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protec from the roumd
protec from the roumd
So shiny, so gooey #abs #acetone
In which I investigate a messy, sticky and highly-variable ancient copying technique.
Way back, if you wanted more than one copy of something you’d written there was no print button. If you wanted copies, each one required a bit of work. Before copiers and printers there were duplicators where you could type or draw onto special membranes that either transferred ink to a printing sheet (Banda or Ditto brand machines) or made holes in a screen to allow ink through (Gestetner or Mimeograph brands). Risograph machines are modern digital ink duplicators still in use and active development today.
One of the predecessors of duplicators was the hectograph. In the 19th century they still knew their Greek and yet were totally okay with hype, the hectograph was named after the extremely, um, aspirational idea that you could pull a hundred (εκατό = hundred, in modern Greek) copies from one master. Once you’ve made a few hectograph copies, you’ll be more wondering what the heck they were thinking: you might get a few tens of legible copies if you’re extremely careful.
A hectograph copier is basically a sheet of jelly that soaks up certain kinds of ink from a master copy, then oozes the copies back onto paper pressed onto its surface. The ink slowly diffuses down through the thickness of the jelly, allowing different copies to be made with the same plate a day or so later.
Getting the right ink is a little tricky these days. Tattoo artists use hectograph ink to make stencils, so I got a small bottle of ink ($15) from Studio One (940 Queen St. East, Toronto). You can also use hecto/indelible pencils, but the National Tattoo brand one I got from Studio One barely transfers at all.
Making a copier in a kitchen is easy. There are several recipes online (University of Iowa Library and W0IS‘s being two: if you follow The New Standard Formulary historic ones, remember that white glue now is quite different from the hoof-and-hide renderings they used then). My recipe is a bit of a blend of all of these:
You’ll need a flat tray, larger that the paper you want to use. Dollar store baking trays are ideal. I used a slightly-too-small toaster oven tray, which seemed like a good idea at the time.
Now draw your master. Hectographic ink is loaded with dye, so a little goes a long way. It’s also not a modern non-blotting ink, so you need to be more sparing with it than I was.
Stick the master face down onto the jelly sheet and leave it there for about a minute. I used a brayer to press the ink onto the surface. When you lift the master off the surface, you’ll end up with a slightly ruined master —
— and a crisp, reversed image in the jelly plate. I hope yours will be less blot-ridden than mine:
Now lay your copy paper onto the jelly sheet for a few seconds. Again, I used a brayer.
The copies come out remarkably dry, but should still be allowed to dry off for a while: this is a wet copy process, after all. The copier is reusable indefinitely, and should be very lightly dampened before use.
This process is kind-of on the edge of practicality, but is not without its charms. It might be worth looking at:
(aside: I’d previously tried to make a copying pad from several layers of damp kitchen towel to transfer a drawing made with Stabilo All water-soluble pencils. As you can imagine, the ink quickly diffused along the cellulose fibres, making this process at best a very qualified success …
Gaze upon the clarity of this hectograph plate ye mighty and despair
Handsome stripey one (Platycryptus undatus, ♂)
I wrote this as a comment to Learn to write games for the BBC Micro with Eben – Raspberry Pi, but it didn’t seem to save:
BeebEm? Lawks, that’s a bit old (2006). All the cool (*cough*) kids are running b-em – https://github.com/stardot/b-em – these days. It’s lovingly maintain by Stardot forum members. It’s a little crashy on some Linux platforms, but seems stable on the Raspberry Pi and Raspbian. You may need to install the liballegro5-dev and zlib1g-dev packages to get it to compile.
If you want a native version of BBC BASIC, Richard Russell’s version is pretty neat: http://www.bbcbasic.co.uk/bbcsdl/ . You’ll most likely need to change line 280 to use some variant of the WAIT command to make it playable.
Another native interpreter is Brandy. There’s an ancient one in the repos, but I’m completely taken with the Matrix Brandy fork: https://github.com/stardot/MatrixBrandy . It may need a few packages installed to get it to build (libsdl1.2-dev might be a good first try), but it’s really fast. For cross-platform happiness, change line 280 to WAIT 10. If you stick to using a FOR loop, you might have to have it as high as 2,000,000 on a fast computer!
Lastly, if you want to run the game in a browser, JSBeeb to the rescue: https://bbc.godbolt.org/?autorun&loadBasic=https://gist.githubusercontent.com/scruss/f5a8eb83f28b85d6399142cac460c806/raw/74c4e39de7661bb2e3dd7f435840dd8db7172589/helicopter.bbc
It’s a bit slow in Chromium on a Raspberry Pi, but it does work!
Best one yet – clear PLA
Is it summer still?
1000 Candles (detail)
Colours for Mary
I was cleaning fountain pens just after I’d heard that Mary Pratt had died. The colours arising from a mundane task reminded me of Mary’s work. The light through the marmalade jar’s a little tip to Mary’s Jelly Shelf, which we saw at Halifax’s The Rooms exhibit in 2013.
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I’m being very mature about tomorrow’s surgery
Sun’s up by the Mentholyptus factory
Around 1988–1991 there was a weekly computer magazine in the UK called New Computer Express. This period coincided roughly with the time I was a freelance writer in the same field.
For childish reasons now lost to time, a group of us freelancers had a major hate-on for NCE’s advice columnist. Writing under the name Uncle TechTip, this columnist seemed to answer most questions with something like “Hmm, I don’t know anything about _____. Maybe a reader can help?” Almost without fail, he’d have readers write in answers for next week’s issue.
Not realizing that Uncle TT’s economy of response was a sly precursor to crowdsourcing websites, the neophyte journo brigade were incensed by his lack of knowledge. One of us wrote an Uncle TechTip Simulator in BASIC, which I recreate from memory for your enjoyment:
10 CLS 15 PRINT " *** Uncle TechTip Simulator ***" 20 PRINT 25 INPUT "What is your question for Uncle TechTip";a$ 30 PRINT 35 PRINT "Uncle TechTip's Answer: " 40 PRINT 45 PRINT "Hmm, I don't know anything about" 50 PRINT " ";a$;" ..." 55 PRINT "Maybe a reader can help?"
One for your Green Room, perhaps?
Edward, Grace or String?
A Lamp Fit for (a) Prince
From One, Many
Note: I’ve lightly tested this with Microsoft Excel (Windows 10), Excel Online, Google Sheets and LibreOffice Calc. It seems to work. Like all spreadsheet data conversions, please verify before trusting your PhD thesis tables to it …
Asked on the GTALUG mailing list the other week:
Does anybody know how to display and work with SI numbers like 10k or 20M or 40G within LibreOffice?
I came up with the following formula, in this example for data in cell D3:
=IF(LEN(T(D3))=0, D3, CONVERT(VALUE(LEFT(D3, LEN(D3) - 1)), RIGHT(D3, 1) & "m", "m"))
which results in:
The right column is displayed in LibreOffice Calc’s newly(ish)-supported engineering notation.
This function works through creative (mis-)use of the
CONVERT(«numeric part», "«prefix»m", "m"). This is lightly
This function doesn’t work with IEC 60027-2 binary prefixes, but they’re silly and I wouldn’t be caught dead using ’em.