Flying Boats. David Edgerton writes, “In the late 1930s and into the 1940s, the largest long-range aircraft were flying boats, which took off and landed on water.”
The reason was practicality: An expanse of water was already there for these aircrafts’ extended takeoffs and returns. This was far less costly than maintaining a tarmac runway.
Edgerton describes why these aircraft became obsolete. It was partly the aerodynamic and structural concessions of making a craft buoyant. Even more so, “Investment in the infrastructure of concrete runways, propelled by the military, swung the balance in favour of land-based planes. But for the war, this might have not happened, or happened so readily.”
Ashtrays. Catherine Slessor observes, “While rudimentary versions of ashtrays existed before the modern era, the idea of a consciously designed objet de délice started to gain ground only in the early twentieth century, as more women took up smoking…. In 1967 Salvador Dali devised a limited-edition ashtray in Limoges porcelain for Air India as a squiggle of a serpent and some contorted swans wrapped around a shell.”
Slessor continues, “Less flamboyantly, the Danish polymath Arne Jacobsen designed a classic Mid-century Modernist version in the form of a laconic stainless-steel hemisphere that tipped up to disgorge and conceal the butts in the body of the ashtray, thus keeping everything Nordically neat.” Indeed, back before I quit the habit in 1984, I had one of these. It might still be around here somewhere.
I do know the whereabouts of my oversize Jaguar XK-140 ashtray, the origin of which I looked up: Its hand-written inscription on the bottom reads “Gabriel Pasadena 376,” which identifies it as from Winfield Pottery, 1929–1962. The Gabriels worked for Winfield, and after 1946 when they sold some of rights to American Ceramic Co., they marked the pottery “Gabriel.”
If it strikes your Jaguar enthusiasms, drop me a line and maybe we can make a deal. I’ve seen a similar Triumph one online for $139 + $14 shipping.
Slide Rule. “For more than a century,” Adrian Forty writes, “until their sudden extinction in the mid-1970s, slide rules—or slipsticks, as they were sometimes known in the USA—were the principle means of calculating most mathematical problems, apart from addition and subtraction.”
Forty observes of their early history, “Slide rules seem to have been less common in continental Europe—probably because the English were accustomed earlier to decimal fractions, a prerequisite of the slide rule—until the introduction of the metric system, after the French Revolution.”
“The extinction of the slide rule,” Forty says, “was regretted by some, who maintained that the instrument gave a comprehension of numbers and calculation that was lost with the invisible workings of an electronic calculator. Curiously, much the same objection had been given three and a half centuries earlier by the slide rule’s originator, William Oughtred, to explain his reluctance to publicize his invention. The slide rule, he wrote, belonged to the ‘superficiall scumme and froth of Instrumentall tricks and practices,’ that would only undermine sound theoretical knowledge of mathematics.”
Gee, I wonder what Oughtred would think of Artificial Intelligence? ds