Sunday, December 30, 2012
'90s Industrial Metal at Its Best: Originating in the late 1980s in Europe and the United States, industrial metal grew from a variety of musical genres, most notably, dance music, noise rock, and heavy metal. Because of this diversity, many industrial metal bands, including Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and Marilyn Manson, have incorporated not only keyboards and synthesizers, but also drum machines and electronic sequencers. Perhaps one of the genre's nearest relatives was '80s synthpop, which included groups like Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, and Gary Numan. These '80s synthpop bands elevated the importance of synthesizers, and as a result, essentially laid the groundwork for industrial metal to solidify as a musical genre in its own right. Yet it was also the genre's dark sounds and anger-inducing lyrics that began to set it apart from other emerging genres like alternative rock in the 1990s. The above video by NIN, which was filmed at 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, CA (part of the Manson "family" murders), truly captured the essence of industrial metal's dark and disturbing sounds.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
On the Computer Revolution: In 1943, American physicist John Mauchly and electrical engineer John Eckert began working on ENIAC at the University of Pennsylvania. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Army, ENIAC was essentially a giant calculator. With 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighing approximately 30 tons, it became the first general purpose digital computer. Prior to ENIAC, however, punch cards were the primary method of collecting and sorting data. In fact, IBM pioneered punch card technologies in the early twentieth century. But what ultimately kicked the computer revolution into high gear was the transistor. Invented in 1948 at Bell Labs in New Jersey by William Shockley and others, the transistor was a semiconductor device designed to amplify and moderate electrical signals. It marked a significant upgrade from vacuum tubes and it even led to the integrated circuit, which contained large numbers of tiny transistors on a small chip. Invented in 1958 by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, the integrated circuit enabled computers to be smaller and more personal. That meant computers would one day be in the hands of individuals, not just corporate types and government officials. Counterculture thinker Stewart Brand saw the enormous potential of personal computing, as he wrote a famous article for Rolling Stone in 1972 ("Spacewar"), which basically predicted the coming of the internet. And capitalizing on this emerging need for digital self-expression was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who in 1976 realized that the personal computer market would be massive someday.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
On Early Industrial Unionism in America: In 1935, when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (or Wagner Act) as part of Franklin Roosevelt's "Second" New Deal, union membership in the United States grew quickly compared to past decades. Prior to the Wagner Act, unions such as the American Federation of Labor (AFL), mainly focused on crafts such as cigar making or woodworking. Given the rise of large-scale industries like railroads, steel, mining, and automobiles, in the decades prior to the 1930s, it was clear that craft unionism did not meet the needs of industrial workers. One man who demanded fundamental change in the AFL was John L. Lewis, a representative of the (coal) mining industry. By 1938, AFL leaders had had enough of Lewis' calls for reform, so they expelled him. He then founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which focused on organizing mass production workers on an industry-wide basis. The CIO marked the first major not-so-radical industrial union in America, and thus, it rapidly gained credibility and membership. Before the CIO, however, industrial unions such as the American Railway Union (ARU) were too radical to affect change at the federal level, as its leader, Eugene V. Debs, became a self-identified socialist in the 1890s (after the Pullman Strike), and thus, he was the subject of frequent police surveillance.