Blade Runner, Distilled

I recently rewatched one of my favorite movies, Blade Runner, after reading Chris Noessel’s series about the UI/UX experience within the film at his excellent site, Sci-fi Interfaces. It had been a few years since I’d last watched it and this was my first time to view it in 4K. The film is sumptuous and the UHD transfer is magnificent.

In fact, my only complaint about Ridley Scott’s masterpiece is that it doesn’t actually feature anyone running on blades. 

A lot of articles have been written about this film. Besides the aforementioned critiques of the various technology-human interactions (cybernetics) in the film, essays have been written on the “Tears in the Rain” soliloquy,  the cutting-edge (at the time) score by Vangelis, the impact of the design on the science fiction genre and even the choice of typography.

So, that said, there’s not a lot to talk about when it comes to the film that hasn’t been covered by more-insightful and better writers than myself. But I wanted to show my appreciation for this film somehow, so I started thinking. Then I remembered that several years ago, I’d built an app that would take a film, distill it down to its individual frames as color-averaged pixels and spit out a image file of these, allowing you to view the color environment of the movie in one distinct image.

So, dusting off my code from my GitHub repository (very rough code, might I add), I fired it up in Visual Studio, re-familiarized myself with how it worked, and built a Blade Runner image. As I recall, I first built this process before I learned about Movie Barcodes, which is a similar process that arranges each frame in a vertical sequence, so I guess maybe these are “movie QR codes”?

At any rate, here’s the QR code for Blade Runner:

Blade Runner

And, just for fun, here’s the sequel, Blade Runner 2049:

Blade Runner 2049

How Big Is ________?

Note: It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States, so I’m reposting an article that originally ran way back in 2011 on my photography blog rather than creating new content.

I was going over photos from our latest Vegas trip the other night, pondering on how I never seem to make it to every place I want to go when I’m out there in the desert and how I always think “I’ll make it there next time”, then never do.  Part of the problem with trying to make it everywhere you want to go in Vegas is the sheer  size of The Strip, which is where we usually confine ourselves to while visiting the gambling Mecca.

Anyone whose ever been to Las Vegas knows that everything is further than you think it is.  The size of the hotels are deceiving…more than once a day do you think “Oh, The Wynn?  It’s just right there”, then end up walking 45 minutes to actually get “there”. People forget that, because of the way the land was platted back in the day, the largest resorts occupy a full block.  And a full block on Las Vegas Boulevard fronts a quarter mile along the road.

Since the largest of the resorts have over 3,000 rooms, everything is outsized, though you have to give the architects credit in using optical trickery to try to bring everything down to a human scale on some of the buildings.  For instance, The Bellagio has 3,933 rooms, most of which are in its main tower:

Now, count the floors.  I came up with roughly sixteen.  Not that big, eh?  Wrong.  It’s actually 32 stories tall, but uses a “One Window, Four Rooms” architectural trick to make it seem smaller (you can read more about it here, along with other Vegas examples).  In addition, the lake in front of the hotel–home of the famous fountains–is 9 acres in area, giving the building a nice setback to help “shrink” it.

As you can see, things along The Strip are really massive.  But I wanted to know how massive The Strip is compared to something I know well, so I decided to compare its area with that of my neighborhood.  So I popped over to MapFrappe, which lets you outline things in one Google Map and overlay it in another, and go to work.

I outlined The Strip corridor along its traditional boundaries–from Sahara Avenue in the north to Russell Road in the south.  For the east and west boundaries, I used the extent of the back of the lots of the various resorts.  This covered all the land from the recently-closed Sahara Hotel and Casino to the Mandalay Bay.  Then I overlaid it on the Addison, Texas area:

It nicely fits between Spring Valley Road and Frankford Road–just about four miles!  So, no wonder it takes so long to walk anywhere on The Strip (and the 100 degree-plus summer heat doesn’t help!)

Of course, I couldn’t stop there…I had to compare the sizes of lots of things.  For instance, here’s the main campus (excluding Research Park, the Bush Presidential Library and Easterwood Airport) of my alma mater, Texas A&M University, superimposed over central Austin, Texas–home of A&M’s rival the University of Texas (it’s the area clustered around the red-roofed building):

And here’s Rome’s Colosseum compared to the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium:

Here’s Manhattan Island overlaid Houston:

Here’s Beijing’s Forbidden City overlaid on the Vatican:

Back to my home state of Texas…growing up here, you’re taught that Texas is big, but you don’t really get a good idea of just how big until you compare it to other places:


 

So, yeah, Texas is pretty big.  Interestingly, the longest dimension of the state is from the corner of the Panhandle where the border touches Oklahoma and New Mexico to the tip of state at the mouth of the Rio Grande–a distance of 796 miles.  Or, more succinctly, you could fly from that corner and be in any of the places within this circle quicker than you’d be to Brownsville:

Interestingly, the size of Texas means that people in Texarkana are closer to Chicago than El Paso, Houstonians are closer to Mobile, Alabama than Amarillo, people in Brownsville are closer to Mexico City than Dallas and El Paso residents are closer to Las Vegas, where this post started, than to Dallas.

Bonus fact:  The tiny Texas Panhandle town of Dalhart is closer to six other state capitals than its own: Santa Fe, NM; Denver, CO; Topeka, KS; Oklahoma City, OK; Lincoln, NE; and Cheyenne, WY.

Also, you can view my Vegas photos here.

Bonus:  Here’s the Great Pyramid overlaid on The Luxor:

Looking for the Lost

It’s 1979. In the midst of the malaise of the Carter Administration, the Dallas Cowboys are two years removed from their second Super Bowl victory and are at the height of their reign as “America’s Team”.

In attempt to capitalize on the popularity of The ‘Boys, a vanity film is put into production: Squezze Play.

(Not to be confused with 1979’s correctly-spelled “Squeeze Play!“)

This movie has haunted me for years for silly reasons. Back in the day (what a vague term!), in my hometown of Tyler, Texas, we’d go out to Bennigan’s (RIP) for drinks and, once the bar closed, we’d take our hungered selves to the local Whataburger for late night breakfast tacos. Hanging in the location we frequented was a movie poster for a film we’d never heard of and were always unsure of why it was hanging there. We’d remark on the questionable spelling of “squeeze” (was it pronounced correctly or was it actually “squezzay”?).

Starring people you’ve probably heard of (assuming you’re a Dallas Cowboys fan), Hollywood Henderson, Too Tall Jones, Jay Saldi and Drew Pearson; along with people you haven’t heard of, Dawn Chapman, Gary Vazza and Eddie Thomas, the film was a strange mystery.

Eventually, we stopped going to Bennigan’s and Whataburger…our little drinking gang moved on, got married and grew up. I forgot about “Squezze Play” until a few months ago when I was at my local 7-11 here in the far northern suburbs of Dallas (practically Oklahoma). Waiting in line, I noticed that the guy in front of me looked remarkably like an older Ed “Too Tall” Jones. Knowing that he lives in the area and that this fellow customer was wearing an NFL Players Association hat and that he got into a Mercedes G-Wagen with a Dallas Cowboys decal on the back window when he left, I’m 98% certain it was, in fact, Too Tall Jones. Getting into my car (decidedly not a G-Wagen), I suddenly remembered “Squezze Play” and regretted not taking the opportunity to ask him about it.

I later mentioned this occurence to my brother and the kind of forgot about it.

Until earlier this week. My brother randomly texted me with a link to an old UPI story about the producer, Bill Chaffin, getting convicted of fraud for selling securities to finance the film. Further research led me to Chaffin’s site and it appears that he became a motivational speaker after serving his prison sentence (note that the endorsement is from Nextel, which ceased to exist in 2005). I submitted a question asking about the film on that site’s contact page, but have not heard back.

I also found this clipping from a 1979 Irving Daily News issue that highlights the film’s premier at Texas Stadium (RIP).

Part of my curiosity about this film is wanting to know what the plot is. Neither the poster nor the press clipping give any information beyond letting us know that their style does not including “backing down”.

The film’s plot synopsis on the IMDB is an indictment of the unprofessionalism of the cast and crew rather than the actual story of the film:

Troubled production starring four prominent Dallas Cowboys in the late 70s: Jay Saldi, Drew Pearson, Thomas Henderson and Ed Jones. Barely screened around Texas. In the words of director Anthony Lanza: “It was a bad movie, just a bad movie. It had four Dallas Cowboys in it. At the time, they were very popular. It had two or three people that were starlets that were just starting out, didn’t really have any background, didn’t want to be told what to do or how should I direct them and the action. It was just very unprofessional, and I didn’t enjoy putting that together at all.”

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10950080/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

That the move was “barely screened around Texas” and there is scant information on the web about it, I’m afraid that this is an example of a lost film. Occasionally, lost films are rediscovered…the most-famous recent example is the 1980 short “Black Angel“, shown around Europe before “The Empire Strikes Back”, it disappeared for decades and it was assumed that no prints existed until 2011 when an archivist found a print in the Universal Studios collection and was subsequently restored and re-released.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be a rediscovery of “Squezze Play”. Without the backing of a major studio that might’ve squirreled away a copy or two in a climate controlled archive, any print that exists has probably rotted away into oblivion on a forgotten shelf in a garage or attic. That said, I continue to hold out hope that one day a print will be rediscovered and shared with the world. Or at least with me.

Cleaning Windows

I’ll admit it…I’m kind of a messy person. My desk is covered with various tools, gadgets, opened and unopened mail, receipts and whatnot. In my house, it’s okay to drape your jacket over the back of the easy chair rather than hanging it in the closet. And maybe the dishes don’t get done right after dinner. We’re not gross, unclean people like you’d see on Hoarders, just slightly messy, have-a-lot-of-things-going-on people. 

There is, however, one place that I like to keep pristine. Unfortunately, it’s in the nerdy, digital realm…my Windows desktop. I like there to be no icons, just the background and the Recycle Bin:

 

To achieve this, I periodically minimize all windows, select any detritus that’s gathered and drag it to the Recycle Bin. 

Perfection!

Since I don’t consciously ever save anything to the desktop, the only things that gather there are shortcuts “helpfully” created when an application is installed. While some installers nicely ask you if you want to create a desktop shortcut, in my experience, these are pretty rare. Most just plop one down there and make themselves at home.

Keeping up with this virtual cleaning is a manual task, and while it doesn’t take but a few seconds at most, it’s still something that I have to do. 

So, while the world has been obsessed with keeping meatspace clean due to COVID-19, I decided to come up with a way to keep my virtual space clean automatically, because I’m both nerdy and lazy.

So, introducing ShortcutCleaner—a small program that lives in your system tray and watches for shortcuts to be created on the desktop, then quietly whisks them away into nothingness.

You can install it by going to the release page on GitHub, downloading the .msi file and running.

If you need a deeper dive in installing (i.e. you run into issues with Window disallowing install because of Windows Defender SmartScreen), take a look at my post on the ExifViewer I built.

Now for the nerdy part: a breakdown of how the code works. So exciting!

First, we do some boilerplate Visual Studio C# stuff when the program starts to instantiate our main form

Application.EnableVisualStyles();
Application.SetCompatibleTextRenderingDefault(false);
Application.Run(new formMain());

When formMain() is instantiated, we go ahead an declare a few class properties to get started:

 [DllImport("Shell32.dll", CharSet = CharSet.Auto, SetLastError = true)]
        private static extern void SHChangeNotify(uint wEventId, uint uFlags, IntPtr dwItem1, IntPtr dwItem2);

        public const int SHCNE_ASSOCCHANGED = 0x8000000;
        public const int SHCNF_IDLIST = 0;
        public string commonPath;
        public string specialPath;

DllImport does what it says on the box: it imports shell32.dll into the project so we can access some low-level Windows functionality. In this case, we want to be able to force Windows to refresh the desktop after we’ve cleaned it…otherwise the shortcuts will be logically deleted, but they might hang around on the desktop until Windows does some automated housecleaning. And once we’ve imported the .dll, we can go ahead and declare the SHChangeNotify function and associated constants, which will actually do the refresh. Finally, we define a couple of class-level variables to hold the two paths for the Windows desktop. (Yes, there are two paths in Windows…the desktop for all users and the desktop specific to the currently logged-in user).

 private void formMain_Load(object sender, EventArgs e)
        {
            commonPath = Environment.GetFolderPath(Environment.SpecialFolder.CommonDesktopDirectory);
            specialPath = Environment.GetFolderPath(Environment.SpecialFolder.Desktop);
            fileSystemWatcher1.Path = commonPath;
            fileSystemWatcher2.Path = specialPath;
            this.ShowInTaskbar = false;
            loadClean(commonPath);
            loadClean(specialPath);
        }

Next, we load formMain(). We set the two previsouly-mentioned desktop paths, then we instantiate two fileSystemWatcher objects. These are built-in components in .NET that will watch a specified folder for changes. Since we have two paths, we need to fileSystemWatchers. Since we want this utility to only live in the system tray, we tell the application to not be shown in the taskbar. Finally, on load, we call our function that actually does the cleaning twice, once for each of the watched paths.

private void loadClean(string cleanPath)
        {
            string checkEx = @".lnk";

            foreach (string fileName in Directory.GetFiles(cleanPath))
            {
                string extension = Path.GetExtension(fileName);
                if (extension == checkEx)
                {
                    File.Delete(fileName);
                }
            }
        }

loadClean(), called at startup, simply takes the specified path as an argument and loops through all the files at that path. Since we want to delete shortcuts, we look for files with the extension “.lnk”. If we find one, we delete it.

 private void fileSystemWatcher1_Created(object sender, FileSystemEventArgs e)
        {
            clean(e.FullPath);
        }

        private void fileSystemWatcher2_Created(object sender, FileSystemEventArgs e)
        {
            clean(e.FullPath);
        }

Our two fileSystemWatchers are the same. If a file is created in the object’s path, we call the clean() function with the file’s full path as the argument.

private void clean(string cleanPath)
        {
            string checkEx = @".lnk";

            string extension = Path.GetExtension(cleanPath);
            if (extension == checkEx)
            {
                Thread.Sleep(2000);
                File.Delete(cleanPath);
            }

            SHChangeNotify(SHCNE_ASSOCCHANGED, SHCNF_IDLIST, IntPtr.Zero, IntPtr.Zero);
        }

clean() is slightly different than loadClean() in that we don’t need to iterate through all the files in a given path since we know the relevant filename from invocation. In this function, we simple check if the extension is “.lnk” and delete it. Before we delete, however, we let the program’s execution thread sleep for two seconds to give Window’s time to complete creating the shortcut, otherwise our application might not be able to access the file as it will be locked during the write process. Finally, we call the SHChangeNotify function declared earlier to force Windows to refresh the desktop to ensure that the now-deleted shortcut icons are no longer visible to the user.

All-in-all, it’s a pretty small application and doesn’t use a lot of memory and was pretty simple to implement in only a few minutes. If you want to examine the source code closer, by all means take a look at it on GitHub. if you find any issues, log it on the GitHub repository or shoot me an email at matt@75central.com.

A Perfectly Cromulent Post

Back in the 80s, HBO had a series called Not Necessarily the Newswhich featured a pre-The Onion satirical take on the news (they really had it in for Reagan!). While my young mind could appreciate some of the of-the-day news parodies, my favorite segment was always Rich Hall’s “Sniglets”, where he would teach us new vocabulary, or “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should”. Some of my favorites:

Brattled (brat’ uld) – adj. The unsettling feeling, at a stoplight, that the busload of kids that just pulled up beside you is making fun of you.

Carperpetuation (kar’ pur pet u a shun) – n. The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

Exaspirin (eks as’ prin) – n. Any bottle of pain reliever with an impossible-to-remove cotton wad at the top.

Genderplex – n. The predicament of a person in a restaurant who is unable to determine his or her designated restroom (e.g. turtles and tortoises).

Musquirt (mus’ kwirt) – n. The water that comes out of the initial squirts of a squeeze mustard bottle.

Sirlines (sir’ lines) – n. The lines on a grilled steak.

Occasionally, my family and I still use some of these words. “Genderplex”, I know for certain, comes up semi-regularly. 

Being a fan of made-up words, I was pleased to recently come across This Word Does Not Exist, a site that uses the GPT-2 machine learning model to create and define new words. The results, in a lot of cases, are surprisingly-good. Some of my favorites I’ve discovered so far:

kingsnoodleI can almost imagine walking the narrow alleyways of the Shuk in Old Jerusalem, looking for the best wares from the various kingsnoodles…

charminiumNot entirely sure what candles and clockworks need a defensive liquid for, but who knows?

Anything for attention!

lumberboat

I propose that this becomes a real word. I know so many lumberboats and the mental image of an actual boat weighed down with lumber, slowly trudging along a river pretty much describes them perfectly.

sexticket

Can’t decide if getting the sexticket to a boxing match is a good or bad thing…

cuddleroomDo you cuddle with loved ones in a cuddleroom? Or is it so strangers can hold “cuddle parties“?

douchebarI think the Urban Dictionary’s definition(s) of “Douchebar” is more in line with what I had in mind:

Douche Bar Douche Bar

 

This Week in Boring Postcards – Tok, Alaska

Quick post today. Back in the 1970s, my grandparents visited The Last Frontier—Alaska. Amongst the memorabilia of their voyage was this postcard, featuring the tiny hamlet of Tok.

Tok

And the reverse, informing us that this another “Alaska Joe” original (which makes me wonder about his other originals…)

Alaska Joe

Tok, in case you’re wondering, is a town of ~1300 people in the southeast of Alaska, with several theories about the origin of the name. From Wikipedia:

In one version, the name Tok is derived from the Athabascan word for “peaceful crossing.” The U.S. Geological Survey notes that the name “Tok River” was in use for the nearby river around 1901, and the Athabascan name of “Tokai” had been reported for the same river by Lt. Allen in 1887. In another version the name is derived from the English words “Tokyo camp”, although the major war benefit was supporting the transfer of airplanes to the Soviet Union. Another version claims the name was derived from the canine mascot for one of the Engineer units that built the highways. The name has no connection to the western Alaskan community of Newtok.

Another version comes from the proposed road construction of the highway to Richardson Highway. In the 1940s and 1950s, another highway, the Tok Cut-Off was constructed and connected Tok with the Richardson Highway at Glennallen. It was a “cut-off” because it allowed motor travelers from the lower United States to travel to Valdez and Anchorage in south-central Alaska without going further north to Delta Junction and then traveling south on the Richardson Highway. When originally being surveyed from the air, the map marking showed the “T” intersection, and the letters “OK” to confirm the location was suitable.

Having been to Alaska a couple of times, I can confidently say there are much more interesting things to make postcards of, so I’m kind of at a loss as to why my grandparents chose this one. Though, since it was never sent, I can only assume they decided after purchasing it that it wasn’t worthy of sharing.

Bonus: Download your own “Alaska Joe” graphic in JPG or SVG format!

Badly Drawn Dogs

Quick post today, since I’m lazy and burned out from work and haven’t had time to properly author an exciting and engaging post.

I recently got a promotion at my day job and, to celebrate, I upgraded from my old iPad Air 2 to an iPad Pro 12.9. And, using some incentive points I had saved up, I got the Apple Pencil to accompany it. 

Since I had a stylus and a tablet, I downloaded the digital artist’s iOS app of choice, Procreate, and thought I’d take a metaphorical stab at sketching. 

I used to sketch fairly often. I started out in college as an architecture major with dreams of being the next Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava or Frank Lloyd Wright , and thus thought I needed to be able to sketch out ideas as they came to me. But those dreams were dashed and my college career progressed from architecture→computer engineering→management information systems.

So, consequently, I stopped sketching and haven’t really sketched anything in over two decades (also, I was just shocked to realize I graduated from college over 20 years ago!).

So now that I’ve picked up Procreate, I’ve started to familiarize myself with its myriad of tools and, I must say, I’m quite impressed. There’s a ton of different drawing tools/brushes available, from sketching to charcoal to painting. And, with the Apple Pencil, they’re extremely accurate and pressure-sensitive. You can tell that the engineers behind the app are artists as well. 

After a basic familiarizing, I gave a try at getting back into sketching by doing a quick two-minute sketch of our youngest dog, Etta, lying on the floor. To quote Dylatov, it’s “not great, not terrible“:

3.6 roentgenI then took a shot at some portraits of the other dogs:

Millie:

MillieBonnie:

BonnieOur beloved departed Winston:

WinstonAnd finally, back to Etta:

EttaMan, that was rough. My skills are not-so-great. But I plan on keeping at it, improving my sketchiness and learning the tool. If I improve enough, I’ll try these same sketches again in the future and share them here.

Hula Honey History

Years ago, I picked up a pack of postcards entitled “Hula Honeys”, which featured reproductions of posters and ads for Hawaii and Hawaiian-themed nightclubs from the mid-Twentieth Century, when the country was going through a weird fascination with all things Polynesia and South Seas, such as Trader Vic’s.

I recently rediscovered these in a box I unpacked from our last move (it was only 18 months ago!) and took another look at them and one caught my eye:

Century Room

The name “Adolphus” jumped out at me, and not only because it reminded me of Hitler.

The Adolphus is a historic Hotel here in Dallas, opened in 1912 and built by the founder of Anheuser-Busch, Adolphus Busch. Today it’s one of the most-luxurious hotels in America, but back in the day, in the time of the Century Room, it was a hotbed of Southern Racism, including ties to the KKK. But it’s not the racism that intrigued me…there was, and still is, plenty of that going around; but rather it was the Century Room itself. 

The Century Room was a (whites-only!) swanky ballroom that featured Herman Waldman & His Orchestra playing the tunes of the day while couples danced, drank martinis and smoked cigarettes. The most-interesting part, to me at least, is that the dancefloor could retract, revealing a skating rink for ice shows, featuring flashy ice dancers performing choreographed routines. 

Eventually, the Adolphus was integrated in the 1950s. The Century Room stuck around for a few more decades, as the Adolphus lost it’s luster. In the 1980s, it came under new ownership and a massive remodel took place, adding luxury, painting over the past and reducing the Century Room to a parking lot.

A Lightweight EXIF Data Viewer

If you’ve read the title of this post and are wondering “what is this EXIF thing?”, then here’s a bit of information. EXIF is an acronym for EXchangeable Image File Format. And, no, I don’t know why it’s not “EXIFF”. Basically, it’s metadata tagged onto a digital image that contains information about that image. This, along with another group of metadata, IPTC, is used by digital photographers to keep track of information about such things as camera/lens settings, geographic information and copyright of a given photo. 

Some photographers post their images online with this information intact, while others will strip it out when posting, keeping their secret sauce to themselves. For myself, I keep it intact as I hope it might be helpful to other photographers to understand how a photo was capture as well as being an aid in enforcing copyright. Most, if not all, photos on my photography site have this data tagged onto them and the basic data can be viewed by clicking the “View Photo Data and Location” button under the photo:

Basic EXIF data on 75CentralPhotography.Com

However, there are a lot of times that I want to view this data locally for unpublished photos on my PC. To make this easy, I wrote a simple Windows application that will display this data for a selected photo:

Main Interface

It displays the most-commonly used EXIF data on the main interface; and, if there’s GPS information embedded in the metadata, it shows a button to view the photo’s location on Google Maps. If you want all the EXIF data, you can click “File→Show All EXIF Data…” and a dialog will appear showing everything:

Everything, Everything

This application is written in VB.NET and the source code is available on GitHub. If you want to install it, you’re welcome to download it here

A couple of installation notes:

When downloading the installer, you may get this warning:

Because this app hasn’t been installed enough times for Windows to “trust” it, Windows Defender wants you to really think about it before installing. To continue, click the three dots and choose “Keep”.

You might then get another warning:

Go ahead and click the down arrow next to “Show more” and click “Keep Anyway”. Then, navigate to your download location and doubleclick EXIFViewer.msi to install. You might get another warning:

Click More info and you’ll get the option to run anyway. At this point, the installer will launch and you can install the application.

A lot of rigmarole to install an app, but it’s for most people’s own good, as Windows tries its best to prevent you from installing malicious software using Defender Smartscreen. In this case, you’re going to have to trust me that this isn’t malicious. You have the option, of course, to review the source code at the Github repository listed above. And you know where to find me. If enough people install, Windows will eventually allow it past Smartscreen without complaint.

If you download and use the EXIFViewer and have any feedback or find any bugs, please submit an issue here or send me an email at matt@75central.com.

 

Communicating With the Past

My wife and I are both working from home these days, much like a lot of other people, forced to make do in home offices. Fortunately (I guess, depending on your definition of “fortune”), we’re a childless couple, so we’re able to have our own separate offices, converted from the extra bedrooms of our typical suburban 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. 

Unfortunately, this means that if we need to communicate with each other, we either need to send text messages or shout. And, despite our spare bedroom/offices being adjacent to each other, more often than not, we can’t hear each other even if our voices are raised.

As a solution, I suggested we get intercoms. Which reminded me of the intercoms we had growing up in the 70s and 80s.

A lot of houses at the time had nifty built-in intercoms from the NuTone Corporation, with a little panel in each room.

NuTone Room Station

These were tied to a central unit, typically in the kitchen:

NuTone Panel

This featured an AM/FM radio to broadcast music throughout the house. Because nothing sounds as great as tinny speakers blaring shitty 70s music wherever you go in your domicile.

You don’t see these in houses anymore. They don’t seem to be popular in new builds, though it does look like you can still get modern versions, and most people rip them out when they renovate older homes. 

Growing up, however, we weren’t fortunate-enough to have a built-in system. Instead, we made do with a couple of these units that dad picked up at the local Radio Shack:

Plug 'n Talk

Pressing the Call button would ping the other unit. Talk would allow you to speak to the other person (you’d stop pressing the button to hear the response—this was strictly half-duplex). And Lock would lock down the Talk button so you could just keep talking without having to hold the button or wait for the other person to answer (though I suppose you could use this a baby monitor so you didn’t have to rely on your baby remembering to hold the Talk button himself).

After that wave of nostalgia, I’m tempted to pick up this pair on Ebay to solve our household communications issues.