Swift by Apple

Last week Apple launched a new programming language - Swift. It's their successor to Objective-C and gives you a brand new way to program apps for OS X and iOS. It's particularly interesting to me as over the last 6 months or so I've been learning Objective-C and putting together my first iOS apps. I've found learning Objective-C hard. I'm a PHP and HTML/CSS programmer by trade with a smattering of Javascript/JQuery knowledge, and Objective-C is very different to the code I know. It looks wierd and very verbose and has had a very steep learning curve.

I'm not an expert in programming languages, I've always just learnt what I've needed to in order to get things done, but Swift looks and feels much more familiar, it's easier to read and make sense of, so I'm already sold.

I think I'll continue developing my first iOS app in Objective-C as it's almost complete but subsequent projects I'll try to start from the ground up in Swift.

I'm glad though that I've spent the last 6 months starting to get to grips with Objective-C without any knowledge of Swift as the crazy Objective-C syntax no longer scares me quite so much and half the battle is learning all the verbose Cocoa Touch method calls anyway which all kind of translate across to swift.

I'm enjoying watching the developer commentary so far on Swift which seems very positive on the whole. In the Keynote it looked as if most people in the audience were surprised and some people looked genuinely confused (maybe they were just worried at that point about their livelihoods!).

So, I'm looking forward to hearing what people make of it and watching all the WWDC video sessions over the next few weeks as we all learn a new language...

Tape Recording and Hi-Fi

“Tape Recording and Hi-Fi” by Frederick Oughton (1964)


I picked up this little book at a car boot sale about twenty years ago. It’s part of the Collins “Nutshell” range - a series of “pocket guides” on a very eclectic range of subjects, which were published in the 1960s.

I was surprised, when I recently picked it up again, to find a lovely embossed hard cover beneath the rather tatty dust cover. You can find quite a few of these nice embossed designs from the range if you search on Amazon or similar.

I studied Fine Art at college, and I used to make a lot of my work using sound. I would mess around with whatever types of recording equipment I could get my hands on, and for a while I had a few reel-to-reel tape decks to use.

This book mainly deals with those reel-to-reel tape recorders from back when they became popular (in a home hobbyist kind of way), and it also looks at building a complete “hi-fi” around your tape recorder for playing back your own or pre-recorded tapes, or hooking up a tuner so you can record radio programmes. It’s amazing to think how the technology has changed since then, and the pocket digital recording power that I now have just using my iPod touch. Or how I can almost listen to whatever radio & tv programmes I like, whenever I like, using apps like iPlayer.

In parts the language of the book is quite extraordinary, Mr Oughton was most definitely “old school”, here’s an excerpt from the preface:

The Slave under the Bed

Each year several thousand tape recorders are bought for prices ranging from ten to seventy guineas. Many of them barely record the sound of family chatter or baby’s first words before being put under the bed and forgotten. If you bought a slave in the market-place you would not tell him to wash the dishes and then order him to hide himself away. You would make full use of him all the time. But this is what people do with tape recorders.

What a bizarre and inappropriate analogy even for 1964. I’m truly amazed that a book from such a large publisher would contain that kind of wording. It really does show you how times have changed.

But if you can get past the odd language and non-"PC" analogies, it is still quite a useful book that explains the basic principles of recording, magnetic tape, vinyl, loudspeakers, amplifiers, and microphones.

I’d like to have a look at some of the other titles in the range, to get a 1960s-eye view of other subjects. I imagine “Your Refrigerator”, “Week-end Jobs”, and “Etiquette” would make pretty interesting reading...

Watch Box


This small cardboard watch box (roughly 10cm x 4cm x 2cm) belonged to my Mum. It has an old Timex watch in it, but I don’t think that is the “Aviation Sports Watch” described on the front. It seems that the box used to be a stronger pink colour, as on the inside of the lid, the paper is less faded, and still quite a bright pink colour.

I couldn’t find any information about an “Aviation” or “Aviation Sports” brand, or any similar old watch boxes online. Sometimes the internet still doesn’t shed much light upon things.

I just like the retro styling. “Unbreakable Glasses” - it’s quite a claim! Strange that it was pink with the obvious adventure hero “Boy’s Own” feel. I’m not sure when it’s from, probably some time in the ‘50s.

Sweets & Pencils

This tin belonged to Mrs H's Grandad, Norman. It contained his collection of watercolour pencils. Norman was a miner in the Castleford area for much of his life until he was laid off after an accident. He was a very creative man, and as well as drawing, he also painted large murals of pastoral and fantasy scenes, to decorate the walls of his house, such as galloping horses in the lounge.

It is a commemorative tin for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and originally contained sweets (it doesn’t say what type of sweets, but I like to think it was toffees!) as manufactured by M.A. Craven & Son Ltd at the “French Almond Works” (also known as the Ebor Confectionary Works) in York.

The tin has an artist’s impression of the refurbished Melbourne Cricket Ground on the front which was the main stadium for the 1956 Summer Olympics and on the back is another drawing of Melbourne depicting all the important Olympic sites. The stadium has a long history and is still going strong as one of the best known cricket venues in the world. The copy on the side of the tin reads:

“The Main Stadium for the 1956 Olympic Games, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, is one of the best known arenas in the British Commonwealth. It has been the scene of many great Test cricket struggles and other International sporting fixtures. The present reconstruction work on the stands will increase spectator accommodation from 85,000 to 104,000 for the Games, and to 120,000 for the subsequent sporting events.

The Stadium as it will look for the Games. This artist’s impression shows the new triple-deck steel and concrete stand in the foreground. The last time this Stadium was used was on the occasion of the Royal visit in 1954. At that time an impressive children’s display was given for the Royal guests.”

York has a long heritage of confectionary firms now celebrated at the York's Chocolate Story exhibition including the very well known Rowntree’s (now owned by Nestle) and Terry’s (now owned by Kraft). Craven’s which traded until the late ‘60s was also a very well known manufacturer of sugared almonds, pastilles, gums, mints, boiled sweets, toffees and nougat.

Joseph Hick started his confectionary business in York in 1822. Mary Ann was the youngest of Joseph’s three children. In 1951 Mary married master confectioner Thomas Craven and when Mary’s father died in 1860 they continued to run the family business. Sadly, Thomas also died two years later in 1862 and against the odds the 33 year old mother of three carried on the family tradition in an era when women were seldom involved in business. Mary Ann Craven went on to run the business successfully for over 40 years until her death in 1902.

When the Ebor Confectionery Works were finally demolished in the late ’70s, the remains of a Viking house were discovered underneath, its wooden fabric astonishingly well-preserved. Excavations on the site over the next few years yielded over 40,000 Viking artefacts which were brought together in the Jorvik Viking Centre, a major York attraction. The Coppergate Shopping Centre now occupies the site.

The Craven name is now apparently owned by a new sweet company called Tangerine who have bought up a number of “old-fashioned” brands including Barratt and Butterkist popcorn but they don’t seem to be marketing any sweets under the Craven name at the moment.

The tin doesn’t have any watercolour pencils in it any more as they have all been “absorbed” by the children’s pencil box, but it is a nice tin, and I expect we will find another use for it soon.