For the Ward Clerks out there

If you happened to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the ’60s and were ever called as a Ward Clerk, or one of the assistant clerks – Historical, Financial, or Membership – you may remember the old Adler 200 typewriters.¹

Long before the advent of computers or word processors or even IBM Selectrics or Daisy-wheel typewriters, Adler was the go-to brand if you wanted a typewriter with an unusual font. I don’t know how many Adlers the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased over time, but I’d bet they kept a lot of factory workers and typewriter repair personnel in business for decades.

The LDS Adler had a specific keyboard layout, as well: you didn’t have to shift for numbers (because they were used mostly for entering financial records) and symbols were on additional keys.

The font that came with these machines was OCR-A, a font created in 1968, in the early days of computer optical character recognition, when there was a need for a font that could be recognized not only by the computers of that day, but also by humans.” (Wikipedia) It looked like this:

In the case of financial donations, members would fill out donation slips (being admonished to always write their names the same way each time):

and clerks would painstakingly transcribe these slips onto a ledger sheet on the typewriter, which was then sent by snail mail to headquarters where the records were scanned and entered into mainframe databases. Other information was also recorded using these machines, which were built like Sherman tanks, and like a Timex watch they would “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin.”

Ward clerks often served for extended periods of time; whereas service callings in the Church today generally only last a few years, back in the day it was not uncommon for a clerk to serve for decades, especially if he did a good job.

The Ward Clerk

He kept the minutes, typed each note,
And put them in the file.
The membership he knew by rote;
He labored with a smile.

The ordinations, births and deaths
He faithfully recorded
For forty years, until at last
He went to be rewarded.

The people he had known so well
Turned out to shed a tear,
And pay respect to this good man,
Gone to another sphere.

But as the choir rose to sing,
They saw with consternation
The good man from his coffin step
To count the congregation!

-Author Unknown

It is said in the navy that the Captain may command the ship, but the E-7’s (Chief petty officers) keep the show running. Much the same could be said about a ward or branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the Bishop or Branch President may be in charge, but the ward clerks keep the wheels greased and everything running smoothly so the leaders can focus on ministering rather than administering.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ The typewriter photos used in this post are from typewriter hunter Jake Fisher at the Typewriter Database.

BYTE Magazine: The April Fool Articles

Cross-posted from Livejournal

It was traditional for BYTE magazine to include one bogus article in their “What’s New” section each year in the April edition. Here are two years’ worth that I archived in my “what the Hell” file. They’re interesting not only because of the gag, but to see what was actually considered new in those years. Ah, history… see if you can spot the bogus articles.


It’s interesting to walk down memory lane and see how far technology has come for real in the last 4 decades.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Bally Bazaar: a memory of my favorite pinball machine

Before computer games, there were pinball machines. If I had a nickel for every time I played one of those beasts in the 60s… well, I’d have all my nickels back. And it would be a significant pile.

We’re not going to talk about my addictive personality at the moment – that’s a given, something the Goodwoman of the House never tires of reminding me. But of all the pinball machines I ever played – and there was a pile of them – this one was indisputably my favorite. It showed up at the Jigger Shop (Cheshire Academy’s hole-in-the-wall luncheonette and post office) and was an instant favorite.

The full specs of this game are here at the The Internet Pinball Database – I’ve culled one or two photos to give you a feel for what it looked like.


Full view, photo by Tim Brady


The playing field, photo by Tim Brady


The back glass, photo by Alan Tate.


Bazaar flyer from Bally.


Closeup of the reward schema.

This one was the first machine to have the feature of closing the flipper gap when you hit a certain bumper (in this case, the “U”), which allowed you to keep a single ball in play much longer. If you lighted all the L-U-C-K letters, you would light up one of the crescents at the top of the back glass. In addition to replays for certain score levels, you were granted a free game for lighting crescent 5, and another for lighting crescent 9. Those replays were accompanied not by bells or whistles but by a loud mechanical “snap” which was unique to any machine I had ever played.

Nowadays, modern pinball machines are totally electronic, with amazing graphic displays and what seems like THX-quality sound, and frightfully complex playing fields. If you’re not from the generation that was addicted to these machines, the old ones operated with magnets and solenoids and mechanical relays, long before printed circuits became ubiquitous. Despite being simple by comparison to today’s machines, many of them were frightfully clever, and all of them were designed to be maddeningly captivating.

I imagine that being a pinball repairman was a full-time career back then. Lots of moving parts to break, lots of resistors to fry.

I haven’t played a pinball machine in decades, and I was no “pinball wizard,” but I keenly recall the blood-pumping hours I spent in front of these machines, and this one example in particular.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Casio CA-95 Musical Watch

Some time ago I wrote about early calculator watches and mentioned some of the favorite geek watches I’ve owned over time. My all-time favorite is the CA-95, which I bought in Hannover in 1983 as I arrived at the airport for CEBIT. I needed a new watch, and this one just called out to me.

By dint of a little work, I was able to resurrect it, almost – the “=” button doesn’t work, and I think it’s because I didn’t get it properly aligned. But everything else functions, more or less, which enabled me to record the sounds which I so dearly loved.

Back in that day, a watch would go “beep.” With this model, Casio upped the game substantially – sort of the same effect that Macintosh had on the computer world with its integrated sounds.


The Old Wolf has spoken.

Things you may not have known about Apollo 11

Originally posted at in 2009, the original post appears to be gone, but thanks to the Wayback Machine, I present it for your consideration.

24 – During Apollo liftoffs, NASA VIPs sat 3.5 miles away from the pad, since if the rocket exploded, it would do so with 4/5ths the power of an atomic bomb, meaning 100-pound shrapnel thrown a radius of 3 miles. Neil Armstrong recently commented that today, Americans are shocked when the Shuttle doesn’t work every time, but during Apollo, NASA employees were always surprised when the Saturn did.

23 – The threat of pad catastrophe was so imminent that NASA engineered a number of methods to rescue the crew. There was an entirely separate 3-rocket assembly attached to the nose cone of the capsule, ready to launch the men off their booster, deploy the chutes, and drift into an Atlantic splashdown. There were 600-feet-per-minute high-speed elevators which would be met by armored personnel carriers, and a cable car attached to a slide wire which could carry all three men 2500 feet at 50 mph away from the immolating missile to a rubber-walled below-ground bunker.

22 – There was one prayer at the start of every NASA mission shared by astronaut crew and ground control engineers alike: “Dear Lord, please don’t let me [screw] up.”

21 – During countdown, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins sat in absolute silence for 30 minutes.

20 – As his rocket rose into the sky, Saturn V overseer Wernher von Braun recited, aloud, the Lord’s Prayer with tears in his eyes. He then turned to a colleague and offered, “You give me $10 billion and 10 years and I’ll have a man on Mars.”

19 – The computers aboard each of the Apollo 11 spaceships had less power than today’s cellphones.

18 – Those who believed American astronauts were daredevil cowboys would be surprised by what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made sure to bring with them on this mission: Slide rules.

17 – Instead of watching his dad on television during the flight, Mike Collins only wanted to play with his pet bunny, Snowball; after ignoring almost everything about Apollo 11, Marky Armstrong looked up from what he was doing at one point, realized that it was his dad who was on the TV screen, and ran over to hug it.

16 – Much of the heroics needed by astronauts went into enduring what was arguably the world’s worst camping trip. Drinking water was a fuel-cell by-product, but Apollo 11’s hydrogen gas filters didn’t work, making every drink so bubbly that some believe the bravest man on the mission was the Navy frogman who opened the hatch after splashdown. NASA meals were vacuum-sealed in plastic. Cubes of cereal and cookies were eaten straight out of the bag, while freeze-dried entrees (a process that combined flash-freezing with vacuum-s*cking to remove all moisture) needed to be rehydrated through a nozzle with either hot or cold (and gassy) water and kneaded into a mash, which was then squeezed out like toothpaste and was as delicious as it sounds. Of the 2500 calories they were supposed to eat each day, an Apollo crewman averaged 1400. Urinating and d3fecating in zero gravity, meanwhile, were never successfully addressed by any NASA engineering triumph; the latter was so troublesome that agency doctors prescribed foods that produced as little waste as possible, and more than one astronaut spent their entire mission on lomotil to avoid the procedure entirely.

15 – As Aldrin and Armstrong monitored the landscape of their landing path, it became clear that something was off, that they were going to overshoot NASA’s carefully-plotted landing site by about 4 miles. Instead of a computer-controlled touchdown, Armstrong would have to land on the moon himself. During one of his lunar lander training sessions, however, he’d almost died, with 3/5ths of a second to spare. In the Apollo 11 touchdown, he would almost wholly run out of fuel. Astronaut Don Lind: “At the end, all we knew was that the LM was descending at 1 foot per second and scooting across the surface at 47 feet per second, with only about 60 seconds’ worth of descent fuel left. My heart was pounding so hard I was afraid they’d kick me out of the Astronaut Corps.”

14 – NASA’s simulator training worked so well that many astronauts would calm themselves during real-world crises by thinking, “This is just like a simulation.”

13 – In case of disaster, William Safire prepared a speech which President Nixon would have given as the astronauts lived out their final hours. It began: Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. And it concluded: For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

12 – The “one small step for man” wasn’t actually that small. The commander had set his ship down so gently that the legs’ shock absorbers hadn’t deployed, and the bottom of the ladder was 3.5 feet away from the Moon’s surface. Armstrong first stepped onto one of Eagle’s footpads and hoisted himself back onto the ladder to make sure he could get back to his ship before taking the ’small step,’ and then warned Aldrin about how big a drop it actually was.

11 – Armstrong’s first assignment was to immediately grab a rock just in case there was an emergency abort. Instead, he became so engrossed in taking pictures that Mission Control had to nag him 3 times about the sample. Aldrin, meanwhile, had to remember not to lock the door after exiting the LM, since there was no outside handle. When it was his turn with the Hasselblad, Aldrin took very few pictures of Armstrong, all of them a small figure in a vast panorama featuring the Lunar Module. There is today only one good photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon — one he took himself, reflected in Aldrin’s gold visor.

10 – Armstrong later confessed to astronaut Alan Bean that their next task was the most difficult and frightening one of all: planting the American flag. It turned out that, contrary to many geologists’ conjecture, the moon’s surface (at least in the Sea of Tranquility where Eagle had landed) was a thin sweep of dust covering hard, dense, impenetrable rock. After pounding and sweating away at the task for much too long, Aldrin and Armstrong could only get their flagpole in a few inches. Both were convinced that, live on television with billions watching, they would step back from the flag — which was torsoed with wires to always wave erect in the vacuum of the moon — only to see it topple over into the dust. Amstrong tried patting a mound of dirt at the base to stabilize it, but the situation was so dicey that he and Aldrin spent the rest of their moonwalk carefully avoiding it. NASA had kept secret the manufacturer of the moon flag, insisting that they were bought anonymously. But the president of flag-maker Annin uncovered that it had come Sears, an exclusively Annin retailer. He begged the agency’s Public Affairs Office to publicly acknowledge this, but NASA refused. They said, “We don’t want another Tang.”

9 – Returning to the LM, Aldrin and Armstrong had now worked for over 24 hours nonstop, and needed to sleep. But there was a constant racket from the interior system pumps and the micrometeorites exploding like hail on the LM’s mylar skin. Aldrin: “It was very chilly in there. After about 3 hours it became unbearable. We could have raised the window shades and let the light in to warm us, but that would have destroyed any remaining possibility of sleeping.” Armstrong found that his hammock put him directly in the line of sight of the craft’s telescope, which at that moment was focused on the Earth. For the exhausted but restless flyer, it seemed as if a huge, unblinking blue eye was staring down at him.

8 – Orbiting overhead in the mothership Columbia, Mike Collins, meanwhile, had spent countless hours peering through the sextant trying to determine his crewmates’ landing spot, but he still didn’t know where Eagle was, exactly … and Houston didn’t know, either. The next morning, Collins radioed, “You’ve given up looking for the LM, right?” and Houston replied, “Affirmative.”

7 – Astronaut Nurse Dolores “Dee” O’Hara: The astronauts “have something, yes, that something that men have for whom death is a toy to play with, or who have seen something you haven’t seen. The ones who have been up, especially. They have something, a sort of wild look, I would say, as if they had fallen in love with a mystery up there, sort of as if they haven’t got their feet back on the ground, as if they regret having come back to us … a rage at having come back to earth. As if up there they’re not only freed from weight, from the force of gravity, but from desires, affections, passions, ambitions, from the body. Did you know that for months John [Glenn] and Wally [Schirra] and Scott [Carpenter] went around looking at the sky? You could speak to them and they didn’t answer, you could touch them on the shoulder and they didn’t notice; their only contact with the world was a dazed, absent, happy smile. They smiled at everything and everybody, and they were always tripping over things. They kept tripping over things because they never had their eyes on the ground.”

6 – In the wake of Apollo 11, the speaker at one NASA scientific banquet was British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, who had predicted in 1948 that, once a picture of the earth from space had been made, a whole new way of thinking would result. He told the attendees: “You have noticed how, quite suddenly, everybody has become seriously concerned to protect the natural environment. It happened almost overnight, and one can understand how one can ask the question, ‘Where did this idea come from?’ You could say, of course, from biologists, from conservationists, from ecologists, but after all, they’ve really been saying these things for many years past, and previously they’ve never even got on base. Something new has happened to create a worldwide awareness of our planet as a unique and precious place. It seems to me more than a coincidence that this awareness should have happened at exactly the moment man took his first step into space.”

5 – Though JFK had publicly announced, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do these other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,” privately, he would ask, “Can you fellows invent some other race here on earth that will do some good?” and commented about getting a man on the moon: “The cost, that’s what gets me.” Twice, Kennedy would propose to Khrushchev that the two merge their efforts in a join US-USSR mission to the moon, but the Russians, not wanting the West to see the limits of their military technology, declined.

4 – Lyndon Johnson’s budget director informed the president, in great detail, the vast amount of money that would be saved by not going to the Moon before 1970. But Johnson demurred, insisting he owed it to John Kennedy to make that deadline.

3 – Soon after President Kennedy’s assassination, his widow sat down with Teddy White for an interview which remained unpublished until 1995, a year after her death. Jackie commented on the various memorial plans that, “I’ve got everything I want; I have that flame in Arlington National Cemetery and I have the Cape. I don’t care what people say. I want that flame, and I wanted his name on just that one booster, the one that would put us ahead of the Russians … that’s all I wanted.”

2 – Fearing a public relations calamity, NASA never allowed Armstrong, Aldrin, or Collins to ever fly again.

1 – Since 1981, the Pentagon’s annual space budget has been bigger than NASA’s.

The Garbage Disposer in 1951

Having mentioned the Kiplinger Magazine in my previous post, I happened across this article in the same issue, and found it a fascinating look back to the year of my birth, six years after the end of World War II. An appliance most of us take for granted these days, and even consider when looking at a home to purchase, was at that time still a novelty. The article gives a look back through the chronoscope at what some people were thinking about this new-fangled device. From Changing Times, The Kiplinger Magazine, October 1951.



Almost a million electric garbage disposers are now in use, and they are putting the garbage man out of a job

GARBAGE is a nasty word. When fed to hogs, it was an even nastier name: “swill” or “slops.” The delicate refer to it as “food wastes.” Whatever you call it, it’s a mess when the bottom drops from a soggy paper bag as you rush the stuff to the kitchen door.

You may never face that domestic crisis again. A revolution is going on that may make the garbage can as outmoded as the privy.

Its successor will he the electric garbage dis­poser, that mechanical pig that sits under the kitchen sink, gobbling up your garbage and washing it down with cold water.

If you have a disposer now, you know why housewives love it. It ends a lot of fuss and muss. It eliminates smells and drippings. It speeds getting meals and cleaning up afterward. It’s self-c1eaning, and stray dogs can’t knock it over. It puts flies, roaches, rats and mice on a starvation diet.

If you still stick to the garbage can routine, you’ll probably switch to a disposer sooner or later. This gadget is catching on fast all over the country. In the Los Angeles area alone, 10,000 units are installed monthly. Home build­ers feature them in new houses. A Midwestern city installed them all over town and fired its garbage collector. Last year sales were nearly double those of the year before.

The mechanical pig was almost 20 years old before it began to go to town. General Electric put its Disposall on the market in the early 30’s. But by the time World War II came, only about 100,000 disposers were in use – not many for a nation that buys over 3 million vacuum cleaners a year.

One reason for its slow start was its price­ – well over $100. Housewives were skeptical, too. Could it really chew up their garbage like the ads said? Would it last? Some city officials, fearing ground garbage would clog sewer mains and overburden treatment plants, outlawed disposers.

An answer to the durability question came from Edward J. Zimmer of Chicago’s Plumbing Testing Laboratory. He ran a disposer for a year, cramming in as much waste as a family of eight would have in 25 years. For seasoning he fed in big helpings of ashes, sand, granite, paving blocks, glass, nail, even a few iron fittings. After a year his disposer was still grind­ing away. It was a little slower, but it continued to grind well.

Time has furnished another answer. The earliest disposers have now been in use for 15 years. They still work well. Apparently they will last 20 years, as their makers claim.

The disposer is not a hazard to sewer systems. In Zimmer’s test, the disposer scoured out sewer lines instead of clogging them. Experiments at the University of Texas and e1sewhere proved a reasonably well-built sewer could carry off with ease whatever the disposer sent its way.

Meanwhile, health officers have jumped on the disposer bandwagon. They have long opposed feeding garbage to pigs, because that may lead to trichinosis in people who eat garbage-fed pork. Besides, garbage cans are feeding stations for disease-spreading flies. The disposer can end both threats to health.

Prize exhibit in the disposer showcase is the little Indiana city of Jasper (pop. 6,000). Garbage was a headache there. The city paid farmers to collect it. People complained about the service. It was hard to get bidders for the job. It cost the city $6,000 a year. If Jasper were to set up its own collection and disposal system, the bill would be $13,000.

The city’s engineer-mayor, Herbert Thyen, thought city-wide installation of disposers would make Jasper a garbage-free city and save money, too. The city council agreed. It got the state legislature to pass a law permitting Indiana cities to use home disposer garbage systems and to float a bond issue to pay for them.

But Jasper decided not to force a disposer on anyone who didn’t want one. So it passed up the bond issue idea in favor of asking each householder to buy a disposer for a bargain $75. Local banks made loans to those who needed time to pay. Soon 1,000 families-enough to set the plan going-signed up. The mayor estimates Jasper will save $13,000 a year on garbage collection, plus $6,000 it used to spend spraying garbage cans.

Some authorities question these savings.

Garbage is only 10% of a city’s refuse, they say. The other 90% must still he collected. Also, the extra flow from universal use of disposers would up the cost of sewage treatment by about 60 cents per person per year. Jasper’s new plant is bigger than what would have been needed for garbage-free sewage alone. Nevertheless, 156 cities are considering following Jasper’s lead.

In a few cities, you still can’t have a disposer because local ordinances forbid them. Some bans exist where sewage systems are inadequate, or so close to it that they can’t handle even a small additional load. Others are holdovers from the days when the effect of disposers on sewers was unknown.

But the price of the disposer plus the cost of installation is still the biggest hobble on the mechanical pig. The average unit sold last year cost $135. Some installations cost more than the disposer itself, up to $150. The average is $65. It adds up to an investment most families think about twice.

Even so, the industry is doing nicely. It’s not big time yet, but ifs on its way. In 1949, 175,000 disposers were installed. In 1950 the total was 300,000. At the first of this year 775,000 were in use, 87% of them having been installed in the last four years.

There’s more competition now, too. One manufacturer had almost all the prewar business. Today, 15 makers are in the field, including a healthy proportion of small outfits.

At 300,000 units a year, the disposer business is still in its infancy. When it hits a million a year, it will be grown up. How soon that day comes depends on how much steel can he spared from defense. Right now, shortages are in prospect. But when the million mark is reached, the garbage can will be on its way to the museum.


In the market for a garbage disposer? Follow these steps:

Consider your sewer system. If you use regular city-type sewers, you can probably use a disposer. They’ll work with septic tanks, too, if the tank is big enough. Minimum size is 500 gallons. Larger sizes arc recommended if you have more than two bedrooms. If you use a cesspool, better forget the whole thing.

Check local laws. Before you commit yourself, be sure your town permits disposers. There may be special installation requirements, too. Your dealer will know.

Measure your sink.. If the drain opening is 3 1/2 to 4 inches across, a disposer will fit. An adapter fits some disposers to larger openings. It is possible to enlarge small openings.

Get the Installation costs. It takes both au electrician and a plumber to do the job. It may run you 20% to 150% of the cost of the disposer itself. So find out what it will cost in your particular case.

Pick your disposer. There are just two types. In one, you open the top and put in garbage as it grinds. In the other, you fill the hopper, close the top, and then switch on the unit. With 15 makes on the market, there are price differences. So shop around.

Add up the costs. Price of the disposer plus installation is what you pay. Figure it will last 20 veers and cost about 5 cents a month to operate. Don’t forget you’ll still need trash collection for metal, glass, seafood shells, paper, rubber, large bones. But you may not need a pickup as often as before.

Treat It fairly. Follow directions on what to put in and what to keep out. Learn to tell, by the sound, when the grinding is done. Switch off promptly to save money.

In 1951, if your disposer cost $150 and you were socked $135.00 to install it, that would come to equivalent value today of about $2,600, definitely not chump change. But given some of the problems mentioned in the article, which were pretty endemic to society in those days, it’s easy to see why the idea caught on, especially as prices dropped.

Dave Berg Garbage Communists

From Mad’s Dave Berg Looks at the USA, illustrating another common theme in the 50s and 60s. Some of us are still looking for Bolsheviks under our beds at night…

Of course, as we were reliably told by Hefty, you don’t necessarily need a disposer to handle that problem:

Nowadays you can find a serviceable model at a home-improvement store for about $100.00 and install it yourself. There are more expensive models, of course, but the cheaper ones work well and usually last around 10 years.

But now, the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way. An interesting article over at Remodelista covers pros and cons and gives tips on composting for those who are able to do it. As for us, we are fortunate enough to live in an area that permits backyard hens, which means we put almost nothing down the disposal and virtually nothing compostable into the landfill, and it comes back to us in the form of eggs. (The girls are taking a break at the moment, but if they don’t get with it our garbage will come back to us in the form of chicken enchiladas, which puts me in mind of this cartoon by Adrian Raeside:


Some older homes can’t handle a disposal well, and this should be taken into consideration. We bought a home that was built in 1950, before disposals were a household word. The downstairs kitchen was added later, and the contractor didn’t provide a big enough rise-over-run ratio from the new plumbing to the sewer main, so the long run of pipe would fill up with sludge which had to be rooted out from time to time. New construction should never have that problem.

In the end, the less we put down the pipes the better. it’s convenient and the technology allows for it, but there are increased costs in terms of sewage treatment, and if one can recycle, compost, or reduce waste in any way, then that’s the best way to go if we’re wanting to reduce our impact on island earth.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Frightfully clever crossover technology marketing

The picture below submitted to reddit by /u/golmal7 shows a flexi-disc CD by Kid Koala entitled “15 Blues Bits.”


The top side of the CD comes impressed like a vinyl record, and the disc comes with a cardboard gramophone that you can play.

Here’s a video of the record being played with the included kit:

And here’s what it sounds like on a regular turntable:

I have no idea whether the music on the CD is any good, but that’s innovative marketing.

The Old Wolf has spoken.