App for Queenstown Heritage Trails

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They do not live in the neighbourhood, but a pair of undergraduates have made it their mission to document Queenstown’s heritage.

Mr Kwek Li Yong lives in Jurong and Mr Jasper Tan in Sengkang.  They spearheaded the creation of the MyQueenstown mobile app.

Launched in 2013, the app guides users along six heritage trails in the estate.  It has hundreds of photographs and audio-visual material relating to the memories of the estate’s long-time residents.

The duo, both 28, have worked painstakingly to piece together the neighbourhood’s history and published a book to commemorate the estate’s 60th anniversary in 2013.  It was published by The Straits Times Press.

They also plan to launch similar projects in two other neighbourhoods: Bukit Merah and Tampines.

Ten years ago, Mr Kwek visited some elderly folk in Queenstown while doing community service and became intrigued with the area.

“While older people tend to talk about themselves or their families, the people I visited in Queenstown kept talking about their estate and its history,” says Mr Kwek, a final year economics student at the National University of Singapore.  “They were clearly very proud of it.”

He had met Mr Tan while they were serving their national service, and approached him about working together to collect stories from Queenstown folk to feature on a blog (www.myqueenstown.blogspot.com), which is no longer actively updated.

“At first, it was just fun to hear stories from residents.  Then we started to realise that their personal and collective histories were very much linked,” says Mr Tan, an economics management graduate of the Singapore Institute of Management.  “Many of them tell the same stories.”

For example, many of the students spoke of an old kampong called Bo Beh Kang (literally “no tail river” in Hokkien) which Queenstown grew out of, and where Mei Ling Street is located now, says Mr Tan.

“I managed to find some of the original residents from the kampung and realised they knew one another because their memories were so similar.  They hadn’t been in contact with one another for decades.”

The pair founded MyCommunity, an informal grassroots group which they registered as a society to begin documenting the history of Queenstown.  It now comprises a dozen other heritage buffs.

Mr Kwek recalls the first time they went to a market in the neighbourhood and told an egg-seller about their project.

“She immediately called the whole market to come and help us,” says Mr Kwek with a laugh.  “It’s this kind of community spirit that I don’t see elsewhere.”

The two bachelors say they are expanding the scope of the project to include more estates as they feel that Singaporeans are slowly forgetting the ways in which their lives have changed.

Bukit Merah will mark a natural transition as it is “an old estate with a similar demographic” to Queenstown, says Mr Kwek.

“There is a large elderly population and many old housing blocks.  Many of the residents have lived there for 50 to 60 years.”

As for Tampines, the MyCommunity group is still in the preliminary stages of their research into the town’s history.  “Its a younger estate that has been shifting eastwards, but there’s still a lot of history there, including old fish farms and quarries most people don’t know about, says Mr Kwek.

While the positive feedback they have received from projects has whetted their appetite for more, both of them will not be documenting their own estates any time soon.

Mr Tan thinks his neighbourhood is too new to document.  Conversely, Mr Kwek feels recording his, Jurong, will prove too mammoth a task for now.

“I marvel at countries such as China and the United States and how they manage to document their history so well,” says Mr Kwek.

“The onus is on Singaporeans, not just those in Queenstown, to capture their own memories.

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[Source:  The Straits Times and NewspaperSG of the National Library Board, Singapore]

With thanks to Mr Kwek Li Yong and Mr Jasper Tan who invited me to attend the Media Preview of the Alexandra Heritage Trail on 4 April, 2015 as posted on this blog .

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Fellow blogger friends at the “Alexandra Heritage Trail on 4 April, 2015.

Legend of Maxwell Road Hawker Centre

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Screenshot_20170720-003920Maxwell Road Food Centre in Singapore (‘Now’ photo above, ‘Then’ photo below)

Thanks to the invitation of “China Street Fritters Group on Facebook” in a message sent me last week.

“We are featured in this year Singapore Food Festival. Hawkers Spotlight 2017. On 16 July, 2017 from 3.00pm to 4.30pm, Media, Bloggers & Writers will tour that few Spotlight stalls lead by Moses Lim. There will be a making of Hum Chin Pan & Food photography contest for Media & Guests.
Do come to support this event.
Cheers!”

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City Gas and Singapore Tourism Board pay tribute to second and third-generation heritage hawkers at Singapore Food Festival.  Maxwell Food Centre takes centre stage at Hawker Spotlight 2017.

For the second year running, Singapore’s town gas and natural gas utilities provider, City Gas, collaborated with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to host the Hawker Spotlight for the Singapore Food Festival (SFF).  Previously held at East Coast Lagoon Food Village, the moving hawker showcase took place at the iconic Maxwell Food Centre this year; right in the heart of Chinatown.

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The official explaining the instructions for the events of the Singapore Food Festival at Maxwell Food Centre.

“City Gas believes in paying tribute to heritage hawkers as they play a central role in shaping Singapore’s food landscape.  We are pleased to partner STB and Canon, and together, we hope to raise the profile of pioneer hawkers and encourage the younger generation to step forward to keep our hawker tradition alive,” said Mr Kenny Tan, Chief Executive Officer, City Gas.

Ms Ranita Sundramoorthy, Director, Attractions, Dining & Retail, STB added:

“We are thrilled to work in partnership with City Gas and Canon for Hawker Spotlight, an event where we showcase our hawkers and share their multi-generational passion for food with locals and visitors.  Hawkers are an integral and unmistakable part of Singapore’s multi-faceted food landscape, so it is fitting to shine the spotlight on them at the Singapore Food Festival, the only event here dedicated to showcasing local cuisine and culinary talent.”

The showcase served as a platform for the local media to connect with second and third-generation hawkers, the unsung heroes who form the backbone of our cherished hawker heritage.  Through first-hand interactions, media enjoyed a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the local hawker food scene with these heritage hawkers on 16 July, 2017.

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Led by local celebrity and food connoisseur, Moses Lim, the media entourage was given an intimate insight to Maxwell Food Centre, and was introduced to six heritage hawker stalls such as China Street Fritters, well-known for its traditional handmade Hokkien ngoh hiang,

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and Hock Soon Roasted Duck Rice, a stall name that speaks for itself.

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Hawker Spotlight 2017 also included a new kid on the block, 3rd Culture Brewing Co., a hawker stall which specialises in pairing local food with craft beer.

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To complete the entire experience, the media also had the opportunity to try their hands at making and frying their own hum jin peng, a fried dough snack with either sweet or savoury filling.  The interactive session was helmed by hawker stall owner, Ms Li, who has been making the traditional snack from scratch since 40 years ago.

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Those Cantonese dough-nuts, harm jeen beng, two of which alone could satisfy any breakfast requirement, were a steal at 10 cents each although a customer had to fry them himself.   (Photo source:  The Straits Times.  Courtesy of NewspaperSG).

In the olden days, Ms Li’s father was a pedler hawker who ply his harm jeen beng in a cart in Chinatown.   Today, Ms Li demonstrate how to fry the heritage food at the Hawker Spotlight 2017 (photo below).

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The interactive hands-on session with the participants

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Ms Deenise Yang, the winner of the “hum jin peng” contest with her prize presented by Moses Lim.

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Hajmeer Kwaja Muslim Food.  The most popular items on the menu includes sup tulang merah, mutton ribs and ghee rice with fried kampong chicken.  Every flavourful dish is meticulously prepared using his grandfather’s traditional recipes.

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Rojak, Popiah and Cockle is owned and operated by the Lim family for over 25 years. Mrs Lim is the owner while Mr Lim, her husband and his sister.  Ms Lim, serves up delicious rojak, popiah and cockle.  The ladies from Russia (photos below) sampled the popiah and rojak at the stalls.
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Of all the drink stalls in Maxwell Food Centre, Ho Peng Coffee Stall is not only the most popular, it is also the most eco-friendly drink stall.

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Ho Peng Coffee Stall was awarded the Green Hawker Award for use of empty milk cans (photos below) for drink takeaways for over 60 years.

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Old Place. Heritage Hawkers: History of Maxwell Road Market

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The empty plot of land (where a horse stood in the photo above right), the Maxwell market was built beside St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital (later the Outpatient Services Headquarters) at Kadanayallur Street.

It curled out at the top, the Maxwell Road Market was a stereotype wet market of bygone years.  Its non-aesthetic but staunch architectural characteristic that long retained the atmosphere of a wet market so blissfully ignored by its hungry habitues.

But in the early 1980s, this facility situated at the busy junction of Maxwell Road and South Bridge Road ceased being a market and became a food centre.

But during the period of massive urban development in the 1980s, cooked food vendors famed for their exquisite viands in China Street and roadside hawkers in Chinatown were resettled here.

From near and far, those seeking mouth-watering and economical breakfast, lunch or dinner made a bee-line to this city food centre.

Built years before World War II, this relic of a wet market served its Chinatown neighbourhood well and its wide surrounding spaces were put to good use by itinerant hawkers.

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Seventy backlane hawkers in China Square moved to the nearby Maxwell Road Market on 6 December, 1986.

They were the last lot of backlane hawkers to be re-housed in hygienic centres.  They operated from open-air, makeshift stalls in China Street.

The shift wraps up the Government’s long and mammoth resiting programme which started in the early 1970s with the building of hawker centres.  The programme is to ensure that hawkers conduct their business in a clean and hygienic environment.

The temporary zinc-and roof shelter at China Street  was inadequate.  But the eating spot was popular with office workers, drivers and odd-job labourers, although it has no electricity and proper ventilation.  The hawkers have to tap electricity from shops nearby.

The new place at Maxwell Road is slightly bigger and comes with modern amenities.

According to an interview in the Straits Times on 18 September, 2000, Mr Ng Kok Hua, 29, a ngoh hiang seller, said: “We have built a reputation together for generations since the time we were at China Street.

“This will be lost if we were broken up and moved to different places.  Regular customers like to order dishes from several stalls at one time because of the attractive variety we offer.”

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China Street Fritters

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Mr Ng Kok Hua and his brother, Mr Richard Ng are the pioneers of the China Street Fritters since they moved from China Street and started business at Maxwell Road Food Centre in 1986.

China Street Fritters are famous for their traditional handmade Hokkien ngoh hiang. This stall has won not one but two awards – Best of the Best Ngoh Hiang and the Heritage Hawker Award.  The owner, Mr Ng, is the 2nd generation managing the stall.  After completing his bond in the shipping industry, Mr Ng decided to join the family business together with his elder sister, younger brother and sister-in-law.

Please check out the nostalgic memories of the China Street Fritters here .

To cut a long story short, a link to a previous blog to share my sentimental bonds to my affiliation with Maxwell Road Food Centre (formerly a wet market with a few hawker stalls catering nearby workers for meals) and Ah Hua’s China Street fritters.

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Walk Down Haji Lane in Singapore

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Entrance of Haji Lane from North Bridge Road, Singapore c 1963

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Entrance of Haji Lane from North Bridge Road, Singapore 2014

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On a sunny day in 2014 when I walked down Haji Lane, I was surprised that there were many young people, Singaporeans, visitors and tourists from various countries.

I felt awkward and out of place in this quaint, narrow alleyway in Singapore.

Haji Lane – Singapore’s original hipster neighborhood.  A buzzling, all-hours enclave in Kampong Glam peppered with charming boutiques, watering holes, cafes, and restaurants that rank high on hip factor.

The photos of the colorful and funky murals on the buildings are shared here on this blog.

The shophouses of Haji Lane have a history no less interesting than the stores they house now. In the 60s and 70s, the area provided lodging for poor Malay families, and also gave shelter to pilgrims on their annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Incidentally, that’s where the name of the street has its roots — ‘Haji’ is the Malay word for a Muslim man who’s completed a pilgrimage to Mecca.

It’s pretty apt that the first shop which took on the monumental task of reviving the area’s nightlife scene was a Middle Eastern-style café. Café le Caire, an Arabic hookah restaurant which started up in 2001, was then the only establishment in Kampong Glam willing to open at night and on Sundays. According to the café owner, Ameen Talib:

“The whole Haji Lane area was totally dead…There were basically just a lot of empty shop houses. The ones that were occupied were used as storage spaces.”

Almost 50 years later, Haji Lane which is the shortest street in Singapore is transformed into the most popular “in-place” to chill when night falls.

Once an empty street of pre-war shophouses, Haji Lane has been given a new lease of life by local designers and young entrepreneurs who have set up their quaint boutiques proffering fashionable wear and products boasting made-in-Singapore designs. Here, you will find excellent vintage shops selling an array of contemporary, quirky garments and accessories as well as local boutiques by up-and-coming designers that have been refurbished in their own unique style. Just a street away, you’ll find textile shops that have been in business since the 1950s! There’s a raw, energetic vibe that’s worlds away from the polished international stores which makes Haji Lane so undeniably fascinating.

The backlane with nothing exciting for anyone to do in the past is now packed with the latest hotspots in the area bar-restaurant that’s a mishmash of urban street art, art deco, Georgian, Victorian and modern furnishings—a great backdrop to a small alley filled with independent designer stores that have thrilled the likes of Gwen Stefani. Your local shopping trip in Singapore simply wouldn’t be complete without a stop at this much-loved alley.

The drab and dull grey walls once upon a time are now filled with colorful coats of psychedelic paintings to fill the walls on every sides along the alley. Have a walk in the night at Haji Lane to meet everyone from everywhere all over the world and have a place to remember.

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Chinese “getai” stage in Haji Lane c 1980

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The juxtaposed photo of Haji Lane in 1968 when it was an ordinary backlane outside the upper floor of the building with the “flag-poles” of clothings on bamboo posts to dry in the sun. (Photo credit: National Archives of Singapore).

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Haji Lane in 2014

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A video clip with courtesy of Phenomenal Travel Videos on YouTube is posted here to share.

The House in Singapore Painted Red

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When I visited Katong last week to blog the walk the memories of the old places in Singapore, I discovered many new stuff which I did not know before.

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With courtesy of Warees Investments, the investment arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, the big posters with information and photos were displayed below the overhead bridge, along the corridors of the shops for the public to read and share on this related blog.

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More than a dozen organisations and individuals have expressed interest to run a confectionary business at Red House Bakery, the iconic bakery at East Coast Road – with about half of them being Malay-Muslims.

The bakery is part of The Red House, the first endowment project in Singapore to incorporate the social enterprise element.  It is managed by Warees Investments, the investment arm of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

The Red House managed by Heavenly Wang

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I accepted the invitation to “来 LA KOPI WITH US!” at the Heavenly Wang and walked into the refurbished Red House of Katong for breakfast.

To capture the “memory-aid” photos here to share:

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The old sofa set (foreground) and the original designed floor tiles are the relics of the Red House Bakery.  (The white table and chairs at the back are new).

Time for Breakfast at Heavenly Wang

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Please come join me to “la kopi” if we meet …

Ways Work Change Over The Decades

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Our Housing & Development Board (HDB) residents would remember this photo of the former “Our Home” magazine published by the HDB and delivered to the homes by mail every month in the past.  It was sold at 50 cents each to non-HDB residents at the HDB branch officies.  (Photo credit: Courtesy of s-pores.com .

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This blog is inspired by the “memory-aid” photos published in The Straits Times, 31 August, 1989.  (Courtesy of NewspaperSG of the National Library Board).

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Most of my former HDB colleagues who worked in the branch offices would remember the 17 years for the staff had to do the work every month of the “Our Home” magazines.

The Work Process in the Past

  1.  Pasting of address label on the magazine wrapper.
  2.  The magazines are delivered to the branch offices by Times Printer.
  3.  Insert advertising samples and pamphlets into every copy of “Our Home”.
  4.  The magazines are counted and dropped into sacks.
  5.  The completed sacks in bulks were sent to Singapore Post for delivery to the  residents.
  6.  Occasionally, the residents would request for the magazines to be resent due to  wrong delivery.

New Work Methods and Computerised Systems

HDB and the civil services, ministries and agencies in Singapore are constantly adopting new work methods, new innovative ideas, change new working methods to improve better ways, increase productivity to provide better services to their customers.

QCC Movement in Singapore

The QCC Movement in Singapore has matured to a stage where companies are now willing to come forward and help others to set up QCCs. In response to requests from industries, PSB introduced a new initiative early this year – the QCC Coaching Scheme. This Scheme helps non-QCC companies to set up QCCs with experienced QCC organisations to coach them in setting up and operating QCCs. Another example of private sector involvement is the Singapore Association of QC Circles (SAQCC). The SAQCC was set up by PSB to tap private sector efforts to promote QCCs in Singapore. The Association organises workshops, factory visits and other educational activities to allow the sharing of knowledge as well as to network with fellow QCC activists. The Association also forms QCC Clubs for companies which are located near each other to develop common programmes to sustain interest in their QCCs and also provide many of the judges required to judge company QCC Conventions.

Another powerful instrument used to sustain QCCs is the national recognition given not only to companies, but also to circles, individual managers, facilitators and co-ordinators. This morning, some of these outstanding contributors will be receiving their awards.

Water Rationing for Singapore

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Photo courtesy of The Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings

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The newspaper headline of The Straits Times on 30 August, 1961.

Water Rationing for Singapore

Two-month drought hits South Johore – river at all-time low

Water will be rationed in Singapore within the next few days to combat the most acute water shortage in the history of the State.

This emergency measure was announced today by the Acting Prime Minister, Dr Toh Chin Chye, after thousands of people had wakened this morning to find themselves
without a single drop of water to drink.

Details of the rationing are still being worked out but Dr Toh has given an assurance that at least 24 hours notice would be given before rationing came into effect.

The whole island would be divided into seven districts, with each district going “dry” once a week, he said.

Radio Singapore, Rediffusion and the Press will announce the latest news on the water situation.

Pressure down

Water pressure in many parts of the island began falling last night. By 8 a.m. today, many factories had closed down temporarily or reduced production.

Big hotels were seriously affected.

Appeals to conserved water were broadcast throughout the day.

Hundreds of householders phoned the City Council, each wanting to know why no water came out of their taps this morning.

Dr Toh gave an assurance that essential services and industries would not be affected by the rationing.

Rationing was now necessary, he said, because the drought which has affected Singapore for the past two months had now spread to Southern Johore.
Singapore’s main source of water – The Tebrau waterworks in Johore – can now only supply an average of 20 million gallons a day. The normal supply was 50 million
gallons.

Acute shortage

Singapore’s stocks tonight stood at 70 million gallons with another 35 million from the Tebrau, Gunong Pulai and Pontian waterworks.

The daily consumption in Singapore is about 71 million gallons.

Dr Toh said: “Never in the history of Singapore have we experienced such an acute water shortage as we do today.

“There has been a continual increase in water consumption due to the increase in population, but the margin of supply and demand is very small.”
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The Government had envisage an improvement in the situation by the end of last month when the expansion programme at Tebrau was completed.

But when extra tanks were finally brought into use four weeks ago, the Tebrau river level fell from six feet to three feet 10 inches.

Today, when newsmen toured the Tebrau waterworks with Dr Toh, the river level was at an all-time low of two feet.

This will be the time since 1941 that water rationing is being introduced here during the peace time.

In 1941, when Singapore was also hit by a drought, only individual houses were singled out for rationing.

Less and less rain has fallen in each succeeding August, since 1958, to give Singapore its gravest water problem in about 150 years.

These figures for the month of Auguest tell the story in a nutshell:

SINGAPORE: 1958 – 10.18 ins; 1959 – 5.81 ins; 1960 – 3.02 ins.; and up to Aug 27 this month 0.94 ins.

At the Tebrau river, water was two feet barely flows over the sluice gates for trapping water, leaving the river-bed beyond it virtually dry.

Throughout Singapore today, hundreds of people went to work without baths or proper breakfasts.

Offices, especially skyscrapers, found themselves without any supply at all.

Hundreds of people lined up at the 2,200 standpip0es to carry water home. From big barrels down to small pans were used to conserve the water trickling from the
pipes.

Cathay Hotel depended solely on their emergency tank which held only a day’s supply.

‘Ferry service’

Raffles Hotel had water only trickling from their kitchen pipes. The staff of Cockpit Hotel spent the whole morning running a “ferry service” between the hotel and
standpipes in Penang Road and Orchard Road.

The Singapore Steam Laundry closed down temporarily at 10.30 a.m. and will not open for busines again till the water crisis eases.

Most ice-factories were completely laid off, and fishing combines clamoured for ice throughout the day.

The Singapore Cold Storage reported that production was affected in the morning, especially at their dry-ice factory in Bukit Timah.

The supply returned to normal in the afternoon and production is likely to be maintained unless the situation worsens.

Many young Singaporeans born after 1961 have not experienced droughts and water rationing in Singapore.

My pioneer generation friends and I have the nostalgic memories during our young days as triggered by the archived photos as “memory-aids” with the courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore on this blog.

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We remember when Singapore’s taps ran dry for 10 months as posted here .

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The Straits Times Forum Page

A selection of letters written by newspaper readers to express their views and opinions on this topic.

“Slogan posters, Television/Radio appeals and threats of water rationing receive no response from the general public.

Why doesn’t the Government pass a Bill to prosecute people for wasting water unnecessarily by cutting off their water supply for a period of time or imposte a fine.

In the meantime, start a campaign to educate the general public to use water only when it is necessary.  The campaign should be given top priority.

A CITIZEN, Singapore 23.  20 May 1971.

WATER: Who is getting the lion’s share?

I am fed up with all this nonsense about water.  Since the beginning of the rationing I and my servants have been very parsimonious.  I pray for rain for my plants and the car.  I do not flush the toilets and spend a fortune on air-fresheners.

I take half-dry showers and have really drastically cut our consumption.  But I look around me: my friends at the consulate enjoy water 24 hours a day; and the hotels.  And no one seems to suffer but myself and my household.

Why build so many flats if the water is not available?  Why not think of the water problem first?

I am a taxpayer and I don’t want to be made a water-martyr and be rationed amongst people who don’t even seem to know there is rationing on.

THIRSTY, Singapore.  7 September 1963.

Curb private pools

We are threatened with water rationing annually due to uncertain and insufficient water supply for our growing needs.

The government is seeking ways and means of controlling the use of water; seeking new sources of supplies; enlarging storage capacities and educating the public to use water sparingly, wisely and to treat it as a precious commodity.

But has it occurred to our authorities that the number of private swimming pools being designed, approved and built has increased in spite of the fact that there are a good number of public pools all over Singapore?

The provision of industrial water for sanitary and other purposes is a good ideas but this means additonal cost for providing separate mains and pipings to be borned by the public.

Why allow the rich to enjoy a private swimming pool at the expense of the general public?

The authorities could at least temporarily discourage the construction of private swimming pools (except those using sea water) until such time when the public will not have to face the threat of water rationing.

This is one practical and simple way to control the use of water to everybody’s benefit.

WATER FOR THOUGHT, Singapore 9.  New Nation, 11 December 1972.

On-off water supply puzzle

I am a tenant of a flat in St. Michael’s Estate and lately my family and I have been subjected to frequent breakdowns in our water supply.

Other tenants however, especially my neighbour whose taps draws water from the same main as mine, have never experienced this difficulty, and their regular water supply is interrupted only by the normal rationing hours enforced by the Public Utilities Board.

I do not understand why I should be the only exception.

I have notified the Water Department of this and all its “roundsmen” do is to unscrew the connection from the main pipe and then fix it back.

After this, water flows through my tap but only to stop again the next day.  Sometimes this continues for two days in succession.

Although I am told that the breakdown could possibly due to a number of reasons – an airlock, low water pressure, choking, etc – I am still at a loss to understand why up to date nothing further in the form of a permanent solution has yet been found by the department concerned.

It now seems certain that for some time to come I will have to continue getting water by means of a rubber hose connected to the main pipe, by-passing the water meter.

Though illegal, I do not care as it would considerably reduce the amount I have to pay on my water bill.

D.M. JANI, Singapore.  The Straits Times, 2 November 1963.

Stampede to buy drums and containers to store water

I note with some concern the arrangements made by the PUB to ration water by cutting off supplies to certain areas for a period of 24 hours at a stretch.

By this very action there has been a stampede by the general public to purchase drums and containers to store water.

The very fact the water rationing has automatically caused an increased rate of consumption.

As an engineer myself, I feel that a solution would be not to cut off water to different areas but to reduce pressure in all areas throughout the dry spell.

This can be done manually by half closing the mains cock to the different zonejs.

By experimenting, it will be possible to ensure that there is adequate pressure to high-rise flats.

It is not necessary for me to elaborate further and I leave it to the PUB Water Engineers to work out the details themselves.

I may add that I own a bungalow and I have reduced the water pressure to the bungalow by half closing the water mains cock in the garden.

BUNGALOW OWNER,  Singapore 20.  Singapore Herald, 15 May 1971.

KING SIZE WATER TAP THAT GIVES A WRONG IMPRESSION

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At every “Water is Precious” exhibition one cannot fail to see – and by mystified by – a king size magic water tap happily and incessantly gushing out precious sparkling water.

In another section of the same exhibition, one sees a profusion of “Do and Don’t” pictures and slogans exhorting people to save water and not to let the tap run freely to waste.

I wonder how one could reconcile the two opposing ideas in one and the same exhibition.

The water tap demonstration actually gives one a false impression of an unlimited water supply rather than water-scarce city which the exhibition purports to bring home to the public.

Anyway it is good fun watching the tap.

P.S. NG, Singapore 3.  The Straits Times, 13 June 1973.

Water Today – Source: TODAY, 28 October 2005

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“With the opening up of our reservoirs, I have more options for wakeboarding.  It is exciting to wakeboard in fresh water, which is what I experience at international competitions, and comforting to know that the waters are clean as well.”

2004/2005 Singapore National Wakeboarding Champion Sasha Christian, 12.

Many of us may not know or remember the inconvenience of water rationing.   After all, it happened back in the ’60s when Singapore was hit by droughts.

It’s not that Singapore does not sufer dry spells anymore.  It’s just that we have in place our 4 National Taps Strategy, which ensures enough water to meet our current and futre needs.

Tap 1, or local catchment, refers to water from our reservoirs and drainage system.

Tap 2, refers to the water we import from Malaysia.

Tap 3, or NEWater, is treated used water produced by a complex process of micro-filtration and reverse osmosis.

Tap 4 is the desalinated water derived from converting sea water to fresh water.

Despite this strategy, we cannot be lax about water usage.  That’s why the Singapore Green Plan aims to reduce Singapore’s per capita domestic consumption from 162 to 155 litres per day by 2012.  It hopes to achieve this through initiatives such as the Water Efficient Homes (WEH) Programme, which encourages good water conservation habits, like taking shorter showers, and the use of water-efficient products, like thimbles and cistern water-saving bags.

While encouraging us to conserve and value water, the SGP 2012 also wants us to enjoy it.

Leading this initiative is the Public Utilities Board (PUB).  By opening up some of our reservoirs for leisure activities like wakeboarding and canoeing, PUB hopes Singaporeans will foster a close relationship wih water.  And learn to appreciate it.

This you can do by not littering in our reservoirs and waterways. Or by just making the efforts to use water wisely.

Singapore World Water Day

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The young Singaporeans are learning in the schools to get involved in the Singapore World Waterday here .

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Lets play our parts to save water.  Water is precious for life.  Please do not waste.

Seniors Take A Shine To New Tech Toys

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The first used Palm IIIx Special Edition PDA (above photo) which I bought from a former colleague for $30 over 20 years ago to play with this “toy”.  I did not realise that I became addicted to this “hobby” on a journey of self-discovery to educate me the marvels of communication technology and handheld technology.  It was not just a “toy” only to play games.  There were some PalmOS games (now known as apps) to play on the PDA devices.  I also learned and mastered to write “Graffiti”, an essentially single-stroke shorthand handwriting recognition system used in PDAs based on the PalmOS.

The Palm IIIe is a PDA from Palm Computing released in 1999 briefly after the more expensive and more advanced Palm IIIx.

It shared the same screen as the Palm IIIx, which improved upon the Palm III’s screen by featuring a new enhanced and easier to read LCD. The Palm IIIe had 2MB of RAM, which is the same as the Palm III. It had a 16 MHz Motorola DragonBall EZ CPU, said to be faster and more efficient than the 16 MHz Motorola DragonBall CPU found in all previous Palm models.

The Palm IIIe featured an inverse electroluminescent backlight that illuminated the screen text instead of the screen background. This same feature was found on the Palm IIIx. This feature was an area of controversy as many people disliked it while many others found it to be an improvement.

Later a Special Edition IIIe device was released, which had a translucent clear case.

Here’s a “Retro Palm IIIxe PDA unboxing and teardown” video on YouTube to share here .

I found a 10-year-old newspaper article in The Straits Times published on 30 April 2007 by chance while checking on NewspaperSG resources.  The interview was conducted by journalist Alfred Siew and he then arranged with Stephanie Yeow to take this photo (a memory-aid) a week later to make me remember.

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Seniors take a shine to new tech toys
The Straits Times, 30 April 2001

By Alfred Siew

Friends think he is too old for his hobby, and his wife nags him for spending too much time and money on it.

Mr James Seah’s love of personal digital assistants (PDAs) has seen him spend a fortune. The 59-year-old once even worked part-time at a Singtel Hello shop just to get his hands on the latest models. He was a sales promoter, and sold one of the first PDAs that could make phone calls.

“When you put your calls through the speakerphone, you could see how surprised people were to see a ‘talking’ PDA,” he gushed, recalling that period.

The former finance supervisor is among a growing band of silver-haired geeks, who are proving to be as passionate about the latest gizmos as teenagers.

The over-60 seniors with spending power are lapping up the latest PDAs, cellphones and digital cameras.

Some are also wandering everywhere online, joining Internet communities, playing games and connecting with other older netizens.

If they are retired or working part-time, they also have a lot of time to spend on their hobbies.

Mr Seah, for example, was retrenched from his job in 2003 after 28 years, and now works at home on his own business from 6 pm to 10 pm.

He has a daughter who is married and working in Britain, and a son who has completed a polytechnic course and is in national service.
His wife is a retired clerk.

With his children grown up, Mr Seah is able to focus more on his hobby.

The silver-haired tech brigade offers a twist to the typical image of a cellphone-toting teenager or young executive, and its rise in something companies may do well to heed, say experts.

A study by MasterCard last year put computers and mobile phones mong the top five purchases for seniors above 65 in wealthy Asian countries.

All in, this band of consumers in six Asian countries, including Singapore and Japan, will spend US$1,536 billion (S$2,330 billion) on items wuch as travel, cars and computers by 2015, twice more than in 2005. Dr Yuwa Hendrick-Wong, MasterCard’s economic adviser for Asia-Pacific, told The Straits Times.

Dr Yuwa, who published the findings in a book last year, said that in the next 20 years, greying Asian populations will give rise to elderly consumers who will pick up gadgets such as cellphones to stay independent and connected to their families.

Although it is unclear exactly how much seniors in Singapore spend on technology, a visit to Funan the DigitaLife Mall on any weekend shows one thing: Elderly geeks do splurge on tech toys.

Mr Samuel Gan, sales manager at camera retailer John 3:16, said that between 20 per cent and 30 per cent of the purchases at his store were made by seniors.

The 33-year-old said: “Many started on film, but their passion is what drives them to master digital cameras. You have to respect them for that.”

Many seniors who used computers at their jobs were not averse to going digital with their hobbies as well.

Mr Seah, for one, went a step further than using a computer at work. He paid more than $300 for his first Palm IIIe PDA in 2000 to schedule his appointments, and never turned back from tapping on the screen each day.

Today, he has a $1,000 Palm Treo 650 PDA that also let him make phone calls and read e-mail on the go.

He figures that over the years, he has spent thousands of dollars on about a dozen PDAs. He bought some of the older models on the eBay online auction site.

“My wife nags me quite a lot, but it is my only vice,” he said with a grin.

For other seniors, the fascination with technology comes from a need to use it and master all its features.

Remisier Thio Gim Siew, 71, taught himself how to use the free Skype Internet phone service to call one of his two daughters, who is working in the United States.

The service saves him money as it uses the Internet and bypasses more expensive telecom networks.

Said Mr Thio, who is called a “computer freak” at home: “If I do not understand something, I make sure I read the manual and ask my nephew, who is a tech expert, until I understand it.”

He was not always this comfortable with technology.

“I used to be scared to touch a computer because I thought I might damage it, but after accidentally deleting an entire hard disk once, I was okay,” he recalled with a laugh.

Today, he is able to teach his five-year-old grandson and eight-year-old grand-daughter how to use Google and play online games.

He said a lot of seniors do not use technology as much as they should because they are not adventurous.

He said: “At my age, if I can avoid learning stuf that is too complicated, I will avoid it. But if I have to use it, I will learn it because I want to use it.”

With more seniors interested in technology, is it time for a change in attitudes towards this new group of users?

Mr Seah said that when he visits computer shows, he gets the feeling young sales promoters hope he will not approach them.

“They think this old man is going to be troublesome and ask a lot of basic questions,” he said.

Many gadgets are also not friendly to older users, being designed for younger people with sharper eyesight and faster fingers.

Mr Thio said he bought a Motorola Razr V3i phone because it not only plays back his favourite Chinese evergreen MP3 music, but also has a large keypad and an ample screen.

Some phones, he said, come with tiny buttons that are difficult to press and screens with small lettering that he cannot read an SMS message without squinting.

His next purchase will be a PDA phone that will allow him to make Skype calls at free Wi-Fi hotspots around town.

And after he masters that, he will teach his friends how to make free calls as well.

The tech-savvy older crowd may be small today, but it looks likely to expand.

Mr Seah, for example, has a fledgling website called Youngonce.net to bring seniors together to share pictures from their younger days. His aim is to share the joys of trying out new things.

So far, the website has only attracted a dozen or so photos from friends, but he is hoping to make it more easily accessible and attract more users.

He said: “The base of elders is growing, so if you tell me that seniors do not know computers, I do not agree any more.”

Many things concerning communication technology have changed over 20 years and the views and opinions which I expressed in that interview are no longer valid.

As a then young, innocent and foolish guy who was “obsessed” with a new tech toy, a Palm PDA, I spent about 10 years with this “love affair”.  It was a learning experience to experiment with the various Palm PDAs, including the special Apple Newton Message Pad with transparent case which was holding in my hand in the above photo.

The YouTube video of the Apple Newton MessagePad 100 (not the one with transparent case) here.

Many years later as I grew older and mellow with wisdom (I hope), I learnt the lessons on the rapid changes on new tech toys over the decades.  The enthusiasm, the childish passion and excitement when I first bought Palm PDA and held it in my hand;  I thought it was like magic and showed it to all my friends to share with them, just like the kids with a new toy.

Palm PDA is now dead; and the PalmOS (Palm Operating System) is obsolete.

Farewell Palm, thanks to Jeff Hawkins (American founder and inventor of Palm Computing and Handspring) for teaching me how to use, play and learn the “old toys” in the old times.  It was fun while it lasted.  Twenty years is a long time for me to enjoy the Palm.  As with my many former PalmOS friends,  we have to move on and keep with the times to use either Apple iPhone, Samsung or other Android smartphones available in the market today.

Back then, Microsoft’s Pocket PC was seen by many as the evil competitor to the Palm devices. However, Palm’s lack of attention to multimedia and pushing innovation forward, along with Microsoft’s efforts to bring the desktop to your hand, resulted in Microsoft overtaking Palm and eventually Palm using Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS in its Treo line.

Palm OS eventually went away and they reinvented themselves with webOS. This was a revolutionary mobile operating system and we see signs of it today in Apple’s iOS 7, BlackBerry 10, and more. The problem there was the rather poor quality hardware and limited carrier support. No matter how great the operating system was, not enough people were using it and the slide-out keyboard didn’t give you a quality found in competing devices.

HP then took and killed webOS after its Palm purchase and a great operating system failed after three short years. For those of us who started using Palm Pilots, it is sad to look back and see that Palm is no longer with us when they were the ones who brought us into the mobile world in the first place.

It is inevitable that the many brands of smartphone makers are making better features and product designs at competitive prices to satisfy the demands of the consumers today.

The heap of older smartphones are thrown away (photo below) and there are fewer collection hunters to value them.

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