Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fun With Research

I'm doing some research again. I like looking into to obsolete stuff that was in use way back when and incorporate them into my writing. For Starcaster, I used coding disks, black powder revolvers and hackney coaches, among others. For Forging a Legend, we had codexes, papyrus and chariots, because horses weren't large enough in ancient times to carry a rider. Oh, and aqueducts.

I decided that for Starcaster II, the spy headquarters needs a network of speaking tubes. Here's a brief explanation of speaking tubes I found online:
A normal installation had a removable whistle plugged into each end. To initiate a conversation Person A removed his whistle and blew down the tube, sounding the whistle at the other end. Person B then removed his whistle, and talking could begin. Hence the expression, still current in Britain, "I'll get him on the blower" when a telephone call is meant.

Such systems appear to have been quite common in homes and offices, though very little information about them, and very few references to them, seem to remain today.
Naturally Mr. Felding, the Commissioner of the Starcaster Corps, will have a network of speaking tubes that all lead to him. And naturally, he will keep the whistle removed at his end, because that's just the way he is. And naturally, a bunch of people will constantly be sneaking into his office in order to use the speaking tubes when they can't find someone. Down in the workroom, people will quickly get tired of the tube whistle and may even "lose" it from time to time. It will drive the dog--who belongs to Tory but stays at HQ because HQ has a larger garden--insane, and I'm thinking that the dog really needs to start howling whenever the whistle sounds.

Low tech. It's fun stuff. It makes my imagination run wild. I have as one of my reference books a copy of Isaac Asimov's Chronology of Science and Discovery. Sadly, it appears to be out of print, but some people are selling used copies at Amazon. One is even billed as a collector's item!

7 comments:

  1. That does sound like a neat toy to play with. I think it's especially neat in a story, where it will work and malfuction as you want it too. {REALLY BIG GRIN, wink}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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  2. This is why I like to place all my stories in the past. I'm surrounded by high-tech and I have a high-tech job, so low-tech appeals to me.

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  3. So cool! I love research. You never know what you're going to find. And I just love the idea of the dog barking all the time at the whistles.

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  4. 'On the blower' is not current here! Whoever said that was sadly misinformed, or perhaps very, very old.

    Otherwise, everything's sounding brilliant as always!

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  5. Ellira, I didn't know you still read my blog!!! I miss your blog!!! I was going to ask if you wanted to be a beta reader but I didn't know how to get hold of you!!!

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  6. I can see why low-tech would appeal to you. My aunt goes farther than you in this. She uses computers so much at work, she doesn't even want one in her apartment when she gets home. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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