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War is Hell - Or Sometimes Good!

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman is credited with the quote "War is Hell." While there are many downsides to any war, in many cases the technology invented to better win the war is ultimately used after the war for non-military purposes by the public to improve life.

One such example is "night writing." French Captain Charles Barbier, in the early 1800’s, tried to develop a method military officers could use to read messages and orders in the dark while in battle. Lighting a torch, or even a match, to have enough light to read the message could very well alert the enemy to their whereabouts. Barbier developed a method of reading in the dark he called "night writing." The system consisted of a series of 12 raised dots, each arranged in a different pattern for various sounds in the language. To test the system out, he found a 13-year-old blind boy and taught him how the system worked. The boy struggled to learn the system but ultimately failed. It was just too complicated to learn. Barbier gave up on further development of his "night writing" system. The boy, however, did not give up. Rather, he spent 2 years refining the system and ultimately cut the number of dots down to only 6, and instead of each grouping standing for various sounds in the language, he made each series represent one letter of the alphabet. His "new" system spread widely - and is still in use today. The boy’s name? Louis Braille.

Another example of technology originally developed for military purposes and later used for a non-military purpose centers on World War II. The United States had more military personnel in this war than any other in its entire history. Letters sent by military personnel to their family and friends, as well as letters to them, was creating quite a problem due to the high volume of mail. Even an entire fleet of airplanes loaded with nothing but mail could not keep up with the sheer volume. A letter would take weeks, if not months, to be received. A big meeting was called that not only included military personnel, but also experts in various fields of industry. They were presented with the problem and asked to help solve it. The experts went back home and busily engaged into trying to solve the problem - and they did solve it! First, special cameras were developed to enable high quality photos to be taken - high enough quality to read the text on a page. Next, a central receiving station was employed to receive ALL letters sent to military personnel overseas. Central stations were also placed in several countries in Europe. Mail being sent to or from military personnel was then photographed. One reel of negatives - think of the roll of film being a movie containing several thousand frames - could hold over 1,000 letters. One reel of film weighed less than 2 pounds and occupied less than one-half cubic foot. The same stack of original letters weighed over 150 pounds and occupied 4 cubic feet of space. On the other end, each letter was then developed on a small sheet of photographic paper, which in turn was then delivered to the recipient. This system was called "V Mail" - "V" for victory. After the war, this technology was used for other purposes. Today we call it microfilm.

The Atypical Kid

I was born and raised in the small town (10,000 people) of Logan, Utah. Unlike most other children, I LOVED school. I never got interested in sports. In elementary school, while others played Dodge Ball or Kick Ball, I preferred to lean against a tree and read during recess. In sixth grade I read 59 books. I still have the certificate of award I received for it.

One winter we went to Ogden, Utah to spend the weekend with friends of the family. Ogden was about 80 miles from Logan and required driving through a canyon. Come Sunday afternoon, when it was about time to leave for home, a problem arose. On the radio they announced that a bad snowstorm had closed the canyon. We would have to spend Sunday night with our friends. I LOVED school so much that I threw my first and only temper tantrum - I was 10 at the time. I was bound and determined that if I had to, I would WALK back to Logan so I could go to school on Monday. Mother won out.

(Despite loving school so much, I received mostly C ‘s and an occasional B or D in junior high. In high school my grades suddenly improved to where I graduated with a 3.85 GPA. In college I finished with a GPA of 3.75.)

Need to write a review, but do not have enough knowledge? Here on you'll find more info about doing this academic assignment.

I LOVED school so much that I was actually depressed when school let out for the summer. However, during the summer between sixth and seventh grade, I had the opportunity to attend "school" at Utah State University for 6 weeks. They had a study going to see if utilizing computers could help children learn. There were 12 of us in the experiment. We each had our own computer. For 3 hours a day, Monday through Friday, we sat at our computer and would read a few paragraphs on the computer screen and then take a short test about what we had just read. As I recall, the subjects were history, social studies, and math. Being ever so inquisitive, I snooped around to see where all those cords from the computers went. I now realize that at the time (1960) our computers were running off a mainframe and in DOS - no fancy Windows like now. Imagine, because I LOVED school so much, I was present when the concept of using computers in schools to facilitate learning was "born" - 45 years ago!

That same summer I was also present for another milestone in technology. When I got out of "school," I snooped around the campus from building to building. In one basement laboratory, I witnessed a college student who had developed what he called a laser. He showed me how this thin red beam of light could "bounce" off walls. I thought it was cool but at the time I could not see any practical use for it. (I was 12 at the time.) Little did I know how commonplace they would be just a generation later.

That next winter I also saw and rode the first snowmobile. A neighbor across the street from us worked for Thiokol Chemical in Brigham City, Utah. He was part of a team that was developing a vehicle that could travel over deep snow. He brought it home one weekend and showed the neighborhood how it worked. I even rode on it once. I now know that this was the first snowmobile.

Oh yes, as a child, my favorite meal was liver and spinach with red beets and vinegar, and I put applesauce on my scrambled eggs!

Antiques Roadshow FYI

As history buffs, I suspect that for many of us the PBS series Antiques Roadshow is on our favorites list. Have you ever wondered what happened to some of the items that were appraised - did the owner sell it or keep it in the family? WGBH, the producer of Antiques Roadshow, now has launched a spin-off show. The new series is Antiques Roadshow FYI. It is broadcast every Wednesday at 8 PM Eastern time on your local PBS station. For other time zones, check your local listings.

Hosted by Antiques Roadshow’s Lara Spencer with correspondent Clay Reynolds, Antiques Roadshow FYI’s magazine-style episodes give viewers tools to enrich and improve their own treasure hunts and answer the many questions raised by Roadshow: What happened to the stuff that was appraised after the owners left the convention hall? Where can I go to get the best deals? What’s a hot collectible right now? Not to mention, what do the appraisers collect themselves?

Antiques Roadshow FYI also has a Web site where people can learn more about the show, discuss antiques topics in their online forum, and see advance program listings.

January Contest


1) What denomination of American currency has the names of several states engraved on one of the images on it?

ANSWER: The $5 bill.

2) How many states are engraved on the bill?


Only 34 people entered the January contest. (Either the prizes offered were not desired by very many or the question was too difficult.) Four were disqualified because they did not have the correct subject heading in their email entry. Three people did not indicate which prize they wanted to win. Five had incorrect answers. (Four of these answered that there were 36 states on the bill - the number of states when Lincoln was president. While there are 36 states engraved on the actual Lincoln Memorial, only 26 states can be seen on the $5 bill.) This left only 22 people eligible to win. Two prizes went unclaimed.

    • Michelle Guichard - California
    • Diane Moceri - Hawaii
    • Sharon Armstrong - Iowa
    • Rudy Scala - New York
    • Derrick Barnett - Ohio
    • Brooky Porter - Maryland
    • Ashley Jones - Maryland

This Issue's Question

To enter the grand prize contest, send by email an essay of not more than 75 words relating why you want to win it.

To enter the alternate prize contest, answer the question below and indicate which prize you want if you win. (Only one of each available.)

QUESTION: Only two American presidents are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Who are they?
Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Tuesday, February 15, 2005. Later entries will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but can only win one prize.

  • To enter, email your answer to

  • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading.

  • If entering for any of the other prizes, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading.

  • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

  • From subscribers submitting the correct answer and correct subject heading, as well as advising which prize they want to win, 11 will be selected to win one of the prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.

Grand Prize (One winner will be selected)
Original WWII Satin Souvenir Pillowcase

Sold on military bases during WWII for
soldiers to send back to their girlfriend/wife or mother/father
Alternate Contest Prizes

Our Gang Follies of 1938

Three classic episodes

Angel and the Badman (1947)
Starring John Wayne

Africa Screams (1947)
Starring Abbott and Costello

Little Lord Fountleroy (1936)
Starring Freddie Bartholomew
and Mickey Rooney

Betty Boop Cartoons
Over one hour of classic cartoons

The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)

Starring Jackie Robinson as Himself

Lady by the Sea:
The Statue of Liberty
History Channel Documentary

Computer Game (PC)
Gettysburg - Civil War Battles

Original Historic Newspapers

Original New York Herald historic newspaper from 1877

Original historic Hartford Connecticut Courier newspaper from 1864
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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