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Roland Corporation turns 50, celebrating their history in pianos with a new model. A working (sort of) Lego typewriter. A distraction-free word processing device lets you write in peace. A Twitter account that posts denied California vanity license plates. Check out Transylvania University’s creepy display of hundreds of jack o’lanterns. Graphene sensors translate sign language to speech. A flight simulator that simulates the experience of being a passenger on a cramped commercial flight, for some reason. The James Webb Space Telescope watches galaxies form around a red quasar. Aldi’s new Advent calendars for this year include a hot sauce calendar. A device that chops the tops off beer cans. Bacardi is eliminating pourers from its bottles to reduce plastic waste. It’s almost time to break out the woolen nose warmers. All that and more in WhatTheyThink’s weekly miscellany. ABS/HIPS/PP/PE sheet machine
When we hear the name Roland, we immediately think of wide-format printers, vinyl cutters, and other related equipment (or, perhaps, headless Thompson gunners). That is the Roland DG brand, a division within the larger Roland Corporation, which in the 1970s and 80s was a pioneer in musical instruments, specifically, electric pianos and other keyboards, before they branched into other areas. For example, the Roland TR-808, launched in 1980, was the first programmable drum machine that became widely used in electronica and hip-hop. If you watched 1980s-era music videos, the name Roland could be seen—in whole or in part—festooning various synthesizers and other keyboards. (We bet someone could sample a Roland wide-format printer and come up with a unique musical composition.)
Roland turned 50 in 2022, having been founded in 1972, and to mark the occasion, and their pianistic roots, they unveiled their 50th Anniversary Concept Model piano.
The new conceptual instrument celebrates the entirety of the history of Roland pianos. “In this 50th Anniversary Concept Model, we’ve developed and installed cutting-edge sound field realization technology,” he says. “Beginning with the EP-10, we installed sounds from 1973, the RD-1000, JD-800, V-Piano, SuperNATURAL, and other historical sounds. This allows you to relive the evolution of technology since the introduction of the digital piano in 1973.”
The construction of the concept model itself embodies the idea of the past and future coming together as one. “In contrast to KIYOLA, which comes from assembled parts, we created the new model by machine-cutting layers of small wooden pieces from digital data and stacking them to shape a single body,” Fujimori adds. “We incorporated the concept of 3D printing, in which cross sections are made with high accuracy and layered, and the ancient method of manufacturing Buddhist statues based on the characteristics of wood movement, etc.
SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals, are at the heart of the design, which has always been important to Karimoku. The new model uses Japanese Nara oak wood from Hokkaido, as oak is hard and heavy. However, Karimoku used already cut, small-diameter oak, mainly used as raw material for paper. This ensures that the model can be repaired when needed and not discarded like many modern electronics.
If you’re into a different kind of keyboard—and are weary of Star Wars-themed Lego sets—why not go for a Lego typewriter?
You can “type” on it in the sense that you can feed paper into it and if you strike the keys the carriage moves, but it doesn’t actually make impressions on the paper. Then again, a Lego Death Star won’t actually blow up planets, so being purely decorative is to be expected. A steal at $250.
Or, if you actually want to be able to type on something, especially something that lacks this distractions of a computer or tablet, via Boing Boing, the Freewrite Alpha is a portable writing device that is nothing more than a word processor.
We designed Alpha to nurture focused daily writing. Free from distracting apps, notifications, and browsers, Alpha builds one habit: writing. Our users report more focused writing sessions and drastically increased word counts.
It features a monochrome display, 100 hours of battery life on a charge, USB-C connectivity, and automatic cloud syncing.
Do you have an insatiable curiosity about vanity license plates? No, nor do we, but we are bemused by a new Twitter account that reposts vanity plate applications to the California DMV along with whether they were accepted or denied and, if the latter, why. Says KQED:
The bot is the work of a Silicon Valley 15-year-old, going by “RJ,” who recently discovered a trove of flagged DMV applications from 2015-2016 — the result of a public records request by journalist Samuel Braslow for a fascinating piece in Los Angeles Magazine. Without anything to do one weekend, and with “an insatiable curiosity of the inner workings of quite literally everything,” RJ built the bot in one day.
One month later, it now posts juvenile license plate attempts like “TRD FURY” and “ASSMNKY” to over 25,000 followers, 24 hours a day.
… For the most part, it seems drivers on California’s great highways want their cars to broadcast drugs and sex, for which there are a zillion slang terms. And yes, the four DMV employees who constitute the review committee actually consult Urban Dictionary. Sometimes this takes a relatively benign request and makes it dirty.
Customer: JUST DO GOOD FRIEND DMV: DON’T GIVE A FUCK, OFFENSIVE Verdict: DENIED pic.twitter.com/8lLebKtQAK
Click through for more examples.
If you’re in the Lexington, Ky., area this weekend, what would be a better way to celebrate Halloween than popping over to Transylvania University to check out the display of hundreds of jack o’lanterns that were carved during Lexington’s 12th Annual PumpkinMania Festival.
Was it a good week for graphene news? It’s always a good week for graphene news! Researchers at Tsinghua University have developed a graphene-based sensor that can “translate” sign language into audio. From Graphene-Info:
The sensor was made from graphene oxide and powered internally by a moist electric generator called MEG, which contains a membrane that spontaneously absorbs water from the air. When water adheres to the surface, this results in a higher concentration of hydrogen ions at the top of the membrane and a potential difference between its two electrodes.
… The team revealed that the development process was assisted by a machine learning module, which helped to combine multiple external responses into a single signal that the device can then learn, store, and interpret.
In the study, Qu and his colleagues Huhu Cheng and Ce Yang, attached the sensor to a volunteer’s wrist and set about teaching the machine learning algorithm linked to the sensor to read and translate different finger and hand movements and associate them with different words and phrases.
“Different finger movements and hand gestures produce unique pressure stimulus sequences, which can be collected on a workstation via Bluetooth,” explained Cheng. “The machine learning model is able to extract features from moist-electric potential response signal sequences and predict the change in each stimulus at each time step based on the output of the LSTM network for that time step.”
From the “Why Would Anyone Want This?” files, Gizmodo reports on an “Alternative flight simulator” that, rather than letting users indulge their passion for piloting, instead simulates the experience of being a passenger on a cramped commercial flight. Developed by Alex Shakespeare, it may be much ado about nothing, but the idea behind it was designed to help allay the cabin fever people were still having as a result of the pandemic lockdowns. (Actually, for some of us, not having to get on a plane was the best part of the pandemic.) Says Gizmodo:
Shakespeare’s latest creation continues in that vein for those who still aren’t comfortable being crammed into a sealed metal tube for several hours. The Alternative flight simulator takes a more passive approach and swaps pilot controls for a tray table and scenic view.
… The simulated passenger’s job is to just sit back and enjoy the flight, but they can interact with their overhead panel, turning on fans, lights, and even requesting assistance from the cabin crew with a button press that plays the familiar ‘bing-bong’ sound effect that anyone who’s flown before has burned into their brain. The best feature is that pressing the call button actually triggers an assistance required message that plays through all of the Google Assistant compatible devices in Shakespeare’s home. We’re guessing that no matter how many times they actually press it, no assistance is actually coming.
So, just like the real thing.
The James Webb Space Telescope is up and running and recently turned its gaze toward the early universe and quasar SDSS J165202.64+172852.3. Existing 11.5 billion years ago, the red quasar has a cluster of massive galaxies in the process of forming around it.
Caption from NASA: At left, the quasar SDSS J165202.64+172852.3 is highlighted in a Hubble Space Telescope image taken in visible and near-infrared light. The images on the right and at bottom present new observations from the James Webb Space Telescope in multiple wavelengths. They demonstrate the distribution and motions of gas within a newly observed galaxy cluster around the central quasar. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, D. Wylezalek (Heidelberg Univ.), A. Vayner and N. Zakamska (Johns Hopkins Univ.) and the Q-3D Team
This quasar is one of the most powerful known galactic nuclei that’s been seen at such an extreme distance. Astronomers had speculated that the quasar’s extreme emission could cause a “galactic wind,” pushing free gas out of its host galaxy and possibly greatly influencing future star formation there.
To investigate the movement of the gas, dust and stellar material in the galaxy, the team used the telescope’s Near Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec). This powerful instrument uses a technique called spectroscopy to look at the movement of various outflows and winds surrounding the quasar. NIRSpec can simultaneously gather spectra across the telescope’s whole field of view, instead of just from one point at a time, enabling Webb to simultaneously examine the quasar, its galaxy and the wider surroundings.
… Using the observations from NIRSpec, the team was able to confirm three galactic companions to this quasar and show how they are connected. Archival data from Hubble hint that there may be even more. Images from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 had shown extended material surrounding the quasar and its galaxy, prompting its selection for this study into its outflow and the effects on its host galaxy. Now, the team suspects they could have been looking at the core of a whole cluster of galaxies – only now revealed by Webb’s crisp imaging.
The things we can do.
Mr. Heat Miser would appreciate this. This year, during the holiday season, supermarket chain Aldi is adding to its popular line of advent calendars with a hot sauce themed advent calendar. Yep, says Food & Wine,
the Bay Island Hot Sauce Advent Calendar ($19,99)…is filled with 24 individual .84-ounce bottles of hot sauce that cover a range of heat from gentle to Ghost Pepper. The calendar includes four different chipotle pepper sauces (including an intriguing Chocolate Chipotle version), three Habanero sauces, two jalapeño pepper sauces and (thankfully) one Sriracha sauce.
Other Aldi holiday calendars making their debut this year are the Huntington Home Candle Advent Calendar and a Moser Roth Eight Nights of Hanukkah calendar. These new entries complement returning favorites such as “a hard seltzer calendar, two different chocolate and chocolate truffle calendars, treat-filled calendars for both dogs and cats, a Disney book calendar, and several different Lego calendars (which will be incredible until the day you step on one of the pieces). A full list of all of this year’s Advent Calendars can be found on Aldi’s website.” Get ’em while supplies last.
It’s taken those of us of a certain age to accustom ourselves to drinking beer from cans, but beer can technology has improved to such a point that all but the snobbiest beer drinkers are averse to canned beer. Quality aside, there is still some resistance to actually drinking out of a can, as if it were a can of soda. So, via Core 77, a Draft Top Lift invention will chop the entire top off the can.
Core 77’s Rain Noe points out that glass recycling has become more difficult (we have not experienced this) so drinking from cans—be it beer or other potables—may become more common. Anyway, the beer can beheader goes for $25—or you could just pour the contents of the can into a glass.
Here is a trivia question for you spirits purchasers: what are those plastic inserts in alcohol bottles called? “Pourers,” we would have thought, but we would have been wrong. Technically, they are called “Non-Refillable Fitments (NRF)” and are not necessarily added to regulate the flow of liquid, but rather to prevent folks from adding things to the bottle or illegally refilling it. But, at least in Bacardi’s case, it’s a moot point, as the company is getting rid of them as a way of helping reduce plastic waste.
But in weighing the benefits of NRFs, apparently Bacardi also realized the literal weight of all that plastic — the company says that removing the pourers from their portfolios in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Spain, and Portugal will cut approximately 140 tons of plastic waste per year.
“We are making this bold move because it’s the right thing to do for the planet,” Rodolfo Nervi, Bacardi’s VP of global safety, quality & sustainability, stated. “As a family-owned company for more than 160 years, pioneering change is in our DNA, and we’re proud to be leading the industry as we take another huge step towards achieving our commitment to be 100 percent plastic free by 2030.”
Bacardi makes its eponymous rum, but also other brands including Martini, Bombay Sapphire, and Dewar’s.
So kudos for helping reduce plastic waste. We’ll drink to that!
As winter approaches, it’s time to dig out the cold weather gear. One essential garment we eagerly sport each winter is the classic wool nose warmer. These were real, and were first sold by the Hanover House mail order company in 1965.
It’s nice to know the tradition lives on at The Nose Warmer Company, which sells a variety of styles to keep your schnozz warm.
1861: The first transcontinental telegraph line across the United States is completed.
1911: Orville Wright remains in the air nine minutes and 45 seconds in a glider at Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
1946: A camera on board the V-2 No. 13 rocket takes the first photograph of earth from outer space.
1991: American captain, screenwriter, and producer, creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry dies (b. 1921).
2003: The Concorde makes its last commercial flight.
1977: Digital Equipment Corporation releases OpenVMS V1.0.
2001: Microsoft releases Windows XP, becoming one of Microsoft’s most successful operating systems.
1825: The Erie Canal opens, allowing direct passage from the Hudson River to Lake Erie.
1861: The Pony Express officially ceases operations.
1892: Ida B. Wells publishes Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.
1946: Puerto Rican actress and author Holly Woodlawn born to walk on the wild side.
1958: Pan American Airways makes the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York City to Paris.
1904: The first underground New York City Subway line opens, later designated as the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line.
1914: Welsh poet and author Dylan Thomas born.
1923: American painter and sculptor Roy Lichtenstein born.
1932: American poet, novelist, and short story writer Sylvia Plath born.
1939: English actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer John Cleese born.
1977: American journalist and author James M. Cain dies (b. 1892).
2004: The Boston Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.
1726: The novel Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift is published.
1886: In New York Harbor, President Grover Cleveland dedicates the Statue of Liberty. The first ticker tape parade takes place in New York City when office workers spontaneously throw ticker tape into the streets as the statue is dedicated.
1899: German-American engineer, invented the Linotype machine Ottmar Mergenthaler dies (b. 1854).
1675: Leibniz makes the first use of the long s (∫) as a symbol of the integral in calculus.
1787: Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni receives its first performance in Prague.
1911: Hungarian-American publisher, lawyer, and politician, founded Pulitzer, Inc. Joseph Pulitzer dies (b. 1847).
1969: The first-ever computer-to-computer link is established on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet.
1466: German printer Johann Fust dies (b. c. 1400).
1885: American poet Ezra Pound born.
1938: Legitimately fake news—Orson Welles broadcasts his radio play of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, causing anxiety in some of the audience in the United States.
WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's leading independent media organization with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, PrintingNews.com and WhatTheyThink magazine versioned with a Printing News and Wide-Format & Signage edition. Our mission is to provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today’s printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.
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WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's go-to information source with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, WhatTheyThink Email Newsletters, and the WhatTheyThink magazine. Our mission is to inform, educate, and inspire the industry. We provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today's printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.
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