history stories

 
While playing Centipede (don't judge) at my local mall in the '80s, it never occurred to me that somewhere behind the soon-to-fall Iron Curtain there would be some punk playing the Soviet version of arcade games as well. Hell yeah they were! Now, thanks to two nostalgic Muscovites who remembered their days of playing "Sea Battle," there is an entire museum full of these Soviet-era games. The story of the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines is so cool we couldn't make this up if we tried.
 
See that mass of nuts, bolts, gears and belts above? You could walk into a dollar store today and buy a calculator that does more with the spare change in your pocket. Back in the 1960s, however, machines such as the German-built Hamann 505 were computing powerhouses and commanded a $1,000 price tag in the day's dollars, easy. The stripped-down 505 pictured is one of some 50 machines in Mark Glusker's amazingly well-kept collection of antique rotary and printing calculators. Photographer Kevin Twomey swung by Glusker's home to take some pictures of the gorgeous machines' guts.
 
Today's leaps in technology are highly visible. Thanks to the Internet, you can learn about a breakthrough, process it and forget about it all within the same day. Machine miracles didn't always pass through us this quickly — before the Internet, they needed a venue. These venues were called world fairs. They were a place where you could go to see what the spirit of innovation was up to, and to have your mind thoroughly blown. It's this draw that is leading Ryan Ritchey, a video industry professional looking for funding on Kickstarter, to travel back to these bright, optimistic technological carnivals.
 
Do you make a point of going to bed early so that you can get eight solid hours of uninterrupted sleep? Well, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. Human sleep cycles were a lot different just a few hundred years ago, with waking up for a few hours in the middle of the night being the norm. We can likely blame technology for the change, and it may not be for the best.
 
Today, February 20th, is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's orbital spaceflight. In 1961, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth (three times!), which as far as I can tell, is why we're all taking the day off today. Such an achievement was one of the primary objectives of the Mercury Program, which preceded Gemini and Apollo. While Glenn was most definitely the first American to orbit, his mission (Mercury-Atlas 6) was the twenty-first Mercury mission. Before NASA was ready to launch a human into space, they had to make sure that the rockets were safe, the space capsules were safe, and that space itself was safe (since we had no idea). And NASA had to be absolutely, positively sure, because if they got it wrong, it would have disastrous implications for the future of space exploration. So. NASA tested everything out. Thoroughly. Before they ever sent a human to space, they had to get as close as they could get while not sending a human, and this means that the first American residents into space included two monkeys, two chimpanzees, and a robotic "crewman simulator." This is their story.

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