Tech Thursday: Leveling

This will be the last Tech Thursday post I author. It’s a bit of a bittersweet occasion for me, and I hope you all have enjoyed this as much as I have. So, without further ado, I’m going back one more time to my favorite source for Tech Thursday posts- the Rare Book Collection.

A few years ago, Woodson then-intern Susan Kirby made an online exhibit for the History of Science Rare Book collection, featuring some scanned images from a little volume entitled Traité du Nivellement by Jean Picard (1620-1682). Picard was a French astronomer credited with a number of advances in his field, the most famous being the first accurate measurement of the Earth’s size. He was also interested in surveying and hydraulics, and was the principle designer of the aqueducts and cisterns that supplied water to Versailles.

Traité was published posthumously by Phillippe de la Hire, a French polymath and contemporary of Picard. Broken up in sections, the book discusses the theory, instruments, and practices of Leveling, a kind of land surveying. La Hire also included a condensed version of another of Picard’s works, Measuring the Earth. The book includes many diagrams of surveying interments, many of which were original to Picard, including a level fixed with telescope lenses and reticules.





Tech Thursday: College Bowl Buzzers

Earlier this week, Norie brought you the story of the 1982 Western Regionals College Bowl, where Rice took second place in the finals, so I thought you all might like to see some of the buzzer systems the team has practiced with.


Quik Pro

The Quik Pro seems to have a been a popular model for the team; there are three in the collection. There is also a QuizSystem and a Logitek Quiztron.





Horrible Strangle Monster

And, for completeness, here is the 1991 College Bowl National Championship trophy for 1st place.


College Bowl 1991 National Championship, First Place, Rice University
























Tech Thursday: Legacy Media Preservation Test 2

Continuing the project I began with my last post, yesterday I took a few samples of 3.5″ floppies from the Westheimer Literary papers in the hopes of imaging and preserving their data. This time, I was working with our new intern, Clair. Clair is working on the Baker College records, and she had a stack of floppies and CDs that needed some attention, so this was a good time to train her with using Bitcurator. As I expected, things did not proceed as smoothly with the 3.5″ floppies.



We used a USB supported iomega floppy drive. None of the Westheimer discs were readable, and I was worried the problem might be the reader, but then one from the Baker College records still worked!


Westheimer floppies did not mount


With Clair in the driver seat, we imaged the disc, extracted metadata, and compiled the reports. The disc contained a readable doc file, a College Master’s reflection on the responsibilities and pleasures of his job.


Summary: the plug-and-play iomega floppy drive works, and Bitcurator did a great job with imaging the disc.


Tech Thursday: Legacy Media Preservation Test

A few posts ago, I mentioned the Woodson acquired several new drive formats, which will be used to digitize our legacy media. Rounding out our collection are:

  • 3.5″ floppy drive
  • 5.25 floppy drive
  • zip drive
  • Jaz Drive
  • Superdisk
  • Ultrium LTO
  • Peerless Storage

Several of these formats aren’t fixed with a USB cable, so we’ll have to find adapters for them, possibly starting with the 5.25″ floppy. In the mean time, I’ve started a pilot program to test out capturing disc images of the media formats we can read on our instance of Bitcurator. I started with the zip 250 drive and tested a zip250 disc and a zip100 disc.



Capturing the disc image was easy. The drive was plug and play, and both zip discs worked perfectly; I was able to capture the data on both.



Next week I’m going to try out the 3.5″ drive. I’m expecting a bumpier ride.




Tech Thursday: Silver Trowels

In box 24 of the Rice University Memorabilia collection, there are two “silver” trowels.  Bricklayer’s trowels are used for working with building mortar. The first described is the trowel used to lay the corner stone of Lovett Hall.


With This Houston trowel the
Trustees of the William M. Rice
Institute laid the cornerstone of the
Administration Building of the
Institute, on the second day of
March, 1911.
J.A. Baker
W.M. Rice Jr.
J.E. McAshan
B.B. Rice
C. Lombardi
E. Raphael
E.O. Lovett


The second trowel is less ornate and the inscription less informative, but the date seems to correspond to the Library’s cornerstone.


Fondren Library
Rice Institute
December 21 1947




Tech Thursday: New Media Readers for the Woodson

Sorry for the late post folks!

John “Grungy” Gladu, a longtime friend of Rice and the Woodson, has generously donated several old media readers to augment the Woodson’s digital preservation program. Previously, the Woodson was outfitted to image and capture metadata from floppy discs, Zip discs, CDs, DVDs, reel to reel audio, and Hard Drives. This new equipment will give us access to several more formats, including Jaz drives, Linear Tape-Open 1 (LTO 1) drives, and Peerless storage drives. For good measure, we also got a pristine, unused 5.25″ floppy disc drive.

Thanks-a-million, Grungy!

Jaz drive

Jaz drive

LTO drive

LTO drive

Peerless drive system

Peerless drive system

5.25" floppy drive

5.25″ floppy drive

Tech Thursday: Vera Prasilova Scott Photography Equipment- Enlarger


Prasilova was born in 1899 in Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A talented artist, she apprenticed under famed Czech photographer Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961) at the age of 18, and went on to earn a Master’s from the Graphic Arts School in Munich, Germany. Eventually, Prasilova opened and operated a successful photography studio in Houston, where her clientele included Rice faculty and well-to-do members of the community. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Art, Portland, Oregon, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, and the Museum of Czech Literature. See the finding aid for her collection for more information on Prasilova, and the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive for examples of her work.

An enlarger is used to magnify the image captured on a photographic negative or transparency. The principle of an enlarger is simple: a light projects the negative image through the lens at the bottom of the enlarger and onto photographic paper. The size of the image can be adjusted by moving the lens nearer to or farther from the paper, or by moving the negative nearer to or farther from the lens. The patent number identifies this enlarger as an E. 0. ROGERS PHOTOGRAPHIC ENLARGER, and it conforms to the design on the patent.



Slot for the negative. A light would be mounted behind to the right.


The track controls the distance between the lens and the negative. The enlarger itself can slide up and down on the back board.


Inside the bellows.


Carl Zeiss Jena lens.


1000w light bulb.

Tech Thursday: Horse-drawn Vehicles

Continuing with the Masterson Texana Collection, here is another little treatise on technology, American Horse-Drawn Vehicles. Written by Jack D. Rittenhouse, this first edition is from 1948. This book surveys about 200 different American coaches, carriages, and wagons. Written when horse-drawn vehicles were still in limited use, the book was a response to demands for historical documentation of the rapidly vanishing form of conveyance. According to the dust jacket, the illustrations are generally half-inch scale and contemporary with their corresponding vehicle. Care was taken to “show construction designed clearly.”




pg3 pg44





Rittenhouse, Jack D. 1912-. American Horse-drawn Vehicles: Being a Collection of Two Hundred and Eighteen Pictures Showing One Hundred and Eighty-three American Vehicles, and Parts Thereof. [First edition]. Los Angeles, 1948.

Tech Thursday: Cattle Breeding

The Woodson’s Rare Books Collection has been and remains a tremendous resource for this blog. When interesting examples of computers and machinery started to become scarce, Norie turned me onto rare books as an alternative, and I was surprised by just how viable they were. So, starting with today’s post, I’m going to be exploring one particular collection in depth, the Masterson Texana Collection. A collection on Texas history and culture may not seem like the most promising avenue, but I think you’ll be surprised.



Santa Gertrudis is a breed of beef cattle first raised in the United States on King Ranch in 1853. The Masterson collection includes three volumes of the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Recorded Herds, 1953, 1959, and 1966. These books are relevant here because they include some fairly deep discussions of animal husbandry, including the breed’s classification, performance testing, and genes and phenotype.





Tech Thursday: Vintage User Manuals

I began processing a new collection of user manuals and guides for computer hardware and software from the 1970s-1990s. At 50 boxes, it’s a fairly large collection. So far, I’ve found manuals and guides on CMOS Logic Circuits, digital signal processors like the TMS320c4x, Linear circuits, MATLAB, and Solaris. I also found a few packages of Micropower Voltage References. Frankly, I don’t know what most of this stuff is, but after a little checking, I found a few of these manuals on the Internet Archive. Still, I imagine some of this won’t be so easy to find, especially the older materials. Here is a preview:

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The collection may turn out to be a great resource for those interested in technology from the heady days of early microprocessing, but until it’s fully processed, it won’t be available to the public. The Woodson does have other collections of technical manuals open for research, like this one.