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  • So last week we did a video on five technologies which are going to change your world and blow

  • your tiny mind. They're awesome. But what if we'd made that video hundreds, or even

  • thousands of years ago.

  • Because bizarre as it seems there are things we take for granted, or are only just beginning

  • to do today, which were invented hundreds or even thousands of years ago, but never

  • took off for one reason or another. So here's our top five inventions which would have changed

  • your past. And blown your tiny primitive mind.

  • Colour printers: 1947

  • Colour printers seem like old tech today, but they didn't actually take off for the

  • home user until the 1980s. But they actually came about all the way back in 1947.

  • The Colourfax was plugged into a bog standard FM radio and would recreate colour images

  • using pencils attached to a series of swinging arms, sort of like a seismometer. It took

  • a mere 15 minutes to draw an image in glorious techni-colour pencil vision in the comfort

  • of your own home, at a time when transmitting black and white photos over telephone lines

  • was considered a massive novelty and required entire van loads of equipment. Quite literally.

  • Journals at the time raved about the possibility, claiming that it would allow people to be

  • educated in complex skills and sciences at home by listening to lectures on the wireless

  • and having accompanying diagrams print off before their very eyes which they could then

  • keep. It's actually a pretty smart idea, but at £150, roughly £1400 or $2400, it never

  • really caught on.

  • Contact lenses circa 1632.

  • Contact lenses as we know them came about in the 1950s. And for those who can wear them,

  • they are a revolution -- discreetly restoring the sight of tens of millions of people worldwide.

  • Before the 1950s?

  • Welcome Rene Descartes vision correction lenses of 1632. And one thing they were NOT was subtle

  • or convenient.

  • The system was formed of a glass tube, like a test tube, with the curved end shaped to

  • correct the vision of the wearer. In between? A long glass tube full of liquid which was

  • in direct contact with the cornea. Which is slightly impractical. It does, for example,

  • make blinking rather tricky. And it makes you look like Bender from Futurama. And big,

  • heavy glass tubes filled with liquid means you need a special face brace to keep them

  • in position and stop the liquid leaking out. Which sounds painful, as well as rather impractical.

  • Unsurprisingly, they never made it off the drawing board. But they would have worked.

  • Theoretically.

  • Heat Ray Gun: 212 BC

  • He may be known for his water lifting device, but this time it was Roman Galleys Archimedes

  • screwed. Oh yeah, the Greeks invented the laser gun. Probably.

  • The story goes that during the siege of Syracuse, the legendary Greek inventor built a reflective

  • mirror on top of a tower which, properly aligned, could set Roman ships in harbour on fire by

  • directing and concentrating sunlight onto them. Like a bad kid with an anthill.

  • Which, along with Greek Fire, or as it's now known, Napalm, would have made them pretty

  • bloody fearsome at defending their coast from the Latin marauders.

  • But surely that can't actually work, right? Well it was tried by them mythbusters lot

  • among others, and all the evidence seems to suggest that, constructed as the chroniclers

  • of the time claim, it could actually have functioned. Not to say it was actually built,

  • but even if Archimedes at least designed the thing, he nailed it.

  • Want a practical example of the system in action? Last summer was unusually hot in the

  • UK. As in it didn't rain much, and that's VERY unusual. The windows of a skyscraper

  • in London managed to reflect enough light down onto the street to melt cars. Ouch.

  • MP3 Players: 1979

  • Not quite as old as some of the inventions here, but the MP3 player is almost as old

  • as the desktop computer. In 1979, a guy called Kane Kramer designed a cigarette packet sized

  • electronic music player. It could hold a whopping three and a half minutes of music. But the

  • designer had a plan. He would sell flash memory extensions so you could swap songs in and

  • out, and music would be available via shops where music could be downloaded by playing

  • it via a telephone into the box. So audio quality wasn't the first consideration either,

  • then.

  • The system was called IXI and could have made it, five units apparently being built. Unfortunately

  • a company fued in 1988 split the company, development ceased and the idea vanished.

  • But it was an awesome idea, decades ahead of its time. And one which eventually reappeared,

  • refreshed and with more capable tech, almost in this exact guise.

  • Vending Machines: Circa 100AD

  • No, seriously, the Greeks had vending machines. In the first Century AD, the Greeks had a

  • problem. Holy water supplies at temples were being sapped by people taking far more than

  • they needed or had paid for. Some of the bigger temples would likely have been very, very

  • big places, and it would have been tricky to keep on top of who had taken what, especially

  • if the watchman was slipped a little extra coin to look the other way.

  • So an ingenious system was developed by famed engineer Hero of Alexandria. Worshippers would

  • have to put a shaped coin or token into a slot at the top of a large machine, containing

  • a tank of holy water. The coin would sit on a lever, weighing it down and pulling up a

  • small container of water from the bottom of the tank. Once it reached a level, the water

  • would tip out down a chute into a bottle, and the coin would fall off the lever.

  • The same system was used in early vending machines in the nineteenth century, before

  • electricity came along. Now that is awesome.

  • Oh, and Hero? He also designed the first ever steam powered engines and automatons. Using

  • a rotating metal pot on a pivot with angled funnels out of the sides, he boiled water

  • so that the pot began to spin, using the energy to open the world's first automatic doors

  • at

  • a temple. Clever bastard.

So last week we did a video on five technologies which are going to change your world and blow

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Five inventions that were centuries ahead of their time - This is Genius

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    Eating posted on 2014/11/27
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