20-Nov-2006 (Mon)
Wherein we find pirates, clowns, and a blinky new toy.


Photos are up of the Bawdy Island Burlesque Hullabaloo and of this month's Bohemian Carnival: fine evenings both! Luxxury were really good, you should buy their CD.

We have a new toy: John acquired an old LED sign that had apparently started its life as a stock ticker in a brokerage somewhere. (A Translux Datawall, to be precise, though he refers to it as The Snark-o-Tron.) It took him quite a while to figure out how to talk to it, but he did, and now you can too. The sign is hanging from the front of the DJ booth, and is currently scrolling our schedule of upcoming events, but you can add your messages to the queue from the sign control web page!

Yeah baby, party like it's 1995...

We're probably going to restrict this so that you can only add text if you're in the building (using the DNA kiosks or wireless network) because otherwise I think we'll just be drowning in stupid...

We had a bus sign at Netscape, way back in the caveman days, that random people could write to, and there was a webcam pointed at it. It was one of the earliest webcams, I think; probably one of the first dozen or so. The thing made a godawful racket, since it didn't have LEDs. Instead it had little plastic chits for pixels that turned over every time the message changed. It was fully saturated 24/7: messages were coming in just as fast as it could update itself. So we all immediately knew when our network was down, because the deafening silence of the sign going idle would make heads pop up out of cubicles like whack-a-mole... These days they call that an Ambient Information Display.

(I am pleased to discover that the venerable Fishcam is still around!)

10 Responses:

  1. Hahaha, wtf is going on/am I saying in this one?

  2. fantasygoat says:

    Hmm, maybe you could get the sign to display spam subject headers.

  3. waider says:

    Ah, I remember at least one incarnation of the old Netscape sign: I used this for the front page of my site for a few years.

  4. bwooce says:

    Can you please increase the form field length so we can recreate signs such as your DNA LOUNGE ones? Using the escape codes means I need 3x the normal space. It is severely limiting my creativity.

    I tried taking the max-size restriction off the field, but the script decided it didn't like someone doing that at all (am I blacklisted?)

    Nice.

  5. terryray says:

    We had a bus sign at Netscape, way back in the caveman days, that random people could write to, and there was a webcam pointed at it. It was one of the earliest webcams, I think; probably one of the first dozen or so. The thing made a godawful racket, since it didn't have LEDs. Instead it had little plastic chits for pixels that turned over every time the message changed. It was fully saturated 24/7: messages were coming in just as fast as it could update itself. So we all immediately knew when our network was down, because the deafening silence of the sign going idle would make heads pop up out of cubicles like whack-a-mole... These days they call that an Ambient Information Display.

    Nonsense. The sign was loud, sure. It made noise whenever it refreshed itself. It refreshed itself every couple of seconds, whether or not something new was posted to it. There was never a "deafening silence of the sign", unless it got unplugged or hung or something.

    I don't actually think Jamie is lying, but his memory is lying to him. I like his story better than the truth. Amazing how memories like to make things more interesting.

    Remember, after all, this is the same memory that is depriving Jamie the ability of being able to do manual long division. It's a fine thing, his memory, improving the world for him in so many different ways.

    - Terry (former sign and signcam operator and maintainer)

    • jwz says:

      What! No way! When it was loading a new message it made a totally different CHICKA CHICKA CHICKA noise than the background hum - it flipped all the pixels to black or something, then loaded the new text. It only made that noise when it was receiving new data, and it did that like every 8 seconds, except when we were off the net. What do you remember it doing?

      • terryray says:

        The sign was (IIRC) 15 characters wide. The vast majority of messages were more than 15 characters. It would page through the long messages by displaying the first 15 characters for a few seconds, going CHICKA CHICKA CHICKA and doing the next 15 characters, and so on and so forth. Surely you remember it paging like that. When it reached the end, it would go back to the beginning. So, with no new message at all, that was doing CHICKA CHICKA CHICKA, just from the paging action.

        Even if it was a one-page message, it would still erase and redisplay that message every few seconds.

        I do grant you that if someone posted a new message, the *rhythm* would change. My recollection is that it would stop what it was doing, CHICKA CHICKA CHICKA to black, pause a bit, and then CHICKA CHICKA CHICKA to the first page of the new message.

        *Maybe* someone would notice that the rhythm wasn't changing and that the net must be down. Much more likely would be that someone (me) would notice that the message on the sign was still saying the same thing it said an hour ago and would look at the logfile.

        I'm pissed that I can't find any old copy of the logfile. I wanted to correct your "every 8 seconds" stat to something more realistic; I think it was more like 30 or 45.

        - Terry