Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Seattle Waterfront Handcar

21 Feb 2016

Seattle Waterfront Streetcar, 2001 - DaveTavres.comWith the very sad demise of Seattle’s Waterfront Streetcar, and the extremely unlikely chance that it will ever come back, as the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will cause waterfront condo prices to skyrocket, I have an alternate idea to bring a bit of Seattle’s railroad history back to the waterfront. This idea is part history, part touristy. Manually operated handcars along the remaining track along Alaskan Way.

Seattle’s Railroad Ave. (Alaskan Way) around 1903 - DaveTavres.comMost people don’t know that Alaskan Way use to be the domain of the railroads – in fact, it use to be called “Railroad Avenue.” And other people don’t know that the Seattle Waterfront Streetcar use to run passengers along the entire length of the waterfront, from Pioneer Square to what is now the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Walt on the Kalamazoo handcar - DaveTavres.comSo, why not develop a fun, unique attraction that the tens-of-thousands of cruise ship passengers each year would love, as well as regular Seattleites? Rather than using the powered streetcars, build several handcars, capable of carrying up to seven passengers (six paying customers and a ride operator), where four passengers take turns pumping the crank to move along the track.

The proposed route uses the existing streetcar rails, and is just over half a mile long from about Pier 63 (click for street view) to The Old Spaghetti Factory (click for street view). Hey, Disneyland does it with Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes! Walt Disney even had his own handcar for Disneyland.. That’s plenty long enough for people to enjoy a ride, see the Seattle waterfront in a fun way, and even get from one end to the other quicker than walking – heck, this could even be called “kinetic art”.

Proposed Seattle Waterfront Handcar route -
Google aerial view:

I say there should be several handcars, because they could be ‘launched’ a few hundred feet apart, allowing more than eight passengers at a time to make their way along the waterfront. There could be up to four going at once, one right after another. When all four handcars get to the end of the line, all of the passengers disembark, and the next set of passenger get on, ready for their adventure.

Handcar diagram - DaveTavres.comHaving a ride operator on board each car would insure that people don’t try breaking any land-speed handcar records, they make sure people on the ground don’t get run over, and they can help rotate the passengers along the way.

Yes, this would be monetized. Just like Disneyland, people would have to pay for the privilege of locomoting themselves. The ticket price goes to cover the cost of building the handcars, covering the cost of operating insurance, paying the employees, maintenance of the cars and some simple advertising – although word-of-mouth and getting listed on the cruise-ship port itinerary would likely mean very low advertising costs. Plus, if this was built and operated by the Northwest Railway Museum, this could be a way of reaching the community at a great distance from the actual museum (as well as bring in extra funds!)

What about storage of the handcars you say? I suppose they could be stored at the old Bell Street Streetcar Station, locked up and covered with heavy-duty canvas, to keep people from climbing on them during the operating season. Then during off-season, they would be light enough to pull up onto a rented flatbed truck and stored at the NRM.

So there you have it. Railroad history, non-profit fundraising, tourist attraction, Seattle.

Seattle Waterfront Handcar - DaveTavres.comSeattle Tourist Attractions -

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Bodie Foundation fundraising idea

02 Mar 2013

Standard Mill - www.Bodie.comThe Bodie Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization that helps Bodie, California. As a California State Park, Bodie just doesn’t get enough financial support to properly and effectively keep this historical gem in tact. Over the past 20 years State funding has drastically declined and the need for donations has become a requirement just to keep the park open.

Several times in recent years Bodie has been on the ‘closure list’ – a list of State Parks that would be temporarily shuttered in an effort to reduce costs and save money. These are always listed as ‘temporary’ closures, we’ll never know if some will become permanent. While Bodie may not be the most out-of-the-way park and may not be the biggest park, it truly is one of the most amazing parks in all of California… and the hundreds of thousands of people who visit there every year will swear to that!

View from the Standard Mill - www.Bodie.comIf Bodie was to be closed, even temporarily, the danger to the town increases dramatically. A Bodie closure could mean that only one Park Ranger visit Bodie a few times a week. It could mean that they visit only once a week while blockading roads that lead to the town. It could mean that just one caretaker lives there, except for when they go to town for supplies or days off. If Bodie has NO ONE there, imagine the theft, vandalism and (heaven forbid) fire threat that could haunt Bodie?! Bodie NEEDS to be protected.

Bodie Miners' Union Hall, winter 1881 - www.Bodie.comThe Bodie Foundation is not much different than any other non-profit; they ask for donations, they raise funds through different channels, they work with their beneficiary to support their overall mission. Sure, they aren’t curing cancer or fighting domestic abuse, but they are helping to preserve a unique time in history – not just California history, but history of the United States. There was more there than just gold – there were people. Some reports say as many as 10,000 people in 1880. Those people brought life to Bodie. There were men and women. There were children and families. There were indians, chinese, mexican, german – probably every race, color, religion and creed were in Bodie at some time during its boom days.

Preserving that history is important. Preserving Bodie is important. That won’t happen at the hands of the State. It’s up to individuals and groups that care. Some individuals will give money, while others will volunteer their time, passion and connections. Connections is where this idea comes in…

U2 in Bodie - www.Bodie.comAsking people to donate $25 or $100 or to buy a book or trinket or two when they come to visit the park is great, but that money is harder and harder to come by and it doesn’t make a dent in what’s really needed to keep Bodie around for future generations. Large donations and endowments is how Bodie will survive another 130+ years. People with the right connections can help get big money into the non-profit – and in turn, to Bodie.

There’s a lot of money out there. There’s A LOT of large, successful corporations and a lot of very wealthy individuals who would be happy to give large, tax-deductible donations to Bodie – if they were only asked. Sure, they’re asked for donations all the time by various groups representing many great causes – but people like Clint EastwoodRon Howard, Kevin Costner, the band U2, or companies like Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, Johnson & Johnson, Union Pacific, Edison International and dozens of others like giving to causes that they feel a connection with – for some, Bodie – as an idea – is enough of a connection.

One this is for certain, successful non-profits don’t operate on book store sales and memberships. Successful not-for-profit groups actively seek large donations and they do long-term financial planning.

I love Bodie. I love the history. I love that it’s been preserved. I want the best for the Park and I’d love to help organize something big that will keep it safe for decades to come. If you know people like the ones listed above, or if you work for a corporation who wants to support a true piece of history, let me know – I’m here to help.

If you haven’t been to Bodie – GO! Plan your trip! See it before it’s closed or before some other awful disaster befalls it and it become another piece of history lost to the ages.

The Road to Bodie –
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Interactive Movies…

04 Jun 2012

1950s movies | DaveTavres.comIn the 1950s there were 3D movies, Smell-O-Vision theaters and CinemaScope. The fad of 3D movies has come back around in the past few years, but I suspect it will go away again. So, what’s a new fad that has yet to come around? How about interactive movies? That is, mobile-enabled films…

Movie theaters are using ultra-high-end digital projectors more and more these days. Those projectors are connected to hard drives. Those hard drives are connected to the internet. That means it would be pretty easy to deliver custom content to an entire theater of people by way of text or application enabled mobile phones. Yeah… think of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series from decades ago and apply the idea to a movie. Remember “Clue – The Movie”? That movie came out in 1985 and was unique in that it had three different endings, depending on which final reel was playing in your theater. It was not a huge success. Or, was it just too early?

Universal, Paramount, Disney, Warner Brothers – any of them could shoot a movie that included variations to the story line that would offer movie-goers the chance to affect the ending – or the middle – or the beginning! The possibilities are pretty huge – especially considering how many movies are more CG than live action!

With the outrageous popularity of smart phones, a fairly simple mobile app would let YOU be the “director.” Maybe you (and the rest of the audience) decides what character gets killed off first. Or if the girl goes with the nice guy or the popular one… What if the viewing audience got to finally kill off Tom Cruise in the first 10 minutes of the latest Mission: Impossible franchise? (Please?) Would people go see mobile-enabled films? Would they be interesting enough to drive sales? Could the movies be made cost effective? Would the genre peter-out like 3D movies and Smell-O-Vision? (I’d say the last one is more likely than the others – but it could be a fun gimmick to get butts in the seats!)

Mobile apps | DaveTavres.comI envision some kind of standard being developed that gets installed in the movie theater’s digital projectors (as an add-on) that uses fairly simple instructions on what time code to play at a given point. (I did this using HyperCard back in the late 80’s/early 90’s using laser discs!) This add-on is connected to the web, which gets real-time updates from the mobile app users watching the movie at that time. The key to the whole plan though, is that the app polls the audience at random times during the movie, asking for “direction”. You may now say, “Yeah, but how do you stop people from “directing” scenes when they aren’t even in the theater?” – how about a simple, randomized code at the beginning of that showing of the movie? The code could be generated by the server and would be unique for that movie, based on your GPS coordinates, so no two short codes would be the same across the country.

Could be interesting… could be expensive… could be fun. I bet the big film makers are already trying to figure out how to do this – so it will be exiting to see what happens in the next five years. Maybe someone will hire me to work on the project.

Now… think about how it could affect TV shows… hmmmm

Interactive Movies… |


Streaming media and home entertainment…

25 Jul 2010

I’ve recently helped a few friends get setup with "media centers" as their home entertainment systems. They’ve all been centered around using a small form-factor computer to ‘power’ things, and central to that is Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Windows Media Center.

Windows Media CenterI was lucky enough to be a software tester at Microsoft around 2001 testing the first version of Window Media Center Edition (MCE) and it was exciting back then. It’s now been 10 years – and it still hasn’t caught on. But, I’m confident that’s about to change.

TiVoTiVo can be credited with getting the ‘digital revolution’ started by recording the standard TV signals onto a hard drive, then letting people play it back whenever, and with the ability to skip commercials. It took a few years for consumers to "get the idea", but now almost everyone has a DVR (digital video recorder). I often explained the TiVo as being on par with the invention of the telephone. At first, no one really needed it, but it quickly became something that no one could live without. And now look where we are with phones…

After TiVo and DVRs became common-place, the price came down and availability went up for large flat-panel TVs. At first, only a few people had them, but here again, almost everyone has a flat-panel TV now. And once those HD televisions were everywhere, the TV stations started broadcasting in HD. Then by 2006 Sony had started shipping their Blu-ray format DVDs and players, with higher-definition pictures to go with those big TVs.

Netflix Hulu

So, what’s next? Well, over the past couple of years, Hulu and Netflix and even YouTube have seen incredible growth in the number of users who stream video. Devices like the XBox, Roku and next-gen TiVo allow people to play movies instantly through their internet connections. It’s obvious that media streaming is the next big thing. Right now, not everyone is ready for it, but within a year or two, it will be just like DVRs – people won’t be able to live without instant, on-demand, streaming media to their home entertainment systems.

This is where Microsoft has yet another chance to do something great – or flop (as has been their way lately.) Windows Media Center is now built-in to Windows 7. And it’s got some great features. XBoxAside from recording TV to the hard drive, there are lots of applications available and great integration with XBox and other devices to become "media extenders", which will allow the whole house to use the content on the machine. That, combined with Netflix, web-browsing, Google TVmusic and photo playback, MCE could be the killer app as the next big thing comes around. The question is – can Microsoft deliver? Or will they fall into old habits and just sit back and expect people to fit into Microsoft’s mold? I’m sure Google TV is hoping that’s what they do…

Now, I do love what Google has been doing in recent years, but I love what Microsoft use to be as well. So for now, I have to root for Microsoft and hope that they do the right thing and do some SERIOUS work on Windows Media Center. They’ve got MAYBE a year to get it updated, start having contests or paying people to build apps for it (which also means building a GOOD app store for it),  and then get it into people’s living rooms. If they don’t do it now, they’ll never get the chance again – and it will be yet another great product that they’ve developed, then let die on the vine.

Now, with that out of the way, what’s the next, NEXT big thing after streaming media? I say it’s all about information. Contextual information that goes along with people’s favorite media is the thing to watch. has that platform working now, but it’s a tiny bit ahead of it’s time (hopefully just a TINY bit!) Once everyone is streaming all of their movies, TV shows and other media, they’re going to want something more. Just like how we weren’t satisfied with only being able to make phone calls from the beach, now we want to call from the beach, but we want GPS built-in and 5mp cameras and internet access – ON OUR PHONE! So as streaming becomes ‘the next big thing’, VidTaggr will be right behind that to be the next, NEXT big thing.

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Posted in History, Microsoft, Phones, Software, Technology, Video


Historic ‘micro-blogging’! Secret inscription in Lincoln’s watch…

12 Mar 2009

Wow!! How exciting, that a watchmaker made a ‘micro-blog’ in 1861 on the INSIDE of President Lincoln’s pocket watch! Of course I’m joking about the ‘micro-blog’, but it really did make me think about how people are posting on Facebook and Twitter so much. Unlike most of those pointless ‘posts’, THIS was something worth "Twittering"! Here’s the text of the Reuters article:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Mar 11, 2009 – A gold watch owned by Abraham Lincoln bears a message marking the start of the U.S. Civil War, but the president never knew of the "secret" inscription uncovered on Tuesday at the National Museum of American History.


The engraving, by watchmaker Jonathan Dillon, is dated April 13, 1861, and reads in part: "Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels" and "thank God we have a government."

The museum said it agreed to open the watch to find out if the message really was there after it was contacted by the watchmaker’s great-great-grandson, Doug Stiles of Waukegan, Illinois.

The American Civil War began when Confederate troops opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861.

Forty-five years later, Dillon the watchmaker told The New York Times that he was repairing Lincoln’s watch when he heard that the first shots of the Civil War had been fired.

Dillon said he unscrewed the dial of the watch and used a sharp instrument to mark the historic day on the president’s watch. He told the newspaper that, as far as he knew, no one had ever seen the inscription.

image"Lincoln never knew of the message he carried in his pocket," Brent Glass, director of the National Museum of American History said in a statement. "It’s a personal side of history about an ordinary watchman being inspired to record something for posterity."

Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States in November 1860. In the lead up to the Civil War, South Carolina and six other states seceded from the Union before Lincoln’s inauguration in March 1861. (Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

I wish more of our American History got more public attention. There’s so many great stories and pieces of history that are just waiting to be shared. The best I can hope for is another National Treasure!

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Posted in History, Technology