Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Reviving An Old Film Brand

Classic Ferrania stock from the late 1950s

We're at a crossroad in digital imaging - that magical time in a technology's adoption curve where nearly everyone uses and enthuses about it. In a few years - perhaps five or ten - we'll see a small but determined group of people aggressively readopt traditional still and motion picture film as if it were a new technology. And that's a good thing, because it gives us more variety. 

The problem is that film manufacturers are in trouble and only a handful will survive the next five or 10 years. That's where this Kickstarter project comes in. Ferrania started making film in Northern Italy in 1923 -- think of a classic Italian film and chances are that it was shot on their film stock. The company was acquired by 3M in 1965 and became independent again in 1999. The rise of digital pushed them to close in 2010. 

An image from the company's heyday.

Fast-forward to 2012 and a new company -- FILM Ferrania -- was born, based out of the old Ferrania Research & Development building. They've started a Kickstarter project to fund a small bach of ScotchChrome, which is a 100 ASA daylight color reversal film that can be used for slides or movie projection. It's a relatively new formulation created by 3M Imation in the late 1990s and produced by Ferrania until 2003. 

The Kickstarter project is already fully funded with several weeks still to go, and the FILM Ferrania gang are excited about using some of the proceeds to rescue important production machinery from old Ferrania buildings that are slated for demolition. These include a machine that makes triacetate base (the smooth, clear plastic that the photo-sensitive chemicals are coated onto), a chemical synthesis lab to manufacture the photo-sensitive chemicals, and a third machine that applies a smooth coating of chemical onto the film base. In other words, everything needed to make film in reasonably large quantities. 

Vintage ScotchChrome packaging.

So what makes this Kickstarter project exciting? It's the fact that FILM Ferrania has chosen to make color reversal film, which is critically important to filmmakers who want to shoot and project their movies without being forced to digitize negative film. Former film giant Kodak is focusing on negative film, simply because it's the stuff that the professional motion picture industry requires. Several other manufacturers have chosen to concentrate on high-quality B&W stock, so Ferrania will occupy an important niche in the market.

100 More Years of Analog: FILM Ferrania [thanks for the tip, Robert Schmitt!]

A Very Cool $59 Retrocomputer

Like the 1980s without the beige.

Jeff Ledger writes, "We've been busy over the summer combining two Microcontroller chips to create a unique microcomputer that has retro 'feel,' and plenty of programming power. We called it the Micromite Companion.

It's a kit computer that is programed in BASIC, capable of sprites, tiles, and SIDlike audio with 54K of programming space. The MMC also capable of communicating with serial, I2C, SPI, 1-wire, and other modern devices and sensors."

I'm a sucker for recreations of classic computers, but this machine is all new. It combines the old-school familiarity of BASIC with the ability to interface with modern LCD modules, servos and digital sensors. The result is a machine that can be used to create clever standalone devices without having to learn a new programming environment. 

Best of all, this board has a decidedly modern price -- only $59 + reasonable shipping costs for the kit. I think I might have to pick one up myself. 

Find out more about the Micromite Companion here. 

Adults Try Power Wheels On For Size

photo from Power Racing Series website

In the mid 80s, toy company Kransco debuted Power Wheels, a series of ride-on replica cars and trucks for kids. The expensive battery-powered motorized vehicles were a hit with kids almost immediately, with sales reaching a million/year by 1990. I can think of some real car companies that would love those sorts of sales.

Eventually Mattel bought the line, and soon after we had Barbie and Hot Wheels tie-ins that have kept the line going for so long. Newer models have refinements such as FM radios, doors, power lock brakes... can an iPod dock be far behind?

Power wheels drillSince Power Wheels have been around for a frankly astonishing thirty years, there are plenty of adults now who grew up with the toys themselves. A healthy hacking community has grown up around the all-plastic vehicles. Simple fixes like upgrading the rechargable battery, swapping out the original motor for a stronger one from a cordness drill, to complete retrofits. Then there's the next logical step... grown-ass men racing these little pink plastic cars.

The video clip here documents an annual event - Extreme Barbie Jeep Racing. This is among the easiest "hacks" - simply pull out the drive train, and freewheel down a muddy hill. This clip is a couple of years old, but is no less hilarious. The sheer number of times drivers lose a blow-molded plastic wheel (and it's not that big of a deal) gets a bellow out of me every time.

Then there are more serious hackers who replace every part of the vehicle, essentially using the outer shell. The guys at Make Labs esentially built a little metal framed car that you simply drop the plastic shell over. Fun, I suppose... but I think it flies in the face of the insanity of an adult driving the little plastic car. Plus theirs is built a little too well to throw a wheel - and what fun is that?


read Make Labs step-by-step hack
user community devoted to hacking Power Wheels


Winnebago Returns To The Seventies

2015 Winnebago Brave

The Winnebago RVs of the late 1960s were boxy, lumbering beasts. Their metal facades were usually festooned with olive green, orange or yellow striping. They were the road-borne equivalent of vintage Kenmore kitchen appliances -- practical but definitely not likely to turn the heads of Porsche aficionados.

The 2015 Winnebago Brave looks almost as if a vintage motorhome from the seventies was abducted by aliens, spiffed up with all the latest mod-cons and dropped back onto the roads of the American midwest four decades later.  

A vintage 1975 Brave

With a nod to the original (above), it's available with a satisfying streak of crimson, yellow, olive green or woodstock brown on the outside, and the tasteful interior will remind you of the cheeriest parts of the 1970s. The iconic flying W is still there, and the front has the eyebrow look of the original.  In other words, this is modernization done right (if one can make such a claim about a luxury camper). 

Like a hotel cafe from 1982...

The Brave is built on a Ford F53 chassis, with a 362-hp 6.8L 3-valve Triton V10 SEFI engine and 5-speed automatic transmission to haul the 30-ish foot long frame. Inside, you'll find modern LED lighting, sleeping space for up to six (including a rather cool studio loft), flat screen TV, a fully equipped galley with 3-burner stove, 2-door refrigerator/freezer and microwave, a sophisticated climate control system, and a compact but serviceable bathroom. 

All in all, the modern Brave pays homage to the $4,000 original while offering luxurious accommodation that would have been unimaginable back in the early 1970s. It's not cheap, with prices starting at $96,424, but if you'd like to try life on the road this is definitely a great way to do it in style. 

2015 Winnebago Brave Motorhome

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