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Ask Slashdot: Educating Kids About Older Technologies? 208

Posted by timothy
from the welcome-to-your-new-privy dept.
ProgramErgoSum writes "Horse carriages, vinyl records, telegraphy, black and white television are all great examples of technology that held tremendous sway decades ago and eventually faded away. Other systems such as railways and telephony are 'historical,' but have advanced into the current age, too. I think not being aware of the science behind such yesteryear technologies (or their histories) is not right. I feel it would be most beneficial to encourage kids to explore old technologies and perhaps even try simple simulations at home or school. So, what websites or videos or other sources of information would you reach out to that teaches the basics of say, telegraphy? Or, signalling in railways? Etc. etc." Do you (or do you plan to) educate your kids about any particular older technologies?
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Ask Slashdot: Educating Kids About Older Technologies?

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  • Candles (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 25, 2014 @02:27PM (#46067253)

    God, one thing really pisses me off about ALL (almost) historical dramas and documentaries, and this is how LIGHTING TECHNOLOGY is laughably shown to be 'candles' for ALL periods before the invention of electric lighting. And this actually includes most depictions of the period when gas lighting was state-of-the-art.

    The modern candle isn't even an ancient invention, for heaven's sake. And the various solutions to the problem of illuminating dark Human living spaces represent some great forms of practical engineering. But as far as the mainstream media is concerned (INCLUDING so-called educational cable channels), the lamp never existed, only candles.

    Or take documentaries about how non-Western people built anything. All of a sudden, you are told that people had no better skills than cavemen, and perfectly obvious techniques like scaffolding didn't exist back then.

    Even our very recent history (the last two centuries) is shown in VERY inaccurate ways. The Great Victorian Engineers (all over the world) achieved miracles WITHOUT the use of electric power or the combustion engine. But their methods are almost never depicted, because the visual media is almost always a creation of 'ARTY' types, whose understanding of engineering history is around zero.

    And how many here, for instance, are familiar with the MECHANICAL computing devices that were widespread before the spread of microprocessor based electronics onwards. I mean, TV has endless dramas set in the 40s, 50s and 60s, but you will almost NEVER see state-of-the-art equipment being used in those dramas. It gets worse. When a TV show is set in the late 1950s or early 1960s, any TV set watched by the actors will be of an early 1950s design, because of the WRONG cliche that TV before 1965 meant watching a tiny round picture.

    How many people here know that the earliest telephone services offered DIRECT LIVE connections to the local theatres, so telephone owners could listen (by subscription) to theatrical performances as if they were in the actual audience? How many times have you seen such a thing depicted in a TV show? Try NEVER.

    In truth, engineering is NOT about respecting history, unless the historical record of engineering actually still teaches something useful. Engineers are highly pragmatic. Engineering is of the NOW. There is a near infinite amount of engineering curiosities from the past, and the investigation of any part of this history tends to be more intriguing than useful. And good engineers lack false sentiment.

    The best education for a child is informing him/her that engineers are largely 'timeless' and therefore in any period an engineer would not be so different than now. So, while depictions of past engineering methods are usually laughable, the actual truth would be people finding and using the most common sense solutions, with the skillsets being treasured, respected, and taught to like minded enthusiastic people. Just because the arty writer/painter types of the age ignored the engineer (meaning that we lack good historical depictions) , just as they do today, does not mean that the engineer was any less skilled, dedicated, or resourceful back then.

    Show your kid the Antikythera mechanism, and teach him/her that according to the lousy historians/archaeologists, such a thing was utterly IMPOSSIBLE until a real-life example proved to be undeniable. No writer wrote, and no painter drew any depiction of any engineer working to the skillset of the Antikythera mechanism builder, across the multiple centuries when such engineers existed, and were solving problems of this level of sophistication. Therefore, historians and archaeologists stated definitively that no man had such engineering skills during that period- total bulls**t. A lack of so-called primary sources simply reflects the fact that engineers lack the ego to leave the same form of records that arty-type wasters do.

    When Man was first building the complex structures of antiquity, long before we have decent written records, some men were fir

  • by canatech (982314) on Saturday January 25, 2014 @02:39PM (#46067315)

    Somewhat related to what your asking.
    A ten part series on how some present day tech got here.
    The shows don't delve deeply in to how it all works, but interesting none the less.
    It may spark an interest in older technology.
    Many things that were once only available in a lab I can now recreate in my garage.

"In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current." -- Thomas Jefferson

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