Monday, November 03, 2008

Holy cow, I discovered mobile robotic punchcard-powered pipe organs in my town!

John Young says:
I took my family to go look at/maybe buy a small upright piano in town. The piano tuner's shop, which is a small brick building in an alley downtown (a place I pass by almost every day), was unexpectedly and amazingly packed with pneumatic, punch-card-controlled pipe organs. ROBOT PIPE ORGANS from 100 years ago! ZOMFG! These things are pre-electricity, but they are basically 1,600-pound MP3 players.

Animatronics! Pneumatically-actuated percussion sections! In the case of one of them, a punch-card-controlled lighting system that operates on mercury switches and compressed air, snapping blue flashes way in the dark internal guts of the machine, which was designed to replace human dance bands in post-war Belgium!

These machines are mounted on wheels, human-pullable, and are COMPLETELY AMAZING. I haven't been this surprised by a workshop since I discovered that secret electrical engineering school in the South Bronx.

Here's the photoset on Flickr