Tech-Decks

By Alex Ziolkowski
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“It actually has a Bluetooth speaker that is pretty loud”, said Seth Ofosu

Ofosu entered Towson University’s Student Union on a hover board to the beat of his own drum.

 “They definitely take the lameness out of the Segway”, said Ofosu.

Seth Ofosu is an accounting and economics major and finance minor with first-hand experience selling scooter-boards. The 23-year-old, senior, declares that the technical phrase is ‘two-wheel self-balancing personal transportation device’. He admits that referring to scooter-boards as the above phrase is exhausting and has prefers ‘hover boards’ for imagery and analogy.

“ I think the first time I saw one was at JFK airport back at the start of the summer, when some kids were riding them around the terminal, though I didn’t really know what they were”, said Mike Murphy, tech-journalist for Quartz.com.

People still call these tech-phenomena, hover boards, because of a common misconception; the world celebrated, Back to the Future Day, on October 22, 2015.  In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly and Dr. Brown travel forward in time. The movie depicted a deceptive interpretation of the future/present.

“2015 was also supposed to be the year that Marty McFly traveled forward in time in Back of the Future Part II, where we were supposed to have actual hover boards”, said Mike Murphy. I think there’s a lot of displaced projecting with these scooter-board things.”

Whether or not scooter-boards actually levitate they are still cool to watch or ride, and feel like the future could happen tomorrow.

Riding a scooter-board is nostalgic; it’s like learning to ride a bike again, although the sensation is different. You ride a scooter-board by standing on two independent platforms connected via one axle. Each wheel has a separate motor, the rider moves back and forth or left to right by shifting their weight on the scooter; the scooter gyroscopic-ally compensates with your movement.

There are aesthetic variations among scooter-boards, but they are all fundamentally the same. Self-balancing personal transportation or novelty toys such as children’s scooters. Ironically we run into controversy with having different scooter-boards available to purchase.

A few scooter-board distributes are engulfed in a patent war to claim all rights to the scooter-boards and profits made by their imitators. Shane Chen of Camas, Washington, has had a patent for his ‘self-balancing vehicle’ since 2011, and received support from entrepreneur Mark Cuban.

“No ‘legitimate’ inventor has emerged, but Shane Chen of Inventist, holds the U.S. patent. It is unclear if it was his original idea, or if he was the first to patent it”, said Murphy. “He filed the patent back in 2011 though, so he could well be the inventor, seeing as the boards didn’t really start popping til this past January at the Consumer Electronics Show.”

The duo sued IO Hawk’s president, Joe Soibatian, for allegedly using Chen’s design. Cuban had also obtained rights to use Chen’s design to develop his own line of scooter-boards, but he recently dropped the deal to invest in, actual, floating hover-boards. The popular children’s push scooter company, Razor, didn’t hesitate to obtain the vacant licensing and release Razor scooter-boards just in time for the holidays.

“There have been some ‘developments’- like the Segway one with a balancing pole that NineBot released, which I mentioned in my post”, said Murphy. Also, since then, Razor, the company that makes those scooters that every kid in America has, has licensed Chen’s patent.”

There are ‘established’ brands such as IO Hawk, Hovertrax, PhunkeeDucks, and NineBot, all of whom are under legal attack from Chen and Cuban. These, established, brands are ironically suing smaller “knock-offs” because they are losing potential customers. Scooter-boards can cost from $300 to $1600.

Ofosu believes that it is too late for anyone to legally claim that they are the rightful and sole owner of scooter-boards. There are so many different distributors that have added their own innovations to scooter-boards. He argues, shouldn’t they have the right to patent their contribution.

All scooter-boards take about an hour to charge and have a four hour battery life, or a maximum distance before needing to be recharged.maxresdefault

Each variant of the scooter-board have created an assortment of features, unique to their board(s), developing a niche in an ever-changing market. Features run the gauntlet of smart-phone apps, blue tooth activation and built in speakers. These features admittedly nice, are no guarantee of quality or customer satisfaction.

This tech fad has wreaked havoc around the world on unassuming and proud scooter-board owners. By no fault of their own, some customers have seen their beloved scooters spontaneously combust and explode. Combined with another safety violation scooter-boards have been made illegal in other countries, states and cities because they can’t be used on roads and aren’t safe enough to use on sidewalks. If caught riding a scooter-board in public in New York City you can be fined $200. Scooter-boards are illegal across England.

Ofosu attributes the spontaneous combustion to poor-quality products, faulty wiring and electronics. He also thinks that people need to be reminded that scooter-boards are delicate machines. It can take a scratch but everyone cringes at a bump.

“They’re appealing because even though they catch fire and don’t hold a charge very long, they feel like the future”, said Murphy.

Rapper, Wiz Khalifa, was asked to relinquish his scooter-board at Los Angles International Airport, but refused to do so, and subsequently arrested then escorted out of LAX. Clips of the incident have surfaced on the internet. Wiz Khalifa isn’t the only pop-culture icon to use their notoriety to advertise scooter-boards.

Actor Jamie Foxx, appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show aboard a PhunkeeDuck. The Cleveland Cavilers recently banned scooter-boards from their locker-room to eliminate distractions as they chase the NBA championship.  Justin Bieber, John Legend, Kendall Jenner, Mike Tyson and Chris Brown have all been seen roving on scooter-boards.

Scooter-boards are an internet sensation. There are dozens of videos on, YouTube, of dance groups performing using scooter-boards. People are using scooter-boards to make jokes, pull-off pranks and stunts.

“I’ve danced on my board”, said Ofosu. “I can do everything I usually do just like I were standing but on my board.”

Some people are concerned that scooter-boards perpetuate laziness. While on one you aren’t ‘necessarily’ moving by your own will, but exist in a phase of stasis, merely drifting from one destination to the next. Others claim that in the right conditions scooter-boards have a functional purpose and aren’t novelty toys.

“Status and functionality”, said Ofosu,

Ofosu has met many people who are convinced that a scooter-board would make their lives, jobs, easier. He has been approached by postmen.

 “I was over at the Mass Communications Building and I saw a student riding one of those [sic], scooter-boards, and right next to him I saw a student in a wheelchair”, said Rick Sanchez. “It was just kind of a juxtaposed moment were I was going, I wonder what each of them is thinking of each other at that moment. I wish I’d taken a photo of it because I would have loved to have posted it and said, Hey what does everyone think of this moment right here?”

Yet the future is nigh.

            “ I would love to see it split in two and actually go on your feet because it is like a sideways skateboard, if it were more like roller skates that were automated so you can actually do stairs and other things of that nature”, said Seth Ofosu. “It would add a third-dimensional element instead moving two-dimension-ally”.

The Lexus car company has invented a legitimate hover board. The hover board does require a special track filled with magnets that are cooled by liquid hydrogen. Lexus released a commercial featuring pro skater Tony Hawk maneuvering the hover-board for the first time. Supposedly Tony Hawk had months of practice.

“Is it a fad or here to stay?”, said Ofosu.

Hampton Mansion: Relic of Colonial America

By Alex Ziolkowski
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Two weekends ago, on Saturday, October 17 and Sunday, 18, 2015 tourists roamed the grandeur and opulence of Hampton National Historic Site. On cloudless, breezy, mild, fall days they were absorbed by the serenity and beauty that encompasses Hampton National Historic Site.

Hampton is a remnant of American history intertwined with an outstanding legacy of one of America’s earliest prominent families. For 200 years, Hampton Mansion, was the Ridgely’s country-side escape, but the vacation spot was a front for their various entrepreneurial enterprises.

“Hampton reflects the United States we live in today”, said Ranger Vince Vaise. “Visiting Hampton allows us to understand the present.”

Ranger Vince Vaise began his stint with the National Park Service as a volunteer at Fort McHenry. Vaise found it fulfilling and trained to become a seasonal ranger. He eventually transitioned to being a full-time Park Ranger.

“Hampton had many landlords,” said Ranger Vaise

In 1695, Lord Baltimore gave his cousin Darnell, North Hampton. In 1745, Colonel Charles Ridgely bought 1,500 acres of North Hampton from Darnell’s daughter, Ann Hill; he later purchased another 11,000 acres.

In 1760, Charles Ridgely Jr. inherited North Hampton. Charles Jr. his brother John Ridgely and their father Col. Charles Ridgely established an iron mill at Gunpowder River. The iron mill introduced servitude to the Ridgely estate.

Hampton Mansion was built in seven years, and christened Hampton Hall.  Under Captain Charles Ridgely’s supervision construction began in 1783 and completed in 1790. Because of Hampton Hall, Capt. Charles, was nicknamed the “Builder”. The Builder died a patriot sympathizer; supplying colonial armies with: weapons,grains, tools and other implements.DSC01387

In 1948, Hampton Mansion was declared a national historic site through David Finley Mellon. Mellon visited Hampton Mansion in 1944 to buy art; instead he returned after creating the Mellon Foundation; which is dedicated to preserving Hampton Mansion.

The last Ridgely continued to live on the estate, but in a lower house near the mansion until 1978. In 1979, the National Park Service obtained the reins to resurrect the mansion and the immediate 60 acres surrounding it.

Hampton houses the rise and fall of a culture that still influences us today. The Ridgelys attempted to remain relevant until history caught up with them, and their lifestyle became obsolete.  Hampton’s architecture would stand the test of time.

Hampton followed the principles of Georgian Architecture. The mansion’s aesthetic provides  balance through symmetry.  Hampton’s design  personified its place in American history; mirroring the past and present.

The gardens and greenhouses are still being excavated. The Great Terrace, the backyard just behind the mansion. Just below a hill the Parterres or gardens are lye behind the Great Terrace. The Ridgelys grew exotic plants in their greenhouses and transferred them to the Parterres.

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The Orangery, Greenhouses, Ice House and original Entrance Gates are west of Hampton Mansion. A mound of grass and dirt, a bared-gate and a stair case illustrate the Ice House. The Entrance Gates reminded me of Disney’s movie the Haunted Mansion; an eerie first impression.

For 100 years the Ridgelys indentured servants and slaves resided in the Workers’ Quarters. “Domestic” indentured servants and slaves, people working in the mansion not the fields, lived in bungalows behind the mansion.

East of Hampton are the: Storage shed, Privies, Garage, Smokehouse and Pump-house. The Orchards and Family Cemetery are southeast and down a dirt road behind the mansion. They stored their carriages and cars in the Garage.

The Ridgelys: Stables, Mule Barn, Dairy Shed and Dove Coats are north of Hampton. The mules assisted servants and slaves till crops. Dove coats housed birds until eaten. The Dairy Shed became a valuable source of income after the 1800’s. The Stables were revered for their thoroughbred race horses.

Capt. Charles lived in the Lower House or Farm House before the mansion was completed, and his descendant, John Ridgely Jr., returned to the Farm House after Hampton was handed to the National Park Service; intersecting the past and present.

The rest of the Ridgelys were fortunate enough to call Hampton home. The childless Builder and his wife, Nancy, adopted their four nephews.  Their nephews could inherit the estate if they took Ridgely as their legal surname.

Family tradition decreed that the eldest brother inherits the most property. Charles Ridgely Carnan, 1760-1829, received 25,000 acres; his three brothers split the remains.  Carnan served three terms as governor of Maryland and freed most of his 350 plus slaves.

John Carnan Ridgely married Eliza Eichelberger Ridgely. No incest was involved. John assumed 4,500 acres and no slaves. Eichelberger had an affinity for botany tending to the gardens and greenhouses. She traveled around the world for two years, and returned to renovate the Drawing Room.

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“Aunt” Margret started a girl’s school in Liberia, perhaps to atone the Ridgelys of their century of enslaved labor. Nancy Brown Davis was the only slave buried in the family cemetery. She stayed with the family despite the Emancipation Proclamation. Contrary to the Ridgely’s affection, another slave named Charles Brown escaped on Christmas but was later captured and sold South.

“Documentation specific to certain rooms, tells Hampton’s story”, said Ranger Vaise.  “Rooms became associated with people and vice versa.”

Certain Ridgelys became associated with specific rooms. Historians, archeologists and Hampton’s various caretakers revealed its secrets

“It started several years ago with the Society of American Antiquities, said Ranger Vaise. “Now the Preservation of Maryland.”

The Mansion Office resembled the Ridgelys lifestyle during the 1930’s. The Ridgelys conducted all of their fiscal enterprises in the modestly decorated room. It was also their laundry room for some time.A Ridgely could be comforted by the symphonies across the hall.

 

The Ridely children learned to play instruments, relaxed and studied in the Music Room, fondly dubbed the “Library”. Eichelberger’s harp once abelonged to the French royal family is the centerpiece of the room. It was her 15th birthday gift. A portrait of Eichelberger leaning on the Harp is mounted in the Great Hall.

The Great Hall was the “Soul of the Mansion” hence being originally called Hampton Hall. Weddings or funerals for Ridgelys, slaves and servants, parties and lavished dinners occurred in the Great Hall. The room is decorated with various oriental ceramics, large mirrors and family portraits. The entire room is white with massive crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The room remained generally the same for 200 years.

Their Parlor flaunted 1800’s interior design. It included portraits of the Builder and Nancy. The walls are covered with yellow wallpaper incorporating green floral designs that is complimented by matching patterned carpet and drapes. They lounged on blue and white striped sofas and chairs in between maple furniture.

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The wallpaper came in squares and had to be pasted on a wall in specific way. The task was tedious and delicate but you can’t notice the seams unless you are standing six inches from a portion of the wall.

The Ridgely Dining Room is parallel to the Parlor. The Parlor and Dining Room swapped functions multiple times. The walls are turquoise with a yellow trim accompanied by matching drapes and patterned carpet. The lower half of the walls depict a “Parisian City”.

After further research they confirmed the city should be Italian. It was very popular among Baltimore’s elite to have rooms with wallpaper inspired by European landmarks. The Ridgely’s had different sets of dishes, silverware and table cloth for each meal. All utensils, glassware and plates were graved with their coat of arms.

“The Ridgelys borrowed their coat of arms from another Ridgely family, still living in England”, said Ranger Vaise. “The Maryland State Legislature allowed the Ridgelys to adopt it.”

The Kitchen like the Mansion Office is a bare room with cooking essentials. Bells hanging outside of the kitchen were designated to specific rooms in the mansion. Chefs and servers became so attune that they could tell which bell rang by its distinct jingle.

The Drawing Room was decorated with floral wallpaper, white gold trimmed walls and patterned carpet. Eliza Ridgely was inspired by her two year vacation traveling the world.  She returned with many souvenirs. There are two different styles of furniture in the room: Empire and Rocco; which were renovated to mimic popular painted Baltimore furniture.

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The Nursery sports a baby blue theme and a floral trim. The children’s rooms were actually on the third floor but there is no public access. The furniture and carpet was of the 1860’s. The room was heated with a cast iron stove from the cellar.

The Guest Room is plain white with patterned carpet and has large, red, velvet, leisurely, furniture. A portrait of Aunt Margret hangs above the fireplace. Margret was suspicious of electricity, she feared it would burn the mansion down. The Ridgelys didn’t have electricity until the 1920’s.

The Master Bedroom depicts 1790’s-1800’s interior design. The family bed had to be brought in pieces then assembled in the bedroom. There are few bathrooms throughout the mansion. For the longest time each bedroom was fitted with chamber pots; indoor plumbing wasn’t introduced until the 1850’s.

“A window into America’s past”, said Ranger Vaise. “It allows us to explore the history of the entire country.”

Hampton National Historic Site is a time capsule, a fragment of America’s genealogy focused through the legacy of the Ridgelys. The mansion is a double helix and its inhabitants are the chromosomes. Like chromosomes the Ridgely’s belongings are records of history. For the past 70 years dedicated individuals and organizations have devoted themselves to decoding Hampton’s secrets.