The Yeah/Nah conundrum – are Australians adapting to the digital universe by speaking in binary?

Ask many Australians about a question and he or she will often reply with a combination of yeahs and nahs that are a highly nuanced and conditional assessment of the situation.

This sort of thing irritates the hell out of some people – but in fact it may be that many Australians are sensing the longer term possibilities of directly communicating with the digital domain in its own binary language, substituting 1’s and 0’s with yeahs and nahs.

Eventually, we predict, Australians may lose the ability to speak in old fashioned ‘language’ and just use yeahs and nahs. This is what Australian Binary may ultimately sound like in some not so distant future:

There are already signs (below) that road traffic management, for instance, is shifting to the Australian Binary model.

Who was Wayne Sartre? And what was his advice to travellers?

As Advanced Research Director for the Institute of Backyard Studies, Mark Thomson travels extensively through the remote Australian bush. On his many expeditions, he would occasionally notice the odd road sign that did not seem quite right or seemed to hint at a higher purpose than mere directions.

Did these signs have a common origin?

After much research and with the support of colleagues from the Speculative Histories Laboratory, accumulated evidence revealed a curious narrative that is even stranger than fiction.

It is the account of Wayne Sartre, a lonely council grader driver, who came to know the powerful effects of isolation and of far too much deep thinking whilst driving a slow-moving vehicle.

The remains of Wayne’s grader near Lake Shrivelledup Western Australia

Wayne Sartre, rural council council worker and philosopher, seems to have been the outcome of an error in travel bookings in the early 1960s.

According to Wayne’s own account, his father Jean Paul – a Frenchman of some notoriety – was mistakenly booked to fly to an academic conference in Austria.

When Monsieur Sartre landed in Darwin in 1962, he slowly realised he was not in Vienna but in a place called Australia. He soon booked a return flight to Paris – which  entailed a waiting period of several days.

In those few Darwin days, he met and had a brief passionate love affair with Doreen Wungadeer, a woman he described as “having great and strange powers”.

Wayne was apparently born of that liaison. The father kept a distant interest in his son, intermittently sending reading matter which the young Wayne, eager for the approval of his invisible father, would read and ponder upon greatly.

Australia presents few career options for the remote self-educated philosopher and Wayne eventually found work as a bush council grader driver – a notoriously isolated occupation but one which presented ample opportunities for long periods of deep contemplation.

Wayne’s toolbox, complete with essential reading matter, has been collected for posterity.

As a result of these meditations, Wayne would occasionally sneak into the council sign workshop at night and fabricate signs which he felt would be of genuine benefit to the thinking traveller.

There are precious few of these signs left and they have been collected here for posterity. There are almost certainly more to be found out there somewhere.

Jean Paul would have been proud of this one.

No-one knows for sure where Wayne is now. Some say he harvests sandalwood in Coolgardie, Western Australia. Others are certain he regularly drinks at the Cooktown pub in Far North Queensland.

Either way, if you meet him he’s definitely worth having a yarn with, especially about the uncertain consolations of philosophy.

Mark Thomson

The original full sized signs and the photos of them in situ are available for exhibition by enquiry to or by phoning 0419865821. Individual photographs are available for purchase through these contacts.

The large poster (30 x 120 cms) for the  Advice to Travellers exhibition in 2017 (below), which incorporates photos most of the current signs on it, is also available for a modest price through Ebay.

Mark Thomson wishes to acknowledge the generous support and assistance of the Speculative Histories Laboratory in this project.

Professor Tony Kajpe and Mr Thomson in the field undertaking research work, central Australia.

The “Lost Tools of Henry Hoke” book is now available on Ebay

$20 including postage and a dedication from the author is possible too!


IBYS Membership

For an annual fee of $20 the benefits of belonging include the following:

  • A dandy, important-looking (and highly framable) Certificate of Associate Membership from the Institute.
  • The choice of a ‘Good Shed’, ’Shed Science’ or ’I tinker, therefore I am’ sticker for your shed or car.
  • A space on the Institute of Backyard Studies website to display your own shed stories and up to three photographs. (The Editor reserves the right to edit stories and pictures as he deems necessary.)
  • A 5% discount on the advertised price of all items in the Institute’s online Shop.
  • Regular emails advising of the Institute’s new projects, publications and products.
  • The option to receive email advice whenever new posts or comments are added to the site.
  • Advice about upcoming events in your region at which the Institute will have a physical presence.
  • Other good things as we think of them.
  • And absolutely nothing involving goats.

Price: (AUD)


View the store here

The Lost Tools of Henry Hoke

HH-cover-cropped2 The Lost Tools of Henry Hoke is the story of an unsung inventive genius whose work could have revolutionised the modern world. From an isolated workshop in a distant windswept town came a constant stream of dazzling leaps of mechanical imagination, culminating in the extraordinary Random Excuse Generator. The long weight, the wooden magnet, the glass hammer, dehydrated water pills – the man’s mind was truly a fountain of innovation. Unaccountably, all these brilliant tools have now all but disappeared. In this groundbreaking new book, deep shed researcher Mark Thomson uncovers the true story behind our greatest inventor – or why, as Henry Hoke himself was known to say: ‘There’s no tool like an old tool.’

Price: ($25.00 AUD)


View the store here

Rare Trades

raretradesthumb.pngMark Thomson delves into the history of rare trades – and the lives of the tradesmen who preserve them – to uncover a wealth of special tools, unique traditions and secrets.The nature of work is changing. We no longer use our hands to make things. Human hands, capable of making objects of great utility and beauty, are now used to dial phones or press computer keys. We feel that loss keenly. On weekends, hardware stores fill with people satisfying a deep urge to do something practical and useful.

Rare Trades pays tribute to the kind of skilled manual work – requiring the artistry of a real master – that nowadays has become so rare. Featuring great photography and stories of tradesmen from the haystack maker to the wheelwright, the cooper, the tinsmith and many more, this book recognises the type of skills that are fast being lost from our society.

ISBN: 9780732269043; ISBN-10: 0732269040;

Price: (AUD)


View the store here

The Complete Blokes and Sheds

The Complete Blokes and ShedsA collection of stories and anecdotes about Australian men and their sheds in this new, combined edition of the bestselling books Blokes & Sheds and Stories from the Shed.

An Aussie man’s pride can be measured by his shed – its size, what he stores in it, and what he can fix in it. Now, two bestselling books come together in one edition to explore and explain the male obsession with structures of corrugated iron, beer fridges, dartboards and piles of timber offcuts.

In Blokes & Sheds, Mark shows how, like the dunny, the footy game and the meat pie with sauce, the shed has an important place in Australian culture and mythology. It stands as a symbol of the Aussie male’s ingenuity, a testimony to his ability to fix anything with a length of fencing wire, a hammer and a piece of 4″ x 2″.

In Stories from the Shed, enthusiasts from around the country come clean and tell how it really is the last bastion of Aussie maledom. And apparently it’s not all hammers, nails and timber offcuts. Set against a backdrop of wall–to–wall stuff, junk, gear, supplies and stock, these funny and affectionate stories capture the past, present and future of a changing Aussie shedland.

This new edition is a must for every father, brother, husband or son who has a dream: his very own shed.

ISBN: 9780207198236; ISBN-10: 0207198233;

Price: (AUD)


View the store here