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James Grahame
Calgary, Canada
Interests: Clever gadgets, electronic musical instruments, Super 8 movies, classic video games, pinball machines, elegant electronic design
Recent Activity
It's a pretty damn well written book - one of the few in English - that covers the technical details of Soyuz in any depth. The first section of the book runs through a history of Vostok and Voskhod and the development of Soyuz. The remaining two thirds details Soyuz technical history, variants, and an excellent chapter that goes into the technical details of the TMA-M, along with docking techniques, diagrams culled from original manuals and so on. Unless you work for NASA Goddard or SP Korolev Energia, there's a lot to be gleaned from this book.
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I'm trying really hard not to buy this Haynes Owner's Workshop Manual for Soyuz space capsules. Haynes also publishes versions for the space shuttle, Mars landers (which could come in handy to resolve the recent short circuit problems plaguing Curiosity), the International Space Station and even Apollo 13. That one should come bundled with a roll of duct tape, a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2015 at Retro Thing
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See the "bass synth" section of the Rhythm Wolf drum machine in this photo: http://6be54c364949b623a3c0-4409a68c214f3a9eeca8d0265e9266c0.r0.cf2.rackcdn.com/992/images/RhythmWolf_ortho_1200x750.png This keyboard contains four of these voices.
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You should visit buchla.com - lots of fantastic modular gear at (almost) reasonable prices. He sold the IP several years ago, so his legacy will continue.
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Perhaps it has something to do with Baby Boomer demographics, or maybe people are just looking for something different, but classic analog synthesizers are all the rage at this year's NAMM music industry show in Anaheim, California. Moog Music takes the crown with some absolutely breathtaking recreations of Bob Moog's groundbreaking modular synthesizer from the 1970s. They range from the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2015 at Retro Thing
The control panel looks impressive from a distance, but the four grey sections duplicate the seven very limited voice controls once for each voice. There is no ADSR envelope, only a decay knob. There is no LFO. No PWM. In fact, there is no useful modulation to speak of. The *only* way it could sound interesting is in unison mode, with extremely limited tonal variation. Of course, all that assumes that the synth voice actually holds tuning across multiple octaves.
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The massive 2015 NAMM Show is underway in Anaheim, California this week and analog synthesis is all the rage. While Moog and Korg are busy reintroducing classics from the 1960s and 1970s, Akai decided to step outside the box by introducing an all-new $499 4-voice analog synthesizer keyboard. Sadly, it's absolutely awful. Let me rewind a bit. Last year, Akai... Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2015 at Retro Thing
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You've probably heard of Moore's Law. It's the notion that the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits will double every two years. When Intel co-founder Gordon Moore threw out the idea in 1965, he had no inkling that his observation would hold true for the next 50 years. In 1971, the Intel 4004 microprocessor contained about 2,300 transistors. In... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2014 at Retro Thing
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I'm a huge fan of classic H-P calculators, especially the HP-16C -- their first and only programmer's calculator. It has become a much sought-after collector's item, which ensures that good examples sell for insane amounts on eBay. That's not so great for those of us who actually want a real, honest-to-goodness programmer's calculator on our desks. Enter DM Swiss Made... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2014 at Retro Thing
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Robin Lee writes, "A heavily-customised Oldsmobile said to be the first officially-licenced Batmobile will go to auction later in December. Created in 1963, three years before the infamously camp Batman TV show hit the airwaves, DC Comics allowed a US chap named Forrest Robinson to build a Batmobile." I love the swooping look of this prehistoric Batmobile and I'm somewhat... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2014 at Retro Thing
The Revox Man from Baucia on Vimeo. Alfredo Luiz Baucia writes, "I think you would like to know about the last Revox specialist still working in Brazil, Getulio Cinquetti." Indeed, we would. Alfredo took the time to capture a typical working day for Mr Cinquetti on video. The result is a nod to the past and a reminder that in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at Retro Thing
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The Internet Archive has long been one of the coolest sites on the web, thanks to its incredible collection of long-forgotten web pages and public domain films. They added home console games to the mix with the Console Living Room late last year, and now they've unveiled The Internet Arcade - a browser-friendly collection of classic arcade games that will... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2014 at Retro Thing
Brilliant. I'm itching for Super 8 movie film. Having another source of color reversal is really, really important for those of us who love to shoot single reel shorts with only in-camera editing.
Toggle Commented Oct 15, 2014 on Reviving An Old Film Brand at Retro Thing
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We're at a crossroad in digital imaging - that magical time in a technology's adoption curve where nearly everyone uses and enthuses about it. In a few years - perhaps five or ten - we'll see a small but determined group of people aggressively readopt traditional still and motion picture film as if it were a new technology. And that's... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2014 at Retro Thing
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Jeff Ledger writes, "We've been busy over the summer combining two Microcontroller chips to create a unique microcomputer that has retro 'feel,' and plenty of programming power. We called it the Micromite Companion. It's a kit computer that is programed in BASIC, capable of sprites, tiles, and SIDlike audio with 54K of programming space. The MMC also capable of communicating... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2014 at Retro Thing
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The Winnebago RVs of the late 1960s were boxy, lumbering beasts. Their metal facades were usually festooned with olive green, orange or yellow striping. They were the road-borne equivalent of vintage Kenmore kitchen appliances -- practical but definitely not likely to turn the heads of Porsche aficionados. The 2015 Winnebago Brave looks almost as if a vintage motorhome from the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2014 at Retro Thing
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$39.99 is all it costs to get your hands on the new ColecoVision Flashback console with 60 built-in games. Coleco's late entry into the early 80s console wars was one of my favorites, simply because it was the first to offer a near-arcade experience at home. The fact that the pack-in game was Donkey Kong didn't hurt things, either. This... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2014 at Retro Thing
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Stern is the only major pinball machine manufacturer still in business. They seem to be tempting fate with their latest licensed machine, based on AMC's The Walking Dead. The zombie-themed show seems like an unusual pick for Stern, but perhaps the wild panic of trying to avoid a zombie hoard isn't that much different from the quest not to lose... Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2014 at Retro Thing
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Have you heard? Watches are suddenly cool again. After years of encouraging us to tell time using phones, the major smartphone companies are now insisting that we need watches. Fancy electronic watches that talk and flash and vibrate and know when we go to the bathroom or decide to spontaneously climb a flight of stairs. They can even call 911... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2014 at Retro Thing
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I loved building model kits when I was younger, but it never dawned on me how fun it would be to combine a Tamiya 1/16 kit of a WWII German King Tiger tank with a couple of miniature Regner Piccolo steam engines and a 3.5" marine boiler. This brilliant machine uses 100% steam propulsion, relying on batteries only for remote... Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2014 at Retro Thing
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This newsreel footage of "boffin" Peter Zinovieff gives a bit of insight into how difficult it was to create electronic music in the 1960s. For several years, Zinovieff worked out if his futuristic shed with Delia Derbyshire (who pieced together the original ethereal Doctor Who theme) and Brian Hodgson on an ill-fated project to create and promote electronic music. Zinovieff's... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2014 at Retro Thing
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Hank writes, "I recently completed an all-tube, zero solid state, dekatron and nixie tube clock that is built only with components that were available in 1959. It's not a reproduction, because it was never a product in the first place! You don't see them much anymore, but in this clock Dekatron tubes are probably the most important components because they... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at Retro Thing
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Vince Briel seems to be on a one man quest to remake each and every cool 1970s microcomputer. His past designs include a tiny version of the Altair 8800, the Apple I, Commodore KIM-1 and even a VT-100 terminal emulator. His latest creation is a wicked version of the Ohio Scientific OSI 600, the Superboard III. It features a low... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2014 at Retro Thing
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I did something unusual the other day and charged up an old Nokia phone that's been lying around the house for at least five years. After a few exhilarating minutes wasted playing Snake, I decided to try using it as my main phone for a while. And so -- on day three -- my fancy smartphone is sitting impatiently in... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2014 at Retro Thing
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I know, it's 2014 and film is supposedly dead and buried. However, thousands of amateur and professional filmmakers still shoot Super 8 film because of its unique look. You can still buy newly manufactured film, but no new cameras have rolled off the assembly line since the early 1980s. That's a problem if you need reliable equipment for professional projects.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at Retro Thing