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TELEVAC 86000 / CENTAURI-68000, South Carolina State Fair: 2012   37 comments

Posted at 11:32 pm in attraction,historic

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Once upon a time, computers were magical devices, "Electronic Brains", spoken of with tinges of awe and fear. See for instance the classic Hepburn / Tracy movie Desk Set. Nobody, in their day-to-day lives would expect to see a computer, and few people had any idea what they actually looked like. Everybody was sure, however, that they involved lots of blinking lights (and tape drives moving forever back and forth).

That first actually wasn't far from the truth. Early computers did have many lights, often signifying bits in various registers and program counters. They also had toggle switches (like the much missed computer in the old Columbia Science Museum) for setting all those bits.

The illuminated front panels of early computers loomed large enough in techie culture that you often found variations of the following sign posted in a computer room:


ACHTUNG!
ALLES TURISTEN UND NONTEKNISCHEN LOOKENPEEPERS!
DAS KOMPUTERMASCHINE IST NICHT FÜR DER GEFINGERPOKEN UND MITTENGRABEN!
ODERWISE IST EASY TO SCHNAPPEN DER SPRINGENWERK, BLOWENFUSEN UND POPPENCORKEN MIT SPITZENSPARKSEN.
IST NICHT FÜR GEWERKEN BEI DUMMKOPFEN. DER RUBBERNECKEN SIGHTSEEREN KEEPEN DAS COTTONPICKEN HÄNDER IN DAS POCKETS MUSS.
ZO RELAXEN UND WATSCHEN DER BLINKENLICHTEN.

and the portmanteau word blinkenlights permanently entered the hacker lexicon.

So people were interested, a bit awed and a bit scared by the idea of computers, and had only a very general idea of what they could do and how they looked. Thus: The TELEVAC 86000.

This amiable faux computer has been making the rounds for as long as I can remember, which is to say, at least since 1965 or so, and probably prior to that. Every year, it would set up shop in the Steel Building or the Ruff Building and dazzle the passers by. How could you possibly doubt a handwriting analysis from the TELEVAC 86000? IT'S A COMPUTER! IT'S SCIENCE! IT HAS BLINKING LIGHTS!

While we never did spring for the analysis when my parents took us to the fair back in the day, I have the feeling that at the time, this wonder of technology dispensed pre-printed cards dissecting your penmanship -- certainly there were no portable printers available for such a travelling roadshow.

As the years went on, the TELEVAC did add a printer, and astrological predictions as well as handwriting analysis, but the basic blinkenlights front panel stayed fundamentally unaltered, even through the name change to the less antique sounding CENTAURI-68000.

By the time I actually dropped $3.00 in 2012, the whole concept was not too credible. Whereas in 1965, nobody had seen a computer, much less had a computer, and the blinkenlights represented (to this 5 year old anyway) the apex of science, by 2012 most everybody (including lots of the 5 year olds) had a computer, and everybody knew what one looked like.

Sad to say, the TELEVAC / CENTAURI did not make an appearance at the 2013 State Fair, and I'm afraid it is the end of an era.

Written by ted on October 21st, 2013

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South Carolina State Fair 2013, Fairgrounds: 20 October 2013   6 comments

Posted at 11:03 pm in attraction,entertainment,events,venue

Well, if you've been following Columbia Closings for a while, you won't find any real surprises here. I like what I like (mainly neon in the case of the State Fair) and you'll find a lot of what you found last year here this year again. I did try out the in-camera HDR setting of my LX7 some this year, and I think it works better for this kind of shot than it does for daylight ones where I've never really been happy with it.

I will say that for what should be an important anniversary year (150 years of the State Fair..) the Fair was a little sparse this year. It seemed to me that the artwork was fewer pieces spaced farther apart and the Steel Building (and the one to the right of it which name escapes me) had fewer booths this year, with some stalwarts missing. In particualr, I didn't notice the Hmong craft booth this year, and the Grey Market DVD booth was not there. There was also another surprising no-show which I'll mention tomorrow. And, granted it was Sunday evening, but still I didn't get to ride the bumper cars this year because I would have been the only car in the rink, and what's the fun of that?

Anyway, it was still fun to walk around, eat greasy food and watch the people and rides. Lots after the break!

(And check back in a few days when I finally have the skyride video uploaded..)

Also: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

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Written by ted on October 20th, 2013

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South Carolina State Fair 2012, Fairgrounds: 21 October 2012   16 comments

Posted at 11:33 pm in attraction,entertainment,events,venue

(Folks coming in from the link at the CarnivalWarehouse.com forum, you may be interested in my pictures from previous South Carolina State Fairs -- Ted)

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Well, as always, the South Carolina State Fair was a good time, with lots of beautiful art, greasy food, neon in motion and oddball retail. If you've read one of these posts before, don't expect anything particularly new this year; it's pretty much the same sights I usually enjoy capturing. I didn't submit anything for the art exhibition this year, so no pictures of the pre-Fair ceremony.

I've got a couple of videos I'll add later as soon as I can get them uploaded to youtube. In the meantime, enjoy!

UPDATE 27 October: First video (cablecars) is uploaded above.

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South Carolina State Fair 2011, Fairgrounds: 23 October 2011   6 comments

Posted at 3:51 pm in attraction,entertainment,events,venue

OK, you know the drill by now if you've followed my State Fair posts from previous years: I like what I like, and I like to take pictures of it, so there's nothing new or astounding here, just old friends like the Buxom Beer Girl, The Cotton Candy Stands and the ducklings, but I enjoyed being out and about amongst the neon and greasy delights as usual. I took the tripod, but really couldn't get into setting it up to try for HDRs this year, so I just got one, which is not as good as those from last year (2010). I did take a few videos this year, in particular the one above (which has some issues with light spikes, but is quite watchable) and one below the jump.

Meet your party at the (Time Warner) rocket!

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South Carolina State Fair 2011 Fine Art Exhibition Premiere & Awards Reception, Fairgrounds: 9 October 2011   3 comments

Posted at 10:13 pm in events,venue

South Carolina State Fair 2010, Fairgrounds: 24 October 2010   3 comments

Posted at 2:39 am in attraction,entertainment,events,venue

These nine pictures are attempts at HDR. I took a tripod, and set the closing-cam to do 3 exposure brackets (1 "under exposed", 1 "over exposed" and 1 "correctly exposed"). I still have had trouble getting anything reasonable looking out of Qtpfsgui though other folks certainly have. There are just too many knobs and levers for me, at least for now. I did find another free program called Picturenaut, which actually produces nice results with the default settings. The downside is it only runs on Windows.

All the night pictures were taken on 15 October and the day pictures on 24 October. As usual, the fair remains an evergreen experience and if you missed it this year, you should try to catch it in 2011.

Lots and lots of other pictures after the jump. Be warned!

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South Carolina State Fair 2010 Fine Art Exhibition Premiere & Awards Reception, Fairgrounds: 10 October 2010   2 comments

Posted at 12:15 am in events,venue

Dirt Parking at the State Fair, Fairgrounds: 2008   2 comments

I suppose it's a silly thing to get pre-nostalgic about, but to me as a child, a big part of the adventure of going to the State Fair was the getting there. The first years I can remember, my father decided that he didn't want to face the hassle of fair traffic and parking fees, so we would catch the SCE&G Fairgrounds bus at, I believe, the corner of Main & Blossom. These were the only times we rode the bus as kids, and it was very exciting!

Later, I think my mother was less than thrilled at riding the bus and we started to drive, but it was still an adventure -- sort of an imperfectly organized chaos where you followed a bunch of cars, hoped you were in the right lane, and then tried to figure out which guy waving a flashlight you were supposed to follow as they invented a parking lot on the fly. Of course if it were dry, the dust would be flying everywhere, and if it had been wet, it was a long slog through the mud, but it never really occurred to me that the Fair should have anything other than a dirt/grass lot.

As you can tell from the pictures though, that's about to end. It appears that next year, we will have a "real" parking lot at the Fairgrounds. Oh well, as long as they still have the rocket and the handwriting analysis computer, my childhood won't be totally gone!

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