In 1901, English engineer Hubert Cecil Booth invented a motorised vacuum cleaner, forever freeing women from the drudgery of beating rugs. But this revolutionary invention was more leaf-blower than vacuum. Booth wanted to create a suction-based cleaner. Booth even (allegedly) almost choked to death while testing the principle of suction-based cleaning by putting a hankie over his mouth (as a filter) and sucking dust from an armchair. Booth was an engineer who built bridges, designed Ferris wheels, and invented engines for Royal Navy battleships - and he started the British Vacuum Cleaner Company, inventing the "Puffing Billy", a horse-drawn, piston-pumped, petrol-powered, five-horsepower-pushing behemoth. Booth and his crew of white-liveried vacuum technicians toured the wealthier neighbourhoods. Puffing Billy couldn't fit indoors, so Booth's men would pull its long hoses through the window. It soon became a trendy service. And fashionable rich ladies hosted "vacuum tea parties", serving tiny sandwiches and Earl Grey, with Puffing Billy noisily and angrily snuffling about their feet like a truffle hog. All the while, crowds outside marvelled as a typhoon of dirt and skin cells swirled inside a glass chamber for all to see. (Via cracked.com)
Gentle trolling at work
Technology is a pedant
"Auckland Council has assumed a new omnipotence giving itself the power to re-name and reject anyone with a 'special' character in their last name for trying to go online for service or pay a bill," writes Susan Robinson-Derus. "I am one of those special characters (a hyphen) and cannot register into myAuckland, for example, or anything else by decree of this utterly ridiculous website. Since when did this arcane bunch decide to ignore legal names and tell a user what they can use for a name to get with their programme? Air New Zealand and other airline ticketing systems are just as insulting, ignoring naming conventions and spellings that do not fit their formats. So in an age where low or no contact service is the norm, a simple registration turns into a fight for your rights to be able to be called by your legal name."
Tales of woe, brought to you by NZ Post
"I'm not surprised your recent correspondent had to wait for a long time for mail to be delivered," writes Warner Haldane. "Yesterday I received a letter in Whakatane clearly addressed to Waihi ... and a couple of months ago an important posting of AGM material took three weeks to get from Auckland to Dunedin, at least a week later than the deadline for receipt. They would have done better 100 years ago." Another reader was delighted to receive her car registration reminder a month after it was due and two days after she'd been stung $200 for not having it.