Monthly Archives: December 2007

The Other Atomic Avenue

Turns out there’s a real “Atomic Ave” in Ontario, Canada. There’s apparently a couple of auto places and a gallery, but no comic stores, unfortunately…

Satellite image from Google

2000 A.D. Comic Boxes, Anyone?

I’ve been a fan and collector of the British 2000 A.D. magazine since Eagle comics started running Judge Dredd reprints from it in the early 1980s. For Americans, this series is a real oddity: a weekly anthology that’s been running continuously since the late 1970s, and has to date racked up something like 1500 issues and counting. It’s been the launching ground of everything from Judge Dredd (and the whole Dredd universe) to Strontium Dog, Zenith, The A.B.C. Warriors, Rogue Trooper, and countless others. Issues of the series are still cheap on the back issue market, particularly over in Great Britain, and I managed to score large runs of it several times over the years from stateside collectors.

Unfortunately, storing large numbers of these comics is a real pain due to their incredibly odd (by American standards) paper size. The series has changed dimensions over the years, and the earlier ones are both wider and taller than U.S. magazine sizes (although far shorter than Treasury size). So far as I can tell, there’s no stock storage box of suitable dimensions available from any U.S. box maker, and only one manufacturer of 2000 A.D. boxes (Collectorline, over in Britain). Unfortunately, shipping big hunks of oversized cardboard from Great Britain to California is costly in the extreme—we’d likely have to fork out $20–30/box in shipping charges alone (and we need about 30 of them!)

Does anyone out there know of a U.S. supplier for 2000 A.D. boxes? (such a box would also fit comics like Deadline, Toxic! and Eagle).

If not, there’s always the alternative of designing a custom box ourselves. This would involve having our box maker create a custom die: a startup expense that runs several hundred dollars at least—although we could conceivably make it less of a hit if other folks were also in need of such boxes.

Any ideas or suggestions? If not, does anyone else have interest in 2000 A.D. boxes if we were forced to enter the box manufacturing business ourselves?

Capitalism Rocks!

Man, but I love capitalism! Prior to Thanksgiving, there was absolutely no need for 6-3/4″ circular rubber mufflers, or steel reinforcing plates in the form of a shoe, but thanks to a popular new music game, and the miracle of capitalism, we now have both.

Right around Thanksgiving, Rock Band shipped, and thousands upon thousands of people started playing with it. Immediately, they discovered things about the included instruments that needed fixing or improvement. A big problem with the drum pads were that they were so “clacky” when you hit them that unless you played with the game volume cranked, it sounds like you were tapping on the tables of a high school cafeteria while someone played a boombox version of the song at the other end of the room. Immediately, the message boards were full of ideas for a solution, including everything from Plasti-dipping the drumsticks to covering the pads with felt to cutting up mousepads and pasting them to the pads to muffle the noise. Within days, a brilliant composite solution was posted, complete with pictures. I can already attest that this has caused a run on black self-adhesive foam at the local craft stores (and probably nationwide). Someone even came up with a commercial version and started selling them on eBay, complete with swanky product logo (and, unfortunately, the traditional extra markup of overcharged shipping!)

A couple of Rock Band fans who happen to work in a machine shop also managed to solve another problem with the game: the relatively fragile kick drum pedal. Some of the more lead-footed players of the game were actually splitting their pedals in half, so the machine-savvy duo started cutting up diamond-plate steel (the sort of non-slip material used on utility trucks’ tailgates) using a jig in the shape of the original pedal. A bit of drilling, grinding, and six self-tapping screws later, they’d created a nigh-indestructible after-market pedal for your Rock Band drums.

Capitalism: the ability to solve somebody’s problem and make a few bucks in the process—solves problems like this all the time. What’s rare is seeing how really quickly it works its magic. It really was about two weeks from “Augh! Why does nobody make a product which solves this?!” to “Here’s the answer: what color would you like it in?”

I just wonder how long will it be before someone with the necessary plastic-tooling and electronics manufacturing facilities realizes what a huge profit is waiting if they can solve the “Can’t find an extra PS3 Rock Band guitar controller to save your life” problem?

Robotic, Self-Tuning Guitar

Robot Guitar

Now this is cool: Gibson just announced a “robot guitar” with a built-in auto-tuning system. Servos in the string winders are coupled with pitch detection to let the system automatically put itself in tune. You can choose both standard and custom tunings, letting you switch between standard and, for instance, Drop D tuning in a couple of seconds with the touch of a button:


(Music Trivia: ever wonder why Big Rock Musicians lug about 30 guitars onstage with them? It’s not just the guitarist’s gigantic ego…OK, most of the time, it’s not just their gigantic ego. Sound and style are part of it, but the need to quickly switch between different tunings depending on the song is at least as much, if not more, of a driving factor. It’s just no fun waiting for the guitarist to retune six strings to another set of notes while trying in vain to keep up stage banter, so they just bring extra guitars, pretuned to the various song requirements)

The tuning system was created by German engineer Chris Adams and his company, Tronical GmbH. It’s available both as an after-market add-on to many existing guitars under the name PowerTune, and as part of the limited edition Gibson pictured above.

For more details of this cool (but still a bit pricey) technology, check out the Gibson site at