[Humanist] 26.216 flashing lights and silent hoovers

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Aug 8 15:47:53 CEST 2012


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 216.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org



        Date: Tue, 07 Aug 2012 13:41:22 -0500
        From: John Laudun <jlaudun at me.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.202 flashing lights and silent hoovers


We folklorists consider these kinds of narratives to be part of the larger set of legends wherein the nature of reality is tested in interesting ways. As for the nature of the lights themselves, the popular term among the geeks I knew was "der blinkenlighten." I'd be curious to know what other terms were used. (I especially liked the Germanification of the term in this case, giving it a kind of weird blend of camp and science and "German engineering" feel all at the same time.)

As to legendry about products that had to be skeumorphed in some fashion, there is always the one about the miraculous topical antibiotic to which salt had to be added because consumers wanted to "feel" the medicine, an earlier version of "feel the burn," working. I've heard it attributed to Neosporin, Bactine, and a number of other medications.

yours in the (thankful) demise of mercurochrome,

john

--
John Laudun
Department of English
University of Louisiana – Lafayette
Lafayette, LA 70504-4691
337-482-5493
laudun at louisiana.edu
http://johnlaudun.org/ 

On 2012 Aug 1, at 11:42, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 26, No. 202.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2012 13:58:57 -0400
>        From: Matthew Bernius <mbernius at gmail.com>
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 26.197 flashing lights
>        In-Reply-To: <20120731151027.C52782869C2 at woodward.joyent.us>
> 
> 
> This reminds me about a similar story that comes up in talks on design
> affordances being made to budding designers.
> 
> Sooner or later someone tells the story about how one of the major home
> appliance manufacturers, during the mid century (usually the 50's) created
> a silent vacuum cleaner only to have it rejected by customers. The reason
> given is that despite its cleaning ability (which according to the story,
> matched that of it's noisy brethren), people wanted to hear the noise of
> the engine to be sure that the vacuum cleaner was working.
> 
> Whether or not the story is apocryphal, the popularity of the fable (and
> its related moral) is worth exploring -- in particular how it leads to a
> sort of design thinking that, I suspect, has contributed to the wide number
> of skeuomorphs that currently make up much of the consumer digital
> experience.
> 
> -----------------------------
> Matthew Bernius
> PhD Student | Cultural Anthropology | Cornell University |
> http://anthropology.cornell.edu
> mBernius at gMail.com | http://www.mattbernius.com | @mattBernius
> My calendar: http://bit.ly/hNWEII
> 
> On Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 11:10 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
> willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
>> No reliable documentation, as such, but the Connection Machines [1]
>> famously had all-black front panels which had red lights representing the
>> state of the nodes in the machine.  It seems, though [2], that these had
>> little real connection with the state of the machine, and were instead for
>> a range of purposes including being Cool (an important attribute at
>> Thinking Machines, it seems, during its short but beautiful life).
>> 
>> It's a tangential point, but Cray clearly also cared about the
>> (intimidating?) aesthetics of their machines.  A supercomputer should
>> _look_ super, dammit, and Crays do look to be dolled up in the hardware
>> analogue of primary-coloured lycra and a mask (hmm: I'm thinking of
>> Spiderman, here, not Kiss).
>> 
>> Best wishes,






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