178

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 haven't seen the movie, so I don't know what it claims. However, I didn't see it because I lived through most of it as a home computing enthusiast, so I already ...


110

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 mains electricity, or special communications hardware - messages were sent and received by hand using Morse code - and they were believed to be secure, ...


72

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 were first used against the Jacobites in the battles of Killiecrankie and Glen Shiel (Specimen made from glass, French, ca. 1740)


69

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 tolerance to noise. Consequently, any attempts to avoid loud sounds or to protect oneself from them were interpreted as weakness. Between 1941 and 1944, the US ...


62

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 is still a matter of debate, Roman concrete, whose formula was lost in Western Europe after the fall of Rome and later rediscovered during the Renaissance, and ...


61

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 implementations he witnessed at Xerox PARC. Microsoft did not just use this argument themselves to win. Rather what happened is that Xerox noticed the suit and joined the ...


58

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 all about how multi-party telephone lines worked, but as a short excerpt: A scheme widely used in the Bell Telephone System for four-party full selective ...


57

Architecture: Roman Cement Concrete was widely used throughout antiquity by the Persians, Egyptians, Assyrians, and Romans. The Romans technique in creating concrete allowed them to build the Pantheon, Colosseum, aqueducts, and spectacular baths (big ones, awesome ones). Amazingly many structures built with this Roman Cement are still standing. The recipe ...


51

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 Grail, and his page about Egyptian Dawn includes these points: Exposing faked evidence which has been credulously accepted by the Egyptological community. ...


46

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. However, those old metal pens were hand-made. It is only after the Industrial Revolution that their mass production became available. John Mitchell pioneered ...


45

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 as an Able Seaman, and this seems to be at the E-3 level; so by analogy say $100/month. To make it directly comparable to civilian pay we need to account for ...


45

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 advantage in extending protection to the lower half of the body. This was especially relevant to the cavalry, and particularly so in a period when leg armour ...


43

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 abstract knowledge. Fermat put this in question. The authentic quote from Fermat (in French and in English translation) can be found here: Perhaps, posterity ...


40

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 this technology down cold a very long time ago. Verne, one suspects, read 19th century equivalents of Wikipedia for plot elements; maybe he read an equivalent of ...


39

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 success or failure of any civilization (even if we could actually define what "failure" means for a civilization). The book, though, attracted criticism because ...


39

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 one Goldmark (adjusted for inflation about €5.75).[…] In August 1914, the product was recommended by Lieutenant General Freiherr von Dinklage to the War ...


38

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 the most beautiful calligraphy was held in high esteem. Reproducing this in print is an enormous challenge, today. For much of the early history of print, ...


37

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 Reichswehr in 1928 (the army of the German Republic). This meant by 1939 the German military had 10 to 15 years experience with Enigma, and German industry had ...


36

It would be very interesting to see a chart of rate of innovation over time in western civilization. Of course, this begs the question of what is "innovation". Do you count number of inventions? Do you give more weight to inventions that would have long lasting significance through history? Or ones that may have been less influential but providing a huge ...


36

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 technology is that converting the steam's expansion energy to kinetic energy is now done using a steam turbine and not a piston engine. Since the question specifically ...


33

Personally, I don't think anything ever went particularly "wrong" with India. They only fell behind the civilizations of Western Europe, not the rest of the world. So the proper question to ask here is what suddenly went right with heretofore backward Europe. To my mind the answer to this question is clear: The printing press. Nearly overnight Europeans had ...


32

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. I myself have collected hematite and magnetite from stream beds right near where I live. The difficulty in making iron is that it must be reduced from its ...


32

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 that appear utterly modern: gears with neat triangular teeth (just like the inside of a clock) and a ring divided into degrees (like the protractor you ...


29

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 records that Cao Cao issued an edict ordering welfare measures for survivors of a plague in the preceding winter. The next year, the Record of the Three Kingdoms ...


28

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 is said they were apparently used just to decorate other objects. Ancient Egyptians have produced glass lenses that were once readily identified as reading aid ...


27

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 planet.


27

"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, before starting to speak in his squeaky voice. "Well, Steve, I think there's more than one way of looking at it. I think it's more like we both had this ...


27

From the standpoint of the ancient Greeks, the aeolipile is a technological dead end. As an engine in its own right, it's useless for more than toys/temple wonders: it produces negligible torque, and does so in a horribly inefficient manner -- the slave you've got stoking the fire to run your aeolipile-powered device would be far more productive if he let ...


26

Chapter 16 - TELEGRAPH AT WAR 1854 - 1868 of Distant Writing by Steven Roberts outlines several battlefield usages of the telegraph prior to the American Civil War. The British, French and Spanish all employed telegraphs systems on the battlefield prior to the start of the American Civil War. British The Crimean War is the first time that the telegraph ...


24

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 change in ammunition which most lever designs could not accommodate. Militaries were rapidly adopting rounds with better ballistics in addition to larger and ...


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