Back in Those Days -- #1
Looking at our hobby and ourselves in days gone by.
From time to time during the past year you could walk through the fifth floor of the Science Library at UCI and, if your timing was right, you might have observed a somewhat strange sight. There among the darkened stacks you might have observed a 50 year old round faced slightly balding man, clad in an aloha shirt bent over a stack of Sky & Telescope magazines, snickering to himself. Perhaps you would think you'd stumbled on a 50 year old undergraduate who had perfected the "professional student" life style. Or perhaps you though the fellow was a graduate student going back for an advanced degree after having being laid off in the aerospace industry. Whatever you surmised, it certainly would have seemed odd to you that the man was snickering to himself. What gives?
Let me solve the mystery for you. The bemused somewhat misplaced fellow would have been me. And the source of my mirth would have been some of the articles and advertisements found in old back issues of Sky & Telescope. One of my projects in 2002-2003 at Sky & Telescope, where at that time I was the Electronic Publishing Coordinator and past Webmaster, was the updating of the magazine's database of articles, dating back to the first issue of "The Sky" in 1941.
The further I progressed back in time updating the database the more I would stumble across articles that taught me more than astronomy. Reading old magazines, regardless of their subject matter, gives insights, often humorous, of our lifestyles back in "those days". For example, in today's enlightened age an ad for any non-tobacco product would never picture someone smoking a cigarette. Yet in a 1960's Questar ad a self-confident man walks along, his Questar case hanging from his shoulder and a cigarette poised between his fingers.
I think I just detected a smile on your face.
So I thought it might be fun to share some of these entertaining and enlightening "discoveries" with you. This month we take a look at a case of serious hi-tech amateur astronomy.
Anyone that has been to our Anza site has seen my Star Cruiser Observatory from where I conduct observing sessions from home via the club's Internet satellite link. As it so happens our satellite dish is right next to Star Cruiser Observatory, mounted on the side of the club observatory. See the image above left.
With that image in mind you can imagine my mirth when I saw the cartoon at left in the September 1981 issue of S&T. Back then it was indeed a humorous image. But today, whether it's a communications dish or a radio telescope, the fact is the cartoon depicts reality for a growing number of amateur astronomers around the world.
But if you go back deeper into the pages of S&T you would stumble onto what is truly a funny image in a display ad in the October 1955 issue (see below). Now that's a dish! I wonder what the neighbors thought. And I can hear it now "Honey, you'll never guess what I bought today."That's it for this month. Be sure to check back next month for another romp in the past back in those days.