Tag Archives: technology

L is for Lawgiver, Lawmaster

However you dress it up, Judge Dredd is a boys’ comic and one thing boys like is their toys. As someone who discovered the comic relatively late via the roleplaying game, the technology was one of its main appeals. Chief among these gadgets was Dredd’s gun, the Lawgiver, and Dredd’s motorcycle, the Lawmaster.

It wasn’t enough for Dredd to simply have a gun. The particular appeal of the Lawgiver was that it fired six different types of bullet (side note: although the number of types of ammunition has always remained the same at six, over the years the exact type of bullet has changed. The ‘grenade’ type never really took off, being a kind of rubbish version of the much more exciting high explosive. Heat seekers were originally portrayed as a sort of optional extra Dredd would stick on the end of his gun – but that was such an impractical idea that the artists ignored it). What’s more, each judge’s Lawgiver was configured so that only someone with their palmprint could fire it – if anyone else tried, the gun would blow up. The fact that judges consistently wore thick gloves and thus had no palmprint was never really satisfactorily explained.

Dredd’s bike was not quite as tricked out, but arguably more distinctive in look, with it’s foot-wide tires. Armed with bike cannon and, at least originally, a front mounted laser, the bikes all had inbuilt computers and could drive themselves. They even seemed to have a sarcastic sense of humour.

The gun and bike were touch touching the surface. Judges were also equipped with handheld lie detectors (something which John Wagner has gone on to say he regretted giving them as from a plot perspective, having judges able to tell who was lying was hopeless), daysticks (essentially baseball bats that judges would use for crowd control), stumm gas grenades (which only occasionally killed people) and helmet mounted respirators. Eventually they would go onto acquire manta patrol tanks, flying fortresses armed with riot foam (a substance that instantly hardened on contact, immobilising the target) used to quell riots.

The technology has changed little over the years. In 1999 the design of the Lawgiver was changed to make the gun somewhat more brutalist (the Mk I Lawgiver is a rather elegant looking gun). This was made a part of the plot in the run up to the Doomsday storyline as it emerged that crime boss Nero Narcos had secretly taken control of the factory and modified the guns to blow up in the users’ hand. The days of weekly technoporn have abated as the series has matured and certainly the pantwettingly exciting parade of new kit, as typified in stories such as the Cursed Earth, Block Mania and the Apocalypse War, are a thing of the past. But barely a week goes by without the gun and the bike making an appearance.

L is also for…

Logan

The second most hapless judge ever to appear in 2000AD, Logan has for several years effectively served as Dredd’s personal assistant. Injured in the Total War storyline, he went on to get severely injured in Origins, losing a hand. Due to the miracles of modern science, Logan was able to grow a new hand, only to lose it once again to the Dark Judge Mortis in the closing chapters of the Day of Chaos storyline. It remains to be seen what horrific injuries Logan will suffer in future storylines.

Logan was by all accounts named after W. R. Logan, the pseudonym of Dredd fan Stewart Perkins who founded the really rather excellent Class of ’79 fanzine.

Lopez

As mentioned under Judge Hershey‘s entry, Judge Lopez appeared in the Judge Child saga as a crewmember of the spaceship Justice One. The most hapless judge ever to appear in the series, Lopez was persecuted from the get-go by Dredd who disapproved of his moustache. Eventually, Dredd orders Lopez to take the Oracle Spice, a hallucinogenic drug which is purported to be able to grant the user the gift of prophecy. Lopez’s prophecies prove decisive in finding the Judge Child, but he dies as a result of his exposure to the drug.

This subplot is one of the most perplexing controversies of the Dredd series. Essentially the controversy boils down to this: was Dredd being a dick? The case for the prosecution goes that Dredd merely took a dislike to Lopez and ultimately caused him to effectively kill himself needlessly in the line of duty. The case for the defence is that Lopez was the most expendable member of the ship’s crew and thus the only logical choice to take the drug.

Presumably, Lopez’s droopy, porno moustache was John Wagner having a joke at Carlos Ezquerra‘s expense who has long sported something similar. It is also entirely likely that this one story was quite decisive in persuading a whole generation of boys that moustaches were not cool, thus leading to its decline in popularities in the late 80s onwards.

Would the “cop in my pocket” accept a bribe from News International?

Morgan Freeman in The Dark KnightThis week’s New Scientist features an article entitled Smartphone surveillance: The cop in your pocket (kerching). In it, a rather breathless Nic Fleming waxes lyrically about how, thanks to our smartphones, “we are all set to gain unprecedented crime-fighting abilities.”

Sadly, however, it is not through being able to download mad martial arts skillz via our phones Matrix-style but by using the sensors on our phones to create a near-universal level of surveillance. The residents of Boston, for example, will soon be using their phones to record potholes in the road (thus rendering the Liberal Democrats entirely obsolete). Soon we’ll be able to use our phones to spot GPS jamming and the cameras in the front of our cars to track down stolen cars. If only manufacturers would include gas detectors in our phones, soon we’ll be able to get early warning of sarin gas attacks without having to do a thing.

The civil liberty implications of all this are waved away. We are reassured that software will be developed to guarantee privacy of the individual, with a particular system called “AnonySense” being cited, although it is not at all clear how all the examples illustrated in the article could be used anonymously, nor are the rights of the spied upon (as opposed to the spy) even considered.

But it is not Big Brother that ought to concern us here. What I don’t understand is how this article can be published, weeks after the hacking scandal erupted, without even considering the scope for massive abuse.

Imagine making such universal surveillance just a bung away from use by the tabloid newspapers. How could you even go into hiding from them if every single camera mounted on every single car in the country was just a mouse-click away from a corrupt police officer? This isn’t even theoretical now; we now know that police officers are perfectly willing to offer these services to journalists, safe in the knowledge that both their superiors and the journalists’ will be quite happy to look the other way and claim they didn’t know it was going on. We can delude ourselves that it won’t happen again, but you can bet that it will just as soon as the dust settles sufficiently enough for people to start thinking they can get away with it.

So while it is terribly exciting to think of our phones working like the ones at the end of the film The Dark Knight, the real question is what we can do to stop it from happening, not how it might save us from future attacks by Aum Shinrikyo.

Why don’t I know more women in technology? [Ada Lovelace Day]

A few months ago I signed the Ada Lovelace pledge. Then, I realised I couldn’t think of anyone to write about.

10 weeks later, and with an hour before the end of the day, and I’m still struggling. As a Lib Dem of course, I might observe that many of the party’s e-innovators – Mary Reid, Lynne Featherstone, Jo Swinson (who despite an antipathy towards blogging has been an early adopter of everything from podcasts through to twitter – not to mention www.scraptuitionfees.com Back In The Day), have been women. But I’m not really interested in writing a piece of party propaganda.

To be fair on myself, I struggle to think of anyone “in technology” – male or female. I could name you lots of people “in social media” but I’m not entirely sure that’s quite the same thing.

Interestingly though, when I was a child I DID know lots of women in technology. My dad ran an apprentice school for the Ministry of Defence and much of my early years were spent in the Aquila Civil Service Sports and Social Club, where my parents helped run the bar and film society. I was surrounded by women in technology – both staff and apprentices. My dad would always say that one of the best feeder schools for him was the nearby girls school, Bullers Wood (years later I would go onto make friends with and have my heart broken by lots of Bullers girls – so much more interesting than the sappy Newstead girls).

When Thatcher decided to shut these apprentice schools down and make polytechnics into “universities” I can’t help but wonder if we lost something in the process. By making engineering an academic subject, have the less academic girls had their options limited to hairdressing and shop work? And can science and engineering compete with languages and English literature for the academically-minded girls? Apprenticeships used to exist as a means of escape for a lot of young people (male and female) who couldn’t bear the idea of spending another day in school. Now everything seems either school- or college-like. As such we are now talking about bringing back proper apprenticeships (as opposed to “new” apprenticeships). But unless we are prepared to pay for actual, proper apprentice schools (as opposed to schemes running out of FE colleges), will it actually cater for the evident gap in the market?

I’m totally rambling on a subject I am distinctly inexpert on. But I do wonder if, at a time when we are likely to see massive unemployment rear its ugly head once more, the time for such schools may have come again.

Finally, a brief word to the WISE – that’s Women In Science, Engineering (and Construction). WISE is a campaign aimed at promoting science and engineering to girls of school age. I am particularly endebted to them because I often use a freebie canvass bag from one of their conferences for hauling my boardgames across town. Check them out!

F***in’ Ada!

(with apologies for the title – in my defence I was chanelling the spirit of Ian Dury at the time)

I enthusiastically signed up to Suw Charman-Anderson‘s Ada Lovelace Day pledge and now I have a dilemma: who do I blog about?

I’m wracking my brains to think of someone and am struggling. This in turn presents me with a second dilemma: do I suffer in silence or admit to my failure and ask for help?

I’ve opted to go for the latter. Can anyone help me?

Parking in London

Oyster card readerFollowing on from a conversation I had with a friend the other day, I thought I’d mention this idea here.

I’m sure it has been proposed before, but why aren’t London parking meters made a part of the Oyster network? The advantages would appear to be legion:

1. Per minute billing would encourage people to vacate the space as quickly a possible.

2. It could be easily integrated with residential parking passes (just as Oyster is already used for complementary travel).

3. Traffic wardens would have less of an incentive to hover around parking meters waiting to pounce on anyone who outstayed their welcome.

4. Instead of issuing fines, you could just have an automatic billing system whereby the first hour cost X per minute while after that it went up to 10X per minute – people couldn’t use the network until they’d cleared any backlog on their card.

5. It would encourage motorists to acquire Oyster cards – and thus make greater use of public transport.

There are obviously civil liberty concerns about the being able to use the system to track people’s movements, but those concerns apply to the Oyster system anyway. They are solvable, by scrapping the RIPA for example. Either way, London is the most CCTV riddled city in the country.

It seems to me it would offer tangible benefits to the motorist, while encouraging efficient use of parking space at the same time. What are the disadvantages?