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4 December 2019

One of our standard test shots when we were reviewing digicams was of the closets fire alarm box, which happened to be affixed to a telephone pole. The shot demonstrated how well the camera captured red.

Out of Order. Olympus E-PL1 wit 14-42mm kit lens at 28mm (56mm) and f4.7, 1/200 second and ISO 200. The DNG Raw file was processed in Adobe Camera Raw.

That was a big problem in the early days of digital imaging. The reds of the fire alarm box we captured varied wildly.

We didn't have a true red with which to compare the capture of course but you could tell a bad red easily enough. It wasn't credible.

Times change.

Reds are not nearly as difficult to capture with modern sensors (although it pays to pay attention). On the other hand, though, replacement fire alarm box parts are impossible to find.

The telegraph-based system, which locates a box no more than two blocks away from any one place, goes back to the days when horses pulled the fire trucks.

But it's still useful. It has proven itself reliable when other networks (like cell towers) are overloaded in an emergency. And you don't have to speak English (or any language, in the case of a small child) to convey the message there's a fire or other emergency -- or where the problem is. Plus, the message is routed to the nearest fire station.

The 350-mile-long network is in danger, though, for lack of replacement parts routinely disabling a couple dozen of the 2,039 boxes in the network. So the city has come up with this shroud for a solution, which replaces the taped dish towels the city was using.

The shroud's suggestion? Call 911.

Not everybody has a cell phone, though.

So in dire straits one might simply once again resort to the time-honored method of screaming, "Fire!"

Someone with a cell phone will no doubt hear you and dial 911. Then you can ask them to dial 311 to have the box repaired.

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