables that the APT was supposed to follow.

And those stop-gap diesel trains? Those were the Intercity 125, probably the greatest modern train this country has ever produced, expected to have a useful life of 50 years or more.

We borrowed parts from this across the puddle.

Leading into... into Crap Canadian Trains: Bombardier's Blunder

The heyday for Canadian passenger rail was in 1955, when Canadian National (then a Crown corporation) and Canadian Pacific were investing heavily in new passenger equipment, going so far as to launch transcontinental streamlined trains on the same day. When times were good, they were good- just look at this:

CP's The Canadian

CN's Super Continental

This sort of lives on- CP's same cars are hauled by F40PHs; and due to budget cuts in 1990, the Canadian was cancelled and the Super Continental given its name. There used to be one departure on each daily (in addition to other transcontinental trains, like CP's The Dominion Limited, this has since been reduced to twice per week.

Since then, things went downhill. Highways were constructed between Toronto and Montreal (the busiest stretch of track), bypassing the slow, winding Highway 2/ Kingston Road. Airlines reduced the travel time from Toronto to Vancouver from days to hours. By the late 1960s, things were looking pretty grim. CN and CP both wanted to drop their passenger services. CP complained bitterly about having to subsidize their competition; CN shot back that they had to take on more unprofitable branch lines and that CP themselves were given huge loans and grants. Rail was declared an essential service, and in most of the country, service was reduced to a bare minimum; the stramliners ran slower and less frequently, and much of the service existed in the form of dingy passenger cars with leaky steam pipes or diesel railcars. Eventually, passenger operations were spun off into a new Crown corporation. Initially a subsidiary of CN, VIA Rail Canada took over passenger operations in Canada in 1978.

This posed a challenge. Their locomotives and rolling stock all dated from the 1950s and early 1960s, and much of it suffered from deferred maintenance. The locomotives were all F units and licence-built ALCO FA units at the end of their lifespans. The rolling stock, all steam-heated, needed upgrading or replacement. Some of it was solid- the ex-CP, Budd built stainless steel cars,rebuilt with head-end power lighting and HVAC, still form the backbone of the transcontinental fleet, despite being over 60 years old. Still, the ex-CN stock needed to be replaced, and much of the fleet would be out of service for upgrades. Nowhere was this more apparent than in short-haul service. A reliable replacement for the thoroughly outdated stock was needed.

For now, we'll have to jump back about a decade. Despite the severity of the situation, CN wasn't quite ready to completely give up on passenger rail. The equipment they had wasn't shot yet, but it was clear a replacement was needed. There were a couple proposals- a gas turbine, and a lightweight diesel electric.

In 1967, in anticipation of Canada's centennial celebrations, Expo 67, CN tried out a gas turbine train, the Turbo:

In true Canadian fashion, the train was rushed in its testing, and was completed a year too late for Expo. The design itself went back to a study that C&O, not ready to give up on turbines after their foray into steam turbines, commissioned in the 1950s.

The Turbo was a consist of semi-permanently coupled cars between two power cars. It could travel at speeds in excess of 200 km/h, and has an excellent power-to-weight ratio. It also had a license-built Talgo passive-tilt system to cope with the unimproved railway it traveled on.

The Turbo was not without problems. Like all turbines, it was extremely inefficient at low speeds. It also had problems with the brakes freezing in the winter, and with catching fire. Smoke from the engine blocked the skylights, so the skylights were covered over and grills put over the exhaust. The semi-permanently coupled cars made altering train lengths difficult (and meant that if there was a problem anywhere, the whole train had to be taken out of service), and they had to be run in pairs or nearly empty if demand was high or low enough.

The unimproved tracks did it no favours- it hit a truck on its very first run at an unguarded crossing, and almost never reached its top speed.

Some at CN realized that the Turbo was a dog, so they proposed an alternative: The LRC:

This ugly piece of aluminum is the epitome of "design by committee". The acronym is bilingual (Light, Rapid, Comfortable / Leger, Rapide, Confotable ).

As for this lofty statement, it scored a "sort of" in each category.

The engine in the locomotive was outdated at the outset, but the best one that Montreal Locomotive Works had- had a licence for an ALCO engine, that is. The consortium that designed it was composed of Dofasco (a steel foundry that specializes in railway trucks), Alcan (an aluminum company that designed the body shells), Montreal Locomotive Works, and Transport Canada. Bombardier bought out MLW in 1974, and there was much complaining that they brought little in the way of expertise to the project.

The trainsets, which could be coupled into any combination, were built low and lightweight for maximum efficiency. They were built mainly from aluminum rather than steel, further saving on weight. The locomotive, however, wound up weight as much as the heavier ones it was intended to replace. It was capable of high speeds, faster than the Turbo, but this required a locomotive at each end. They were restricted to the same speeds as the Turbo, and, in practice, were rarely operated at speeds the rest of the world would call "high speed".

Testing and manufacturing prototypes took nearly a decade, due to arguments, strikes, conflicting goals and funding cuts. Amtrak showed no interest, making the LRC yet another one-off.

The cars also borrowed the tilt system from the APT. This meant that not only did it make passengers queasy, it would often lock in the tilted position for the duration of the journey.

The cars actually survive to this day, albiet with the tilt system disabled. They are actually quite well made despite the tilt system, and form the backbone of service between Windsor and Quebec City. VIA is currently rebuilding the LRC fleet, so they'll be sticking around. They are hauled around by VIA's P42s and F40PHs, though.

The locomotive was a dog. Most of them lasted about 10 years in service, a good chunk of it being dead-in-train behind an F40PH or 40 year old FP7. It was noisy, smoky, unreliable and heavy, thoroughly unpopular with passengers and crews.

The experiment could be summed up as: Light (engine no, cars yes), Rapid (by Canadian standards), Comfortable (with considerable modifications and ignoring design goals)

The LRCs today:

As an aside, much to the delight of enthusiasts (okay, foamers too), VIA rebuilt their entire F40PH fleet, with everything from a separate HEP generator and improved emissions controls to a microwave and A/C for the crew. New leads old:

Sunshine89 has a new favorite as of 11:48 on Jul 4, 2013

Nov 22, 2009

Ephphatha posted:

Because our train/plane/automobile has to be better than the rest of the crapperfectly suitable alternatives already available.

On this track, I'll say that there's a 10-tier hierarchy of innovation:

Paradigm Shift* > Major Breakthrough > Incremental Improvement > The Same Thing a Different Way > Good Concept, Sloppy Execution > A Solution in Search of a Problem > Fundamentally Flawed > Doomed from the Start > Just Plain Crazy/Awful > Scam

*the discovery of electricity, powered flight, the germ theory of disease, etc.

So much of it is shooting for #2 or #3 and hitting #5 through #8.

Take, for instance, the coal powered steam turbine locomotives. Had they been oil fired, and more care been given to the water piping and placement of equipment, they might have lasted longer- but they were built by railways in the coal belt, so they were designed from the start to utilize the coal.

The crap British diesels, as Axeman Jim stated better than I could, stem from protectionism, lack of experience with electric technology, and not seeing just how much the nature of railways were changing in Britain.

Few are outright crazy, or scams like the Holman Horror

Nov 22, 2009

Arivia posted:

I've been on this one (overnight luxury run from Montreal to Halifax) and it was pretty great. The bubble car is just as cool as I thought it was when I was a kid and it's even better going through the boreal forests in Quebec at dawn. I'd recommend it highly except for one thing: the sleeper car part is really, really, kill your legs bad if you're over six feet. Otherwise, it's really worth the extra cash, definitely a great way to start off our Maritimes trip.

I'd love to go the distance from Toronto to Vancouver. When I finally score a salaried job with vacation, that's going to be my first real vacation.

I also threw that in there as an example of what went right with Canadian trains. Those cars are made of stainless steel, and have been in constant service since their construction in 1954. They were rebuilt in the late 1980s/early 1990s to replace the steam heating and air conditioning and axle generators for electricity with head-end power, and they're getting improved fixtures, fittings and furniture now. They're about the closest thing you can get to indestructible. They're also not the oldest cars in VIAs fleet- they bought some stainless steel baggage cars and short haul passenger cars thirdhand from Amtrak that were built as early as 1947. I like the extra headroom they have.

Nov 22, 2009

Telemarchitect posted:

The Toronto Transit Commission ordered a bunch of brand new subway trains from (guess who!) Bombardier back in 2009 and started rolling them out onto one of the busiest subway lines in North America in 2011. Why did it take 3 years to get these trains rolling? Because the original door supplier went bankrupt, so Bombardier said gently caress it and did it themselves. One new feature on this train is that if someone gets caught in the doors as they're closing, the door servos detect it and recycle the doors. This was supposed to reduce problems with the doors because previous train models used pneumatics and someone forcing the doors would burn out the motors.

This has since been fixed (again) and hasn't happened anymore. However these trains consistently create jams and uneven headways on the line because the doors are slow to open from stopping and the train is slow to go from doors closing. It's more likely than not if you're waiting a while for a train, it'll be this one followed closely behind by several old trains.

The cab door on the side of the train is purely decorative and art for the foreseeable future.

These trains are made of stainless steel and are somehow starting to rust before they reach their terrible 2s. Other notable features of each $13 million piece of poo poo are:
  • No external speakers, so the closing door chime is played deafeningly loud through the internal PA
  • Bad TTS on the robo-announcer lady, who pronounces 'Dundas' station as "Dumbass" station, but only on the first of two times it's announced.
  • Being too heavy to run on our other main subway line because a massive bridge isn't strong enough to put up with its poo poo. The bridge is being refurbished at a large cost to eventually run these trains
  • Having massive fuckoff internal bulkheads for the AC and nothing on the underside to grab onto, because the grab bars would be too low
  • Metal straphangers that creak like they're 10000 years old
  • Requiring most of the ceiling slats in stations be removed, because the powerful blowers on the roof dislodged decades of dust and poo poo
  • Full width cab. No front window to look out of

We're already shipping some back to Bombardier to have grab bars installed on the AC bulkheads, external speakers installed and caution tape put on the diaphragm bulkheads. They have other problems too:

-In addition to being overweight, the first and last trucks are unpowered and the rest underpowered, so they're really slow. Slower than the 40 year old Hawkers they're supposed to replace

-Because they're so slow and unreliable, the TTC can't replace the old Hawkers like they said they would- all the 23-25 year old H6s are staying, and the 1975 vintage H5s are only slowly being retired.

-This also means the whole overcrowded Yonge line runs at a slower speed with more frequent delays and longer waits between trains.

-The interior flourescent lights are blindingly bright, like a dentist's chair, and the deafeningly loud AC is really weak, so they're a 450 foot long oven when it's hot or the're full.

Nov 22, 2009

Jerry Cotton posted:

For the past fifteen years I've been told the PC is dead every year, all of the year. Oh hey - it's my favourite obsolete and failed technology, it just still happens to be dominant but that's just a minor detail.

Every year I hear that the desktop PC is on the verge of obsolescence. First, when laptops stopped being 40 pounds with a battery life of 5 minutes and a price tag of $3000, nobody would want a desktop. Then when that didn't happen, our phones became so powerful, we'd just use them for everything! Netbooks didn't take off. Tablets, ultrabooks, tablet-ultrabook hybrids and whatever still didn't manage to kill off the desktop.

All these pop-tech writers just gloss right over the advantages of desktops though. Sticking to the average end-user (ignoring specialized and enthusiast products like workstations and gaming rigs), they offer several advantages. Laptops aren't practical at screen sizes larger than 17", and even those are heavy and have a crappy battery life. Because, unlike a laptop not everything has to be miniaturized so they offer a better price to performance ratio. You can position the keyboard, mouse and screen where you want them, and these are full-sized and more comfortable to use for long periods because portability doesn't have to be taken into consideration. The mini tower is the standard size- mid and full towers are only necessary for specialized uses- and if even that is too large, they make small form factor towers no larger than a console, and all-in-ones like the iMac and PC-lookalikes.

Also, it's just plain more comfortable to not have to hunch over an attached keyboard and screen.

This isn't to say I don't like portable devices- on the contrary, they're awesome. It's just at this point, it's not realistic to say that desktops are going to disappear anytime soon, kind of like a telecommuting revolution didn't happen.

Sunshine89 has a new favorite as of 16:13 on Jul 21, 2013

Nov 22, 2009

Croccers posted:

That Mx Cherry button (I think, I forget what colour my mate actually has) mechanical keyboards are annoying as hell. "Let's replicate the sound of typing on an old-fashioned typewriter "
Typewriters are cool, keyboards being as loud as one because mechanical keyboards are not.

Just wait until you type on a mechanical keyboard- you'll never want to go back.

Chiclet keys can go die, they're so much worse than even regular membrane keys.

Nov 22, 2009

This may be more marketing than technology, but I think it fits with the theme of the thread.

Ever heard of a car being referred to as a "chick car"? When you hear this, you probably think of a Volkswagen New Beetle, Fiat 500, minivan or station wagon with big wheels compact crossover CUV.

Back in the mid-1950s, Chrysler actually designed and built a car targeted specifically at women. It came with pink or light grey paint, tapestry-like upholstery, and a matching purse with coordinated hairbrush, wallet, change purse, cigarette case and lighter that sat in a special holder. The clasp was a large medallion that could have the owner's name engraved into it.

This is the Dodge La Femme.

It was just a Dodge Custom Royal Lancer with special trim, so it cost Chrysler Corporation little extra to make it. It was also sold as a "his-and-hers" type deal, where he would have a Custom Royal Lancer, and she could have a car that matched.

It turned out to be a total flop. It only lasted for the 1955 and 1956 model years, and less than 2500 were sold across both.

As it turned out, women who didn't care about cars wouldn't be lured by a pink one with a matching purse, and women that did care about cars weren't swayed by Dodge's marketing department. The typical women's car of that era was the station wagon, to haul around groceries and kids, especially in the rear-facing third row seat.

Sunshine89 has a new favorite as of 16:24 on Mar 31, 2014

Nov 22, 2009

leidend posted:

I think one of our Spirits had an extra wide armrest in the front and that was somehow considered the sixth seat even though pre-pubescent me had trouble fitting in it.

Edit: must be thinking of a different car after Google image searching. But as a side note I remember my dad preferring this colour and even in the early 90s I had the sense to plead for the grey interior.

Choices in interior car colour is definitely an obsolete tech.

I think that the buckets were an option and that the standard front seat was a bench, and the shifter was on the steering column. Theoretically, the bench sat 3 people, making the car a 6-seater.

Nov 22, 2009

Ah, more obsolete car tech and comfort.

In the 1950s, performance took a back seat to cruising in style- if you wanted performance, you bought a car without a back seat, like a first generation Thunderbird or C1/2 Corvette. Options that hadn't been possible just years earlier were now making their way into production cars, even economy makes like Ford and Chevy. Automatic transmissions, with names like Powerglide, Hydramatic, Dynaflow, Cruise-O-Matic and Torque-Flite made their way into cars. Two and three tone interiors and exteriors were all the rage. Tilting steering columns, bucket seats, cruise control,air conditioning, tachometers, power steering, power brakes and even power-retracting hardtops became available. These technologies and creature comforts have been refined and are now commonplace in modern cars. Not all of the ideas that Detroit and Madison Avenue dreamed up made it out of the mid-century, though. Here are some of them:

1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Sunliner

"Glass Top Vicky" was Ford's top-range car for 1955. The roof forward of the B-pillar was a tinted acrylic glass panel, which acted as a sunroof. Initially it made a splash but eventually, it proved unpopular. It made the occupants of the car look a sickly shade of green, and the styling required a B-pillar when pillarless hardtops were gaining popularity. Particularly in warmer climates, it acted as a literal greenhouse and made the interior of the car very hot. It taxed the DC generator powered air conditioning systems of the day, and Ford hastily introduced a snap-in sunshade. This concept was dropped after this year, and the Sunliner name was given to Ford's convertibles.

Mercury's "Breezeway" Rear Window

This rear-slanted rear window could slide open under the overhand to provide additional ventilation. It was offered in various iterations from 1957 to 1968. Given how awful it looked, along with the rest of the painfully garish Mercurys of the era, it was no surprise that competing Oldsmobile outsold them roughly 7:1. Except the fastback 1963-64 Marauder, that is a fine example of full-size muscle

Nov 22, 2009

Krispy Kareem posted:

Whenever I rent a F-250 from the Home Depot they have pleather seats, so it must be an option somewhere.

Vinyl usually comes standard in the base trim of pickup trucks because it's easier to get construction site / farm dirt out of than carpeting.

Nov 22, 2009

Well, if it does get stolen, at least the thief won't mess up your dash trying to get it out.

Nov 22, 2009

EatMySpork posted:

Speaking of Walkmans, I just found one of these in a old box not to long ago.

My aunt had that exact yellow Walkman in the mid 1990s, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I also remember getting this Discman DNS 505 in the early aughts from my parents for my 13th? birthday:

smackfu posted:

On the portable Sony Discman subject, they had some ridiculous options in the interface. Like programmable track order which seems pretty pointless looking back.

That may have been handy if you had a burned CD and you didn't like the track order on it; kind of like a CD based playlist function

Ron Burgundy posted:

Hah, you guys and your modern CRT televisions.

I do NOT enjoy moving this thing, hence the carpet square it more or less lives on.

drat, that is one beautiful TV. Love the sunburst dials! Would you be able to tell us more about it, and what year it's from?

For content:

On the subject of retro appliances, Philco had a really neat model in the early 1950s: the V-Handle

The door on this fridge was hinged on both sides- pull the V to the right, and it operates as a left hinged fridge. Pull the V to the left, and the left hinge releases and the door operates right hinged. Looks awesome, and saved the need to make a left and right hinged model. There was one major drawback, however- pull the handles the wrong way, and both of the hinges release, and a heavy fridge door falls forward on you.

Also, if you want a 1950s style fridge, without the CFCs, stratospheric electricity consumption or having to worry about your kids locking themselves inside it, Big Chill makes one. I believe it's an Amana with a custom casing.

Nov 22, 2009

GWBBQ posted:



(credit: wipikepdia user Visitor7)


is awesome and all of it obsolete as hell (unless you consider the digital-analog TV converters made under the Philco name recently, but those don't really count.)

I really want a Predicta

I do too now!

SchultzeWorks did a really cool design of what a desktop PC made by Philco might have looked like. It won a contest to showcase the abilities of Rhino rendering software.
If this actually existed I would want to buy the poo poo out of it:

Apparently Schultze had several people asking where they could buy one!

Nov 22, 2009

Ron Burgundy posted:

Thanks! It's a 1964 Australian made Kriseler 121-82A. By this point Kriesler was owned by Philips so all the valves/tubes inside are Philips branded, including the AW 59-91 59cm/23" CRT which is one of the last CRT tubes to NOT HAVE AN IMPLOSION RIMBAND meaning that you needed to have a separate plastic shield in front of the CRT because they were even more bomb-like.

It's also amazing in that 1964 printed circuit boards were not universally used. Apart from the fairly basic PCB in the upper right it's all point to point wiring, by hand.

Someone did this, by hand, in a first world country. Until the abolition of tariffs meant that Australia was overtaken by cheaper goods from overseas then the manufacturing sector pretty much died overnight.

To call the Predicta a barely functioning rats nest of components would be a very kind assessment. But the design is timeless.

Thanks! That's really interesting, especially the shot of the wiring job!

I read that back in the late 1950s, Predictas were slow sellers. They were more expensive than most TVs of the time, and they weren't well positioned in the marketplace- early adopters stayed away due to their smaller screens and lack of a colour model, and most consumers found the design to be too avant-garde, preferring wood cabinet TVs.

Grumbletron 4000 posted:

I'm lucky enough to have a drive in right up the road from my house. Nostalgia aside its a great place to watch a movie. They have a nice modern projector for good image quality and if you have a decent car stereo the sound is awesome. My car has nicer seats than most theaters and on a nice night the fresh breeze makes for a relaxing experience. The only downsides are the aforementioned roving packs of I'll behaved screeching kids and the unpredictability of the weather.

My favourite thing that Cineplex has introduced are their VIP theatres. For an extra $5, you get better seats, more legroom, a lounge to wait in, and before the movie starts, you can check off a menu and have an usher bring food or beverages to your seat. They also serve alcohol, so no under 19s are allowed in. No screeching kids, or texting teens to contend with, and people are usually better behaved with upgrades, because they paid more for their ticket and would rather see their movie than talk or text through it. I will never see a movie in a theatre in a mall for that reason too.

Sunshine89 has a new favorite as of 17:57 on Apr 20, 2014

Nov 22, 2009

Phanatic posted:

Automatics and manuals are both compromises: the engine's only going to deliver peak torque in a narrow rpm range so you need a way to keep the engine in that rpm range over a wide range of vehicle speeds.

Historically, manual transmissions were more efficient: automatics used torque converters which waste energy in the fluid coupling. Automatics were also more mechanically complex, so you didn't see them with as many gears. And, again due mainly to the torque converter, they couldn't handle as much input power as contemporary manuals (there were exceptions to this; the '53 Corvette infamously came with a two-speed automatic because Chevy didn't have a manual capable of handling 150 horsepower).

Most of these disadvantages have decreased or disappeared. Automatics are still mechanically complex, but they're a mature technology and you see luxury cars with 7- or even 8-speed automatics, which means that "a manual gets better mileage" isn't necessarily true anymore.

The advantage of a manual in my opinion is that it allows you to anticipate. An automatic only knows what you're doing with the car *now*, it doesn't know what you're planning on doing. Highway passing in an automatic is annoying; you need to give the car enough gas for the ECU to realize "Hey, this guy must want to pass," and then wait for it to downshift. With a manual, you just downshift and go. You can downshift ahead of turns to be in the right gear to accelerate out of the turn. And I'm not sure why you think manuals are annoying on hills, they're a downright pleasure, because you don't even have to touch the brakes: just put it in whichever gear limits your speed as you descend, and then just throw it into a higher gear as you reach the bottom. Driving in hilly country with an automatic is really annoying by comparison (of course, sitting in stop-and-go traffic is more annoying with a manual).

Again, they're both compromises. Ideally you'd want an engine with a completely flat torque curve that delivers the same torque no matter how fast it's spinning, but that's not really possible. The electric motors in things like the Tesla, which deliver maximum torque at 0rpm, are neat and that's one of the things that makes them so mechanically simple: the transmission is just a single fixed gear. But even that doesn't give you the anticipatory abilities of a manual.

The automatic that Chevy used throughout the 1950s and early 1960s was the two-speed Powerglide. Rough, jerky and downright bombproof. Even the 1961 Impala SS could be had with a 305 hp big-block V8 coupled to a truck Powerglide with more aggressive gearing.

Higher end Pontiacs, and all Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs could be equipped with GM's Hydra-Matic transmission. It came with a staggering four forward gears, and was smooth and reliable. It also added over 400 pounds to the curb weight of a car.

Now, manual or automatic is really a preference thing. If you use your car as an appliance, you'll want an automatic. If your driving experience is the union of man and machine, you'll want a stick

Sunshine89 has a new favorite as of 04:24 on May 12, 2014


Nov 22, 2009

Jeherrin posted:

My father taught me the magic of double clutching (I think, in the UK, we call it double de-clutching) and it's wonderful. Get it right, and you can change gear without the clutch at all, because you've matched the RPM. Not, of course, to be recommended unless you want very shiny nubbins instead of actual teeth on your gears... My father's mid-life crisis car is an Austin Healey 3000 (Mk 1, I think, or maybe Mk 2) and that has no syncromesh between 1st and 2nd. It's also got straight cut teeth for 1st, so it's quite noisy in 1st... those two things combined made the first time I drove it a terrifying experience.

Seriously, though, the city driving thing — I've driven a manual for years and it's actually better for city driving, because you have even more speed control. You have clutch-walking in first (all the way to clutch fully out and no gas, on a diesel at least!) then first gear with some gas, then clutch-walking in second, then second with some gas, and if you need really slow speeds you just slip the clutch very slightly from a standstill and creep forward. Definitely easier.

Again, that amounts to preference. Most people who just want to get from Point A to Point B aren't going to want to bother with the above steps when they can just push down one of two pedals, and don't care about some gains in efficiency.

A manual offers more control, an automatic sacrifices that for convenience.

Much like e-cigarettes and Linux OSes, people who have manual transmissions must let the entire world know that they have one.

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