A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
Imaginary New York City Landscapes from CON-ED, 1938
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
These lovely images are found in a long, shining and slightly darkroom-scented The City of Light, which was a pamphlet made for the Consolidated Edison exhibition at the New York City World's Fair of 1939. Con Ed I think just wanted to get the point across that they saw into the future and were getting ready for it, NYC being stuffed to the gills with buildings and each window stuffed and outlined in Con Ed-supplied electric light. The vision is vaguely threatening to me, though, the buildings are drawn in a very odd perspective giving the city a stadium-seating arrangement that is unsettling, like they're part of our robot-overlord future--someone or something must be living in those room filled with Con Ed light, though...
This cross section illustration ("Rue Future"/Future Street) is from Eugene Alfred Henard's1 (1849-1923) article, "The Cities of the Future", from American City, Volume 4, January, 1911. In this article Henard (architect of the city of Paris and from 1880 a life-long employee and advocate of public works in that city) looks into the future and sees the movement towards underground (or enclosed) vehicular traffic, "smart" buildings, pneumatic tubing for vacuum cleaners ("almost sure to come into general use"), an improvement in the system for water delivery and removal, replacing coal with natural gas, and more. He lays out a plan to implement his idea that, if implemented in the city of Paris, would cost $420,000,000 (or approximately $15 billion in 2006 money) over 100 years. [This part seems a little off given that the area for public roads alone in Paris at this time was 3,700 acres--nevertheless this was an interesting appearing plan, a significant portion of which has found its way into building and community planning albeit on a far smaller scale].
Henard was also acutely interested in the future traffic problems of Paris and other major cities, proposing revolutionary radial traffic patterns for moving cars around major metropolitan areas--which was really quite visionary as the mass production of automobiles had not yet really taken place--certainly automobiles were far more common by 1911 than 1905, but their numbers would be vaulted higher int he next decade with the first true approach to assembly line production of automobiles, making them affordable to the millions. His plan for a ring-lime system around the city of Paris was influential to some of the ideas in the early American planning reports for San Francisco and Chicago by the great Daniel Burnham.
What is particularly interesting for me in the Henerad plan is the room that he left for his future's future--he attempted to make his plan adaptable for the time when the future he was writing about was becoming the past. And so he was leaving room in his underground plans (in particular) to accommodate some of what the future might hold in store for his city, leaving unused spaces and tunnels, so that the city planners in the future would not have to go through the enormous expense of putting these things in for themselves. Now that is future-forward thinking.
1. Henard studied at the Ecole des Beaux-arts, graduating from there in 1880. For a decent short bio of the man see the Wiki entry, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_H%C3%A9nard
This terrific proposal for a miniature, semi-individual monorail appeared in Popular Science Monthly for April 1935:
And the text, which makes you wonder why something like this would be necessary, at least for the version of the vehicle in the interior pages. The cover version at least accommodates eight passengers, perhaps, though there's an awful lot of metal around them. The interior version packs four in its bubbly self, and given the amount of effort that would go into powering and building the vehicle to move around a restricted number of people--though perhaps you can say the same about cars, and then some.
Dr. William W. Christmas (1865-1960) a long-lived deep pioneer in the history of early aviation, proposed this interesting, streamlined, and odd underground airport, the image appearing in Popular Science Monthly in April 1935 (volume 126 for January-June 1935). The numerous levels seem to establish a subway line, four lanes of vehicular traffic, a mall-type concourse, then perhaps something else, topped by a rotating platform of aircraft, above which was a pedestrian/passenger concourse above which was an access area for the aircraft. I'm not sure why this was designed, but it is certainly engaging--and compact.
Here's a photo from Smithsonian of Dr. Christmas and a cross section of the model of the airport:
These poor early robots--some were designed to pretend-to-clean, others to pretend-to-smoke, and yet others (even at this tender age in the history of robots) were designed to threaten people and whatever else was in front of them with a pistol. It is a sad, thing, really--it is hard not to empathize with the amalgamated sorrow.
[Source: Popular Science Monthly, January 1935, page 19.]
I've written perhaps 15 or so posts on early robots (prior to WWII) and to me it seems that most were relegated to menial tasks--and when not menial, then they were often killing or threatening living humans. Perhaps when our robot overlords of the future (ROOTF) absorb the human interpretation of their early history they will take pity on us for representing their early possibilities in such unfortunate ways--they may get over the images of robots harvesting, pulling wagons, sweeping clergy, squeezing the blood out of workers, savaging scantily clad women of the future, and so on...or they may not.
For other posts on robots, enter "robots" in the google search box at left. If nothing else, the images are very good.
[Image source: FUTURAMA.Published by General Motors, 1940. 24pp. Original wrappers. Provenance: the Pamphlet Collection, Library of Congress. ]
The 1939 World's Fair in NYC famously exhibited a spherical attraction that exhibited a semi-robotic display of what the future would be like--a future that was only 21 years away, in 1960. There would be an enormous amount of weight on the shoulders of 1960, given what the World's Fair had to say about it in 1939. Few things were very right, and many of course were necessarily wrong--but that must be the case when looking into the short-ended future with a monstrous amount of anticipation. That--and since this was a feel-good celebration--nobody was talking about the world war that had already started.
One thing is for sure--the pavilion's creator, General Motors, did foresee that highways and automobiles will be in high demand up there in the tomorrowland of 1960. The display was designed by the fantastic Norman bel Geddes, who actually expanded on his superhighway theme in the next year with his book Magic Motorways (which can be read here). Anyway people were very excited by the whole affair--waiting in line for a few hours, winding their way through the pavilion to take their seats in a circular gallery overlooking a vast and complex assemblage of miniature societal models, the seating arena rotated to give the viewers views of the entire display. More than 26 million people saw the display over a six month period.
26 million is a big number. Futurama drew as many people in six months as the three New York City baseball teams (the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers) brought in for almost the entire decade. It is also equal to all of the deaths suffered by the Soviet Union during WWII.
I guess this was as good a vision as any--or at least it didn't seem to involve very much planning outside the new automatic automobile nervous system that would leech into the life-blood of the country. Other planned visions of the future do not look quite so good. For example, Le Corbuser's demolition of central Paris to make way for his Soviet apartment block reconstruction in his Voisin Plan (1925):
Again, this is not a wholesale look into the future, just the resurfacing of one of the world's greatest cities.
A man with a little bigger vision, Frank Lloyd Wright, saw a heavier future in his Broadacre CIty:
I'm not sure how these domed cities worked. B. Fuller had an idea like this for central Manhattan that I wrote about earlier in this blog, but his idea escaped me too.
I found this curious publication the other day, one that takes a look at the near future at the end of WWII. It is by Mario la Stella ("And Now that the War is Finished? What Will the Future Be?"), and unfortunately there is no date in the pamphlet, and I cannot find a listing of the work in WorldCat/First Search, and there are no clues for me about dating it, though I suspect it could have been published as early as 1944 (as Italy was finished with the war by 1943 but the Germans were not finished with them) but probably it the real date was 1945. That said, the most interesting part of this work is the design in the illustrations, which in their breezy and suggestive way remind me of a style in the 1950's rather than the 40's--with the exception of the cover, that is, because there is nothing light and airy about that.
The future vision of la Stella is not very penetrating, though the final panel does display a huge machine regulating traffic or something that is controlled by a lounging operator with just one button.
I think it would be an interesting thing to have a look at "The One-Button1 Solution to Everything" following the development of the ultimate state of the push-button world, where most things/everything is automated.
And just a note here: la Stella was the author of several books, including a history of Rome, and a textbook or two in the sciences. There was also a work on Marconi (published in the year of the inventor's death in 1937) that contains a very early public reference to Marconi's possible work on the "death ray", which sounds like it was some sort of directed energy weapon/EMP device that would disable powered vehicles
This was the vision of future high-altitude flight, at least according to Illustrated World magazine in their July/August 1920 issue , page 806. It was reported in these pages that at about 22,000 feet the sky above is perfectly black and all of the stars are visible. This of course is not near the limit of the atmosphere, and not very close to the Karman line "outer space" it may have been believed to be (though the blackness part does come into play at around 60,000'. and at 100,00 kilometers the Karman line is far beyond that).
In any event the record for the highest altitude achieved by humans was still at the mark of 39,000' set in a balloon in 1862, a record which would not be broken (at 43,800') until 1927, when the achievement cost the aviator/balloonist his life. The article was slim on the atmosphere and slimmer on the necessaries for the high-altitude aircraft--except to say that the current open-cockpit approach just wouldn't do at cold temperatures, thus giving rise to a tiny discussion on the only mentioned feature of the future aircraft: that it would have an enclosed cockpit.
Flight altitude records via Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_altitude_record
[This image is similar to one that I wrote about in September 2014 for the Mensa Bulletin, here]
Theodor Hosemann was a cartoonist, book illustrator, caricaturist and social commentator--but more interestingly, for today, he was edgy visioneer. The lithograph, "Extrabeilage zu Nr. 24 des Gewerbeblatt vom 24. Januar 1947", is Hosemann's somewhat noir-y vision of the future from his perch in 1847. His sense of the future "wirklickeit'/reality from where I sit here in 2015 is mostly bumpy and uncomfortable--it may have been funny in a fatalistic manner when the "brave" artist constructed the piece, perhaps like a forbidding fairy tale; if so then Hosemann was a jagged comic.
It seems there are to me an equal number of found/lost elements in the image. The most obvious prognostications are the two steam vehicles/dampfwagen in the lower right, passing each other at the entrance of the engineering marvel that would have been a tunnel through the Alps. The anthropomorphic horseless carriage in the shape of a horse, steaming to the entrance, is driven by a guy who is (I guess) smoking a cigarette (as are several other people). Odd thing here is that the ciggie had just been introduced into France and named just a few years earlier, and here it is in the lips of a pater familias cruising with his family--his child flying a kite from the back seat--as they make their way to a trans-European ride. The steam vehicle exiting the tunnel is driven by a hooded figure whose three passengers are in various stages of welcoming teh new sights: one has a heavy headdress and is adorned by large steampunk goggles, while the woman seated behind him is having a private moment of some sort of exasperation; meanwhile the guy traveling on the roof of the car has just been hooked through the nose by a woman at teh tunnel top, seemingly fishing for, well, something.
The most visible object is mysterious--the long skeleton at top is composed of bone, sausage, forks, spoons, morphing ducks, spoon vertebrae, plates, knives, corks, a champagne flute and a bottle. I'm unsure of the allegory.
In the upper left corner we see women taking the waters, immersed in a hydrotherapy of something-or-other from a "healing source". A man beneath him lifts his hat to reveal a wild head of hair produced presumably from the bottle of "balsam" in his hand--hair tonic that has produced a giant mane plus hair sprouting out everywhere else. The man seated before him is beginning his meal on some sort of bird by pulling its eyeball out.
The central figures are particularly engaging, and perhaps prophetic. At the top of this little structure is a Punch/Judy-like character with marionettes (standing beneath a sign that extols us not to laugh at bad jokes). He is also lazily seated on jars of babies. It may be that they are children being produced in artificial wombs, grown somehow, as beneath them we find more fully-formed children in cages being lectured by a classic schoolmaster with book-and-whip. Perhaps related to all of this in the foreground we find the "wonder child" who at seven years of age is very muscled and defeating grown men in a wrestling match,m one of whom he has thrown into the air with one arm. Perhaps Hosemann was telling us of the possible future from 68 years ago where a race of super-people would be manufactured in artificial environments to embody super-human traits? Certainly seems so.
So Hosemann did get a few things right in this vision, or at least he got the sense of future developments correct. I still have a bit of a problem with what I think is the humor of it all, but then again I wouldn't read the fairy tells of the Brothers Grimm to a little kid, either. It is difficult to translate those sensibilities forward 175 years, for me, anyway, the sense of 'funny" and the insight that comes from that getting lost in the swirl of historic dust, like mostly all of the "amusing" parts of books (not the movie!) like Pinocchio, where the soft places to land in this child's story have all fallen away leaving not much more than a fledgling adventure in rounded brutalism.
Say "hello" to the "telescope house", an unusual idea in small house design, found in Popular Mechanics for the March, 1945 issue, just before the end of WWII in Europe. It was designed by F(rank) J. Zavada (1916-1998?), and it is a tidy little place: four rooms on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second, the house is made to collapse and expand vertically and horizontally. I don't see area mentioned, but it looks to be on the order of 400 sq ft or so.
This design put me in mind of a much-inferior idea: the rolling house of the future (offered in the September, 1934 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics). Etienne Boullee it is not. The house does, however, roll, for whatever that is worth, and if that is a positive thing then that would be one advantage it would have over a non-rolling house. (I don' get to write that phrase very often.) And it rolls exclusive of some rolling platform, which somehow seemed like a better idea than just having a more-traditional house with wheels. Presumably the rolling house would be filled with E. Lloyd Wright nothingness, so there will be no displacement issues.
[Read more about the Rolling Houses and Glass Homes of Futurlandia here.]
1923 was a tough year for most Germans so far as chocolate was concerned, though Riquet (the advertiser in the striking graphic, below) was promoting their ("enchanting" and "irresistible") goods very prominently, so I guess there was still some good demand for it no matter what happened to the fabric of social/economic Germany. But it was in January--when this ad was published in Illustrirte Zeitung--that things started to go very badly for Germany. By the end of 1922 it was apparent in Germany that they could make their next reparations installment payment (in January, 1923); the French and Belgians, among others, didn't believe it and got very quickly pissed, and within days responded very aggressively, militarily occupying the Ruhr district. The Ruhr was home to German industry and electrical production, and manufactures in general, and the government-led response to the invading force was peaceful though it did call on the workers to go on a general strike. And so it came to pass that no production to speak of was happening, and the tight-cashed German government, which was still under obligation to pay the strikers, did so, but created the money out of nothing, just printing it as necessary. This would be the start of a disaster that would lead to a greatly debilitating and damaging hyper-inflation, which helped pave the way to a failure of the Weimar government, and finally helping to give rise to Adolf Hitler--it was all downhill from there.
Chocolate of course had been around for a long time by this point--especially in Central and South America, where it reaches back about 3700 years to to Olmecs, and carried forward to the Aztecs. Christopher Columbus bumped into it during his fourth voyage, but chocolate as "chocolate" really didn't make it to high society consumption until the late 16th century; then some more years, until in the early 17th century came the chocolate craze, eventually winding its way to anyone with a little disposable income, to the modern day when some chocolates (like Hershey Kisses) are hardly chocolate anymore, but have the near-scent of it.
At this point in 1923, five years after the war, and more years than that into a crippled economy, it would have been a luxury for most people in Germany to be able to afford some of this Riquet chocolate. It was certainly not uncommon to see advertisements for luxury goods during hard times, though. Having looked at every page of the popular weekly magazines like the Illustrated London News, Illustrirte Zeitung, and Scientific American for the 1914-1918 period, I can safely but not experimentally say that there was plenty of advertising revenue collected by these mags for the sale of luxury goods. This extends too to Life magazine for 1936-1945, where there was also "a lot" of advertisement for common and semi-luxurious goods that wrapped themselves up in patriotic war efforts (cigarettes are among the most conspicuous of these win-the-war/smoke-Lucky-Strikes ad campaigns).
I'm not taking issue with Ricquet, not at all--I think that the ad was simply "standard". But it did strike me as being somewhat loaded with potential zeitgeist, like the ad I found for traveling to Czechoslovakia for "wintertime fun!" dated October 1, 1938.
If I was an alien (of the outer-space variety) looking at the United States, I’d find it difficult not to assume that the biological units scurrying around the place were not put there to service the automobile. Cars get born, then put on display, then selected and driven to their new home. They get washed, and fed, and sometimes have their own places to sleep at night in their very own structure with their caretakers housed nearby. They get taken out for airs in the morning and evening, resting while the humans labor all day to make enough money for their care and maintenance and feeding. In the evening, they get brought back home and allowed to rest further. They respond directly to inputs only and give no unsolicited response: sort of like cats. Fantastically large allowances are made for cars, humans going so far as to remove life- and atmospheric-sustaining biological units such as trees and good dirt so that the car can be taken virtually anywhere in the country on a path made specifically for them. These pathways, which are padded and smooth, have ancillary bits attached to them so that the humans may walk beside them—houses and such are all connected to these paths to more easily enable the people to have access and maintain the car. And, at the end of the day, humans breathe in the very excrement and excretia produced by the cars. Placed under a microscope, the whole thing might resemble a biological unit, the cars being its very blood, everything else present to contain and move it.
These images from the Illustriete Zeitung (Leipzig, issue 4484, pp 239-240) for November 1930 speak to the exact issue of how to care for the now ever-present automobile. Entitled “Wie Bringe Ich Meinen Kraftwagen Unter?”, the short article (by the engineer Botho von Romer of Munchen) addresses the need of what to do with cars at bedtime—where do we put them? One answer was this spectacular carpark (“Garagenhof”) high rise—seventeen floors of parking (with two more underground), serviced by a variety of elevators, pointing out that varieties of this structure already existed in Chicago and New York
There was also the possibility of vast masses of sunken garages, their entrance way screwed into the earth leading to tunnels and networked warehouses where the cars could be safely deposited and removed from city streets. There were also these two versions of the simple above-ground garages and parking lots: the apartment block gives over the entire interior area to individual parking and garages (doing away with any greenspace), while the massive semi-cloverleaf design is made for nothing else in mind than to park the cars in the four semi-centers.
By 1930 the production of the automobile had been revolutionized to such an extent that virtually anyone with a job and less than five kids could actually afford a car. It is interesting to note that at the average price of say 30 cents a gallon for gasoline (in the U.S.A.) that folks 80 years ago were paying pretty more per gallon (adjusted via CPI, roughtly $4.25 iva the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator) than we are paying now at $2.75/gallon (in my mountain city at the far end of the pipeline).
(Jean Baptiste) Amedee Couder wrote L'Architecture et l'industrie comme moyen de perfection sociale, a fine work that was published in Paris (by Brockhaus et Avenarius) in 1842. The work presents Couder's rather stroing visionary plans for a perfect city of industrial and scientific harmony, laid out in suggestively-fractal harmony, with the suggestions of a Renaissance-laden snowflake design. Whatever it was, it was beautiful to look at, at least on paper, though I'm not so certain that I'd care to live in the canyonlands of stone and shadow on the other side of the garden wall of the perfect scientific-industrial conclave.
(Its actually a fairly scarce book, with only two copies found in the WorldCat directory, so I've reproduced the book's larger folding plates)
The original volume may be purchased via the blog's bookstore, here.
Projet d'un palais des Arts et de l'industrie. 18x14 inches.
In-between research bits I've been spending some time moving around in the Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins--there's a lot of interesting stuff and it has a pretty big online footprint. I've been working on an alphabet of illustrated sheet music covers having to do with the Moon, and collecting some images for tanks and aeroplanes--and just yesterday I posted a great piece of sheet music on the telephone (from 1877).
Source: Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins, here: http://levysheetmusic.mse.jhu.edu/catalog/levy:016.127
The unfortunate piece of this is that while searching "Moon" I bumped into a number of severely racist covers. This has happened before, doing benign searches on "comet" and "stars" and such, looking for the physical sciences in pop music in the early 20th century, and finding racist covers among the few bona fide examples located. It certainly speaks to an endemic and deep racism in general when you can depict a meteor with a terrible caricature of an African American, or a song called "If the Man in the Moon was a Coon". Taking this a little further I did a search under "coon" and found over 100 non-repeating titles with covers from this collection--many of the covers are astonishingly bad. (Another search on an even more odious word turns up more examples.) On the one had they speak to a searing but very accepting and casual race-hatred and are a lesson in themselves, especially when you can scroll through them all in a single pass. On the other hand, I don't want to be in such close public proximity to these horrible things.
The path regarding posting those covers is not clear.
In the meantime I would like to share this fantastic womens' suffrage sheet music, published early on (1872) in the fight for the vote, though the lyrics are much more confrontation than the cover art. (Except of course that the very imagery of women at a polling station--an event mostly entirely not allowed in the U.S. until 1919--which would have been jarring on its own to nearly any uninspired man looking at it.) Remember too that this is only three years after the first national suffrage organizations were founded (one by Susan B. Anthony and the other by Lucy Stone), so the national attitude towards the idea of women voting as a popular movement was still quite young.
The lyrics paint a fairly dismal picture for women, "trodden underfoot we've always been", "locked up like slaves", "wretched", "treated with contempt and scorn". On the other hand when given the right to vote, the refrain at the end of each of teh four stanzas is the same save one word describing men:
"When we vote we'll fix those terrible men". The "cruelest knaves" are then referred to as "those dreadful men", "those wicked men", and then finally as "those awful men". Probably this was not so far from the truth.
Fresh from the fields of a near-victory in trying to find the first time concentration camps were mentioned in a U.S. comic book (the story quickly told yesterday, here), today the question is about the first mention of a computer. This is a little more tricky, since "computer" can mean a lot of things, including mechanical beings. And with an open-ended definition of the word, I think that you could trace the elements of a computer all the way back to Jonathan Swift's thinking engine/machine1, which for 1726 makes it about the earliest of such imagined inventions. (See here for a post on Swift and Lull.)
A while ago I wrote a post here on an alphabet of names of fictional computers, though none of those machines appeared in a comic book. I did check a few likely sources, including the massive comic.org site, looking for early-ish mentions of "UNIVAC" and "ENIAC" and of course "computer". Offhand there aren't many hits before 1960, with nothing at all for ENIAC and a 1955 mention of UNIVAC ( "Scarecrow, the Human UNIVAC”, appearing in Little Wise Guys, October 1955) and again in 1955 (in Daredevil Comics, #125) some five years after the UNIVAC was installed at the Department of the Census. There is a mention of a s "super-brain" in a 12pp story in September/October 1949 issue of Superman, but I have no artwork for that.
With such slim pickings any portmanteau will do in a storm, and in this case it is "Brainiac" (ENIAC+maniac?), which was an alien computer/cyborg and Superman's chief arch-enemy, finding first light in July 1958 Superman.
There are a few scattered references that I can find that comes close, but they also feel a little late to the computer part. For example, the near-UNIVAC "ULITVAC is Loose!" appears in "Challenges of the Unknown", Showcase Comics #7, March-April 1957. ( "Synopsis:Felix Hesse, a German scientist, comes pleading to the Challengers to save him from Ultivac, "a creature of my own making... but now out of control!" He explains. Interned as a war criminal, he met Floyd Barker, a bank robber. Released, they team to build a giant machine - Suddenly a giant robot hand crashes through the window and seizes Hesse. Spouting propellers, it flies off with Hesse. The Challengers have their next job, "Track down ULTIVAC!"--comics.org)
One thing is for certain, though--the first all computer-generated artwork for a comic book appeared in the series Shatter, which ran from 1985-1988, which is an altogether different sort of comic book computer "first".
I've started a list of early appearances in U.S. comic books of odd parts of the components of the computer culture, including computer crime, dating, and other bits:
“Computer crooks”, 1965: "
Challenge of the Computer-Crooks!" (The Atom) / Gardner Fox, story ; Gil Kane and Sid Greene, art. 13 p. in The Atom, no. 20 (Sept. 1965)
Computer Dating, 1975:
"Sexy Computer Dating" by Bob Mende ; art, Don Orehek. p. 24-25 in Best Cartoons from the Editors of Male & Stag, v. 6, no. 2 (Feb. 1975).
--which I guess should be accompanied by:
"I Think It's For Real This Time. He Even Told Me His Computer Password" (Windows on Work, Oct. 25, 1993) / Carol Simpsmo. -- "Romance on the Information Highway."
Rodney Dangerfield moments, 1975:
"Only the Computer Shows Me Any Respect!" (Killraven) 18 p. in Amazing Adventures, 32 (Sept. 1975)
Crazy Computers, 1974:
“The Computer that Went Bananas” in The Flinstones, / story by Horace J. Elias. -- Ottenheimer, 1974.
Computer Wars, 1980:
“CPU Wars”, created, produced, directed & finally scrawled by Chas Andres. -- Westford, MA : Chthon Press, 1980.
--All data of the above list is derived from the fantastic database created at Michigan State University, http://comics.lib.msu.edu/rri/crri/compo.htm#end Computers and Pigs, 1959
Porky Pig Sept-October 1959 #66. ("Synopsis: Porky eats a lot of fish as "brain food" before taking an intelligence test. The electronic brain gives him a score of 301, a super genius. But there's a catch..."--comics.org
My general impression thus far is that the computer in comic books before 1955 seems to be nowhere near the interest rate of computers in speculative fiction, which is interesting.
1. Swift describes the machine so: “... Every one knew how laborious the usual method is of attaining to arts and sciences; whereas, by his contrivance, the most ignorant person, at a reasonable charge, and with a little bodily labour, might write books in philosophy, poetry, politics, laws, mathematics, and theology, without the least assistance from genius or study.” He then led me to the frame, about the sides, whereof all his pupils stood in ranks. It was twenty feet square, placed in the middle of the room. The superfices was composed of several bits of wood, about the bigness of a die, but some larger than others. They were all linked together by slender wires. These bits of wood were covered, on every square, with paper pasted on them; and on these papers were written all the words of their language, in their several moods, tenses, and declensions; but without any order. The professor then desired me “to observe; for he was going to set his engine at work.” The pupils, at his command, took each of them hold of an iron handle, whereof there were forty fixed round the edges of the frame; and giving them a sudden turn, the whole disposition of the words was entirely changed. He then commanded six-and-thirty of the lads, to read the several lines softly, as they appeared upon the frame; and where they found three or four words together that might make part of a sentence, they dictated to the four remaining boys, who were scribes. This work was repeated three or four times, and at every turn, the engine was so contrived, that the words shifted into new places, as the square bits of wood moved upside down."