Sunday, January 3, 2021

Going Forward By Looking Back


Popular Mechanics Archive

Recently I posted up a project that I had first built back when I was just a kid. When the memory first popped into my head, I had a vague recollection of how it worked, but I couldn't really remember any specific details on how it really went together, 

One thing I did know was that I did get it from an issue of Popular Mechanics, a magazine that I was absolutely into during my elementary school days. Since we are talking about something that was built over 30 years ago, of course, I no longer had that particular magazine in my possession, nor did I have the foggiest idea in which issue that project was published. 

Trying to see if by some chance someone else had the same thought that I had and managed to build the item that I wanted to make, I hit the search engines and scanned the internet for any sign of the project as I remember it. 

Sadly, I couldn't find anyone out there that had built the thing, but I was rather surprised to find something even better. 

By chance, I had stumbled upon the complete library of all the issues of Popular Mechanics that had been digitized and available for viewing on Google Books. 

The beautiful thing was that the library was fully searchable and with very little trouble, I was able to pull up the article that had my project - exactly as I remembered it.

After getting reacquainted with this old friend from my childhood, something dawned on me. 

We are very much in a world now that almost all information is available within seconds by typing in a few words on a screen.  Except that isn't necessarily the case. 

For the majority of the time in the past, things were written on paper, meant for primarily "at the moment" consumption - you read this month's issue, perhaps tore out a page with something you've found interesting to save, but the rest was usually put in the trash. No one really considered saving this stuff for someone in the future. 

I started roaming through the other issues of Popular Mechanics, starting with issues that were produced in the 1950s. 

I was immediately struck by the wide variety of things that one could make that were illustrated with those pages, that I am almost certain no one has looked at or least considered building for the last 40 or 60 years. 

While some of the projects illustrated sometimes made me shudder a little bit (a dog house with asbestos insulation comes to mind). There was quite a lot that I know I have never seen before, and I know deserve to live again. 

Geese Whirlygig
From 1964 
I have never seen one of these
Would be a great garden ornament!

 Likewise, I also saw some projects that utilize what would be considered fairly old technology these days (vacuum tubes anyone?) but the concepts are novel enough that one could easily put a 21st-century spin on them with a little bit of tweaking

Mailbox Flag
From 1963
This is a good idea even for today 
Though I may look at adding some sort of wireless alert too

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been browsing these old issues and I've starting to compile a list of some of the more intriguing projects that I have found.. My goal for 2021 is to awaken some of these old projects from their 50-year-old slumber and to reintroduce them to the world again. 

It would be amazing to see if something from the past would seem new again. 

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