B1 Intermediate UK 2423 Folder Collection
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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.
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,
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
a temple. Clever bastard.
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Five inventions that were centuries ahead of their time - This is Genius

2423 Folder Collection
Eating published on November 27, 2014
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