Gideon Defoe (gideondefoe) wrote,
Gideon Defoe

Not really worth the wait

Oh, good grief, two and a half years since my last post. I’m starting to wonder if, just possibly, I might not be very good at blogs. Or at the internet full stop, seeing as I've managed to log onto Facebook and check my website a combined total of about twice since 2008. Partly this is because I'm congenitally incapable of writing passwords down any place sensible, and mostly it’s because I end up feeling guilty about not logging on for so long, which then makes me try to avoid it some more, and so on, in a vicious feedback loop, until the whole thing becomes a full blown email phobia and I end up curled into a ball under my desk eating a babybell. So sorry to anyone who left a message, I'm going through them now, except I have a horrible feeling that the website ones get automatically deleted after a few months. I know I’m rubbish.

Anyway, if you were wondering, I've spent pretty much all of those two and a half years buying tat from ebay. There’s a fair bit to get through, so I won’t waste any more time:

Tat I Have Got Off Ebay #1: A mechanical calculator

Actually this was a bit too expensive to count as genuine tat. But it is pointless, and it makes people sigh and roll their eyes at me, so I think it still counts. The sad truth is that for the first half of the last century calculators were stupid bulky contraptions, taking up most of a desk, like this:

Until, one morning in the early 1930’s, a young Austrian called Curt Herzstark had his once in a lifetime revelation: if you could make a calculator small enough, you could lift it up. And if you could lift it up, you could turn it upside down. And if you could turn it upside down, you could write the word ‘BOOBS’.

The engineering required to achieve that level of miniaturisation would be revolutionary. But just as Curt had started designing his amazing device the war came along and he was thrown in a concentration camp. All seemed lost! Except, as it happened, the Nazis were so excited by the idea of being able to write ‘BOOBS’ on a calculator that they let Curt go on developing his machine whilst he was imprisoned, hoping to be able to present it as a birthday present for the Fuhrer.

It’s scary to think how different history might have turned out if Hitler had been able to shock Churchill with a calculator that could be used to write ‘BOOBS’, but things didn’t pan out for the Nazis, Buchenweld was liberated in 1945, and Curt’s invention was saved for the rest of us. To this day the Curta is popular with rally drivers, who use it to pass the time on boring rallies by writing not only the word ‘BOOBS’ but other words like ‘BOOBLESS’ and ‘SHELL OIL’.

Here is a picture of my curta calculator:

Next time: Tiny Plastic Post Office Tower 
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