Dick Tracy wristware

Cartoonist Chester Gould’s created the Dick Tracy comic strip. It was first published in 1931. Gould received permission to use Gross’ concept of a miniaturized two-way radio. It first appeared 1946. This was followed by a two-way television, celebrated here, in 1964.

Alan Hall begins his 1999-05-03 article, Hello, This is Dick Tracy, in Scientific American, with: Cartoon detective Dick Tracy has been calling on his wristwatch radio to get out of sticky situations since 1946. Back then, when a two-way communication was about as portable as a filing cabinet, it was pretty amazing stuff–and it had the comic strip’s young fans mumbling into toy watches for years.

Technology improves, or at least changes, and this weblog post is published on the 60th anniversary of Dick Tracy’s 2-Way Wrist TV, that first appeared in the comic strip on 1964-04-24.

Cartoonist Chester Gould’s (1900 – 1985) created the Dick Tracy comic strip. It was first published 1931-10-04. Gould received permission to use Al Gross’ (1918 – 2000) concept of a miniaturized two-way radio. It first appeared 1946-01-13.

In Dick Tracy’s world, the 2-Way Wrist Radio was an invention of industrialist Diet Smith’s son, Brilliant. Like many of Smith’s inventions, it was only available to the MCU = major crime unit, of the police. It allowed audio communication, and was powered by a strong atomic battery. An aerial wire ran up the inside of the wearer’s sleeve. It was considered superior to bulky walkie-talkies or other radio devices, and was used very effectively by Dick Tracy and others involved with law enforcement.

The 2-Way Wrist TV was an upgrade developed by Diet Smith Industries. It allowed users to transmit images of themselves, rather than only their voices. It also featured a 180-degree range of vision and an atomic light. The Wrist TV coincided with Dick Tracy’s first adventures with the Lunarians of Moon Valley.

In 1984, the criminal known as Big Brother developed a technology that could intercept transmissions made via the 2-Way Wrist TV which enabled him to monitor the activities of Dick Tracy and the MCU. He sold his technology to members of the criminal underworld, but was eventually caught and arrested.

After Gould died, the 2-Way Wrist TV was upgraded to a 2-Way Wrist Computer by his successors writer Max Allen Collins (1948 -) and illustrator Dick Lochner (1928 -2017) on 1986-06-13. Once again, in the fictional world, this upgrade was developed by Diet Smith. It added a long-range wireless datalink that allowed the wearer to have easy access to various databases for fingerprints, license plates, firearms and more. It also incorporated a lie detector and a probe for on-scene chemical evidence analysis.

At some, for me unknown, point, 2-Way was removed from the description of wearable devices. The Wrist Computer constantly monitored the wearer’s heartbeat to guard against unauthorized usage of the device (since the heartbeat is as distinctive as a fingerprint). This feature also worked with a homing device to enable police dispatch to be immediately alerted that the wearer required assistance if the detected heartbeat showed irregularities or stopped.

The Wrist Computer was later upgraded with the ability to read micro data discs, referred to as a Wrist-Disc.

The next improvement was the Wrist Geenee, introduced 1997-03-26 by Mike Kilian (1939-2005), who had taken over as writer in 1993, and Dick Lochner. In the story world, this upgrade was developed, once again, by Diet Smith. Shortly after Dick Tracy was presented with a prototype, it was stolen off his desk by Rocksie. Rocksie used the Geenee’s holographic projector to free Nutsy and his gang from jail. They then used the Geenee to commit more crimes.

The Geenee included RADAR and SONAR capabilities, holographic projection, an ability to trace phone numbers, heat/ motion sensors, GPS link, laser and X-ray capabilities, computer password detector/decoder that could accurately sense a safe’s lock combination.

Tracy tracked Nutsy, Rocksie, and the rest of their gang to a store that they were attempting to rob. Rocksie threw the Wrist Geenee at Tracy, who caught the delicate prototype. Rocksie escaped, but Nutsy and his gang were arrested.

A later version of the Wrist Geenee had a taser. Tracy continued to use the Wrist Geenee for several years until it was upgraded to the Wrist Wizard, yet another invention of Diet Smith. Detective Frisk kept her Wrist Geenee after she was abducted by Clair Howell. She used it to contact Dick Tracy. He was initially puzzled to receive a message coming from outdated technology.

The Wrist Wizard was introduced by writer Mike Curtis (1953 -) and illustrator Joe Staton (1948 -) on 2011-07-06, during Dick Tracy’s encounter with B-B Eyes, previously presumed-deceased. In addition to features in previous devices, including two-way video communication, GPS, a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) link, it also came with a light-projected keyboard, and responded to eye blinks when its user was injured/ incapacitated.

Diet Smith issued a Wrist Wizard to his goddaughter, Honeymoon Tracy, who was also Dick’s granddaughter and the daughter of his adopted son, Junior. She used it during her encounter with B-B Eyes. Shortly after that, Blackjack was able to steal Dick Tracy’s Wrist Wizard, to add to his collection of Tracy memorabilia.

Some time later, the MCU’s Wrist Wizards were re-fitted into casings that made them resemble the original 2-Way Wrist Radio. Earlier models had faulty batteries that could explode. This was a factor in Tracy’s defeat of Mr. Bones, who was using Blackjack’s outdated Wrist Wizard.

In 2011, Tracy and the MCU temporarily reverted to using 2-Way Wrist Radios so they could communicate without having their calls intercepted by the high-tech devices being used by Willie the Fifth and Flyface.

In 2016-12, Tracy’s Wrist Wizard suffered an explosive malfunction which prompted Diet Smith to issue a safety recall. The Wrist Wizard was replaced by a Wrist Communicator that superficially resembled a 2-way Wrist Radio, but with many of the equivalent functions of the newer design.

Much of the above content was taken from the Dick Tracy section of the Fandom website.

The Real Dick Tracy Wrist Radio Watch

In 2015, Nick Mathis made a Dick Tracy watch prototype in his workshop, an apartment closet, using Fusion 360 and a desktop CNC machine. Shapeways was used to 3D print it. In 2016, Nick and Charlie Mathis purchased a license from the Dick Tracy rights holders, TMS News & Features, LLC.

Fusion 360 is digital prototyping software, incorporating commercial computer-aided design, manufacturing, engineering and printed circuit board software. It comes in Windows, macOS and web browser standard versions , as well as simplified versions for Android and iOS. It was developed by Autodesk, best known for their AutoCAD software.

Shapeways is a New York based, but global, 3D printing service, publicly traded company, with Dutch origins. Users design and upload 3D printable files. Shapeways prints the objects. It can also provide marketing services, where needed. Objects can be printed in about 55 different materials and finishes, including plastics and precious as well as non-ferrous base metals.

In 2018, the Mathis brothers created a working Dick Tracy watch with an integrated Bluetooth module, microphone and speaker. It can be considered a Wrist Radio, because it allows users to make and receive calls from a paired smartphone. Yes, that means that it will not work independently of a smartphone.

In addition to an oil-tanned leather strap, the device has a vintage styled stainless steel body, sapphire crystal face, and a mesh grill to cover speakerphone components. It also has a button to activate a voice assistant.

On 2018-07-13 the Mathis brothers, through their company Ivory & Horn, had received pledges of USD 106 490 of a goal of USD 30 000 on Indiegogo from 321 backers. On 2020-11-20, Nick Matis reported that all watches had been shipped! he concluded with …

Thank you.

It was a wild ride for you and, while I am relieved to wind it down for us both, I am also grateful for the opportunity to deliver our analog watches to such a passionate and generous group of people. I hope it brings you as much joy as it does me for many years. Thank you.

This campaign and the first analog 2016 model would not have been possible without my brother Charlie and our investor. I cannot understate my gratitude for the risk they took, the patience they showed, and the perseverance they maintained in trying to make the world’s first “real working” Dick Tracy watch come to life for us all. In the end, we did make a watch and I am very proud to have shared it with people all over the world. Thank you.

Onward and upward to the next project, folks.

Over and out,

Nick Mathis

Other Wristware

I am no longer tempted to own any wristware, including a Dick Tracy Radio, TV, Computer, Disc, Geenee, Wizard or Communicator. Both Trish and I have owned Wyse watches, but our enthusiasm for them died almost immediately. They occupied less volume than a smartphone, but did not offer anywhere near the same functionality. Our compromise is to use a small smartphone, currently an Asus Zenfone 9, and to wear clothing with pockets that will hold them, when they are not in use.

We have younger family members and friends who do use wristware. The main advantage is that these can be used when exercising to measure distances and elevation differences, especially when walking/ running/ skiing on trails.

Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964)

Official photo of Rachel Carson ca. 1940, taken by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

This weblog post has been published on the 60th anniversary of the death of Rachel Carson on 1964-04-14. She died of cancer, at the age of 56. This was the second death of a prominent, yet relatively young person in a matter of months. The first was the assassination of American president John Kennedy (1917 – 1963). The comment, relatively young, is written by someone at the age of 75. For someone 15 years old, fifty years probably seemed an eternity into the future.

As I started writing this post, I was reading the 1998 collection, Lost Woods, the Discovered Writings of Rachel Carson, edited and with an introduction by Linda Lear (1940 – ). This was the fifth book I read, written by Rachel Carson.

The first book I read of hers was the third that Carson wrote, The Edge of the Sea (1955). It revealed the shoreline, that part of the sea accessible to a young person, probably not yet a teenager. The focus was on three edges: rocky, sandy and coral. The focus was on the east coast of North America. The rocky shores were typical of the Cape Ann region of Massachusetts, the sandy shores were of the intermediate coast off the Carolinas, while the corals were part of the Florida Keys.

The second book of hers that I read was her second book, The Sea Around Us (1951). It is often described as poetic. That term was foreign to me. I regarded it as providing me with deeper insights into life into oceans depths. It too was divided into three sections: Mother Sea, The Restless Sea, and Man and the Sea About Him.

These two books prompted an interest in marine biology, and in microscopy. I still have my compound microscope from 1962. I used it to study and make photomicrographs of plankton I had harvested using a home-made plankton net, that was essential equipment on my home-made 2.4 m = 8′ long Sabot dinghy.

The third book of hers that I read was her fourth book, Silent Spring (1962). It had nothing to do with the sea, but with birds, and how the overuse of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and other synthetic pesticides, was responsible for a decline in bird populations — the silencing of birds. At one point I voiced my concerns to my uncle Harry, an etymologist, who chastised me for my concerns, saying that DDT had saved the lives of millions of people.

The fourth book I read by Carson, was her first book, Under the Sea Wind (1941). It describes the behavior of three Atlantic coast organisms that live both on and in the sea on the Atlantic coast. Under the Sea Wind consists of three parts, each following a different organism that interacts with the sea, and viewing it from a personified organism’s perspective. The first section, Edge of the Sea, follows a female sanderling (Calidris alba, Pallas, 1764), a small wading bird Carson names Silverbar. The second section, The Gull’s Way,  follows an Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus, Linnaeus, 1758) named Scomber. The third section, River and Sea follows an American eel (Anguilla rostrata, Lesueur, 1817), Anguilla.

These were not the only books I read about the sea. To understand what was happening on the Pacific coast I used Edward Rickett’s (1897 – 1948) Between Pacific Tides (1939), as a guide. To gain a better understanding of what was happening in the depths of the ocean I also read William Beebe (1877 – 1962) as he descended in his bathosphere in Half Mile Down (1934).

As is the case with most of the books I read as a child, the books cited here were borrowed, often repeatedly, from New Westminster public library, located a convenient three blocks away from my childhood home. These books were not in the Children’s department, so I had to have special permission to borrow them.

I now have paper editions of Carson’s four earliest books, along with digital editions of these and some others written by her, or about her. I also have a paper edition of Between Pacific Tides.

Many people believe that there is a direct connection between Carson and Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970. For the most part Earth Day is harmless, and doesn’t require anyone to make changes to their consumer way of life. I am even more skeptical about Carson inspiring the Responsible Care program was established in 1988 by the Chemical Manufacturers Association (now American Chemistry Council) to help the chemical industry improve its safe management of chemicals from manufacture to disposal. I see it as an attempt to focus public attention away from the damage done by chemical manufacturers.

When these chemicals first came on the market, they appeared almost miraculous. Swiss chemist Paul Hermann Müller (1899 – 1965) had shown in 1939, that DDT eradicated insect populations in the control of vector diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. For this he received the 1948 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine. It was noted that DDT sprayed from airplanes eliminated the malaria- and dengue fever–carrying mosquitoes that sickened and killed American soldiers in the Pacific war theater. These wartime successes led to postwar applications, with chemical companies selling DDT to farmers to reduce crop loss to insects. Tropical nations used it to prevent mosquitoes from spreading malaria.

In the 1950s the chemical industry created new pesticides and herbicides, such as chlordane and heptachlor for killing insects and 2,4-D to control sagebrush growth on western U.S. roadsides.

Carson’s most important skill was connecting existing data from many areas and synthesizing them to create a coherent narrative. In Silent Spring, this was about the effects persistent chemicals had on the landscape and its inhabitants, only some of which were human.

Carson did not condemn all chemicals, only the reckless and irresponsible poisoning of the world that man shares with all other creatures. She followed DDT from the time it was sprayed on alfalfa, through alfalfa-fed hens, into the eggs, and finally into the egg-eating humans. Then she explained, in terms readers could understand, that chemicals like dieldrin, were used to kill pests, but ended up being stored in the body. Plants, animals and people formed an interconnected web, affected by these chemical compounds.

There was a vindictive reaction from Chemical manufacturers. Velsicol Chemical Corporation, which produced chlordane and heptachlor, threatened Carson’s publisher with a lawsuit. Monsanto Company published an essay, The Desolate Year to show that without pesticides and herbicides farmers would be unable to produce enough food for a growing population and that preventable diseases would continue to kill people. Others chastised Carson for failing to mention chemical successes.

Robert A. Roland (1931 – 2013), president of the Chemical Manufacturers Association from 1978 to 1993, later admitted that the chemical industry had made a mistake in not properly engaging with Carson and addressing the environmental issues she wrote about.

President Kennedy ordered the Science Advisory Committee to review pesticide and herbicide experiments. It published its findings a year later and acknowledged some links such as that between DDT and liver damage. Later, the report was regarded as being less than forthright.

Silent Spring changed how people saw the world around them. It initiated the modern environmental movement, and influenced government regulation of pesticides and other chemicals, especially environmental effects.

In 1972 the U.S.Senate banned DDT, encouraged by the emergence of new environmental organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund. Chlordane was banned completely in 1988. Restrictions were placed on the use of heptachlor.

Silent Spring changed how governments, industry and agriculture respond to chemical ills.

Thank you, Rachel Carson, for helping to enlighten me to the dangers of chemicals in the environment. Without your efforts, I am uncertain how long it would have taken for this awareness to emerge.

Our World in Data

The Geoscheme overview showing the 22 of the 26 different areas. Missing are: Antarctica, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean.

One of my sources of information is Our World in Data (OWID). Their mission is to publish the research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems. They write:

Poverty, disease, hunger, climate change, war, existential risks, and inequality: The world faces many great and terrifying problems. It is these large problems that our work at Our World in Data focuses on.

Thanks to the work of thousands of researchers around the world who dedicate their lives to it, we often have a good understanding of how it is possible to make progress against the large problems we are facing. The world has the resources to do much better and reduce the suffering in the world.

We believe that a key reason why we fail to achieve the progress we are capable of is that we do not make enough use of this existing research and data: the important knowledge is often stored in inaccessible databases, locked away behind paywalls and buried under jargon in academic papers.

There is general agreement that after World War II, there was a decline in wars until the 1970s and 1980s, when it increased, especially in Asia. War declined again in the 1990s and early 2000s, but rose again, starting about 2012. The 2011 Arab uprisings led to conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen. NATO’s incursion into Libya caused instability that resulted in an ongoing crisis in the Sahel region. In 2014, there was the Russian invasion of Crimea. In 2020 there was the Azerbaijani-Armenian war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave; another war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region; military conflict in Myanmar starting in 2021; Russia’s 2022 assault on Ukraine. In 2023 war started again in Sudan and Gaza.

OWID is also concerned about democracy. Here they write: Democracy is in decline, whether we look at big changes in the number of democracies and the people living in them; at small changes in the extent of democratic rights; or at medium-sized changes in the number of, and people living in, countries that are autocratizing… The extent of this decline is substantial, but it is also uncertain and limited. We can see it clearly across democracy metrics: the world has fallen from all-time democratic highs to a level similar to earlier decades. But the extent of this decline depends on which democracy measure we use. And it is limited in the sense that the world remains much more democratic than it was even half a century ago… Finally, the recent democratic decline is precedented, and past declines were reversed. The world underwent phases of autocratization in the 1930s and again in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, people fought to turn the tide, and pushed democratic rights to unprecedented heights. We can do the same again… Using the [Regimes of the World] RoW data, the chart shows that the world has become less democratic in recent years. The number of democracies in the world reached an all-time high in 2016, with 96 electoral democracies. In 2022, their number has fallen to 90 countries.

People should probably devote some time attempting to understanding the world’s political and economic situation, on a regional basis. Even before the pandemic changed everything, many people felt they were simply pawns in an economic game. After the pandemic, they were even more convinced of their pawn status.

Geoscheme is my personal approach to organizing and understanding geographical regions. I have used it for so many years, that its origins are lost in the depths of time. There are many maps with regions. At some point, I appropriated one for my own purposes, creating an alphabetic coding in the process.

The regions, along with my codes, are:

Africa: [A] Southern Africa; [B] Eastern Africa; [C] Middle Africa; [D] Western Africa; [E] Northern Africa. Europe: [F] Southern Europe; [G] Western Europe; [H] Northern Europe; [I] Eastern Europe + North Asia. Asia: [J] Western Asia; [K] Central Asia; [L] Southern Asia; [M] Eastern Asia; [N] South-Eastern Asia. Oceania: [O] Australia and New Zealand; [P] Melanesia; [Q] Micronesia; [R] Polynesia. Americas: [S] Northern America; [T] Caribbean; [U] Central America; [V] South America. Other: [W] Antarctica; [X] Atlantic Ocean; [Y] Pacific Ocean; [Z] Indian Ocean.

There are 26 different regions, with some more important than others. Because of their large populations and economic impact, southern Asia and eastern Asia are especially important. One approach to exploring regions is to review them using an assigned week number. I use ISO week numbers, with each week beginning on a monday. USA and Canada have a different approach, with each week starting on a sunday. Thus, this weblog post was published towards the end of week 14. This means that my geographical focal area this week is region N, the 14th letter in the alphabet, which involves south east Asia and Oceania.

I spend more time diverging from than focusing on the Geoschema region. For example, this week I spent time reading about crime writer Garry Disher (1949 – ) and the Mornington Peninsula, south east of Melbourne. The recent collapse of the Baltimore Bridge, encouraged me to learn more about it. According to Geoscheme, I should have waited until week 19, which starts on 2024-05-06. The key is to allow some degree of flexibility.

Other information sources

As I age I feel less need to see the world in person. The internett provides most of my information. In addition to OWID, there is Wikipedia, TED-talks, The Guardian newspaper and Slashdot. We also subscribe to one paper Newspaper, Inderøyningen, that arrives weekly on fridays.

For a maximum of one hour in the evenings, I allow myself to sit in the comfort of an Ikea Poeng chair in a television nook, and see an edited perspective on some aspect of the world, viewing documentaries with texting = closed captions, and sound. Television avoids the excesses of heat, cold, drought and insects, and the trauma of volcanoes and earthquakes. This week we have watched a three part series about the 2015-04-15 earthquake in Nepal.

We have numerous epub books that are managed by Calibre and are stored in a database on our server. When someone wants to read an e-book, the book can be transferred over to a Kobo e-reader (of which we have three) or read on a computer using appropriate software. Most of Trish’s reading is done with an e-reader, while she is knitting.

I use my e-reader much less, and prefer to read paper books. Yes, we also have a library filled with paper books. I am currently reading Blood Red, Snow White (2007), a historical young adult novel by Marcus Sedgwick (1968 – 2022), set in Russia during the revolution, a fictional account of author Arthur Ransome (1884 – 1967), but containing explainers about events from 1905 to 1919.

Next week’s weblog post will be posted on sunday, not saturday. It is about Rachel Carson, and will commemorate her life on the 60th anniversary of her death, 1964-04-14.