Selected excerpts from a Globe newspaper published in Toronto on February 10, 1864

A friend of a friend found an old newspaper inside the wall of a house he was renovating — not an uncommon thing to find, since many people used them for insulation. But this one is really old: it’s a copy of The Globe (a newspaper published in Toronto) from February, 1864. That’s three years before Canada even officially became a country. It was very stiff and damaged by what appeared to be water, but I was still able to make out most of the text on the front page at least.

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One interesting thing is that there are ads all over the front page — for things like steamship travel, houses for rent, and new technology like the steam engine and “self-adjusting spring skates,” whatever those are. One steamship company was offering passage from New York to London: a first-class cabin cost $80, a second-class cabin was $50 and steerage was just $30.

Interestingly enough, most of the items on the front page aren’t what we would consider news stories but are letters from abroad, written in a personal style and frequently with little news at all — one reprinted from the London Telegraph is probably over 1,000 words and mentions that Montreal has a population of more than 75,000 and is therefore “the most populous city in British North America.” It also mentions (no doubt playing to the home-town crowd) that “the assertion that the British provinces are anxious to join the Union is baseless and absurd.”

There’s also a notice to the public of “an imposter, wearing the dress of a Roman Catholic priest… he is a drunken vagabond — an Irishman.” And another notice mentions the wonderful new technology of “coal oil” lanterns, describing how people were endangering their eyesight by reading or darning by the light of the fire or a shared candle, and how with this new technology, “each house can have for the same expense a light exceeding half a dozen candles.”

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When it comes to ads, in addition to the steamship advertisements, there are ads for spectacles, boots and shoes, live hogs and furniture — but the largest ad stretches the length of the page vertically and is for “Dr. Hoofland’s German Bitters,” which the ad says is “not a rum drink but a highly concentrated vegetable extract” that will “effectively and most certainly cure all diseases rising from a disordered liver, stomach or kidneys.” It then lists the symptoms of these diseases as:

“Constipation, Inward Piles, Fulness or Blood to the Head, Disgust for Food, Sour Eructations, Sinking or Fluttering at the Pit of the Stomach, Swimming of the Head, Hurried and Difficult Breathing, Fluttering at the Heart, Dots or Webs before the Sight, Deficiency of Perspiration, Sudden Flushe of Heat and Constant Imaginings of Evil”

The ad also goes on at some length about how other bitters are “compounded of cheap whiskey or common rum,” and that this class of bitters “has caused and will continue to cause hundreds to die the death of the Drunkard.” And it recommends that Dr. Hoofland’s be used specifically for “delicate children… suffering from marasmus, wasting away, with scarcely any flesh on their bones.” One bottle, the ad says, and “they will be cured in a very short time.”

There’s also a large ad about an estate auction to be held at a law office on King Street “in pursuance of a Decree by the Court of Chancery of Upper Canada, at twelve of the clock noon.” The lots to be sold include one at the corner of Queen Street and William Street with “a Blacksmith’s Shop and a small frame Dwelling House” which are being leased for “24 pounds per annum.”

Crowdsourcing: Top iPhone apps

I got an iPhone recently (no, not one of the fancy new ones) and so I asked people on Twitter and at work to tell me their absolute must-have favourite apps (I got an iPhone in part because the paper I work for has its own shiny new iPhone app, which was kind of my idea). So I thought I would pull together a list of the most suggested apps:

Social Media: Tweetie, Twitterfon, Tumblr, Facebook, Reportage

Food: Urbanspoon, Epicurious, TimmyMe (Canadian)

Radio: NPR Public Radio Tuner, Wunderradio, Last.fm

Tools: Google Earth, WeatherEye, Shazam. Red Rocket (Canadian)

Saving: Evernote, Instapaper

Reading: Stanza, Shortcovers, Kindle

RSS: NetNewsWire, Byline

Productivity: eWallet, Things, Simplify, iPassword

Pictures: QuadCamera, CameraBag, DarkSlide

Games: FlightControl, Labyrinth, Super Monkey Ball, Tetris, Scrabble, Wolfenstein, Tap Tap Revenge

Feel free to leave your favourites or any other thoughts in a comment.

Capucine, the tiny French storyteller

I guess I am getting soft in my old age, but as soon as I saw the video of Capucine — a young French girl who tells a magical story filled with monkeys and tigers and Winnie the Pooh and a hippopotamus that is allergic to magic — I fell in love with her, as did hundreds of thousands of other people who saw the Vimeo video. I showed it to my wife and three daughters, who also loved it. So we all eagerly read a story in the National Post this morning about how Capucines’s mother is using her daughter’s Internet fame to raise money for a charity that builds libraries in developing countries. So watch the video, and read the story — and then go buy a T-shirt. I just bought one for each of my daughters, and am seriously thinking about buying one for myself.

Get your own CNN Magic Wall touch TV

You tell I’m a gadget geek at heart, because I know I have no real use for this device, and yet I still want one: the iTable can apparently give you a Microsoft Surface-style, CNN Magic Wall-ish multi-touch television experience for as little as $2,400. As CrunchGear describes it, that will give you an overlay for a 32-inch LCD TV. For a little more — as much as $10,000 for the ultra-sophisticated version — you get a giant table-style TV with touch sensors built in and a computer that runs Windows XP.

More than a decade ago now, I remember seeing an IBM research labs demo in which they had a desk that was a touch surface (although single-touch only), where you could drag your documents around and pop up windows with photos in them or even videos. I thought it was a fantastic idea then, and I still do now. And having used the iPhone, the multi-touch interface just makes such a huge difference when working with photos or things like maps. Google Earth on a giant multi-touch table would be incredible.

Geek alert: CNN builds the Holodeck

Apart from the historic nature of the U.S. election (which I will let others discuss), the coverage on CNN set new records as far as the coolness factor goes. Not only did the channel have the Magic Wall — which until recently was the height of geek-dom, with its multi-touch input and other features — but then the network whipped out a couple of holograms just to up the stakes a little. Like Mike Arrington at TechCrunch, even though part of me realized they could have done exactly the same thing with a remote camera, a much larger part of me was thinking: “Those holograms are cool.” Plenty of other people seemed to disagree, however, calling the hologram “creepy.” I was less enamored of the virtual Capitol building, which looked kind of cheesy, but the Will.I.Am interview (which is embedded here) was just extremely cool. Yes, I agree that the Jessica Yellin interview had more than a touch of Princess Leia about it, but it was still damn cool. That is all.

Update:

According to a professor of theoretical physics and an expert in holography, what CNN used were not really holograms, since they didn’t project a 3-dimensional image into the studio — they projected it into the camera feed, which is what viewers saw, while the actual hosts were talking to empty space. Okay, not quite as cool. More here.