Questions tagged [engineering-history]

Questions relating to the historical development of an engineering practice or process. Also, questions about the people and places involved in significant engineering developments and achievements.

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1answer
47 views

How to make holes in granite without electrical or iron tools?

I see granite blocks in ancient Egyptian temples with perfect holes drilled into them. The historians say at that time (2500BC) they did not possess iron tools or the wheel and certainly no ...
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0answers
25 views

Modern equivalent concrete strength to 'Class Ws 3/4" '

Consider the following extract from a UK reinforced concrete detail drawing dated 1970: What is the modern equivalent to this concrete class?
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1answer
57 views

Why would a “delayed loudspeaker” be so expensive in the 1970s?

Recently, I read about some major musical concert held somewhere in the USA to a record-large audience. Since there were so many people, not all could see or even hear the music from the main ...
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2answers
38 views

Is it true that pre-jet air planes used to fly much lower? If so, why?

I watched a video on the Concorde the other day. In it, they talked about the history of airplanes, and how the jetplanes now started flying "above the weather", and that the propellar-...
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3answers
55 views

Did toasters ever make the toasted bread jump up in the air when done?

In numerous cartoons, video games, movies, etc., I've seen how a toaster makes the toasted bread jump high up in the air when done, forcing the user to catch them mid-air or pick them up after they've ...
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13answers
11k views

Are toasters really electrified inside of the “slots”?

My mother was born 1950. Me in the mid-1980s. All my life, she's been saying that I must never stick a metal object, such as a knife, into the toaster, because it will electrocute me. I've always been ...
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2answers
423 views

In a reinforced concrete detail drawing what does 'reinforcement to be GK 60' mean?

Consider the following extract from a British reinforced concrete drawing from 1970: It states that 'REINFORCEMENT TO BE G.K 60. UNLESS STATED OTHERWISE' What is the meaning of GK 60? What property ...
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1answer
41 views

How is it possible that an *undertaker* invented the automatic telephone exchange? And as early as in 1888?

Strowger, an undertaker, was motivated to invent an automatic telephone exchange after having difficulties with the local telephone operators, one of whom was the wife of a competitor. He was said ...
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3answers
106 views

Would not a telephone call (from the late 1950s) auto-disconnect if one of the parties “closes the handle”?

In the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Togeather", S03E15, at 17:17, you see a drunk man leaving a telephone without putting it on its handle, with the person he was talking to begging him to "...
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2answers
60 views

How were these candlesticks made in the 1800s?

"Candlesticks" for this question are really just a stand-in for axisymmetric silver, brass, etc structures, possibly hollow and made of thin sheet material? Examples: From my research, today we ...
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39 views

How do these thread-holder mechanisms work?

In old scientific apparatus for electrical experiments, and more particularly in instruments such as galvanometers and torsion balances, we often need to hold one end of a thread in place. Examples ...
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2answers
97 views

If the Roman number system was so bad, how did the Romans build all that relative high-tech? [closed]

I very often hear how "stupid" the Roman number system (I, II, III, IIII/IV, V, VI, etc...) was, and I'm often prepared to agree, except for low numbers, where it can look very beautiful for titles ...
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129 views

Why are/were sewers made large enough for somebody to walk down in there?

Today, I have been reading a lot about sewer systems on Wikipedia, in the hope that I would find information or at least photos showing what I think of as sewers, namely somewhere under the streets in ...
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1answer
31 views

What developments made diesel engines suitable for personal cars in the 1970s/1980s?

Both diesel and gasoline engines were developed in the late 19th to early 20th century. Diesel engines were for the most part of the 20th century used mostly for large applications in ships, trains, ...
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2answers
50 views

WW2 technology - How was this on-screen frame counter added to old film-media footage?

Please refer to the following youtube video (pause it as soon as it starts)... "USS William D Porter, the Unluckiest Ship in the Navy" by The History Guy https://youtu.be/f9Gb4PakFTU?t=162 There is ...
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0answers
40 views

When were the japanese yellow/white/blue/silver paper steels introduced?

The steel series called kigami/shirogami (yellow/white paper steel, high purity carbon steels in different grades), aogami (blue paper steel, a tungsten alloyed tool steel series), aogami super (a ...
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1answer
52 views

Is the combination of blocks and lines in this old, very long telescope an implementation of some named structure or technique?

Below are two cropped views of "Johannes Hevelius's 8 inch telescope with an open work wood and wire "tube" that had a focal length of 150 feet to limit chromatic aberration." from Harvard University, ...
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1answer
44 views

Why were pneumatic thermostats commonly installed in buildings?

According to Wikipedia, pneumatic thermostats were invented after electric thermostats. Yet this article claims that "at least 25 percent of U.S. commercial buildings are served by pneumatic controls,...
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1answer
75 views

What were the technical reasons for type bar designs being more common than type wheels for manual typewriters?

During the era of the typewriter there were a few kinds of basic designs. The (afaik) most well known is the type bar design, where each key is connected to an individual type bar that hits the paper ...
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1answer
53 views

How were multiple vacuum pumps used to raise water over 10m (e.g. by a steam engine)?

I can imagine a steam engine driving multiple regular old vacuum pumps, which each raise water ~10m. I would think that someone would combine the multiple pumps into a single piece of machinery for ...
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1answer
27 views

When were airfoil cross-sections first used in turbine blades?

When were airfoil cross-sections first used in turbine blades? When did this become standard practice? Did people understand the connection to aircraft, or did heavier-than-air aircraft exist at all ...
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2answers
35 views

Pre-Defined Numbers to be used in Sizing Mechanical Parts

I recall there was a set of "engineering numbers" that were to be used when deciding how big to make something. So that if, for example, you wanted your screw to be 1.36mm you'd instead round up or ...
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4answers
5k views

Why aren't screens round instead of rectangular?

Screens on TVs and phones et cetera are always rectangular. Why? Why are they not round? Eyes are round. The Sun, the source of almost all of our light, is round. Telescopes have round lenses and ...
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0answers
48 views

How were the first engineering licenses issued?

One of the criteria for getting an engineering license is working under a licensed engineer for a period of time. This seems like a chicken-and-egg problem. How were the first engineering licenses ...
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2answers
127 views

Historically, how did tram switches work?

Historically, the switches on regular railways were switched manually using a lever by dedicated staff to route trains correctly before getting replaced by an automatic electronic system. A similar ...
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1answer
133 views

How did Al-jazary's “castle clock” work?

My question is what are the ideas behind the complicated historical water clocks. According to wikipedia, modern versions of the historical water clock rely on the principle of the syphon. So I ask ...
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3answers
4k views

How were gears manufactured before power tools, CNC, etc

Current gear manufacturing methods for gears usually depend on power tools, or computerised machines, or something like that. However, watchmakers and clockmakers at one point in history needed to ...
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4answers
2k views

How are increasingly accurate machines made?

Making extremely accurate machines seems like a chicken and egg problem. How do you make one if you don't already have one? For example, how was the first indexing head made without an indexing head ...
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1answer
453 views

Is the Louvre Pyramid oriented to the four cardinal points of the compass? [closed]

The four sides of the Great Pyramid of Giza are oriented to the four cardinal directions of the compass (north, west, east, south). Did I.M. Pei do the same with the Louvre Pyramid?
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7answers
4k views

Why do we pave roads instead of making them from removable parts?

If roads were made of removable parts, we'd probably have fiber cable internet everywhere by now I'd say. It'd be so much easier to install e.g. new electricity and water infrastructure and to ...
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93 views

What is the course content difference between conventional engineering and engineering technology programs? [duplicate]

I have seen institutions giving two different degrees to almost same courses. Some institutions give Bachelor/Master in engineering and some give Bachelor/master in Technology. So is their any ...
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5answers
3k views

Is systems engineer an IT profession or an interdisciplinary field of engineering?

The term Systems Engineer has always interested me as it generally involves many different fields of engineering. Systems Engineer - Interdisciplinary The definition I'm familiar with is usually ...
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2answers
3k views

Why are so many things around us rectilinear? [closed]

If you look at the man-made objects around you, you will see that almost all of them are either rectangular, or parallel and perpendicular. There are a few circles here and there, but the overwhelming ...
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2answers
499 views

Why have thorium fueled nuclear reactors not been more fully developed?

Why have thorium nuclear reactors not been ore fully developed? Earth has more thorium than uranium. Is it technical difficulties or the fact that uranium technology was developed first for military ...
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3answers
2k views

Could a gold/{second metal} crown be created that would pass the Archimedes test cost effectively?

Many people are familiar with the story of Archimedes submerging a crown in water to identify if the volume of the crown was consistent with the volume of the same amount of gold. The test was to see ...
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1answer
1k views

Why are hyperboloid towers not popular anymore?

Hyperboloid towers were very popular in the end of 19th and the first half of 20th centuries - water towers, powerline anchor towers, sometimes tall radio towers were built using this design. The ...
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1answer
135 views

Did Otto Lilienthal ever experiment with non-human-powered aircraft?

Otto Lilienthal, sometimes hailed as the first aviator, became famous for his many gliders, which pioneered new experiments in aeronautics. However, powered aircraft didn't take off - pun intended - ...
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2answers
7k views

What made bronze the first widely used (non-ornamental) metal in human civilization?

I recall learning about the bronze age in school. Why was bronze so important to the technological development of humans? Why not some other metal?
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1answer
168 views

Making a mechanical device to measure the radius of the Earth

I want to design an experiment to show (in an educational context) how we can measure the radius of the Earth without using modern technology in order to demonstrate the engineering achievements of ...
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2answers
483 views

How was surveying for maps done before lasers?

I understand that you can have a device with angular measurements for rotation and elevation, and use trigonometry to calculate the distances... but only if you have some distances to start with. How ...
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3answers
434 views

What engineering advances paved the way for “modern” computers?

By "modern computers," I mean electronic programmable computers such as those that were developed about the middle of the 20th century. My understanding is that early computers such as Charles ...