Wednesday, February 22, 2006

What Did We Do Before Digital Photography? (Not Quite The Subject of the Post)

by Tom Bozzo

We didn't blog so much, for one thing.

In recent semi-random Web surfing, I saw that the Imperial War Museum at Duxford is having a hush-hush event for Mother's Day, which is March 26th in England. I won't risk a Larry Summers moment by speculating as to whether this is a good idea for a Mother's Day activity, not least because if you are a woman and are reading this not by accident, you probably possess at least a tolerance for the geeky sidetracks here. Rather, it is not a good idea because much of the museum's impressive collection of British aircraft will be off-limits while construction is completed on their new home.

My interest in postwar British aviation goes back to childhood air-and-space nuttery, reinforced by research from my academic days on how de facto technological standards arise, and possibly over-fond memories of UFO — especially the moonbase staff. British aviation history is relatively dense with forms of jet aircraft that have since largely been pruned from the evolutionary tree. For that reason, many British planes from the fifties and sixties are unusually cool-looking. This makes them good retro-futuristic design fodder, perhaps most notably in Chris Weston's artwork for Warren Ellis's recent alternative-history graphic novel Ministry of Space. This site offers a lot of information and images of a range of postwar British warplanes that appear to have provided some inspiration to Weston.

Nostalgia sent me searching for my pictures from a visit to Duxford, which having been taken almost 13 years ago by my reckoning, were of course non-digital pictures the hard copies of which I had to try to find in the notoriously disorganized playspace that John and I share. With help from Suzanne, who somehow knew where they were, I found 'em, and I scanned 'em. So if you're curious, you can see skinny and young grad student me with the museum's English Electric Lightning and Handley Page Victor. The latter, among the V-bombers (with the Vickers Valiant and the Avro Vulcan, a trio of transonic bombers that once formed the air leg of Britain's nuclear triad), is particuarly evident as a source for the MoS artwork.

The question, or bleg as it were, is whether there are devices that are particularly useful for scanning the likes of old snapshots into happy digital usability. The traditional flatbed scanner in the office does what it has to do, but I wouldn't exactly call it convenient. I am prepared to accept that converting from the analog will be a pain in the butt similar to that of digitizing the vinyl.
I can't believe I've never heard of the UFO show. Then again, I was only recently introduced to Red Dwarf.
Funny, I knew you in '93 (& remember when you went to visit your dad over there) but I don't remember you being so young ;-)
Janelle: It's been eons since I've seen UFO, but it is available on DVD. I'll have to put it into my Netflix queue. What do you think of Red Dwarf?

Cathy: Must have been the econometrics problem sets. I'd be fortunate if you didn't remember me with horns and cloven hoofs.
LOL - I actually had forgotten that you were our TA! but now that you mention it....
Tom: I think Red Dwarf is silly fun. I enjoyed it a lot. And you?
Janelle: I haven't seen too much of the later series (which I think may have been a little besotted of "production values" -- at least as far as SF series on the Beeb are concerned), but some of the early stuff is brilliant. Esp. Danny John-Jules as the Cat. Going around with the spray can saying "This is mine... and this is mine..." cracks me up every time. It's so cat-like!
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