Today’s lunchtime news chum brings together a collection of articles having to do with reusing old things: 747s, lighthouses, old buildings, prisons, and computers…
- Reusing an Airplane. A big fuss was made out here in Los Angeles during October when the Space Shuttle Endeavor took to the streets… literally. It was flown here on NASA 905, the SCA. The expectation was that NASA 905 would retire to Dryden at Edwards AFB, where it would be used for spare parts. Not so fast, it seems. NASA 905 has returned to Houston TX, where it will (apparently) live out its life as a static display.
- Reusing a Lighthouse Lens. News comes from Ventura that the Port Hueneme Lighthouse is retiring its Fresnel lens, and will be saving it and putting it on display. They will be replacing it with an LED light for those few ships that still depend on lighthouses. The interesting part in the article is the discussion about how Fresnel lens are actually sensitive to sunlight — the UV in the sunlight can actually destroy the lens.
- Reusing an Old Building. I’ve always admired science museums that reuse old buildings. In Los Angeles, the Musuem of Science and Industry reused buildings from the LA Exposition, and reused them again for the CaliforniaScienCenter. In San Francisco, the Exploratorium reused the Palace of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Exposition for its home. The Exploratorum is on the move again, and an article on that move caught my eye. It is moving to Piers 15 and 17 at the San Francisco Waterfront, reusing those old buildings for a new and wonderful use. What I can’t seem to find anywhere, however, is what the plans are for the Palace of Fine Arts once the Exploratorium leaves it (although I have seen some suggestions).
- Reusing a Computer. I love old technology… perhaps because I’m old :-). I remember the IBM 360/91 at UCLA, and regret that it ended up in a landfill. I also remember the Differential Analyzer that UCLA used to have. Perhaps that’s why an article on the reboot of WHICH caught my eye. WHICH is the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computation from Harwell. It is a 2.5-ton machine, first constructed in the 1950s as part of an atomic research program. What’s interesting (other than the fact it is running again) is that it does not use binary. It instead features walls of dekatron valves, which are little light-bulb-looking things. It counts on a 10-digit decimal system. The WITCH had 40 banks of 8 dekatrons, meaning it could store up to 40 8-digit numbers. Computation was not done by semiconductors but by mechanical relays, on the order of 5 or 10 seconds to multiply two numbers.
- Reusing a Prison. And now a test to see if Jim Umbach reads these posts to the bottom: the LVRJ has a nice article on the attempt to turn the Carson City Prison into a museum. The group attempting the project has a lot of hurdles to jump, but it sounds like it could be an interesting tourist attraction.
Music: The Carnegie Hall Concerts (Carole King): “No Easy Way Down”