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Thread: Trivial or non-trivial technology that amazes you.

  1. #1
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    Trivial or non-trivial technology that amazes you.

    My neighbor is mowing her lawn. With a battery lawnmower. Fifty years ago I don't think that would have occurred to anyone. Ten years ago it might have been, "well, maybe someday".
    And when I go to town, it'd be very rare for me not to see an electric car on the road. Of course, I live in Priusville so your mileage might vary, but still. And a majority of them are Teslas, which are by no means inexpensive.
    If I need to do a chore requiring a power tool, I use the cordless drill. Or saw. Or other saw. Which might make some dust so I clean up with the cordless hand-vac; using the same batteries.
    Of course, there's the computer/telephone/camera/gaming device/GPS mapping device I keep in my pocket, unless it's on the wireless stand for charging its batteries. I only need to do that for a short time each day.
    So, batteries!
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  2. #2
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    Probably trivial to those with experience with them, but after yesterday I am very impressed with ratchet straps.

    My Mom and I brought my bike up with us when I was moving into my my housing here at Acadia, which meant a long process of attaching it to a rack on the back of our car with bungie cords and unreliable plastic straps attached to the rack that had to be pushed in in a way that often cracked fingernails every time we set out on the road, and then taking it off again in the evening as we stopped at that night’s hotel.

    Yesterday, my housemate and I went canoeing with a co-worker, and very easily attached a much heavier 17-foot canoe to the roof of his car using four ratchet straps. All we had to do was open and close the ratchets to tighten or loosen the straps, and they easily held the canoe drum-tight for the whole drive over to the west side of the island and back. I had never used anything similar before, but I now think that ratchet straps are an amazing technology.
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  3. #3
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    And ratchet straps are entirely mechanical! No electrics or electronics required.
    Although synthetic fibers probably make a big difference.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Anything that detects planets around other stars; it's like being able to distinguish something the thickness of a piece of paper from halfway across a continent.

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    GPS in general. I used to be the king of getting lost. Paper maps baffled me like untranslated hieroglyphics. I have no sense of direction and it took me ten trips along the same route to learn the way. The idea that Einstein's greatest work would be used for finding my way home gives me the warm fuzzies.

    But basically the technology that we take for granted every day is amazing. We have capabilities that were Science Fiction only a few years ago and we use it for trivial fluff without thinking about it. No flying cars, but plenty of practical improvements.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    My neighbor is mowing her lawn. With a battery lawnmower. Fifty years ago I don't think that would have occurred to anyone. Ten years ago it might have been, "well, maybe someday".
    I've had a rechargeable electric mower for probably 15 years, so they are not new (though they are getting more common). The battery life has steadily improved over the years.

    Smart phones are pretty amazing.
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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  7. #7
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    Honestly, something I've been thinking a lot lately is how much happier I am to be on lockdown at a time when all the internet connections I have exist. I lived for a while, back in the '90s, in Tacoma, Washington, and for a fair amount of the time I was there, I lived alone. There were stretches where I would go literally days without interacting with another human. Now, that wouldn't happen to me now, given partner and kids. But partner and kids do not fill certain of my emotional needs, and thanks to the internet, I'm a lot better off than I would have been if lockdown had happened in 1998.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    GPS in general. I used to be the king of getting lost. Paper maps baffled me like untranslated hieroglyphics. I have no sense of direction and it took me ten trips along the same route to learn the way. The idea that Einstein's greatest work would be used for finding my way home gives me the warm fuzzies.

    But basically the technology that we take for granted every day is amazing. We have capabilities that were Science Fiction only a few years ago and we use it for trivial fluff without thinking about it. No flying cars, but plenty of practical improvements.
    I was going to do my usual GPS joke by looking at Google Maps and complaining that it had my current location off by 10 or 15 feet. But it doesn't. Pretty much spot on this morning, best I can tell. I wish they'd update the aerial picture to show our new house so I could tell better.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Indoor plumbing.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Arduino. In itself there's nothing exactly amazing about it, but the whole idea that I have an easy to program fast PLC like thingy with a bunch of analog and digital ins and outs, serial comms on top of it, in a tiny package that I can throw into whatever thing I'm making for less than 10 euro...This has made my professional life so much easier.

    And I know, the *real* embedded systems programmers tend to frown upon it, but for my application it's by far the best option.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    Arduino. In itself there's nothing exactly amazing about it, but the whole idea that I have an easy to program fast PLC like thingy with a bunch of analog and digital ins and outs, serial comms on top of it, in a tiny package that I can throw into whatever thing I'm making for less than 10 euro...This has made my professional life so much easier.

    And I know, the *real* embedded systems programmers tend to frown upon it, but for my application it's by far the best option.
    It's a great introduction to embedded design and programming though, so after cutting your teeth on one, you can move on to the ones the "real" developers use. It's just an Atmel microcontroller with a development environment geared toward ease of use for newbies anyway.

    I've done a few projects using 8-bit PICs, but I never messed with Arduino.

    Back on topic, smart phones. Nowadays we have full blown telecommunication and computing devices that fit in our pocket, that make Star Trek communicators look quaint by comparison. And to think they're more powerful than computers that filled a room just a few decades ago.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by KaiYeves View Post
    Probably trivial to those with experience with them, but after yesterday I am very impressed with ratchet straps.

    My Mom and I brought my bike up with us when I was moving into my my housing here at Acadia, which meant a long process of attaching it to a rack on the back of our car with bungie cords and unreliable plastic straps attached to the rack that had to be pushed in in a way that often cracked fingernails every time we set out on the road, and then taking it off again in the evening as we stopped at that night’s hotel.

    Yesterday, my housemate and I went canoeing with a co-worker, and very easily attached a much heavier 17-foot canoe to the roof of his car using four ratchet straps. All we had to do was open and close the ratchets to tighten or loosen the straps, and they easily held the canoe drum-tight for the whole drive over to the west side of the island and back. I had never used anything similar before, but I now think that ratchet straps are an amazing technology.
    I hope you enjoy your stay in Maine I am right across the border in New Brunswick, if you're not allergic try lobster roll.(Yes a bit off topic. )
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by kpatz View Post
    It's a great introduction to embedded design and programming though, so after cutting your teeth on one, you can move on to the ones the "real" developers use. It's just an Atmel microcontroller with a development environment geared toward ease of use for newbies anyway.

    I've done a few projects using 8-bit PICs, but I never messed with Arduino.

    Back on topic, smart phones. Nowadays we have full blown telecommunication and computing devices that fit in our pocket, that make Star Trek communicators look quaint by comparison. And to think they're more powerful than computers that filled a room just a few decades ago.
    Most of the stuff I build are one-offs for internal use, so I'll need to hear very good reasons before I step away from an off-the-shelf Arduino. Obviously, when making series production I see the advantages of a custom PCB (both in cost as well as practical/optimisation reasons) but in my case it's just wasted effort.

    But it's certainly a good introduction to embedded systems. Though I must say, I'm doing some things that I can make work without really fully understanding every nuance of the code. Some stuff using interrupts and some serial comms; I can understand every line of code well enough to the level where I can even edit it to suit my needs, but some questions remain.
    With sufficient thrust, water towers fly just fine.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Backroad Astronomer View Post
    I hope you enjoy your stay in Maine I am right across the border in New Brunswick, if you're not allergic try lobster roll.(Yes a bit off topic. )
    Hey now, lobster forks and nutcrackers are also much-appreciated technologies! I had one when I first got here with my parents, but as it’s early in the season and not many have been caught yet, I’m waiting for payday to eat another lobster roll so long as they charge 16 dollars for one!
    The greatest journey of all time, for all to see
    Every mission makes our dreams reality
    And our destiny begins with you and me
    Through all space and time, the achievement of mankind
    As we sail the sea of discovery, on heroes’ wings we fly!

  15. #15
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    One time, I flummox someone by "photoshopping" a document with scotch tape, scissors and a xerox machine. "All of the computers and printers are down! How did you do that?"
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicolas View Post
    Arduino. In itself there's nothing exactly amazing about it, but the whole idea that I have an easy to program fast PLC like thingy with a bunch of analog and digital ins and outs, serial comms on top of it, in a tiny package that I can throw into whatever thing I'm making for less than 10 euro...This has made my professional life so much easier.

    And I know, the *real* embedded systems programmers tend to frown upon it, but for my application it's by far the best option.
    Well I do find it exactly amazing because it works, it is cheap and I can work it after really very short training with a small book. Many technologies got going that way, through the toy route,because that market is huge and fast moving. By which I mean changing. Not sure that professionals all frown on it. I know a serious simulator guy, he described a current problem he was having and I suggested an Arduino basically as a sensor manager, to save him rewriting/writing code in his main program. It was a good fix, easy, reversible and adjustable.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by KaiYeves View Post
    Hey now, lobster forks and nutcrackers are also much-appreciated technologies! I had one when I first got here with my parents, but as it’s early in the season and not many have been caught yet, I’m waiting for payday to eat another lobster roll so long as they charge 16 dollars for one!
    $16 for a lobster roll!!!!! I don't remember paying anything close to that, but maybe I'm misremembering. Is that right in Bar Harbor? Hopefully you have the chance to shop around for some cheaper ones.

    I do remember learning when we were in Maine that a century ago lobster was considered garbage food only fit for poor people. They even fed lobster to prisoners.
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  18. #18
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    I've heard the same about salmon in my part of the country.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    I've heard the same about salmon in my part of the country.
    I don't know how prevalent it is elsewhere but there's a definite (but arguable) pecking order to salmon up here:

    1. Chinook (kings)
    2. Coho (silvers)
    3. Sockeye (reds)
    4. Pink (humpies)
    5. Chum (dog salmon)

    The order of the first three can be, is, and will be argued in perpetuity where preferences differ. I like kings and silvers (a lot) but I greatly prefer reds, especially Copper River reds, and most especially when smoked. Pinks are commonly canned at home up here and commercially, nationwide. Chums aren't well regarded on the plate but they're second in size only to kings and real fighters on the line.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    I don't know how prevalent it is elsewhere but there's a definite (but arguable) pecking order to salmon up here:

    1. Chinook (kings)
    2. Coho (silvers)
    3. Sockeye (reds)
    4. Pink (humpies)
    5. Chum (dog salmon)

    The order of the first three can be, is, and will be argued in perpetuity where preferences differ. I like kings and silvers (a lot) but I greatly prefer reds, especially Copper River reds, and most especially when smoked. Pinks are commonly canned at home up here and commercially, nationwide. Chums aren't well regarded on the plate but they're second in size only to kings and real fighters on the line.
    I heard the same story when I visited Alaska.

    Around here I think stores only sell the first three; I suspect they only consider it worth the shipping costs for those. If they actually name the type, you most often see mention of Sockeye by far. We seem to get a mixture of farm and wild, and both Pacific and Atlantic.
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  21. #21
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    Genus Salmo in these parts. Although Atlantic salmon (S. salar) is a major Scottish export and pleasant enough eating, I must say I prefer a brown trout (S. trutta). That probably stems from catching them myself in high lochs and then frying them in butter outdoors on a long summer evening.

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Genus Salmo in these parts.
    Oncorhynchus up and over here. Salmo would be easier to remember.

    Although Atlantic salmon (S. salar) is a major Scottish export and pleasant enough eating, I must say I prefer a brown trout (S. trutta). That probably stems from catching them myself in high lochs and then frying them in butter outdoors on a long summer evening.
    That's sounds delicious. Brown trout were introduced into US waters in the late 1800s...but I've never fished nor eaten them. I'd like to, though. I do enjoy rainbow trout (O. mykiss) and it is, in fact, what I fish for most frequently since it's more accessible. Which reminds me, I need to get my gear in order. My float tube hangs in the garage/shop and should be quite dusty by now.
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    I heard the same story when I visited Alaska.

    Around here I think stores only sell the first three; I suspect they only consider it worth the shipping costs for those. If they actually name the type, you most often see mention of Sockeye by far. We seem to get a mixture of farm and wild, and both Pacific and Atlantic.
    Back to the topic at hand: shipping and logistics.

    I live in Ohio, 500 miles or so from the closest ocean. Yet I can get fresh seafood everyday. I've ordered hobby supplies from China and received them in a week or so, and that wasn't expedited shipping. At least in the First World, we have become completely used to the idea that we can receive from and ship to pretty much anywhere in the world, and get it extremely quickly (as long as we are willing to pay, and usually not an outrageous amount). And we can generally track the movement of our delivery around the world.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by kpatz View Post
    It's a great introduction to embedded design and programming though, so after cutting your teeth on one, you can move on to the ones the "real" developers use. It's just an Atmel microcontroller with a development environment geared toward ease of use for newbies anyway.

    I've done a few projects using 8-bit PICs, but I never messed with Arduino.

    Back on topic, smart phones. Nowadays we have full blown telecommunication and computing devices that fit in our pocket, that make Star Trek communicators look quaint by comparison. And to think they're more powerful than computers that filled a room just a few decades ago.
    The AVRs are easy to use anyway, I find their peripherals much better designed than what you get on PICs (aside from some of the XMEGA stuff). Arduino just means software bloat plus paying many times as much for the same hardware, and not easily being able to use standard breadboards or protoboards...the Arduino boards include a header offset by half a pin spacing to make it deliberately incompatible with them.

    And yes, the Cortex M ARMs are at least as easy to use these days, with fewer of the arcane quirks AVR and PIC have due to being 8-bit architectures, and a lot of them are available on boards that can plug directly into a solderless breadboard or sockets on a protoboard.

  25. #25
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    Alaska can be a different critter altogether when it comes to shipping but not always a maddening experience. I admit to being spoiled, as Swift suggests, by the state of service. My early experiences with mail order involved paper catalogs, paper checks, paper mail, and 4-to-6 week delivery times. Tracking? Ask Dad. "It'll be here when it gets here, son."

    Nearly everyone likes to complain about the post office but I've watched a few videos of amazing modern mail sorters that use multi-line OCR scan and sort tens of thousands of letters per hour. And on the subject of tracking, I like the USPS's online Informed Delivery feature. It shows me scanned images week's worth of letters that have been or are about to be delivered to my mailbox. On another tab, I can track inbound parcels and add my own notes to them.
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    Automatic transmission for bicycles. Is there anyone who's willing to pedal a bicycle but is too lazy to shift gears?

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by KaiYeves View Post
    Hey now, lobster forks and nutcrackers are also much-appreciated technologies! I had one when I first got here with my parents, but as it’s early in the season and not many have been caught yet, I’m waiting for payday to eat another lobster roll so long as they charge 16 dollars for one!
    I was Cadillac Mountain once as a kid, we were visiting a great-aunt and uncle who lived in the area and on the way back it was decided we should drive up the mountain.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Back to the topic at hand: shipping and logistics.

    I live in Ohio, 500 miles or so from the closest ocean. Yet I can get fresh seafood everyday. I've ordered hobby supplies from China and received them in a week or so, and that wasn't expedited shipping. At least in the First World, we have become completely used to the idea that we can receive from and ship to pretty much anywhere in the world, and get it extremely quickly (as long as we are willing to pay, and usually not an outrageous amount). And we can generally track the movement of our delivery around the world.
    When I was a kid, I ordered some records. I was fascinated by the shop owner's electric typewriter. He used it to fill out the mail order form. And in 8-12 weeks, I had two records. Probably a whole 20 or 22 songs in less than half a year.

    In college, my friends would mail me VHS tapes of Mystery Science Theater, recorded off of TV. I would mail them blank tapes to keep the thing going.

    Boy, the world is fast now.
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  29. #29
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    Yes, it isn’t a Star Trek replicator, but ordering things (even dinner and groceries) on my tablet and having them show up soon on my front porch is still pretty amazing. If it is through Amazon, I even get a notification through my Echo Dot when it arrives. With the pandemic I’ve been doing a lot more ordering than previously, and I am getting more used to it. It helps security a bit that I have an atrium, so anything on my porch isn’t visible from the street.

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  30. #30
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