182 votes

Did Bill Gates steal the GUI concept from Steve Jobs?

Microsoft "stole" the GUI in roughly the same way that every scriptwriter has "stolen" their movies from Shakespeare. Ideas are important, but implementation is everything. I'll start by saying I ...
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  • 109k
112 votes

Why did the Germans use the Enigma machine rather than the far superior "Lorenz" cipher machine?

The Enigma was portable. You could carry one on a small submarine, or in an armoured battalion headquarters, and they weren't a problem when an airfield had to be moved in a hurry. They didn't require ...
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  • 28.1k
102 votes
Accepted

What fueled the street lights in 13th-century Cordoba?

I have traced back this claim to its original source. Come along with me on this journey! Let's start with a source which used to be linked on Wikipedia and is commonly cited online: For ten miles in ...
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  • 2,241
73 votes
Accepted

When did bombs actually look like this?

Early hand grenades looked like that: The word "grenade" originated in the Glorious Revolution (1688), where cricket ball-sized iron spheres packed with gunpowder and fitted with slow-burning wicks ...
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71 votes

How has hearing loss been avoided in war?

Until the 1940s, it was believed that the cure to loud noises was developing a tolerance to them: The pervasive attitude of the early 1900s was that hearing loss could be prevented by developing a ...
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62 votes

Did Bill Gates steal the GUI concept from Steve Jobs?

That characterization is not legally accurate. Yes, Apple believed that Microsoft infringed on its GUI ideas, and filed a lawsuit in 1988. They lost. Jobs himself obtained the idea from ...
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62 votes

Are there any examples of technologies have been lost over time?

Are there any examples of technologies have been lost over time? At least four examples spring to mind: Damascus steel, which might have been rediscovered last century, Greek fire, whose composition ...
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60 votes
Accepted

What do the phone number suffixes J, M, R, W in 1940 New York phone book mean?

You are correct that these are party lines. The letters represent an additional digit dialed after the others in cases where automatic operations was implemented. This article goes into great depth ...
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  • 17.4k
59 votes
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Where did the archived discussions in Google Groups come from?

The old discussions were messages on USENET, which still exists. rec.games.chess is a newsgroup in USENET it is not firstly a part of google groups. Messages can be sent and read in the newsgroup ...
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  • 997
51 votes

Are the pyramids too old?

Robert Temple has zero credibility in archaeology. He's written multiple ancient-astronaut books, one of the quotes on his web page about his books is from an author of The Holy Blood and the Holy ...
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  • 28.1k
49 votes

How accurate or supported is Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel"?

The book is well written and well explained; Jared Diamond actually takes real pain to explain that his theories are not implacable and must not be taken as a 100% reliable blueprint for predicting ...
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46 votes

Fermat's statement about the ancients: How serious was he?

There is a difference between abstract knowledge and "inventions". In the 17th century it was still widely believed that the ancient Greeks had discovered and formulated pretty much the sum total of ...
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  • 9,473
46 votes

Why did quill pens persist until the early 19th century despite the capacity to make metal dip pens?

The metal dip pens existed since the times when Britain was a Roman province. Also, they are known to be used in the Middle ages and Renaissance times. That is, they were used alongside the quill pens....
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45 votes

Why did the grip-centered viking shield fall out of use relative to the kite shields?

It's important to note that concrete information on how shields were used is scant, so a large part of any discussion on this subject is speculation and logic. That said, kite shields had an obvious ...
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  • 95.8k
44 votes
Accepted

How much were telegraphists in the 1950s paid?

An enlisted Naval serviceman was paid anything from $80 to $213/month, depending on rank and service. I can't find a clear US record, but the Canadians had the lowest (non-training) telegraphist grade ...
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  • 6,811
44 votes
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Why did Persia adopt the movable-type printing so late?

Much like Arabic, Persian script (الفبای فارسی‎) is difficult to write, with characters 'changing' depending on context. Think of a text consisting of many, many ligatures. And like in China and Japan ...
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  • 73.7k
41 votes
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Did this "sledge rigged like a sloop" vehicle ever exist, or was it an invention of Jules Verne?

Yes, and this wikipedia article and this other one describe it. The first article talks about ice boats in America (invented in Poughkeepsie, etc), but the second makes it clear that the Dutch had ...
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  • 4,373
39 votes

How has hearing loss been avoided in war?

In Germany Maximilian Negwer founded the company "Fabrik pharmazeutischer und kosmetischer Spezialitäten Max Negwer" in 1907. The first package of Ohropax noise protectors was sold in autumn 1908 for ...
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  • 73.7k
39 votes

Why did the Germans use the Enigma machine rather than the far superior "Lorenz" cipher machine?

I would add two more factors: cost and being invented too late. Enigma was available commercially in 1923. The Reichsmarine (the navy of the German Republic) put it into service in 1926 and the ...
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  • 52.6k
37 votes
Accepted

Are steam engines still in regular use anywhere in the world?

There are plenty of industrial uses for steam engines, mostly for generating electricity. Any coal-fueled power station is a steam engine, or more likely a set of them. The only big change in ...
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  • 3,294
34 votes
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How to explain the apparent discrepancy in the use of papyrus vs. clay tablets between Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia?

Most certainly we see mainly survivorship bias. Other factors play a certain minor role, but the durability of clay tablets, especially when fired, are most important. Cuneiform was developed on clay, ...
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  • 73.7k
32 votes
Accepted

Why didn't the Incan Empire use iron?

Iron is not "mined" in its native form. The ores of iron, such as hematite, are oxides which are plentiful and can even be collected right off the surface of the earth with no mining involved at all. ...
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  • 37.2k
32 votes

Are there any examples of technologies have been lost over time?

Perhaps one of the most famous examples is the Antikythera mechanism. Discovered in 1901, it is believed to date between 205 BC and 60 BC. This ancient analog computer contains traces of technology ...
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31 votes
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Before television sets became commonplace, did people generally watch movies only once?

Short Answer Although opportunities certainly existed for repeat viewing of movies before the advent of television, this was not 'generally' the case. Reasons for this included limited long-term ...
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30 votes
Accepted

What evidence is there of the vision aids people used before the invention of eyeglasses in about 1286?

Cursory netsearch brings up very common blips of history relating to the past evolution of reading aids or eyeglasses. There are some early Greek objects that have magnifying properties, although it ...
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  • 73.7k
30 votes
Accepted

Why did the Mongols destroy the library during the siege of Baghdad in 1258?

Short Answer An important reason was to destroy those Muslims who opposed the Mongols. This meant that their mosques and Islamic texts were also targeted, especially those of the Isma‘ilis, a Shi‘ite ...
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30 votes
Accepted

Why didn't the Black Death result in favorable results for surviving peasants in China?

Firstly, there's no reason to think it didn't. In fact, it's fairly routine for afflicted regions to receive government subsidies in Imperial China. As early as AD 218, the Book of the Later Han ...
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  • 95.8k
29 votes

Did Bill Gates steal the GUI concept from Steve Jobs?

"You're ripping us off!", Steve shouted, raising his voice even higher. "I trusted you, and now you're stealing from us!" But Bill Gates just stood there coolly, looking Steve directly in the eye,...
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28 votes

Are steam engines still in regular use anywhere in the world?

Nuclear power stations are steam engines, they just use a different source of energy to generate the steam from what you're probably thinking of. So yes, steam engines are in widespread use around the ...
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  • 10.9k
27 votes
Accepted

How come all the major WW1 rifles were bolt action?

Most of the rifles used in WWI were designed, adopted and procured 10-20 years prior during a period of great upheaval in military rifle technology. In the decades leading up to WWI there was a great ...
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  • 52.6k

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