Category Archives: Invention Paths.

Comparing Inventions

Drop the Mike Inventions, Creations and Innovations

by Rick Bretz

Let’s face it.  People love stuff that makes their lives simpler, easier and efficient.  These gadgets and other products have gotten the mistaken reputation of making all of us lazier.  It’s time to champion these universal monuments make the world safe again for inventions that keep us bolted to our lounge chair.

closeup photo of person holding panasonic remote control in front of turned on smart television
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TV Remote 

Back in the day of cheap gas, people controlled their televisions in two ways–leg power, or children power as in “Ricky, please change the channel from 7 to 4 for Daddy and Mommy.”  The other way was a tethered remote control that traveled from your seat in the corner of the living room to the television, creating a booby trap for anyone entering the room, .  The tethered remote was invented in 1950, which is a surprise to the baby boomer generation because our parents could have saved us several low crawls across the living room to change channels.  Managers in the Zenith organization thought there was a better way.  Time for Eugene Polly, an electronics engineer, to bring his awesomeness.

Eugene Polly-Zenith Electronics-1955-He used light beams transmitted from the remote to receptors on the TV to change channels or mute the sound.  This worked most of the time but it had its drawbacks due to the receptors misreading other light sources like the sunset or sunrise.  However, Mr. Polly, because he got the whole thing started, deserves a big five from every sports fan on earth.

The remote was perfected by Robert Adler-Zenith Electronics Physicist-1956-Adler’s remote used hammers striking metal rods that produced ultrasonic waves to change channels and control the TV.  This was the standard until infrared technology became the new way to control a TV more than 25 years later.

auto automobile automotive car
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Global Positioning System (GPS)

Back in the day of cheap gas, drivers had to multitask in the worst way.  Forget about texting and driving, try reading a map while driving.  It was doing that, or pulling over to the side of the road, getting the map out of the glove compartment where no gloves were kept and try to determine your current location and how to get your destination.  Now, it was easier if you had a passenger, like a spouse, to look at the map and navigate while driving but often this just created arguments and shouts of, “You’ve got the map, can’t you read a map!” if you were driving alone and had enough forethought, you could list your highway and road numbers and the exits and turns you had to take so you didn’t have to look at the map.  Later on, drivers could print it out on MapQuest or some other navigation site but that didn’t come along until the 1990s.

Roger Easton-Naval Research Laboratory-1964– Easton called it the Timation for Time Navigation-He developed the technology to track satellites orbiting the earth, specifically ones the Soviet Union Launched during the space race.  He was granted a patent 10 years later and in the 1970s the Department of Defense took certain features and developed and renamed it the Global Positioning System.  That steered the technology (See what I did there) to what we use today in automobiles.  We can all thank Mr. Easton for getting us back home and preventing millions of arguments among friends and spouses.

grayscale photo of luxury car
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Automobile and All Things Travel Oriented

Back in the day when there were no gas stations anywhere let alone cheap gas, people traveled by horseback, carriage, ships crossing the ocean and moving down the rivers.  Then trains and locomotives entered the culture, followed by the motor carriage or automobile and then passenger airplanes crossing continents and the oceans.  We can all thanks several people for saving us time and creating a mobile society where we can see people thousands of miles away in a matter of hours.  It also enables us to receive food products and other consumables in our stores and restaurants faster by truck, train, and air freight.  When we want our pizza, we want our pizza.

bulb close up electricity energy
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The Light Bulb

Back in the day there were only candles and the light by the fire place or, later,  using oil burning lamps that you had to carry around.  Then electricity was harnessed and then Thomas Edison and his  team perfected the light bulb and got his patent in 1979.  Inventors and scientists first experimented with electricity properties producing light as far back as 1800.  The issues they faced included finding an inexpensive filament and making it burn for several hours.

Thomas Edison-Inventor-1879-As with any important development that is life changing, it takes someone who takes what is already been tried and perfecting it from there.  This is what Edison did.  He also hire intelligent and hard working people to work in his laboratory.  One of these was a scientist named Francis Upton from Princeton University.  We can all thank Thomas Edison and his staff for bumping into the furniture at night and being able to read a book anywhere in the house.

low angle view of electric post
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Electricity

Benjamin Franklin-You know, the Kite flying thing-You can argue about Benjamin Franklin’s experiment just establishing a connection between lightning and static electricity.  You could also point out that many inventors developed electricity to the point when it could be managed and used for greater purposes.  Benjamin Franklin must be given his recognition though.   Nicolas Tesla’s experiments with Alternating Current was a game changer despite Thomas Edison’s propaganda against AC in favor of his Direct Current technology.  The game changer for society was the ability to send electric current through wires to homes and businesses in a fashion that used electricity only when a person needs it-Turning lights on and off in a room when you need it.

apartment bath bathroom bathtub
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Indoor Plumbing

Isaiah Rogers-Architect-1829-The first modern case of indoor plumbing occurred in 1829 when Isaiah Rogers planned indoor plumbing for 8 water closets at the Tremont Hotel in Boston, Mass.  Before that, historical records proved the existence of several plumbing systems going back several hundred if not thousands of years.  The flush toilet appeared in 1851 but was first invented in 1596.  The whole human race thanks everyone involved for this one.

books on bookshelves
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Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg-1439-Before Gutenberg’s movable type printing press, books and documents were hand written or printed using wood block letters with ink covering the raised letters.  This was pressed against paper to create a word, a tedious process at best for both techniques.  It would be nice to think that Gutenberg invented the movable machine type printing press for the betterment of mankind but, as with most inventions, he was interested in producing mass amounts of a product in a short period of time to make the most money.  Now in the digital age with downloading books to your laptop or mobile device, it’s all done with binary computer instructions and data centers that send pages and pages over the internet.

board chip circuit circuit board
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All Things IT relatedThe First Microchip

Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce- Texas Instruments-1959- The invention and the development of the Microchip began the revolution. The Microchip let computers do what they do like logic gates and controlling instruction sets.  This ushered in the future of smaller chips and faster computer memory for today’s computers.   Everything from garage door openers, mobile phones, software for fixing pictures you take on your smart phone, digital music playback devices that keep your entire music collection in a shirt pocket, gaming devices, streaming devices for television, credit card hardware at the store for purchases to all of the information technology that makes your car run,  these are all due to many engineers and inventors constantly thinking of ways to change the way we live all due to the original microchip.

forced perspective photography of cars running on road below smartphone
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Mobile Phone

Martin Cooper Motorola-1973-Everyone carries around a small computer to be accessed when we need it, it’s the mobile or smart phone.  We carry around the ability to  ping data centers placed around the world in strategic places for answers to any question.  You don’t even have to type it anymore, just ask Siri.  Using satellite technology and the power of the microprocessor and application development, we use the power of our search terms to buy, read, navigate and find a good restaurant.   We can thank Mr.  Cooper for making that first mobile phone call.

food breakfast fork bagel
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Bagel Slicer

Sometimes the simple developments are the most satisfying.  Cutting a bagel can be hazardous. While researching, the term BRI came up. It’s a Bagel Related Incident.  One wrong move with a knife, or a distraction in any way, you could hurt yourself all in the name of preparing the perfect bagel  Several designs are on the market but one of the best is the Bagel Guillotine.   The name gives you the picture of what it looks like. Some one hit a home run on this one.

food peanuts shell healthy
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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Combination

Harry Burnett Reese-1928-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups-If a choice had to be made between one of these on the list and peanut butter cups, most people would probably remove something else and keep the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  People have to have their priorities. In fact, anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate makes the whole world a better place.  If more people ate Peanut Butter Cups there would be less arguments and the two parties in US  Congress would be able to get along and get more done.

astronaut standing beside american flag on the moon
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Moon Landing

NASA-July 20th, 1968-This moon landing was significant because it forced the space agency and its subcontractors to step up their game.  One of which was the way computer language was processed.  The Apollo Guidance Computer had to process instructions differently.  MIT hardware and software developers developed restart protection and priority task scheduling where the most important systems like attitude control  and landing guidance get the highest priority compared to other instructions that are not life threatening. The computer core systems told the AGC that this task is more important that that task so ignore the one that is not as important right now.  This was different than previous computers where computers were batch scheduled where each instruction was given the same priority in a round robin fashion.  This became important in the development in home computers in the 70s.  The world of computer hardware and software development was pushed forward because NASA had a goal of reaching the moon before the end of decade.

Notable Links

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/eugene-j-polley-engineer-who-invented-the-first-wireless-tv-remote-control-dies-at-96/2012/05/22/gIQAv4J4iU_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.136b36854f90

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/the-man-who-created-gps/372846/

https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/who-really-invented-the-light-bulb/

https://www.bltdirect.com/who-invented-the-light-bulb

http://www.unmuseum.org/lightbulb.htm

https://www.electricityforum.com/who-invented-electricity

https://theplumber.com/plumbing-in-america/

https://www.psprint.com/resources/printing-press/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-microchip-1991410

http://www.knowyourmobile.com/nokia/nokia-3310/19848/history-mobile-phones-1973-2008-handsets-made-it-all-happen

http://www.galttech.com/research/household-diy-tools/best-bagel-slicer.php

http://www.harryburnettreese.info/History_Book/REESES_Peanut_Butter_Cups__The_Untold_Story.html

https://www.britannica.com/story/moon-landing-just-the-facts

https://history.nasa.gov/computers/Ch2-5.html

https://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/ForDummies.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1nz7vgyUh8

Where Do We Go From Here…?

business computer connection contemporary
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by Rick Bretz

In the movie “Six Days, Seven Nights” Harrison Ford tells Anne Heche, “we’re going to be here for a long,long.long…..long,…..long,,,,,,,,long time.”   Well, that’s where we are with information technology and the Cloud Computing environment and this technology wasn’t built in six days and seven nights.   Computers have been around since mechanical computers were invented such as the Abacus and the Babbage Engine concept and have steadily infused themselves in its many forms since then.

http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/

From the Abacus to the SMART 8K Television. Computers and their handy friends, the microchips that help create the SMARTness of the “Internet of Things”,  are all around us. The microprocessor jump-started the imaginations of engineers and inventors in the years afterward.  This is the computing power along with size and heat requirement that got the whole Internet of Things started.

https://www.techspot.com/article/874-history-of-the-personal-computer/

It’s in the mobile phone, the electric car, the hybrid vehicle, and even gas-powered transportation.  It’s in our airplanes, trains, hotel rooms and are a big part of our security posture with the cameras on houses and businesses.  It has let us get cash from ATMs and buy stuff from grocery and mall stores by sliding in our computer chip credit or bank card when we just can’t get to the ATM.

gray and white robot
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Once we get into the house, the Information technology stuff lives in our security system, our home network, our SMART refrigerators, our high tech televisions.  It has even let bloggers reach thousands of people at the creation of blog site on WordPress.

The security that protects all of our data in our hard drives and CPUs has lagged behind historically but has not stalled at a red light on the information superhighway. A Black Hat hacker has to only be right once while network security defenses and protocols have to defend all attacks, much like terrorist going after soft targets.  That area of Technology is trying to keep up but it is a wall chat constantly renovated as security professionals keep stacking the bricks but the territory gets longer and wider.  All the while, the buying public has purchased and purchased, waiting for the next, biggest and smallest and fastest with all of the bright colors associated with it.

Moore’s Law

The law is based on Moore’s prediction that the number of components on a computer chip would double every two years. More accurately, Moore predicted that the number of transistors placed on a single square inch of an integrated circuit chip would double every two years.

With all the “Whiz Bang” stuff out there, what’s really important is not the latest and greatest from a historical standpoint.  The worthy topic is a discussion about value.  In another string of words:  “How much did people pay for the latest hot shot device and how many forked over the cash?”  The follow up question would be ”how long did the cash light set have to wait before they could get it.” Let take a look.

For several years, the power and features of computers increased while the cost dropped at a rapid cycle, some people said 18 to 24 months where costs dropped and computer specifications raised to another level.  That concept is obsolete now because companies need more time to develop ideas, test concepts and generally raise the technology bar.

According to a USA Today article in June of 2018, the price of an HP 3000 in 1971 costs 95 thousand dollars. In 1977 an Apple II computer costs 1298 dollars, adjusted for inflation would be more than 5300 dollars.. In 1990 a Commodore VIC costs about 300 dollars, adjusted for inflation it would be a little over 900 dollars.  These prices were for computers with considerably less computer power and speed of today’s models. Today, a consumer can get a laptop, PC or even a SMART phone for a few hundred dollars and be able to run apps, software and use the speed and power of the device that people could only wish in 1971 and 1980.

Today, you can access the world wide web from any device from just about anywhere where the infrastructure exists. That brings us to the age of Cloud Computing.

Technological Evolution

Technology seeks the most efficient form, unless otherwise constrained. Efficient form is defined qualitatively as one that is best adapted to its application or as one with the least number of problems.

 

This means that the technology evolution has brought us to this point where we can go get any document and work any any place we want to work, be it at the beach, the cafe, hotel room, or hotel lobby.  Today you don’t have to be in the “Office” to finish a job you started in the “Office.”  To bring the idea home, you don’t have to start working in an office when beginning a new job today,

Cloud Computing serves as the next step on the timeline from local area networks, storage and infrastructure and desktop applications residing on local hard drive to accessing personalized desktops, data files and applications while sitting at your favorite coffee shop while the power of the Cloud goes out does the work for you.

 Since this began with a movie reference, here are two more to ponder. Two movies recently released reveal the potential for technology.  The movie “Lucy” showed how integrating computer technology and information with human beings can bring dangerous, unintended consequences in the wrong hands but in the right hands can be a force for good.

The other movie aired on Netflix and was called, “Extinction.”  You have to decide who is doing the dirty work and who is being selected for extinction.  The movie centered around Artificial Intelligence and how far humans are prepared to advance robot technology in 100 or more years from now.  Without spoiling the movie’s plot and conclusion, it surprises you when trying to decide who are the protagonists and who are the evil doers and whether there are any categories at all.

Notable Links:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/the-end-of-moores-law-why-the-theory-that-computer-processors-will-double-in-power-every-two-years-10394659.html

https://www.techspot.com/article/874-history-of-the-personal-computer/

Article on the history of computer prices.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2018/06/22/cost-of-a-computer-the-year-you-were-born/36156373/

Here’s an excellent computer timeline that outlines when each type of computer was introduced to the scientific community and then the buying public.

http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/computers/

https://ethw.org/Early_Popular_Computers,_1950_-_1970

 

 

 

 

The Right to Privacy, Data Protection and Social Media

globalhopping

By Rick Bretz

Joining a social media site like Facebook is opening the curtains to the big picture window to your life.  However, when you pull the draw string to open up the curtains in your home, you can close them back up just as fast anytime you want to keep your life to yourself.

“The right to be left alone”

The World Wide Web is the global communicator and what a user does on it or puts on it is forever, saved on a server somewhere for use on the Wayback Machine.  When you click on something you are part of the big industry of data mining and collection that can be parsed, sliced, organized and delivered to businesses and analysts everywhere.

Congratulations! You are part of the modern technological community.

The Right to Privacy

A book published in 1995, authored by Caroline Kennedy and Ellen Alderman, foresaw the future conflict between data protection, data collection and the right to privacy for internet commerce customers.

In the introduction, the authors pointed to a phrase justice Louis D. Brandeis used more than 120 years ago when he called the Right to Privacy, “The right to be left alone.”  The question is if you buy something from a vendor website should you have the right to be left alone or should your personal preference data be left alone.  If you buy a widget on the internet today you will find widget advertisements pop up on the news websites you visit later on.  Is that right? Is that OK.  Is that just the way businesses run in the age of information technology?  The short answer is “Yes.”   Does it give a business the right to do whatever they want with the data?  Arguably, “No.”

The authors also correctly point out that the word “Privacy” does not appear anywhere in the United States Constitution. However. one could infer a right to privacy when reading it, especially in reference to the Bill of Rights and its amendments.  The important one that comes to mind is the fourth amendment concerning illegal search and seizure.

laptop computer table

The current issue being covered by the media involves Facebook and how they treat their data mining and collections of users.  The business of selling user data and preferences to other agencies for them to use for other purposes has made Facebook users think twice about continuing to post their thoughts and likes.

One could argue that when someone signs up for Facebook, Instagram or any other social media site you are giving up your right to be “left alone.”  What you really want is the ability to selectively let your friends and relatives know what is going on in your life.  People are upset today because Facebook is treating their data from the personal lives of users like another commodity, like selling computer hardware on the open market.

In the Kennedy and Alderman book, the authors were ahead of their time when discussing issues associated with personal rights concerning this issue. Their topics included, Privacy and Your Self, Privacy Versus the Press, Privacy and Law Enforcement and Privacy in the Workplace

The book discusses the Fourth Amendment, in particular concerning a law enforcement case.  The book explains that this amendment states “a right of the people to be secure in the persons, houses, papers and affects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”  The book further explains that the Supreme Court has interpreted the amendment as protecting an individual’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The question remains, if you join a social media site, should you presume a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Today information technology, web use, and data collection and analysis generate effective business practices and customer satisfaction.  It’s the reason a consumer can order something from the internet from a vendor and be assured that product will be available to be sent to customers the same or next day.  Data mining and collection can be used to effectively manage a business or negatively effect a user as when businesses sell their data to other companies or when black hat hackers steal the data and sell it or hold it for ransom.

Most universities have an Information Technology ethics course as part of their curriculum for computer science graduates.  The “Do No Harm” philosophy can be followed or not.  As with any instrument of technology, if put in the wrong hands, the potential for damage increases.

Businesses have a legal and ethical responsibility to protect data.  Data that can personally identify someone should be protected with a special effort.  Personal Health Information (PHI) and Personal Identifiable Information (PII) like social security numbers, phone numbers and addresses are gold to black hat hackers who want to ransom the data.  Experts in the field of information security will tell you there are millions of instances everyday where hackers try to exploit vulnerabilities in commercial and government networks to get user data. The good news is most of them are thwarted by perimeter security technologies.  The bad news is it only takes one attack that defeats these measures to mess things up.   Consumers don’t need companies selling their data and spreading it elsewhere to add to the challenge of safeguarding user information. Protecting data and personal privacy should be important to an individual and to everyone who sees it.

Notable Links:

https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0ez668Go2gIViLbACh0jtQufEAAYASAAEgL6C_D_BwE

https://www.sans.org/security-resources/ethics

https://www.eccouncil.org/code-of-ethics/

https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/3/ethics-and-the-it-professional

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-privacy/facebook-says-data-leak-hits-87-million-users-widening-privacy-scandal-idUSKCN1HB2CM

https://www.techradar.com/news/us-uk-investigating-facebooks-role-in-cambridge-analytica-data-breach

https://www.americanbar.org/publications/blt/2014/01/03a_claypoole.html

https://www.isaca.org/Journal/archives/2012/Volume-6/Pages/Lack-of-Privacy-Awareness-in-Social-Networks.aspx

http://archive.org/web/

 

 

 

 

Travelling by Horse and Carriage and Other Changes

by Rick Bretz

When determining when the horse and carriage stepped aside for the automobile, you can point to accessibility and price. When innovators like Henry Ford figured out how to produce automobiles on an assembly line and still keep quality, this produced a product in 1908 that was sold for around 825 dollars for the Ford Model T. Affordability meant that the buying public could get one and that Henry Ford could still keep a hefty profit margin and by equation produce more jobs with enough salary to buy, you guessed it, more automobiles.

However, as Orson Welles’ film, The Magnificent Ambersons, points out in a side story in the movie, you still have to get the buying public to change what they have become comfortable with using for the past several hundred years. The movie is set at the turn of the 19th Century as the automobile is gaining popularity. Some see it as a fad and others see it as a the beginning of new era.

1913 Model T Ford takes a couple off on their honeymoon

As Joseph Cotton, who plays Eugene in the movie, states during a conversation, “With all their speed forward, they may be a step backward in civilization? It may be that they won’t add to the beauty of the world or the life of men’s souls. I’m not sure. But automobiles have come. And almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They’re going to alter war and they’re going to alter peace. And I think men’s minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles”

He could be speaking about many inventions over the years. The buying public has proven over and over again that if it is affordable and it makes your life easier then customers will buy it and buy it again.

The introduction of the personal computer bore this theory out during the last 35 to 40 years. Some people were reluctant to buy a computer either because of the price or rationalizing that they were fine with the typewriter and paper copies. Soon, innovators in the industry proved that the personal or office computer could make your life easier, if not more exasperating when it breaks, most of the time. Soon, the ability to save thousands of documents on a hard drive and research information for something, like say, a blog, or even a college paper, made the desktop and laptop the latest era of the golden age of inventions. It happens throughout history all of time. However, that doesn’t mean, you can’t go back in time and experience what our ancestors experience. For example, for a long time I kept a typewriter on hand just in case this personal computer thing didn’t work out. Not really, but I do still have a turntable along with my I-Tunes. I just like the way Motown sounds on an LP, that stands for Long Playing by the way.

Another way to use the way back machine, is take a trip to Charleston, SC. (In an automobile)

Charleston, SC, offers visitors a number of opportunities to examine the city’s historical architecture and other significant sites. You can see revolutionary period homes, civil war architecture, and the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown. One of the best ways to get a start looking around the city remains a carriage ride. The carriage-the way our ancestors moved from one town to another just a short century-and-a-half ago. It’s an hour ride that takes your around the central area of the city.

One of the many horses that pull site seers around is Sammy. Sammy came from a Northern Amish community. He worked on a farm for most of his life and from what our tour guide told us during the tour, this is a break for Sammy from farm work. His schedule for Old South Carriage Rides is generous. He works for a few days in the city and then he is taken out to a farm to relax for a few weeks.

As its website states, “Old South Carriage Company operates a 65-acre plantation, Sugah Cain, on Johns Island, 8 miles from our stable. For 2-3 months annually, our beautiful horses are free to run in large pastures or leisurely graze under century-old live oaks.”

On Sammy’s trip this time he took 16 people. He maneuvered around traffic, pulled over to let traffic go by, threaded the needle on tight turns that would make a bus driver envious, stopped when the tour guide asked him for people in his carriage to take pictures, and performed at a high level of excellence.

At the end of the tour, Sammy gets to rest, have a drink (picture above), maybe eat if it’s time, and wait. If you are visiting Charleston, SC, visiting the historical sites and looking at the architecture is worth of the trip.   However, having Sammy or any of the other horses from the Old South Carriage Tours gives you a lasting memory to take back with you also.

Notable Links:

http://www.oldsouthcarriagetours.com/

http://www.history.com/topics/automobiles

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Magnificent_Ambersons_(film)

http://parkcityhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Teacher-Background-Information.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse_and_buggy‘http://www.schloesser.bayern.de/englisch/palace/objects/ny_marst.htm

The Panama Canal and Hoover Dam

by Rick Bretz

Many engineering wonders dot the world from the Egyptian Pyramids to China’s long Wall.  The United States has been a part of two major engineering feats that are a testament to man’s apparent mastery over nature.  One was accomplished outside the country in Panama with the plan to bring together two oceans and the other in a desert with the goal of taming the Colorado River. The Panama Canal engineers had to deal deadly Malaria disease transported by mosquitos, making their jobs more difficult. The Boulder Dam project engineers figured out how to divert a river so they could excavate and pour millions of cubic feet of concrete.  Each project had their own challenges and issues but were overcome so that economies and cultures could make a step forward.

English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Ac...
English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Across the Colorado River; From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 – 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 – 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Panama Canal     (Boulder) renamed Hoover   Dam in 1947
Construction:  1881-1889 (French Period) 1903-1914 (US Construction Period) Construction: 1931-35 (2 years ahead of schedule)
Reason for Construction:  Shortcut through Isthmus Reason for Construction: Prevent Flooding, provide   hydro-electric power, and irrigation
Cost:    US Dollars   $375,000,000 Cost: $50, 000,000 (1931 US dollar value)
Number of workers: More than 56,000 Number of workers: 5,000
Control: The United States until the 1977 Panama Canal   Treaty that ceded control to Panama. Today the Panama Canal Authority. Control: US Department of Interior, Bureau of   Reclamation,
Casualties: Estimated at 22,000 mostly from disease during   the French construction period (1881-1889).   For the American construction period,   Officially 5609.  Also, several   thousand undocumented West Indian workmen who died from explosions,   mudslides, railcar accidents and disease) Casualties: 112 construction related deaths.  42 died from Pneumonia (Controversial-some   research suggests it was carbon-monoxide poisoning working in the diversion   tunnels)
Major Obstacles: Tropical disease, mudslides,   Engineering issues such as terrain, worker safety, poor reputation resulting   in issues recruiting qualified people. Major Obstacles: Engineering, worker safety, high   temperatures
Benefit to US: National Security, Shipping Lanes Benefit to US: Hydro-power to several arid states in   the region.
Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Steam shovels, wagons,   locomotives, unloaders Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Diversion tunnels, “Jumbo”   trucks, “High Scalers”
Physical Characteristics: 50 miles in length, 8-10   hours to transit from ocean to ocean, each lock is 110 feet wide, 8 minutes   to fill lock with water Physical Characteristics: 726 high, 230 blocks of   concrete

 

 

The Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam’s main controversy was the name itself.  As usual, politics entered into the equation when at the dedication speaker Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes spoke the name “Boulder Dam” five times in a span of 30 seconds to force home the moniker.  Former President Hoover who helped marshal the construction plans through the political process wasn’t invited to the ceremony.  Later, after Hoover had completed many important projects after his Presidency thereby rehabilitating himself and his name, both houses in Congress passed a bill unanimously that officially renamed the dam, “Hoover Dam”.

Other than the naming controversy, the engineering plans and worker skill served the day to the project completed ahead of schedule.  Workers had a competition for what shift could excavate the most dirt and rock.  This friendly competition moved the project along.

English: High scalers drilling into canyon wal...
English: High scalers drilling into canyon wall 500 feet above the Colorado River in Black Canyon, site of Hoover Dam, 1932. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hoover Dam has provided much-needed power and irrigation to the southwest region of the United States.  In recent years, traffic has been rerouted to the four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass and Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. With this development, officials have stopped vehicle traffic  from crossing the top of the dam.

English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 19...
English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 1915 at the Culebra Cut while transiting the Panama Canal. Kroonland was the largest passenger ship to that time to transit the canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal was built by American engineers and workers travelling to Panama to participate in the construction. The French gave up the project in 1889 after several issues hindered their progress towards completion of the canal.  The United States bought the rights to the project and equipment to finish the canal for 30 million dollars.  A high price for early 20th century dollar values.  Challenges still faced the United States effort.  Medical officers had to eradicate the mosquito population that transferred malaria and other tropical diseases. In addition, engineers developed the lock system to get ships from the one ocean over a land crest and down the other side to the other ocean.

The United States succeeded in completing the canal and was given control by Panama to run the canal for many years because the United States supported their independence efforts from Columbia.  However, the political winds changed and Panamanian support to retake control of the canal began to grow in the 70s.  This resulted in President Jimmy Carter negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty that gradually gave control to the host country Panama. Today the Panama Canal provides millions of dollars to the Panamanian National Treasury.

Two engineering monuments to human kinds ability to manipulate nature to achieve the desired result.  They are also existing structures that remind people that human sacrifice takes many forms. Although cultures and educated engineers are lauded for their towering accomplishments, it is also wise and appropriate to pause and remember the worker who braved daily dangers so that a family could be fed or one’s survival could be maintained. Some lived to tell their story, others didn’t.

 

Notable Links

http://www.history.com/topics/hoover-dam

http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/140HooverDam/140Hoover_Dam.htm

http://www.canalmuseum.com/

http://www.history.com/videos/panama-canal-locks#panama-canal-locks

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/timeline/panama/

http://www.ushistory.org/us/44g.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Panama_Canal

http://thesilverpeopleheritage.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-panama-canal-death-tolls/

http://www.usbr.gov/projects/Project.jsp?proj_Name=Boulder+Canyon+Project+-+Hoover+Dam

http://history.state.gov/milestones/1899-1913/PanamaCanal

The Brooklyn and Golden Gate Bridges

Bridges are, and will continue to be, the original information super highway. Whether spanning long distances or a few hundred feet in length, a bridge connects people, towns, cities, cultures, industry and commerce. There is something remarkable about crossing a wide river like the Mississippi to get to a destination.  They are monuments to mankind’s ability, courage,  and engineering  skill. The following post features two well-known and visited bridges.

 

Similitaries

The Brooklyn Bridge The Golden Gate Bridge
Twisted cable suspension engineering Twisted    cable suspension engineering
Connects two NYC Boroughs Connects San Francisco and Marin County
Known worldwide Known worldwide
Longest suspension bridge upon completion Longest suspension bridge upon completion
Pedestrian access Pedestrian access
History of suicide jumps History of suicide jumps
First steel suspension bridge Steel shipped from East Coast ports through   Panama Canal to West Coast
27 men lost their lives during construction 11 men lost their live during construction

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Bridge, seen from Manhattan, New ...
The Brooklyn Bridge, seen from Manhattan, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 and connects Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York.  The bridge’s main span is 1595.5 feet and was the longest suspension bridge when completed. John Roebling, a German immigrant, and bridge designer and engineer, began work on the project. He sustained an injury while conducting surveys resulting in an amputation that developed a tetanus infection that eventually killed him. His son, Washington Roebling, continued the project.

Unfortunately, Washington Roebling sustained a paralyzing injury himself due to decompression sickness soon after the construction phase began on Jan 3, 1870.  What is fascinating about the construction is that Washington Roebling’s wife, Emily Warren, stepped in to act as a liaison during construction.  Washington Roebling was incapacitated so Emily Warren communicated engineering plans to the staff building the bridge.  Under Washington Roebling’s guidance Warren communicated strength calculations, catenary curves. bridge specifications, and cable construction designs.  She assisted her husband for the next 11 years.

Roebling used airtight caissons that were made like massive wooden boxes. The wooden boxes were sent to the bottom using giant granite blocks.  The

Théobald Chartran – Portrait of Washington A. ...
Théobald Chartran – Portrait of Washington A. Roebling – Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

chamber was pressurized so that water and debris would be kept out.  They didn’t know enough about how pressurized air affected a person’s internal organs upon ascending to the surface too quickly. This is what is known today as the “bends” when too much gas forms bubbles in the bloodstream. Many were killed or injured during this process.  These workers were known as “sand-hogs” and earned $2 a day.  However, despite the dangers, they stuck with the process. Once they cleared away the debris and reached the bedrock, they started the process of laying the granite for the towers that were used for the suspension cables.

Roebling built the bridge so that it would be six times stronger than needed.  It is one reason the bridge is still standing today after so much vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The Brooklyn Bridge was opened for use on May 24, 1883. On first day for crossing 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people travelled between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Emily Warren Roebling was the first to cross the bridge.  Emily Warren Roebling died of stomach cancer in 1903. Washington Roebling died on July 21, 1926.  He fought the effects of caisson’s disease the remainder of his life..

Baker Beach and Golden Gate Bridge
Baker Beach and Golden Gate Bridge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

The Golden Gate Bridge spans the Golden Gate Strait and is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. The Golden Gate Bridge construction phase began on Jan.5, 1933 and was open to traffic on May 28, 1937. Pedestrians were able to cross on May 27, 1937. Ten different prime contractors and their subcontractors worked on the bridge  construction.  During the construction, 11 men lost their lives but 19 men were saved due to the project using safety nets.  The men who were saved by falling into the nets are known as the “Halfway-to-Hell Club.”

According to historical documents, the steel used in the construction of the bridge was manufactured by Bethlehem Steel in plants in Trenton, New Jersey and Sparrows Point, Maryland and in plants in three Pennsylvania towns: Bethlehem, Pottstown, and Steelton. The steel was sent to Philadelphia and shipped through the Panama Canal to San Francisco.

The construction design relies on cable suspension that passes through two  main towers. The weight of the roadway is hung from two cables that pass through the two main towers and are fixed in concrete at each end. Each cable is made of 27,572 strands of wire. There are 80,000 miles (129,000 km) of wire in the main cables.The bridge has approximately 1,200,000 total rivets.

Engineers working on the project used a “deflection theory” design that reduced stress by transmitting forces through suspension cables to the bridge towers.  The project cost more than $35 million. The project was finished by April 1937 and came in  $1.3 million under budget.

The color of the bridge is officially an orange vermillion or international orange. Since 1990 acrylic topcoats have been used for air-quality reasons. The program was completed in 1995 and it is maintained by 38 painters who re-paint the areas where it becomes eroded.

 

 

Both the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges are majestic when viewing or crossing over them.  The workers who died while making these structures deserve to be remembered.  The talented engineers and hard-working construction people who completed the bridge also deserve a “job well done!” from each citizen who walks, rides or travels across these bridges.

What are your names of your favorite bridges? Leave a comment and let me know.