Kahn, a former gynecologist, ran with the man-as-machine analogy like nobody else. That analogy has some problems, of course, but it makes a good foundation for beginners learning about human anatomy (you know, for kids).
Learn more about Kahn here and more about Lederer’s piece here.
Okay class, we have a movie today. Somebody get the lights please.
This 20-minute 1953 film from renowned married designers Ray and Charles Eames falls into one of my favorite genres: contemplation of a familiar subject as seen from a removed vantage point. In this case, the subject is communication, with a focus on binary information.
The film may not teach you much you didn’t know already, but it’s a showcase of ways to build an explanation with engaging imagery. It’s also a prime example of an excellent explanation trick — illuminating multiple subjects by casting them as different versions of the same thing. The film shows how painting, speech, telegrams, printed images, text, computer programs, etc. all have the same core components: information source, message, transmitter, signal, receiver, and destination. Focusing on the fundamental similarities cuts through potentially confusing details to give you a solid model for understanding each one.
On top of that, it’s loaded with the warm, warbly woodwind music of classroom films (in this case, composed by the late great movie score composer Elmer Bernstein). If you were a kid in the 50s through 80s, you probably know this as the music of education. Or desk naps.
History of the Internet from PICOL on Vimeo.
The movie is a showcase for Pictorial Communication Language (PICOL), German designer Melih Bilgil’s “project to find a standard and reduced sign system for electronic communication.” The idea is to come up with an extensive icon set open to anyone communicating through diagrams. The Picol site is partially under construction, but includes a blog with more information.
The original is fun too, even aside from the entertainment value of clunky hardware and 70s office-wear. I’d like to find some more books from this seres (published by Ladybird Books). Thanks to reduced smoke and mirrors, it’s usually easier to understand core concepts by examining older versions of technology.
I particularly like this tidy illustration of binary code:
Hooray for history via comics. As fascinating and exciting as history can be (it’s the study of everything interesting that ever happened, after all), I’ve never gotten along well with history textbooks. In fact, I used my 11th grade American history textbook as a sleep aid well into college. It rarely failed. For me, comics, documentaries and foul-mouthed HBO shows are the history delivery systems of choice.
So, I’m looking forward to reading this, especially given Zinn’s knack for enlivening history even without funny pictures. But I don’t know what to make of the trailer. Is Viggo Mortenstern trying to sound like the droning voice you hear in your head when reading something boring?