Magazines used to be good

Perusing the exchange area at the local recycling facility (dump), I came
across a whole box of Popular Science, Pop Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated and
Science and Mechanics. These covered the years from 1939 to 1956. These had
been stored in a barn or shed, so weren't the "extra fine" quality that bring
big bucks on ebay. Still, the covers were intact, all the pages were there and
represents many fine hours of reading and memories. They add to my
collection of 30's to 50's magazines, a few duplicates, but mostly ones I
didn't have.
The Science and Mechanics magazines are particularly good for their
practical science and shop projects. I really lusted after some of those shop
and projects when I was a kid.
I would say that a good 50% of the articles fit the "RCM" criteria for
explanations of how things worked at that time. The speculations of science
writers, previews of future aircraft, cars and lifestyles are especially good
putting our present lives and problems in perspective. Someone would write
about a very good idea that later would become a non-problem because another
technology bypassed the issue. They even carried a couple of perpetual motion
articles without editorial comment. That was the biggest lapse in reality.
It seemed that after the 2nd world war, there were no limits on what we
could do. Having worked on guided missiles from 1959 to 1966, the buildup to
space age in 1949 was very interesting. It is amazing that they (we) did so
much with vacuum tube technology.
The ads for war surplus equipment featured some real bargains. A complete
Norden bombsight for $50, optics only for $5. Mail order diplomas and
instruction courses on just about every other page. EARN BIG MONEY seemed to be
a constant theme doing everything from sharpening lawn mowers to casting
concrete birdbaths.
Automotive articles were also a constant theme. That is one thing that
hasn't changed. Reviews of the aerodynamic Studebaker, Tucker, Hudson and other

deceased makes were reviewed showing the engineering breakthroughs that were a
vision of the future. The battles of WWII were just a minor blip, with the
explosion of technology that would make life wonderful. We would obviously win,

what could go wrong?
As you might guess, I really enjoy these windows into the past. The constant
optimism that life would be wonderful in the future has come true for a few
of us. The big problems of today with energy, world politics, population
overcrowding were not anticipated or were delegated to centuries from now.
cities in space would take care of anything.
Earle Rich
Mont Vernon, NH
Still waiting for my flying car
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I used to pore over the current issues of the same magazines when I was a kid, beginning around '48. There was a used bookstore near me where I could buy even earlier issues, along with used copies of the pulp science fiction magazines of that era.
My wet dream was to somehow acquire the lathe and materials needed to build the little 4 cylinder inline gas engine featured in a series of articles in one of those magazines. I still remember a line near the end reading, "Wrap the starter cord around the flywheel, back it up against compression, and give the cord a sharp pull." I could almost hear it and smell it running.
Case in point; They were always writing articles about future "Giant Ocean Liners" which traveled at high speeds and could carry thousands of passengers across the Atlantic in just a couple of days. They didn't forsee the coming of passenger jets, which killed that idea before it was ever launched.
They even carried a couple of perpetual motion
Most of my early ham radio activities involved converting "war surplus" aircraft and tank radios. I still remember the first one I got, a BC-455 aircraft radio receiver I used on the 40 meter ham band.
Mail order diplomas and
I always turned first to Popular Science's "The Model Garage" and its owner Gus (and his grease monkey helper), to see if I could guess what the cause of that issue's car problem was before it got revealed by the author.
Nowadays I have to settle for Tom and Ray's "Car Talk" puzzlers, but they don't seem near as much fun, plus fewer of them involve automotive tech problems lately.
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The battles of WWII were just a minor blip, with the
What didn't?
IMHO you left out the biggest problem, the worldwide escalating collapse of morality and personal responsibility, which is the root cause of most of the others. (The curmudgeon in me talking again....)
The sloppy way people drive their cars here in Taxachusetts makes me real glad those flying autos are still a "pipe dream". Bird shit I've learned to accept; wheels and engine blocks falling on my head would be a lot harder to take.
Thanks for the mammaries,
Reply to
Jeff Wisnia
Erich sez, among many other things:
"> It seemed that after the 2nd world war, there were no limits on what we
I would say WW2 was the bigger boost in technology compared to "solid state". A great many of the circuits we take for granted now, such as the phase locked loop, operational amplifiers, etc. etc., were in use during the "vacuum tube age". IMO, technology would be only about 2 weeks behind had "solid state" electronics not come along. Now, compactness and power consumption is a whole 'nother ball game. Think about it. Until very recently, you would have been reading this on a vacuum tube - some still are, including myself.
Bob Swinney
Reply to
Robert Swinney
I saw a show on discovery channel about a guy in CA that is still trying to develop a flying car. He is using 4 ducted fan engines to get vertical take off. Cool idea but it will never be a reality in this country. Like you said, people around here can't even keep their car between the lines, how could they possibly cope with a third dimension?
Reply to
Charles A. Sherwood
I recently picked up a few of those same type of magazines and it's GREAT reading! One of my favorite articles was about a new rear-engine car GM was working on. I think it was in a 1959 issue.
The writer spoke of the many handling problems they would need to overcome and said that the guy(s) heading up the project are really good so he felt sure they'd make it work. :-D
Best Regards, Keith Marshall
"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." - Will Rogers (1879-1935).
Reply to
Keith Marshall
Popular Science has reflected the reality of declining American imagination. People have the attitude now that it is not worth building anything on your own, because premade is cheaper, and in any case, products are now beyond reasonable complexity to make.
The last Pop Sci I bought was filled with inane speculations on future products, complete with computer graphics illustrations, things like "nanobots to clean your rugs" or similar tripe.
I have noticed that their are actually MORE practical build-it resources and magazines, but you must dump mainstream publications and branch out. Metalworking has their own publications, and wood work, building houses, building rockets large enough to loft several pounds miles high all have specialty publications.
Many more things than ever before are being made by amateurs, some at home:
- Rockets into space. - Integrated circuits. - Multilayer printed circuit boards. - Complex machining.
Not less than Issac Asimov predicted what is happening nowdays, in the "foundation" trilogy, people have forgotten how anything works, but the few who actually know how to operate and fix things can essentially name any price for their knowledge.
Reply to
Scott Moore
That's the key to it. It's a world of specialized interests today, and there is no general "build-it" market large enough to sustain general newsstand magazines.
OTOH, as you say, there is a wealth of small, special-interest magazines that go into some subjects in great depth. The problem that business faces is that the market is so segmented that it's difficult to develop a good advertiser base. You need to be subscriber-supported to an unusual degree. And the market is whimsical and fickle.
A good example was _Strictly IC_. It covered its subject to a degree of depth that probably had never been seen before. But the market was too small.
It's all ripe for a new model of online publishing. Some people are dabbling in it, but we've become so accustomed to our online information coming to us for free, that it will be hard to establish paid, online publications in fields for which it otherwise would make a great deal of sense.
Ed Huntress
Reply to
Ed Huntress
Your right I think. The selection pressure for publishers is strongly towards 'least common denominator.' AKA pablum.
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Reply to
jim rozen
Publication pricing is inherently grounded in some multiple of the raw duplication cost. When technology and networking made (or will make) that practically zero, the era of paid publications was (or will be) over.
I am astonished the newspaper still spends so much to publish yesterday's stock prices on newsprint.
Reply to
Richard J Kinch
Those of us in the publishing business are still waiting for it to happen. There are a lot of hang-ups that keep it from taking off. There are some successes, but nothing like most people expected by this time.
The thing I'm looking at, which I consider to be a promising niche, is online publishing of how-to information, in the form of long pamphlets, or short books. Stuff that would sell for $5 or $10, max.
Ed Huntress
Reply to
Ed Huntress
Could be it had volume controlled by the speedometer, so as road noise goes up on the highway, you don't have to touch it... but that wouldn't come on with the brakes, it would be after you slow down.
-- "I've got more trophies than Wayne Gretsky and the Pope combined!" - Homer Simpson Website @
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Reply to
Tim Williams
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Has something along this idea...pamphlets, short books...
You could probably recycle alot of those old magazines. Just change the stuff around, who knows, some of it could come true.
I always like to go to tomorrow land, see all the things that never happened. Disney had the bucks to research it too!
One of his ideas seem to be rounded globes, in space, wonder where that came from?
my 2 cents
Reply to
xman Charlie
That could be the reasoning and workings behind it. I wasn't driving. I was thinking , what's next it switches to elevator music when you slam on the brakes and goes to NIN after 90 ?
One thing for sure is that I didn't like that truck at all. The seats where as comfortable as sitting on the tail gate. And what's with the nice square corners to run you knees into and such?
Reply to
I have my father's Popular Mechanics from the 50s and 60s. SOme great articles in them (gotta love the idea of an atomic opowered plane...) How to make an orbital sander from a floor polisher motor, a thickness planer (..with castings by your local foundry) and minibikes, etc The lawyers woudl probably have a field day with some of the ideas. People could get hurt using tools. Geoff
Reply to
geoff m
Sounds like Lindsay Books, with new material. Geoff
Reply to
geoff m
One issue of Hot Rod, the editor said he edited 13 magazines from his desktop computer. Then I started looking. One magazine would have an article about chevys at a particular car show with pictures, another magazine would have an article about some other special interest from the same show and have pictures from the same roll of film. Different cars featured, Same people standing in the background, same advertisers, etc. I was flying that day and had bought both magazines. It was as if you were looking at two versions of the same magazine, with different covers. I felt cheated. I have Popular Mechanics from 1927-1956. I agree with the forgoing posts. Also, I noticed that many labor saving inventions re-emerge every ten years or so as new ideas. As kids, we found some late '20s early '30s Saturday Evening Posts out at the lake under an old cabin. There was real substance to those magazines. We read then til they fell apart. That was before Dad had electricity put in out at the lake and we read by kerosene lantern. I was a real glimpse of what family life may have been like in the '20s out at the farm. Those magazines were the television of their time. Paul
Reply to
How perceptive. Imagine a world, with no TV. Where kids sit around reading magazines that have content, not just advertisments that masquerade as such.
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Reply to
jim rozen
For me, one good example of this is the Workshop Practice Series, from S.I. Model Books in England. I get one or two every few months, and I'll probably end up with the entire set of 30+. I took one machine tools course last fall, and then the votech/college quit offering anything but automobile welding in the evening.
Anyway, at about $10 each, it's a no-brainer to order one that covers the subject I'm looking into at the moment. With media mail postage from England, each book comes at about the price of two magazine issues. So all of you experts get started writing books!
Reply to
Pete Bergstrom
Couldn't we just run the lawyers through the planer? lg no neat sig line
Reply to
larry g
They used to have an ad in the back of Popular Mechanics for plans for a liquid fueled rocket engine in the early 60's. I sent off for them with my farmwork money. Took some basic machine work and was fueled with "white fuming nitric acid and furfuryl alcohol". Never built it and my Mom threw the plans away when I went in the service. Sure wish I had them today as I've got the tools and meager skills to build the thing now. Popular Mechanics, in my opinion, is still a good magazine. Popular Science isn't worth picking off the newstand anymore.
Garrett Fulton
Reply to
Garrett Fulton

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