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181 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 ...
T.E.D.'s user avatar
  • 119k
111 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 ...
John Dallman's user avatar
  • 31.5k
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 ...
Avery's user avatar
  • 2,419
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 ...
called2voyage's user avatar
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 ...
Denis de Bernardy's user avatar
61 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 ...
646-931-1748's user avatar
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 ...
Brian Z's user avatar
  • 20.9k
59 votes
Accepted

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 ...
mmmmmm's user avatar
  • 993
50 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 ...
John Dallman's user avatar
  • 31.5k
48 votes

How serious was Fermat's statement about the ancients?

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 ...
fdb's user avatar
  • 9,780
47 votes
Accepted

Did the Finns have aluminum screw caps in 1939?

Or is this photo from a modern re-enactment of some sort? The archive this is from is supposed to be photos from that war. Are there other things in this photo (button? carabiner?) that mark it as ...
Schwern's user avatar
  • 55.1k
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....
Yellow Sky's user avatar
44 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 ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
43 votes
Accepted

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 ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.8k
41 votes
Accepted

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 ...
kimchi lover's user avatar
  • 5,922
40 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 ...
Schwern's user avatar
  • 55.1k
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 ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.8k
37 votes

How difficult was it to spoof the sender of a telegram in 1890-1920's in USA?

There is nothing to "spoof". Note that a telegram did not have a "sender" field to begin with. There was the office of origin, the address of the recipient, and the message. That ...
DevSolar's user avatar
  • 14k
35 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 ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.8k
35 votes
Accepted

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, ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.8k
33 votes

How did muzzle-loaded rifled artillery solve the problems of the hand-held rifle?

The answer lies in the age-old conundrum: how to muzzle-load a firearm whose bullet is supposed to tightly engage with the barrel. I'll rewind back to the 1700s and work up how rifles worked to get ...
Smith's user avatar
  • 2,091
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. ...
Tyler Durden's user avatar
  • 37.8k
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 ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
31 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
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 ...
Lars Bosteen's user avatar
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 ...
Semaphore's user avatar
  • 97.5k
30 votes
Accepted

When did horseback riding start? Are Doosheh cave petroglyphs authentic and correctly dated?

There seems to be something going on of the quite unreliable kind. The generally accepted 'history' and dates of horse domestication and riding practices are quite at odds with the dates for cave ...
LаngLаngС's user avatar
  • 80.8k
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,...
The Wandering Dev Manager's user avatar
26 votes

Why was the Aeolipile not put to practical use in classical antiquity?

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 ...
Mark's user avatar
  • 8,541
25 votes
Accepted

When was the first electrical intra-battlefield communication?

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 ...
Pieter Geerkens's user avatar

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