Our Compass Needle Spins

How much technology have we lost?

Ever look inside a watch or a grandfather clock? Amazing what people can make. Most of these mechanisms are made by lathes and CNC machines. You know though, at some point someone had to make the very first one by hand. We make machines and tools that measure and calculate and can cut and grind material down to millionths of an inch. Did you ever stop to think what tool was used to make these tools? What did the first person who wanted to measure an inch use? Something had to be made first.

Master plates are precise, flat pieces of metal that are accurate to within thousandths or millionths of an inch. Flatter that flat itself. In the old days they made them by hand scraping three flat surfaces after rubbing them up against each other with a colored dye to see the high spots. Long, arduous work, that. But that’s what they needed to do.  Machines can do faster but still can't match the human hand.

Modern lathes have their history starting in the early 1800’s. There were earlier variations and models but the modern lathe generally stems from this time period. Gears and screw cutting lathes were developed after these.

This makes me wonder about the Antikythera mechanism. Check it out on Wikipedia real quick,I’ll wait until you get back . . . amazing, huh? The world’s first computer came around before Bill Gate’s great⁸⁵

(yes, that's a teeny-tiny 85th power - put on your reading specs) grandfather was a twinkle in someone’s eye.

What else might be out there? Of course it was easier to lose back then; no global communication, literacy rates were low and language changed every two blocks down the road. Breaking your back for the king probably didn’t leave a whole lot of time for inventing. I suppose too that hording armies didn’t try to protect their enemy’s art and technology. Easier to pillage and burn first, then ask the questions.

Gears were traced to China back in 27 AD, but that was close to 200 years after the Antikyterea mechinism. Aristotle mentioned gears around 400 B.C. But they didn’t come into wide-spread use until the 17th century. Lost in time it would appear.

What if there are other inventions that came out, even just recently, that have been lost or suppressed? Twenty years ago I remember reading a news blurb about this recently created material that was extremely light and fireproof. A sheet the thickness of paper was enough to protect the skin from the heat of a blowtorch. From what I understand the military bought the technology, probably thinking it would be good material for armored vehicles. Haven’t seen it since, though. That’s unfortunate as one can imagine how useful that would be for instance, as a fire-suit. Lots of inventors remain little known. Tesla had some interesting technologies. Course he was just outright interesting to begin with.

Makes me wonder what we’re missing out on.