“You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of their isolation and of the impunity with which crime may be committed there. […] They always fill me with a certain horror. It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside. […] But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbors, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.”
- The Copper Beeches (A.I.C. Doyle, M.D.), Strand Magazine, June 1892.
Glückliche Tage der Menschheit XII: Endlich, endlich D-Day, Operation Overload (sputnika:darkshapes).
Operation Overlord sollte die Wende zum Besseren besiegeln. Operation Overload dagegen hätte dieses Higgins LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) sicherlich zum kentern gebracht. Der Teufel steckt eben im Detail. So ist er eben.
“The feather gets stronger than the sword” - The Linotype
Since the 15th century to the second half of the 1800s, printed text were set by hand to the printing stencil. The speed of the typesetter posed the natural speed barrier for the ever advancing techniques of the actual printing processes. Needless to say the rapid evolutions of all aspects of European life demanded cheap and fast printed texts at the latest.
Ottmar Mergenthaler, German immigrant to the U.S. introduced his automated typesetting machine in 1886. The automaton was able to assemble lines of types (hence the name) which would later be combined to whole pages. While the typesetter operated a keyboard - thus virtually rewriting the text - single steel characters would be added up out of seperate magazines. In a second step a lead-based alloy was cast upon the line’s profile, thus creating a one-piece printing positive. After the typesetting, the single characters would be sorted to their respective magazines using an automated code of iron teeth on each piece.
The last Linotypes were retired in the 1980s. It is probably one of most important material inventions for western science and communications.
(above: An early Linotype)
“Hookline: Bang - My Remington spits a rhyme…” - The Remington Standard 2
Same year as the Hansen Writing Ball, the Remington of 1878 offers another concept. Less portable, the typewriter offers the now classic ergonomic design while bolted to le bureau. Automated production procedures allowed large numbers at low prices. The true novelty posed the Shift-key allowing capitals. Remington (also major producer of small arms from the Civil War onwards) did not introduce a new model until 1908 - a clear indication for the successful design.
(above: The Remington Standard 2)
“Frau Muller zum Diktat, please!” - The Hansen Writing Ball
Reverend Rasmus Malling-Hansen patented and started production of his writing machine in the early 1870s. The Skrivekuglen or Writing Ball would remain in offices up to the eve of WWI. It offered a very special ergonomic layout yet, - quite common throughout early typewriters - no view on the paper while writing. Its demise was bound to it being hand crafted.
Nietzsche referred to Hansen with whom he had personal correspondence as the “inventor of the typewriter” and directly received the newest model.
(above: Hansen Writing Ball model of 1878)
Civilization’s business end - Part II. - The Whitehead Torpedo
In the second half of the 19th century the quest for the latest ultima ratio at sea gave birth to numerous novelties. While the mighty ships of the line had to subside after two centuries, the recent ironclads announced the next step of martial evolution.
British inventor Robert Whitehead in need of financing his R&D first worked for the Austrian Empire - and its presumed quest for an UBER-weapon - and was to shape the idea of the torpedo as what it would be henceforth. While crews of traditional warships and ironclads alike could pound their adversaries out of smoke-filled gun-decks for hours to no avail, the torpedo would enable even small craft to deliver decisive blows below the unarmoured waterline.
Presented in 1866, the Whitehead Torpedo was propelled by a compressed-air engine (empolying the expanding air to set in motion cylinders) and kept enroute by the successive enhancements of a gyroscope and the so called “Devil’s Secret”. The latter actually did not derive from the Antichrist but Whitehead himself: A “pendulum and hydrostat control” allowing to keep the torpedo at a set depth. The actual business end consisted of about 100 kg of gun-cotton triggered on impact - a most striking argument.
The torpedoes’ hull came in polished steel and stylish bronze - surely one reason for the growing demand around the globe wich was satisfied from Whiteheads factories in Austro-Hungarian Fiume, England and sunny St Tropez.
Improvements were made until the turn of the century, increasing the torpedoes’ speed up to 50 km/h while sizing them up to nearly 6 m by 46 cm. This rethoric was lastly and successfully employed in 1940 when two then ancient Whitehead Torpedoes sunk a German heavy cruiser at Oslofjord, Norway.
(above: Whitehead Torpedo being fired in 1890)
“Neo surely won’t dodge this!” -Marey’s Photographic Rifle
The first veritable photographic six-gun - the “Pistolgraph” - had been developed by Thomas Skaife of London in the late 1850s. Though its handy drum held six “rounds”, it was subject to much suspicion. Amateur photographers were encouraged to bear a club or a real pistol to fend off aroused citizens who feared themselves pictured in awkward postitions. Skaife himself was arrested as a presumed assassin while trying to take a shot of Queen Victoria.
Frenchman Etienne Jules Marey pushed things further and produced his fusil photographique - the photographic rifle - in 1882. With a full-scale stock and a clip to hold ammo galore, it would allow to take 12 pictures per second: A firepower unrivalled up to then!
Since the shots would be captured on a single photographic plate, the rifle was focused on new fields of usage instead on everyday snapshooting. Marey himself investigated the locomotion of man and beast, a field that is generally beyond conventional marksmanship.
(above: Marey’s fusil photographique; a study of human motion)
“The Black Knight wants that!” - l’Avion III
French inventor (also of the french avion - then a neologism) Clément Agnès Ader made this beauty fly in 1897. Apparently he was content with an altitude of a few metres - maybe not for he discontinued his engagement in the field of manned aeronautics thereafter.
The Avion III was powered by two steam engines of a good 20 hp each to drive its 15 m wingspan to the skies. It should not be the last approach leaving the combustion engine aside to summon the better part of the classical elements to take leave of cousin Demeter.
(above: The Avion III in the Musée des Arts et Métier, Paris)
“Well, thats been a good year!” - 1869
From the usual modern perspective it is hard to grasp the novelty of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days and its impact of striking notions of civilizing advance on the victorian reader.
Sure, when the novel was published in 1873 there surely were some trains for Mr Fogg to ride on as there must have been steamers for the whole illustrious company to board.
“True,” me says, “guv’ner!” Still, the Vernesque depiction of circumnavigation was unimaginable before the year 1869. Having started tracklaying during the American Civil War, Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad linked up in May, creating a connection that would link both coasts. The same year saw the completion of the Suez Canal that would doom the last remnants of the Age of Sail by enabling steamers to link Europe with the Pacific.
(above: driving in the last spike and meet-up of Union Pacific and Central Pacific, Promontory Summit, Utah)
“Energize!” - The compound locomotive
Though earlier concepts of the compound steam engine exist as far as the late 18th century, the technology did not hit the streets (or rails respectively) until the later 1800s.
The basic novelty posed the combination of a high-pressure cylinder and a subsequent low-pressure cylinder. This compound would employ not only the power of the original steam potential but would further use the energy which had been surrendered to the exhaust. Since the steam expanded regarding its volume while being used to drive the machine, the low-pressure cylinder would be somewhat larger to adequatly take up its load. Obviously, both units would be syncronized and controlled as one unit.
The increased efficiency clearly added speed and horsepower to the upcoming generation of these neat workhorses of civilization.
(a classic compound engine, a British “Jubilee” of the late 19th century)