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December 17, 1903

“Boldly going

Wright Flyer

where no man has gone before.”

The Wright Brothers make the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina


1 jams o donnell { 12.17.10 at 8:28 am }

It amazes me till how quickly and rapidly flight developed. One thing that struck me is that British astronomer Patrick Moore knew both Orville Wright and Neil Armstrong

2 Bryan { 12.17.10 at 11:15 pm }

My maternal grandfather went from kerosene lamps and traveling by wagon, to watching a man land on the moon in his lifetime. It is truly amazing what he saw. My maternal grandmother’s people used horses and mules to pull barges on the Eire Canal. She and her sister had to take a stage coach to reach the fort in New Mexico where her father was stationed.

The 20th Century was a hell of a ride.

3 Badtux { 12.18.10 at 12:27 am }

My grandmother was born when the nearest city, 50 miles away, was an all-day trip on muddy roads via horse and wagon, lighting was kerosene lamps, heat and cooking was wood stoves, the bathroom was an outhouse, the running water was what you pulled out of the well with a bucket and a rope, the refrigerator was a large ceramic jug dropped into the well at the end of a rope, dinner was whatever you had harvested, and sausage was what you made in your own smokehouse from slaughtering one of your own pigs. Medical treatments for most diseases read as, “send home with palliative treatment to die” and graveyards were full of tiny little graves that read “Baby Smith” or “Baby Page” or “Baby Taylor”, where starvation was an ever-present threat only one bad harvest away. She went peacefully in her sleep with the Internet, space travel, big-screen TV’s, and modern medicine, where childhood mortality from disease is rare and starvation in America almost unheard of.

I think of what kind of progress children born in the 70’s will see in their time, and I feel sad. They were already born with man having reached the moon, and nothing done in outer space since then has matched that peak. Cars and aircraft are more fuel-efficient, quieter, faster, and more powerful, but those are marginal improvements on already-existing inventions. The Internet, which hit its stride in their mid-20’s, certainly was an innovation, but it’s pretty much the only real innovation of the past forty years (by real innovation, I mean one that changes how people live — by that standard, big-screen tv’s aren’t real innovation, since they’re merely an improvement upon an already-existing technology that doesn’t fundamentally change how people live). And given that things seem to be pretty much winding down, I doubt we’ll see any other real improvement… it’s all downhill from here, bay-bee.

We live in sad times. Our grandparents could exult in the march of progress, even if their own life was hard at times they could be confident that progress would help make their lives easier and more productive over time and that their own children would have an even easier and more productive life, assuming that nobody blew up the planet with nukes. But our own children… it looks like things are going the other way for them :(.

– Badtux the Progress Penguin

4 Ole Phat Stu { 12.18.10 at 3:28 pm }

Or was it Gustav Weisskopf in 1899 (&1901 & 1902)?

5 Bryan { 12.18.10 at 9:51 pm }

We don’t have anyone building anything, or any major R&D efforts, that used to be common, Badtux. The days of Bell Labs, PARC, and other industry funded idea sources is gone. Congress won’t fund it, and industry is just milking their “cash cows” until the “herd” dies. No one wants to think beyond the next quarter. The follow-on generations have been cheated.

Could be, Stu, but the Wright Bros understood the media, and what happened to Alexander Graham Bell, so they made sure what they did got covered and reported. There were a lot of people all over the world who may have done it sooner, but no one knew it outside their area.

6 Kryten42 { 12.18.10 at 11:12 pm }

I remember PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) well! I spent some time there in the 80’s… Amazing people! Sad that the parent company, Xerox, were so shortsighted and stupid!! I went there with a couple others to check out Smalltalk (the first OO programming language). We had a play with the Alto computer (and I saw my first (computer mouse), GUI & WYSIWYG text editor! 😆 Amazing stuff back then. I met a few ‘big names’, like Dr. John Warnock (who left PARC to start Adobe in ’82). We met him because of his “Warnock algorithm” (hidden surface determination used in CGI). Sadly, Adobe is now yet another IT company that went way off the rails! 😉

Now of course, Apple and M$ take the credit for all the work of PARC, but they are full of [you know what!] Way of the World…

And yeah, I think you are right about the Wright’s and their media savvy. 😉

7 Kryten42 { 12.18.10 at 11:18 pm }

You know, thinking about that now… You may have used the Warnock algorithm in your work, though you may not have known it. 😉 I think it was published sometime in the late 60’s. It was designed to solves the problem of rendering a complicated images primarily. 🙂 Or, maybe that was after your time in that area? Anyway… It’s certain that the USAF & NSA make use of it now! 😀

8 Bryan { 12.19.10 at 11:20 am }

It would certainly have been used in what I used to call “the asylum”, the area where a lot of very strange people worked trying “non-traditional methods” to do all sorts of interesting things. NSA hired a lot of people with “disabilities” because of their increased sensitivity in other areas. That was the area where all the mathematicians lurked.

Field people had minimal contact with the residents of the asylum, but you would spot their badges occasionally at the cafeteria. I think they had their own access point, as some had medical equipment that would have been a major roadblock at the main entrance. NSA was not a collegial environment. You stayed in your own area and mixed with others in that area only, or one of the paranoids would want to know why. Very different from the field where you learned other people’s specialties because there was rarely much in the way of back-up in the event of illness or emergencies.

9 Badtux { 12.19.10 at 4:08 pm }

Kryten, Apple doesn’t try to take credit for PARC’s work, it’s credited by them in pretty much every history of the Lisa and Mac that they’ve participated in and indeed they even tried to license the GUI and mouse stuff from PARC but Xerox had no mechanism in place for doing so and PARC said “oh WTF, just go with it” so they did. Microsoft, on the other hand… ;).

Life was really hard way back in my grandparents’ time, but they had faith that if they worked hard and did their best to make the world a better place, things would get better. Today’s young… well. If they seem a bit too dedicated to partying and having fun, who can blame them. They aren’t going to have much fun in the harder meaner hungrier world that we’re handing to them, so why not have fun now, while they can? The loss of hope is the big difference here. Our grandparents had hope that the future would be better. Today’s young people know it won’t be — that it’s only downhill from here as the empire collapses and things get harder and harder. That does things to people’s heads, knowing that kind of thing…

– Badtux the Apocalyptic Penguin