I (re?)discovered the MAKE Magazine blog last weekend, and stumbled across a post on my favorite science/tech show of all time. The Secret Life of Machines was the creation of British special-effects artists Tim Hunkin and Rex Garrod, and contains some truly superlative “how it works” demos, just the proper amount of wit (British, dry, of course), and none of the modern Discovery channel style overproduction to get in the way/make you want to throw something heavy at the TV.
Because of its quality and brief run, the show became somewhat of an obsession for me: its theme music (“The Russians are Coming” by Val Bennet, a reggae cover of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”) was one of the first pieces of music I sought out back in the heady “illegal file sharing is cool” early days of napster, and I convinced Jess to buy the first two seasons on VHS for my birthday one year. The videos were aimed at the educational market and thus hideously expensive; they also left out the third “Secret Life of the Office” series, which includes (among other things), Tim and Rex demonstrating a pair of makeshift fax machines made from lathes.
The first comment on the MAKE blog post pointed out that Tim Hunkin posted a link on his site to a torrent of the full three seasons. Hey, no guilt. Download ctorrent, spend a day or two downloading 3.6GB of AVIs from random overseas hosts (nobody in the US serving it until I was finished), and start watching.
Best of all, Grace seems pretty interested in them. “I want to watch a show on Papa’s computer.” “Let’s watch the Vacuum Cleaner one.” Of course, comprehension/retention may be a little longer in coming. After finishing “The Internal Combustion Engine” she said: “That was a fun show.”
“Yes I thought so, too…. So, do you know how a car engine works now?”
<thoughtful pause> “I did, but I don’t remember. Let’s watch it again tomorrow.”