Games Without Frontiers

Today’s tune comes from the guy who was at the Genesis of Genesis…

Peter Gabriel hit #4 in the UK in 1980 with “Games Without Frontiers.” It was released just 4 days after his 30th birthday.

If you’re doing the math, that means he was born in — wait for it….


According to Wikipedia, some pretty cool stuff happened in 1950

The “Red Scare” was erupting, some Boston crooks pulled off the Great Brinks Robbery, Peanuts was first published, the Korean War kicked off and the first TV remote was marketed.

And a guy named Hubbard Cobb published the book Your Dream Home: How To Build It for Less than $3,500.

New homes were a novelty back then. Check out the opening paragraph:

“Since the end of WWII, over 90,000 families in this country have moved into homes that they have built entirely or partly by themselves.  25 yrs ago, the idea of building your own home was almost unheard of – it was so much of a novelty, in face, that it was sure to make the feature section of the Sunday paper.”

Problem was construction costs still tended to be high (not like now, right?).

“There seems little chance the cost of either building materials or labor will do down…As there is no way to reduce the cost of materials…without using inferior products, the solution is rather obvious – cut out, or at least cut down, the labor cost.”

It was the dawning of the age of Sweat Equity and the DIY’er.

At the very least, Cobb understood the value of good mechanicals.

“Few things will ruin a house as fast as a heating system that is not efficient, that fails to make the house comfortable to live in…or that never seems to work very well for longs periods…”

The Dream Home of 1950 was equipped with radiant floor heat – copper tubing in the slab.  Reading through the steps is like reading a modern floor heating installation manual – other than the tubing, nothing has really changed in radiant slab installations over 62 years.

And here’s a look at the boiler piping schematic:

 And the instructions for flue pipe installation include a line that would delight liability lawyers for decades:

“The joint between the stove pipe and the thimble should be made tight with asbestos cement.”

This passage on circulators is of particular interest, since electric circulators were kind of a novelty in 1950:

“The circulator is one of the most important parts of the entire heating system, and it is well worth the added expense to get the best…a self-lubricating type of pump and motor are most desirable if you with to eliminate constant maintenance.”

You’ll also notice the circulator is placed on the return side of the boiler rather than the supply.  This was years before Holohan wrote Pumping Away, and circulators went on the return side of the boiler because the seals couldn’t handle the high temperature of the supply water.

A decade later that problem went away due to new material developments, but that question still comes up in training classes today.  And the notion that circulators still can’t handle 180-to-200 degree water also remains.

Old habits die hard, and you know what they say about history – those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it.

There’s a LOT more to this fascinating book (you can still pick up a copy on Amazon – click here). We’ll get into boiler piping, controls and one of my favorite topics, insulation, in coming blog posts.

Another milestone of 1950?  This hall of famer joined the chorus in May of that year…

Stevie Wonder performing on, of all places, Sesame Street!

If you don’t tap your feet to that one, well, you need CPR, Jack!


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