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 Will "camera-boxes" help catch Whitechapel Ripper?
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 12/18/2006 :  09:45:41  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message

"Electrical telescopes" to stand watch in Whitechapel

(Whitechapel, London, September 10th, 1888 -- The Times)

Yet another murder of the foulest kind was committed in the neighbourhood of Whitechapel in the early hours of the morning on September 1st. At a quarter to 4 o'clock Police-constable Neill, 97J, when in Buck's-row, Whitechapel, came upon the body of a woman lying on a part of the footway, and on stooping to raise her up in the belief that she was drunk he discovered that her throat was cut almost from ear to ear.


The body of Mary Ann Nichols was still warm when Police-constable Neill found it.

In response to urgent calls for action by the public, police have begun to have dozens of "Nipkow Disk" machines (also known as "electrical telescopes") installed, hidden at strategic vantage points in Whitechapel. Additionally, Yablochkov electric candles are being installed in various Whitechapel areas for street lighting. Observation booths are being constructed within the Bethnal-green Station, where police officers will be able to secretly observe activities from a distance.


A simplified diagram for Herr Nipkow's 1885 patent.

Herr Paul Gottlieb Nipkow, a Prussian gentleman, explained his patented electro-mechanical invention to The Times.


The Prussian inventor, Paul Gottlieb Nipkow.

Herr Nipkow stated, "My device comes in separated parts, which we might call a 'camera-box' and a 'projector-box.' In the camera-box, light from a scene goes through a lens, then through the helically arranged holes of a rotating disk passes. The light then strikes a Siemens selenium cell, which an electric current modifies by changing its resistance, ja? The current is carried by telegraph wires to the distant projector-box. There, an electric light globe is used to project an image through a similar terminal disk, through a lens, and onto frosted glass in a darkened booth for monitoring. A photograph of the image can also be taken, by a camera attachment using."


Engraving made by The Times from a Nipkow
Disk photograph of a "person of suspicion."

The Nipkow Disk remote viewing system is considered by the police to be a remarkable invention, and a new tool which can be employed to help maintain public order. Whilst some persons have complained of the plans, citing concerns for privacy, police respond that the only people who should properly object to being remotely monitored would be the criminal element.

Police sources also informed The Times that already several men have been interviewed by detectives, after being observed behaving suspiciously through Nipkow Disks.


Buck's-row, Whitechapel. Police declined to reveal
precisely where the camera-boxes are to be situated.



Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.

Edited by - HalfMooner on 12/24/2006 23:46:04

HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 12/18/2006 :  22:48:34   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Stepping out of 1888 character, I'd like to add some information for those who might have been interested in the idea of London Bobbies using CCTV surveillance cameras in the late 19th Century. Oddly enough, they weren't all that far from the possibility. Nipkow (as you'll know if you clicked on the Wiki link above) was for real, and so was his television design. Here's a diagram of how it worked:


A color diagram of Nipkow's television

Now, I couldn't use the modern color diagram in the "Times" article, as that would actually have been more anachronistic than TV in 1888.

You can get a fairly good idea of how it was supposed to work by checking this link. The big technical problems would have been with the fact that signals could not be amplified, that the screen would have to be the size of a postage stamp, and that for it to work at all would require very bright lighting on the object. And the disks at both ends have to be synchronized.

I started this when I woke up this morning, thinking about the British man arrested on suspicion of murdering five prostitutes. The police had been checking out the movements of the women prior to the murders. In Britain CCTV security cameras are pervasive. So the odd thought went through my head about another fellow, one who was never caught, who also is said to have murdered five prostitutes: Jack the Ripper.

What, I wondered, might have happened if police in 1888 London had surveillance TV cameras available. Of course, I thought immediately, that's silly. I seemed to recall that the first crude TV was invented in the 1920's or 1930's. But I decided to research a bit anyway.

Wow! I suddenly ran into the information about Nipkow and his 1885 television patent! (It would not be named "television" for many years.) Nipkow had a clever opto-electrical-mechanical idea for rasterizing an image, and conveying the signal on wires. Also, the city of London already was using "Yablochkov electric candles" on some streets. They were very bright arc lamps. And Siemens actually did manufacture a selenium photo cell. Even. Way. Back. Then.

The things you stumble onto when researching! I kept learning new little bits, and kept revising my story all day. The first paragraph, by the way, was stolen almost untouched from a Times article printed on September 1, 1888. I did that just to establish authentic flavor.

So there you have the background for my little foray into the "Steam Punk" genre. Now that you've toured the sausage factory with me, do you still want that hot dog?


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 12/25/2006 03:28:39
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Chippewa
SFN Regular

USA
1496 Posts

Posted - 12/19/2006 :  11:58:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Chippewa's Homepage Send Chippewa a Private Message
If I recall correctly, Alexander Graham Bell designed and tested a system to reproduce sound over a distance by means of light. (I think in the 1890s.) It worked when tested but never caught on.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 12/19/2006 :  13:28:19   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Yup, the Photophone, in 1878.




Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 12/20/2006 00:27:29
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Chippewa
SFN Regular

USA
1496 Posts

Posted - 12/20/2006 :  03:04:44   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Chippewa's Homepage Send Chippewa a Private Message
Here's an 1880 illustration of the device:


And here's a photo of the actual prototype:


* Found these by putting "Photophone" into Google - Images. I also have an old book in French of weird turn of the 19th to 20th Century inventions. I'll have to go and find it soon.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 12/20/2006 :  03:11:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Thanks for the pix! It's a cool idea, really. Except it depends upon having direct sunlight.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 12/20/2006 03:12:41
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2006 :  16:52:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Those who may find the Jack the Ripper mystery interesting, should consider looking at "Casebook: Jack the Ripper," a nicely organized site that provided much of the source for my article. It's a beautifully laid-out site, rich in details of the times.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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