Seen on the street in Kyiv.

Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

“The Mob takes the Fifth. If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” -- The TOFF *

"Foreign Relations Boil Down to Two Things: Talking With People or Killing Them." -- Unknown

“Speed is a poor substitute for accuracy.” -- Real, no-shit, fortune from a fortune cookie

"If you believe that you are talking to G-d, you can justify anything.” — my Dad

"Colt .45s; putting bad guys in the ground since 1873." -- Unknown

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"The Dildo of Karma rarely comes lubed." -- Unknown

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

* "TOFF" = Treasonous Orange Fat Fuck, A/K/A Dolt-45,
A/K/A Commandante (or Cadet) Bone Spurs,
A/K/A El Caudillo de Mar-a-Lago, A/K/A the Asset., A/K/A P01135809

Friday, March 28, 2008

Five Inventions That Changed the World

There have been a great many inventions over the last several hundred years. Limiting it to a handful is highly arbitrary, but as this is my blog, here we go.

1. The Printing Press With Movable Type.

Printing presses and movable type provided for the standardization of languages. Prior to the use of movable type, it was not unheard of for local languages to vary so widely that if one traveled fifty miles, the dialect spoken at the destination would be unintelligible. Movable type standardized spelling, which may be why the Canterbury Tales is almost indecipherable while Shakespearian plays are understandable (although it helps to have a key for archaic words). Without printing presses, literacy would not have become common throughout Europe.

The printing press started the information age, providing for the dissemination of information by other than word of mouth or laborious hand-copying. It would have been hard to imagine the American Revolution without the works of the pamphleteers and newspapers which spread the news and allowed for dissemination of the arguments that formed the underpinning of the Revolution. Universal education would have been impossible without the printing press.

2. The Steam Engine.

The stationary steam engine allowed for the placing of small factories away from the streams and rivers which powered water wheels. It allowed for the construction of large factories, the Industrial Age and with the development of interchangeable parts, brought about mass production, which in turn gave rise to consumer goods. Transportation, which had not changed in speed appreciably for thousands of years, went in less than a century from the speed of a man walking to up to 100 MPH on land and 30Kts at sea. The steam engine reduced the duration of a transatlantic ocean crossing from months to less than two weeks for slower ships and several days for fast ships. On land, the steam engine knitted together the United States; before the spanning of the continent by rail, it was quicker to go from New York to Europe than to California. Transportation of perishable foodstuffs beyond their growing area became possible.

Electrification depended heavily on steam turbines for powering generators and still does. You would not be able to read this post without the power of steam.

3. The Telegraph.

What steam did for transportation, telegraphy did for information. The spread of information before Samuel Morse’s invention depended on the physical transportation of messengers and/or paper. While there had been some attempts to develop rapid signaling systems and the French had semaphore signal networks in use before 1800,

it generally took weeks or months for information to spread before the invention of the telegraph. With the telegraph, information could cross continents in a matter of minutes. Telegraphs provided for command and control of armies in wartime. Lawbreakers could no longer outrun word of their crimes. Telephony and radio built upon telegraph technology. Teletypes replaced keyed telegraph signals and ultimately, computers replaced teletypes. This post was sent to you by electronic signals transmitted over wires, fiber optics and possibly radio waves and it all started with the telegraph.

4. The Transistor.

Miniaturization of electronics began with the transistor. The digital age was jump-started by the transistor. Electronics before the transistor age required a heavy chassis to support vacuum tubes. Tubes were high-failure items, to the point that if you owned a radio or television before transistorized units were wide-spread, you knew how to remove the cover and take out the tubes. Hardware stores and “five and dime" stores had tube testers that consumers used to check the tubes to see which one had blown.

Without transistors and then microchips, computers would still be limited to huge mainframes in large universities and companies. The computer under your desk or on your lap has more computing power and memory than existed in the entire world 45 years ago, and it all began with the transistor.

5. The Revolver.

The revolver was the first practical repeating firearm and 170 years later, they still are in use. It brought the ability to effectively defend one’s self to the physically weaker and the aged. No longer would size and brute physical force be enough to subdue all but the very skilled or the stronger opponent.

No longer would the ability to effectively defend one’s self with weapons take years of training and practice. True, firearms had existed for centuries, but the ability to fire multiple shots largely depended on the carrying of multiple weapons, which was at best, impracticable for most people. The revolver brought firepower to the masses. It enabled a single lawman to confront multiple criminals. The revolver democratized the use of deadly force.

If you blog about your five choices for inventions that changed the world, drop a comment here so I'll know to check out your thoughts.


deadstick said...

I'd want to squeeze the rigid horse collar in there enabled a draft animal to transport more weight than it could carry.

The printing press stands out from the rest in an interesting way. The other inventions *enabled* things, but the press is great for what it made *impossible*: the control of information.

Comrade Misfit said...

You could also make the same argument for the iron horseshoe, no?

So go blog about your choices, Deadstick!

Distributorcap said...

great choices...
and those choices allowed for future inventions like the phone, computer etc...

i would have to think about it