Rebuilding, Testing and Documenting Self-Made Wi-Fi Antennas

Pretty Fly For A Wi-Fi revisits the histories, origins and uses of self-made Wi-Fi antennas. Many of these designs were once shared through home pages that no longer exist and are now only partially accessible through the Internet Archive. It is a combination of pots and pans, dishes and cans through which people from around the world give shape to their collective dream of making an alternative internet.

This project tries to revive these designs by rebuilding, testing and documenting them. The antennas serve as an interesting point of departure to think about the internet’s infrastructure and how day-to-day users could potentially influence its shape and use.

Most of the antennas result out of the idea of wireless community networks, an idea which emerged shortly after the commercial introduction of Wi-Fi equipment in the early 2000s. These grassroots initiatives aim to build alternative network infrastructures, often on a peer-to-peer basis and without the need for costly wires. Such network infrastructures can be found on rooftops, balconies and windowsills and can cover large distances by broadcasting from building to building.

They are built for a variety of reasons, sometimes to provide broadband connections in areas where there are none, to make censorship free alternatives to the internet or to share the costs of a single internet connection.

More: Roel Roscam Abbing’s website (pictures) & Lídia Pereira’s booklet (drawings, PDF).

Previously: How to Build a Low-tech Internet.

Silbo Gomero: The Dying Language of Whistling

The language of whistles known as Silbo Gomero – or just el silbo (‘the whistle’) – was once heard widely throughout La Gomera, one of the smallest of the seven main Canary Islands off the Atlantic Coast of Africa. Now it is used only by a few remaining shepherds on the steep hills of La Gomera’s countryside.

A singular form of communication used with both people and animals, in 2009 Silbo Gomero was named a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Angello Faccini’s arrestingly photographed film finds one of Silbo Gomero’s last remaining practitioners reflecting on his fading way of life and its ephemeral language. Picture: Unesco.

The Merits of Obsolete Technology

old mobile phone“Sales of books are eclipsing digital alternatives, while vinyl records, Polaroid cameras and even simple mobile phones are enjoying a resurgence… The appeal is only partly faddishness. For the old phones actually do what phones used to do, which is to make and receive phone calls, without depositing your whole life in cyberspace where it can be stolen and used to embarrass you before the entire world. According to the New York Times, one of the main attractions of the retro-phone for celebrities is that it helps keep their secrets safe. And, as rocker Iggy Pop says, “You can drop it and it doesn’t break.”

“Even typewriters are bouncing back. Spooked by the WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden affairs, intelligence agencies and political groups are reportedly returning to Cold War technology to keep their secrets safe. The glamour is back, too. Movie star Tom Hanks recently published a “love letter” to the typewriter, declaring: “The tactile pleasure of typing is incomparable… there is a sheer physical pleasure to typing.” Dr Mike Evans, a theoretical physicist at York University, believes that the appeal of high-technology is being undone by its constant quest for what he calls “sterile perfection”…”

Read more: Why low-tech living is back.

Modular Smartphones

Phonebloks is a modular smartphone that’s designed to outlast the throwaway phones of today. Previously: How to make everything ourselves: open modular hardware.

Carrier Pigeons in Syria

Cut off by a relentless barrage of government shelling, activists in the besieged Syrian city of Homs have reverted to the age-old practice of using carrier pigeons to communicate with each other. More.

Optical telegraph in the Netherlands

optical telegraph in the netherlands

The communications device was located on the beach of Scheveningen in the 1700s. More on the optical telegraph: Email in the 18th century. Source: geschiedenis van de techniek in Nederland.