This is an IBM tape library robot. It’s designed to fetch, load, unload, and return tape media cartridges to the correct bay in large enterprise environments.
One fateful ‘workend’, I made one serve drinks.
It went back into prod on the Monday…
In a story reminiscient of those anecdotes about early computer science students competing to “race” hard drives across the lab by writing programs that moved the heads in a way that
vibrated/walked the devices, @SecurityWriter shares a wonderful story about repurposing a backup tape
management robot to act as a server (pun intended) of drinks.
After three and a half years, webcomic LABS today came to an end. For
those among you who like to wait until a webcomic has finished its run before you start to read it (you know who you are), start here.
While lying in bed, unwell and off work, last month, I found myself surfing (on my new
phone) to the Wikipedia page on torsion springs. And that’s when I found myself wondering – how did I get here?
Thankfully, there’s always the back button: famously the second most-used bit of your web browser’s user interface. So… how did I come to be reading about torsion springs?
I got there from reading about torsion
pendulum clocks. My grandmother used to have one of these (an “anniversary clock”, like the one above, and I remember that I used to always enjoy watching the balls spin when I was
I’d followed a link from the article about the Atmos clock,
a type of torsion pendulum clock that uses minute variations in atmospheric temperature and pressure to power the winder and which, in ideal circumstances, will never need
Before that, I’d been reading about the Beverly Clock,
a classic timepiece that’s another example of an atmospheric-pressure-clock. It’s been running for almost 150 years despite having never been wound.
This was an example of another long-running experiment given on the page about the Oxford Electric Bell, which is perhaps the world’s longest-running scientific experiment. Built in 1840, it
uses a pair of electrostatic batteries to continuously ring a bell.
I got to the Oxford Electric Bell from another long-running experiment – the one acknowledged as the world’s longest-running by the Guinness Book of Records – the University of Queensland Pitch Drop Experiment.
Running since 1927, this experiment demonstrates that pitch is not solid but a high-viscosity fluid. A sample of room-temperature pitch in a funnel forms a droplet about once a decade.
Earlier, I was learning about the difference between the different substances we call tar. Traditionally, tar is derived by baking pine wood and roots into charcoal, and collecting the runoff, but we also use the
word “tar” to describe coal tar (a byproduct of coke production) and bitumen (viscous, sticky crude oil).
I took the initiative to learn about those differences after reading about the name “Jack Tar“, an Empire-era slang term for a sailor in the Merchant Navy or Royal Navy…
…which in turn was linked from the similar article about “Tommy
Atkins“, a term for a British infantryman (particularly in the First World War), which has an interesting history…
…to which I got from the “Doughboy” article. The Doughboys were
members of the American Expeditionary Force during the First World War.
Finally, I got to that first Wikipedia article while, when reading an article on The Paleofuture Blog, I wondered about the etymology of the
term “doughboy”, and began this whole link-clicking adventure.
It’s fascinating to work out “how you got here” after an extended exploration of a site like Wikipedia (or TV Tropes, or Changing Minds, or Uncyclopedia – and there goes your weekend…).
Thank you, Back Button.
I just wish I had a Back Button in my head so that I could “wind back” my wandering thought processes. How did I end up thinking about the salt content of airline food,