Tuesday, November 1, 2016

History: The Year is 1891

I've uploaded year 1891 to the TSP Wiki...


Here are some one liners...

The Rotary Dial Telephone and User Interface Errors -- An undertaker thought he was losing business to his competitor due to the operator, so he devised a direct-dial system.

The Mafia Puts a Hit on the Chief of Police -- He's dead, so the Mayor has 100 Italians rounded up. 11 are shot dead when "not guilty" verdicts start coming in. The Mayor is a Democrat.

The Tesla Coil for the Wireless Telegraph -- I talk about how a radio works and why radio operators have the nickname of "Sparks."

In Other News -- The first basketball game, the first Swiss Army Knife and heavier-than-air flight experiments.

The Rotary Dial Telephone and User Interface Errors

The current telephone system consists of switchboards and human operators. You "ring up" the operator (also called "Central") by turning a crank and then asking to be connected to "Bob Jones" or to a telephone number such as "KLondike-55311". Then the operator uses a plug-in connector to physically connect your phone to the proper circuit . Of course mistakes can be made and a little bit of corruption can occur. A local undertaker suspects that the operator is diverting calls from his business to a competitor. Since this sort of thing would be difficult to prove, he decides to solve the problem by bringing power to the people. He develops a direct connect system where you select combinations of letters and numbers by using a dial. Your selection automatically routes your call without human intervention. This is called direct-dialing and it seems like a great idea, but Bell Telephone won't adopt the rotary dial for another 28 years. [1] [2]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
My father was a telephone troubleshooter and the number one trouble ticket he handled was that the phone dialed the wrong number. He usually traced the problem to user error. Rotary phones require that one actually turn the dial with one's finger all the way to the stop and then release it. You must wait for the dial to return to its home position at its own speed. Don't push the dial to make it return faster. That goofs up the timing. When push-button phones came out in 1960 it was hoped that rotary dial errors were behind us, but no such luck. It turned out that people were every bit as sloppy pushing buttons as they were spinning a dial, but you couldn't tell them that. It was like telling them that their kid was ugly or that they forgot to wear pants. Today we don't have those worries. We select someone out of our address book and let the phone dial itself! Now all we have to worry about is butt-dialing where your phone auto-dials as you sit down and we get to listen to you rummaging through your desk drawer while we scream, "HANG UP THE PHONE! And then there are those embarrassing moments in spell-checking or sending those late-night selfies to your Mom. User interface errors. They began in 1891 and they haven't stopped since.

The Mafia Puts a Hit on the Chief of Police

Italian immigrants have done well in Louisiana, working their way into the fruit business, and loading down at the docks. Their political influence has also grown. For example, Joseph Macheca is an Italian fruit merchant. He bought real estate in New Orleans during an economic downturn and now he is well off and politically active. He is part of the Regular Democrats which are made up of Irish and other white ethnics such as the Italians. The Mayor is a Reformer Democrat. The Reformers are elitists who are cultivating the black Republican vote. The police force has been in bad shape so a few years ago the Mayor appointed David Hennessy as Chief of Police to fix the problem. He has done a reasonable job, but there is a rumor that he supports one of the Mafia families down at the docks. As Hennessy is walking home, a shot rings out. He goes down and then whispers, "The Dagoes did it!"... meaning the Italians. (This is the equivalent of calling a Mexican, "Diego" but with the intent to dismiss or humiliate.) Hennessy dies the next day. About 100 Italians are arrested including a large number of the Mayor's political opponents. (Imagine that.) 19 men are charged with murder. The newspapers have already passed judgement, so after the first few "not guilty" verdicts come through, the Mayor's campaign manager organizes a lynch mob of 10,000. He leads a smaller armed force into the Parish prison and shoots 11 men dead, including Joseph Macheca, the fruit merchant. Then the mob goes home. Total elapsed time... 1 hour. No charges are brought. The Mayor is unrepentant. This is the single largest mass lynching in US history. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
The term "mafia" comes into use at this time, meaning a tight-knit organization of Sicilians who use violence and intimidation, but in the context used in this incident, the newspapers seem to be referring to the union activity on the docks. Unions and the Mafia have been linked in the minds of the American public for some time. If you will recall, when the Union leader, Jimmy Hoffa, went missing, it was assumed that his Mafia bosses had him eliminated. (No. Jimmy is NOT buried in Giants Stadium.) Historians want to make the Louisiana lynching into a crime family war, but it doesn't fit unless you call the Reformer Democrats a crime family. Certainly, the Reformers were reacting to the encroachment on their business and political dealings by the Italians. In fact, most of the people shot during the prison raid were their political opponents. There was a political message being sent. It was not bigotry and racism alone. This reminds me of what happened to that guy who was rumored to have hacked into the Democratic National Committee server and handed everything over to WikiLeaks. He was recently killed in a street holdup where nothing was stolen, no one saw anything and the robbery had not been interrupted. Rumor had it that the Democrats had him murdered. I don't know how such rumors get started. A political party murdering people? In America? When has THAT ever happened? Uh... 1891. [11] [12] [13] [14]

The Tesla Coil for the Wireless Telegraph

WARNING: I am about to explain how a wireless telegraph works. In a few moments every Ham operator in the world will be tempted to strangle me, so if transmission is suddenly lost, you'll know why.
Radio technology of the 1890s requires an actual spark of electricity to generate radio static across a range of frequencies. If you have ever listened to a radio during a lightening storm, you will hear static each time a lightening bolt strikes the ground. The lightening bolt is generating radio static across a wide range of frequencies, so if we could create our own lightening and then filter out the other frequencies, we could transmit a message in Morse Code without need of the wire connecting the two stations. Such a transmitter would be "wireless." A radio receiver acts like a tuning fork. It resonates or is tuned to the same frequency. The receiver then translates those small bursts of static into something that humans can understand. The artificial lightening device used in the transmitter is called a spark-gap. (FYI, this is also why radio operators have the nickname of "Sparks".) I know it sounds crazy but for years after vacuum tube radios were the norm, naval vessels kept their spark-gap radios in reserve. The spark-gap transmitter is so dead simple that even an officer couldn't screw it up. (Wait. Did I say that out loud?) The spark-gap produces radio waves but Nicola Tesla has figured out a different way to produce the required sparks using AC power and two air-core transformers in very close proximity. This is the Tesla Coil. It's like using a shotgun as your master key. It gets the job done. [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
Radios need not be complex. A simple crystal radio receiver doesn't even require a battery. It doesn't require a diode either although if you have one, that makes it a lot easier. These days we use the Tesla Coil for its entertainment value on stage or in science museums. It is also used in movies to bring Frankenstein's Monster to life such as in the 1931 movie, "Frankenstein" and in the 1974 comedy "Young Frankenstein" starring Gene Wilder. I've also seen it used on Mythbusters for their experiment involving the "Water Stun Gun" and whether a tongue piercing will attract lightening. Luckily, it does not. (I was worried.) [24] [25]

In Other News

  • The first basketball game is played. The rules are adjusted after several black eyes, a separated shoulder and a knock-out punch. [26]
  • The first Swiss Army Knife is made... in Germany! Production facilities in Switzerland are currently insufficient. [27] [28]
  • Heavier-than-air flight is possible. Professor Langley demonstrates small scale models, but real flight will be achieved by two high school drop-outs (The Wright Brothers) in 1903. [29] [30]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1891, Wikipedia.

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