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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Why does the manual to a 1989 TV almost dedicate a page to the "pin assignment" of the SCART connector?

It is a bit unclear whether this is the "user manual" or the "service manual", the latter which may have only been used service people, but nevertheless, why would it go through ...
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1 vote
0 answers
44 views

What on Earth is a "mute module"?

Studying the extremely intimidating manual for my newly found and rescued 1989 JVC television set, which makes me feel very stupid and as if I'm looking at some sort of alien technology, I found this ...
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Historic tragedy: is this a drive belt accident?

My cousin turned up a chilling report of the death of one of our relatives in the Cyfarthfa steelworks in 1905. I'm trying to form a picture of just what happened. Sorry, I only have an image of this ...
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3 answers
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How did this tape recording possibly happen on a technical and logical level?

Recently, I dug up an old C90 audio cassette from when I was a kid in the early to mid 1990s. It's possible that it was already a few years old then, used by my parents and possibly others. I set up ...
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17 votes
10 answers
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How did mechanical engineers work before SolidWorks?

I am studying a bunch of stuff related to mechanical engineering and am considering an eventual switch to the field after taking the necessary classes. I'm older, and I took drafting classes in high ...
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-1 votes
1 answer
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What were these two objects from the top of a tall building in the 1920s used for?

I saw this in a movie from the 1920s, set in the USA. ("Safety Last".) At the top of a tall building, there are two strange objects which I believe I've seen before but never could figure ...
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How do engineers conceptualize "levels of analysis" (thermodynamic, fluid dynamical, mechanical, etc.)

In considering something like a jet engine, the thermodynamic analysis can be very mathematical and quite simple (e.g. one-dimensional flow). It's quite general and takes exactly the same mathematical ...
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1 vote
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What is the original paper using Extended Kalman Filter for joint state and parameter estimation [closed]

The title says it all. I would like to know which was the first paper to apply the Extended Kalman Filter to jointly estimate the state plus some parameter of the system. (by extending the system ...
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1 vote
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Strange old smithing machine, what is it purpose?

Is anyone familiar with such thing? I suppose that is something used in forge. I don't have better photos, but "steering wheel" was placed on shaft with small gear and this small gear is ...
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13 votes
2 answers
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What would "wired houses" refer to in 1928?

I read this today: Variety (November 21, 1928) wrote: "Not the first animated cartoon to be synchronized with sound effects, but the first to attract favorable attention. This one represents a ...
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Why are the facades of historic residential buildings in Paris tilted backwards?

In any major city that features an historical center, the list of attractions advertised by tourist guides seldom includes what, in my opinion, would constitute the destination's most important part: ...
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How to find old (especially Soviet/Russian) blueprints

I am interested in old blueprints, especially if related to aerospace (and from the old Soviet Bloc), things like these: Vostok blueprints Soyuz blueprint. Does anybody know if there is any methods to ...
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1 vote
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History, precision bootstrap

What simple machines have an ability to make a part that is more precise than any available part within a machine? This is partly related to history about how early machine parts improved in precision....
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2 votes
1 answer
118 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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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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3 votes
1 answer
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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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-1 votes
2 answers
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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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2 votes
3 answers
375 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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50 votes
13 answers
13k 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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4 votes
2 answers
483 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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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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2 votes
3 answers
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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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1 vote
2 answers
224 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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4 votes
0 answers
45 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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-1 votes
2 answers
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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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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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0 votes
1 answer
51 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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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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1 vote
0 answers
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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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0 votes
1 answer
56 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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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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1 vote
1 answer
99 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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2 votes
1 answer
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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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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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1 vote
2 answers
38 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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5 votes
4 answers
7k 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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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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2 votes
2 answers
179 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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3 votes
1 answer
195 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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4 votes
3 answers
6k 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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26 votes
4 answers
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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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-1 votes
1 answer
520 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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10 votes
7 answers
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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0 votes
0 answers
137 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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9 votes
5 answers
4k 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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1 vote
2 answers
4k 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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7 votes
3 answers
579 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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11 votes
3 answers
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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15 votes
1 answer
2k 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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6 votes
1 answer
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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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