Writing Like It’s 1895

My heroine needs a flashlight. And she needs one bad. It’s 1895 and they don’t exist. After 1900 I could get away with it.

Why didn’t they exist. Not because of batteries. Usable batteries had been developed by 1802 and telegraphs had been using batteries since the 1830s. But dry cells, cheap enough for flashlights would not come along until 1910.

Edison had carbon filaments light bulbs by 1880. But they were delicate and not good for banging around in flashlights. They also needed 90 or so volts and that would take a lot of batteries. Edison thought that tungsten would make a good filament, but the equipment to make fine tungsten wire would not be developed until 1906.

Also there was the problem of vacuum equipment. In 1895 it wasn’t good enough. Any oxygen in the light bulb would react with the filament and shorten its life. That equipment would not be available until after 1900.

People were not setting around. Paid and unpaid inventors, scientist and engineers were working on the light bulb, not just Edison and his lab. There was not just one thing for a mad genius to overcome to make a flashlight in 1895.

How about a carbide miner’s lamp? Carbide is made with electricity. Lots of electricity. The power plant at Niagara Falls would have to be finished before carbide became readily available. That wasn’t until after 1900.

So my heroine can’t just cobble a flashlight up out of things lying around the airship. Also there would be patents fights if she did come up with a flashlight. Just because a idea documented on a patent would never work, that has never stopped an inventor and his lawyers from suing, suing, suing.

There were platinum filament light bulbs. They worked, but they were very expensive. Not practicable, but whoever said the heroine had to be practicable?

Stay strong, write on, and have you checked the batteries in your flashlight lately. Replace them once a year.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Windows Update, Reset; Rant

Caution Rant. This blog is late due to a Windows update.

Last night Windows gave me an ultimatum. Update now or update in an hour. No if, ands, or buts.

I hit the button and launched the update.

All the talk about faster Windows updates and a kinder Microsoft is just talk.

The update took an hour. This is on a couple of year old computer running a core I7 CPU with 256 of solid state disk. It is not a ten year old machine. The connections is Spectrum cable and it still took an hour. If your in the middle of a presentation this is a killer.

The update didn’t end in a endless loop like previous updates. It did complete. I have a traveling computer so I was not down for the hour the update took. Smaller screen and a slower processor slowed work on the travel computer.

After the update, I tried a couple of programs to check out the update. When I fired up the word processor. I could not access the external hard drive. It’s a Western Digital, four terabyte, hard drive. The computer could not find the USB external hard drive.

Device Manager would not show the hard drive being connected. The computer would beep when the hard drive was plugged in, but the drive would not show up in file explorer or in device manager.

I fooled around for ten minutes and then hit restart. Still no external hard drive. Worried I plugged the external hard drive into travel computer. It worked so I did not have a SDF (sudden device failure).

Being lazy and not wanting to spend years to become a windows expert I sat down and tried to think of someone I could call. At a hundred dollars an hour for a service technician I could go buy a new hard drive (on special).

I fought with computer, off on on, for a couple of hours then went to bed.

Next day I fired up the computer and the external hard drive worked.

Stay strong, write on, and make voodoo dolls of Bill Gates.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Rehash of a Rehash

I’m doing better, busy, but I’m not writing consistently.

I read the other day that Millennials are the loneliest generation. If you look around it’s not hard to understand. In a restaurant, a coffee shop, or in the waiting room. Everyone has their nose buried in cell phone. With their shoulders drawn up, bent over, they have their “Don’t Bother Me” shield up. They’re yelling at everyone around them to leave them alone. They’re not going to make new friends that way.

I’m having trouble finding a book that’s grabbing my attention. I definitely don’t want to read a book about someone who sits around staring at a cell phone all the time. Would you?

But would someone that’s a slave to their cell phone want to read a book about someone that’s meeting people, making friends, doing things? Or are they going to read things that are a rehash of a rehash that has been condensed down to a two second sound bite?

Maybe that’s why Millennials are buying experiences rather than things. Their life is so empty they are trying to fill it with trips, and concerts. Still in the middle of a concert I see people with their nose in a cell phone playing games, ignoring the band and the music. The concert is an excuse to be friendly, a reason to interact with the people around them, and they wall themselves off.

Speaking of experiences, I’m going to a science fiction convention in a couple of weeks. It’s a chance to meet and talk to people. To hear authors I might never consider reading talk about their books. And to see the costumes and props that others have come up with.

I’ll end up buying a couple of books and haunt the dealer’s room. I will have a good time. I will not sit across from someone at lunch and stare at my cell phone.

If your there and see someone watching others, it might be an author. It might be me. You could walk up and ask if I’m an author.

The worst that could happen is I might take your picture.

Stay strong, write on, and get your nose out of the cell phone.

Professor Hyram Voltage

P.S. Is it just me or is good, plain, writing getting harder and harder to find. This is a snippet form a financial article:

The next day, a Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) analyst changed her opinion of Weight Watchers from underperform to buy. She also raised her one-year price target to $27, which the stock blew bay later that same day when it crested above $30.

They fired the editor and even the admin assistant, so there is no one left to review the article before it is published on line. The group that posted the article is selling advice. Expensive advice. Would you buy advice from someone that doesn’t have editors, that doesn’t double check the work posted on their web site?

Being lean and mean, means being error prone.

We Don’t Talk Any More

I operate an amateur radio station. I talk to people around the world. Or I use to. The world changed.

I grew up on an Indian (Amerindians) reservation. Our house was a quarter mile from the paved road. You had to go another quarter mile to get to the little village where 80 or so people lived. The next nearest town was across the state line.

As a small child I was forbidden to walk that last quarter mile to the village/town. I could see the houses of the village from where we lived, but they could have been on the moon.

People must have thought I was nuts, I liked school. There were others at school to play with, to talk to.

We had a TV (black and white). I remember watching Zoorama broadcast from the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t have a radio.

When I discovered radio, I discovered that you could not only listen to someone talking, but certain people had radios and they could talk to other people. I was all in.

This was in the late 1950s, early 1960s. The telephone in our house was for business and not a toy. Everything about a telephone cost money. You couldn’t even own a telephone, you rented it from Ma Bell.

So I got into Ham radio. I’ve talked to many people and have a great time.

The radio conditions vary due to the sun in an eleven year cycle. You have a string of good years followed by a string of bad years. We are in the bottom of the cycle where it’s hard to talk to people far away form you. That doesn’t mean I don’t try. I get on the radio and call and call. Lately I haven’t been making any contacts.

I just got back from a radio conference and at the conference I found that I’m not the only one that is having this problem.

Digital has invaded my hobby. It goes by the name of FT-8 and it’s like texting. Instead of talking to someone you type in some basic information. It’s worst than texting. It does allow you to contact people when condition will not allow contacts with the old ways, like voice or with Morse code. But like texting, it’s sterile, impersonal, and you’re only allowed to send a tiny bit of information. It’s just not friendly. It’s one step above junk mail.

Terry Patchett touched on this in his book Going Postal, where the clacks (a telegraph that used light signals) replaced the post office. The line in the story where a letter could be “sealed with a kiss” really stuck with me. It’s a lot more work to pick up the microphone and talk to someone ratter than send them a canned message. Can you care about someone if all you do is send them the equivalent of junk mail?

Would you rather read about someone who talks to the people they care about. I don’t think I would care about a character that just texts the important people in her life. The character need to show they care, and that’s not easy, it takes work.

When you look a child in the eye and say “I Love You”, that counts more than a million texts.

That’s what I want to show in my books.

Stay strong, write on, and you can’t say I love you too many times.
Professor Hyram Voltage