Steven Pruitt, Wikipedia's Unofficial King, Has Shaped a Third of the Site's Articles

iStock.com/tomch
iStock.com/tomch

For every Wikipedia article you've read about pop stars, historical figures, Star Trek races, or defunct fast food chains, there's been a writer behind it. And there's an outsize likelihood that writer is Steven Pruitt. The Virginia resident has made 3 million edits and authored 35,000 articles on the website over the past 13 years, meaning that he has helped shape up to a third of all English-language content on Wikipedia, CBS News reports.

Pruitt made the news back in 2017 when TIME magazine named him one of the 25 most influential people on the internet. Prior to that, he had been working for the site for more than a decade, writing under the username Ser Amantio Di Nicolao, an homage to his favorite opera character (from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi).

He wrote his first article while studying art history at William & Mary college, and his passion for history drives many of his contributions. His first Wikipedia subject was Peter Francisco, a sergeant-at-arms during the Revolutionary War (who also happens to be Pruitt’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather).

Today, Pruitt spends at least three hours a day researching, writing, and editing for Wikipedia, but he doesn't receive any compensation for his work. The time he devotes to the website on evenings and weekends is strictly on a volunteer basis. His day job is working for the records and information governance department at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C.—a gig he believes he landed thanks in part to his experience with Wikipedia.

Pruitt is notable not just for the sheer number of articles and edits he has contributed, but for what he chooses to highlight. After learning that women were the subjects of just 15 percent of biographical articles on the site, he worked to fix that imbalance by writing hundreds of articles about influential women. That number has risen to 17.6 percent in just the past couple of years.

Learn more about Pruitt and his Wikipedia habit in the video from CBS below.

[h/t CBS News]

The Reason Why Your Car’s Turn Signal Makes a Clicking Sound

Zmaj88, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Zmaj88, iStock / Getty Images Plus

The clicking of a turn signal ranks among the least-annoying sounds a car can make. Along with the flashing bulb behind the arrow in your car's dashboard, the gentle, rhythmic tick tick tick-ing tones are a sign that your blinker is working properly when you switch it on. Even as technology has progressed, this feature has remained a constant throughout generations of vehicles—or at least that's how it appears to drivers. According to Jalopnik, there's one thing that has changed, though: the actual source of that familiar sound.

The flashing turn signals began appearing in automobiles in the late 1930s when Buick made them standard in some models. Traditionally, the clicking sound is made via heat. Drivers would switch on their blinker, and the electricity would heat up a bimetallic spring in the car, causing it to bend until it made contact with a small strip of metal. When these two components connected, a current would pass through them and power the electric turn signal lights. The bimetallic spring quickly cooled down and returned to its original form, turning off the light, before the whole process started again to create a new flash. As the spring bent back and forth, it created a clicking sound.

The next evolution of turn signals used a similar trick, but instead of moving a spring due to heat, it sent the electronic pulse to an electromagnet via a chip. When activated, the electromagnet pulled up a metal armature and disconnected the current powering the light (or the opposite, depending on the relay setup). Without the pulse from the chip, the electromagnet turned off and the armature returned to old position and bridged the circuit providing power to the bulbs. As was the case with the thermal spring, the relay clicked every time it moved.

Up until recently, this was how most car turn signals functioned, but things have changed as cars have become more computerized. Many car manufactured today rely on computer commands to activate their turn signals, skipping processes that once produced the distinctive clicks. But the clicking sounds are something people grew up with, and drivers might be unsettled if they heard nothing after activating their blinkers. That's why the mechanical sound still exists in the computer era—even though in many modern cars, it's actually just being broadcast through the vehicle's audio system.

For a visual of how electronic flasher signal systems work in cars, check out the video below.

[h/t Jalopnik]

Sony Is Celebrating the Walkman’s 40th Birthday With a Retrospective Exhibition in Tokyo

Joost J. Bakker, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Joost J. Bakker, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Before the dawn of CD players, mp3 players, and iTunes, cassette tape players dominated the music scene. The Walkman was the most prolific among them, and as designboom reports, Sony is hosting a retrospective to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the gadget's debut.

The Walkman first appeared in stores in Japan on July 1, 1979—just a few months after Sony cofounder Masaru Ibuka (who had already retired at that point) asked Sony executives to create a lightweight cassette player that would allow him to listen to music on long flights. The product was an instant hit, helping make cassette tapes more popular than vinyl and introducing many consumers to portable, personal devices for the first time.

Four decades later, the Walkman is no longer the hottest music technology on the market, but its impact on the industry is undeniable. Sony's new exhibit, titled "#009 WALKMAN IN THE PARK 40 Years Since the Day the Music Walked," explores that legacy. At Ginza Sony Park in Tokyo's Ginza district, visitors can experience the exhibit in two parts. The first is "My Story, My Walkman," which features the stories of 40 celebrities whose lives were changed by the Walkman. The second section is a "Walkman Wall" where about 230 models of the Walkman, from the original cassette players to CD and MP3 players, are on display.

The exhibit opened on July 1, the Walkman's anniversary, and will continue through September 1. Anyone can explore the Tokyo retrospective for free from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

[h/t designboom]

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