Behold the “Book Wheel”: The Renaissance Invention Created to Make Books Portable and Help Scholars Study (1588).
Devotees of print may object, but we readers of the 21st century enjoy a great privilege in our ability to store a practically infinite number of digitized books on our computers.
What’s more, those computers have themselves shrunk down to such compactness that we can carry them around day and night without discomfort. This would hardly have worked just forty years ago, when books came only in print and a serious computer could still fill a room.
The paper book may remain reasonably competitive even today with the convenience refined over hundreds and hundreds of years, but its first handmade generations tended toward lavish, weighty decoration and formats that now look comically oversized.
These posed real problems of unwieldiness, one solution to which took the unlikely form of the bookwheel.
In 1588, The Various and Ingenious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli, the Italian engineer of that name “outlined his vision for a wheel-o-books that would employ the logic of other types of wheel (water, Ferris, ‘Price is Right’, etc.) to rotate books clockwork-style before a stationary user,” writes the Atlantic’s Megan Garber.
Long-distance audio communication pre-telephone looked a little like this, brought to the world by Thomas Edison.
What we’ve looking at here is a fellow positioned between a megaphone and listening devices–used in concert, they may have been able to communicate with a similarly-encumbered person a mile or two away (absent hills and dales and trees and buildings and so on…).
All of this technology is very old: for example, the famous “Horn of Alexander” going all the way back to, well, Alexander the Great, who was said to be able to communicate by voice with troops ten miles distant.
Athanasius Kircher also wrote about Old Tech in this department in his Ars Magna (1646) and Phonurga Nova (1674).
It is interesting that Edison was tinkering around with this in the year following Bell’s telephone.
Photograph: Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, Chesapeake Bay Maryland.
The problem of erecting a lighthouse on sandbanks and shoals greatly disturbed Alexander Mitchell (1780 – 1868), an Irish brick-maker who ran a successful brick-making business near Belfast.
Belfast has a strong seafaring tradition, and Mitchell had no doubt heard many tragic tales of lives lost at sea and ships grounded on the mudflats. Mitchell decided to do something about it despite having no formal training in engineering, or lighthouse building.
Remarkably, Alexander Mitchell was also blind. Alexander Mitchell was born in 1780 in Dublin, the son of an Inspector-General of Army Barracks in Ireland, a duty that took him all over the country. At the age of seven, Alexander’s family moved to Pine Hill, near Belfast, where he got admission at the prestigious Belfast Academy.
While learning arithmetic, geometry, and trigonometry at school, Alexander discovered his love for mathematics and he excelled at it.
Alexander’s eyesight had always been poor, but it became progressively worse as he became older. At age sixteen, he could no longer read. His family helped him in his studies as young Alexander’s world slowly spiraled into eternal darkness. At twenty-two, he went completely blind.
Mitchell was an outgoing and optimistic man. He married a neighbour’s daughter, against the wishes of his mother, and together they had five children. He also set up a successful brick manufacturing business in the Ballymacarrett area of Belfast that enabled him to buy many property around the city.
Mitchell had an active social life and entertained many guests at his home, including Thomas Romney Robinson, the astronomer, and George Boole, the famous mathematician. He acted so naturally in the presence of others that some people didn’t even know he was blind. He played whist and backgammon with them while an accomplice whispered the throw of the dice or the names of the cards.
Alexander Mitchell ran his brick-making business for 30 years, during which time he made many important contribution to the trade in the shape of several innovative developments to the process.
In 1832, he retired from brick-making, and the following year, at the age of 52, patented the screw pile.
Mitchell’s solution was simple—instead of hammering iron piles straight into the soft mud or clay to make a foundation, they were to be screwed in place. Each pile was to have propeller-like blades attached on one end that would allow them to be twisted into place like a giant corkscrew.
In this photo from April of 1948 we see engineer Myron Holbert, who’s showing off the Seeburg Select-O-Matic jukebox.
The machine held a relatively enormous library of music — 200 selections!
And although the jukebox became a symbol of the postwar teen music explosion, it predates the 1950s.
In fact, it was during the 1930s that America saw an incredible rise in the number of jukeboxes filling dance halls and diners.
Source: This Was a Jukebox in 1948
Primitive respirator examples were used by miners and introduced by Alexander von Humboldt already in 1799, when he worked as a mining engineer in Prussia; long before that there was a Plague doctor’s bird beak shaped mask/face piece filled with herbs.
The forerunner to the modern gas mask was invented in 1847 by Lewis P. Haslett, a device that contained elements that allowed breathing through a nose and mouthpiece, inhalation of air through a bulb-shaped filter, and a vent to exhale air back into the atmosphere.
According to First Facts, it states that the “gas mask resembling the modern type was patented by Lewis Phectic Haslett of Louisville, Kentucky who received a patent on June 12, 1849.” U.S. patent #6,529 issued to Haslett, described the first “Inhaler or Lung Protector” that filtered dust from the air.
Early versions were constructed by the Scottish chemist John Stenhouse (above) in 1854 and the physicist John Tyndall in the 1870s.