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7 Surprising Technologies From World War I
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jastroff
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jastroff,
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6/28/2014 | 11:57:31 AM
Technology Evolution
@curtis – As an historian I appreciate the timeline. As a technologist, I marvel at the timeline. Sort of reminds me why it's nearly impossible to predict the future very accurately.
PaulMclean
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PaulMclean,
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6/28/2014 | 1:22:06 PM
Re:
The poison gas was among the most feared the weapons used in World War I. The soldiers feared the deadly agony and long-drawn suffering caused by poison gases.

writingkingdom || coursework specialist
rmanske53101
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rmanske53101,
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6/30/2014 | 12:39:35 PM
Re:
Sorry, you are not correct.  The Machine Gun and Artillery were the main instruments of death in WWI.  Gas was feared only at the beginning of it's use when it was new.  Once effective masks were developed and tactics how to survice the attacks were developed, gas was more an annoyance than a killer.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
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6/30/2014 | 11:39:15 PM
Re: Technology Evolution
Thanks, @jastro. I think that wars are opportunities for a technological version of what biologists call punctuated equilibrium. We know that technology doesn't advance in a smooth line -- wars, catastrophes, and other unusual circumstances tend to be related to times of faster development. If we could accurately predict these unusual points on the timeline then we'd be much better at predicting the future in general!
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
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6/28/2014 | 2:50:12 PM
War! What is it Good For?
I'm reading an absolutely fascinating book of the same title by Ian Morris. His startling point is that, in the Very Long Run, war creates larger, more stable states (leviathans, from Hobbs). The result of the creation of these Leviathans is that, even when the leviathans go to war, fewer people die violent deaths than the situation of constant person-to-person or tribe vs. tribe violence that existed in the previous state. He backs it up with very sobering archeological evidence. And, it was only advances in technology that enabled the Leviathans to form in the first place.
LUFU
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LUFU,
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6/28/2014 | 7:30:04 PM
Animal Tech Goes to War
While emerging technology played an important role in WWI across the trenches, unfortunately, humans  still depended and integrated animals into their battlefield efforts. Horses were more reliable than engine-powered vehicles but did not stand up well to shells and bullets.

Besides supplying troops provisions for food for sustenance and bullets for destruction, one of the more critical elements in running a military campaign is communications. Yes, there were phones and radios employed at that time but lines can be cut and radio QOS could be dodgy. Sometimes, the miltary relied on pigeons - not to drop their bombs on troops but to carry communications across lines.

 
Ariella
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Ariella,
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6/29/2014 | 2:10:25 PM
Re: Animal Tech Goes to War
@Lufu they still relied on pigeons even in WW II. Miadenform even made a special outfit for the birds

 

 

 
LUFU
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LUFU,
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6/29/2014 | 2:58:17 PM
Re: Animal Tech Goes to War
@Ariealla - Perfect for any cross-dressing male pigeon.

No doubt they adapted one of their trademark slogans - "The Maidenform Pigeon is a cut above the ordinary."
Hospice_Houngbo
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Hospice_Houngbo,
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6/29/2014 | 10:15:37 PM
Re: Animal Tech Goes to War
What was the success rate of those pigeons reaching their destination with their message? More than 50% or less?
progman2000
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progman2000,
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6/29/2014 | 8:05:39 AM
Love it Curtis
Very apropos as I have been searching for an authentic trench watch recently - love the parallel with WW1 tech!
impactnow
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impactnow,
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6/29/2014 | 2:42:08 PM
imagination = reality
It is terrific that technology has made our imagined creations a reality. What will the next 100 years hold!
Hospice_Houngbo
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Hospice_Houngbo,
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6/29/2014 | 10:33:16 PM
Re: imagination = reality
"What will the next 100 years hold!"

-Advances in language and communication technologies : your cellphone will speak almost any language on your behalf. 

-Robot armies will fight in place of human beings

-Self-cleaning everything (buildings, clothes...)

etc...
zaious
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zaious,
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6/30/2014 | 12:51:43 AM
Re: imagination = reality
@HH: 
What about a different mode of war? In that war both parties will be given some system and the one to get access (by cracking) will be the winner. No one dies, no one cries. 

The future warfare will be so tech savvy that it scares me. It will require a mere push of buttons to unleash unprecedented devastation on any place.
yalanand
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yalanand,
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6/30/2014 | 12:20:34 PM
Re: imagination = reality
@Zaious: Future warfare would either be remotely controlled, or would be a direct nuclear warfare. People share loads of data over the internet, and trapping a countries sensitive data can cause the country's internal government to fall apart through disinformation planting and corruption.
rradina
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rradina,
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6/30/2014 | 2:13:15 PM
Re: imagination = reality
Sounds kind of like a Star Trek episode where a virtual war raged for hundreds of years but the casualties were real.  If I recall correctly, "virtual damage" caused genuine loss of life imposed by citizens reporting to disintegration booths where they were euthanized.
mak63
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mak63,
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6/30/2014 | 1:00:05 PM
Re: imagination = reality
What will the next 100 years hold!
I was thinking the same thing. I really hope Hospice_Houngbo is wrong (Robot armies will fight in place of human beings), and we live in a peaceful society; where wars are a thing of the past.
Nobody can really predict what technology will bring a hundred years from now, but I believe, wereables, androids/robots, hologram technology and space travel will be hot.
glenbren
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glenbren,
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6/30/2014 | 6:41:08 PM
Re: imagination = reality
Nobody can really predict what technology will bring a hundred years from now, but I believe, wereables, androids/robots, hologram technology and space travel will be hot.

The things we can envision now will probably be old hat in 100 years. I think we can't even fathom what the future holds.
tekedge
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tekedge,
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6/30/2014 | 11:42:40 PM
Re: imagination = reality
@glenbren My sentiments exactly. Imagining the futuristic science fiction movies coming true. But will humans become machine zombines.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
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7/1/2014 | 9:29:09 AM
Re: imagination = reality
I don't think human will finallly become machine zombines but we need to pay attention to the trend. Nowadays people rely more and more on technology. Internet and mobile techniques made our life easier and more efficiently. But people become more and more inclined to be sticky - many people look at smart phone quite frequently. The trend is not good - we  should facilitate the technologyb but cannot purely rely on them.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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7/2/2014 | 2:16:22 AM
Re: imagination = reality
Intraspecies fighting as clans/tribes/factions/etc. war amongst each other is, alas, a fact of evolution.  We're little different than ants or meerkats or several other animals in that respect.  So I doubt 100 years will do much to change that.

And think of all the moons and stars and planets we'll have to fight over with space travel!
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
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6/29/2014 | 6:40:10 PM
interesting stuff
This is all interesting stuff. I had no idea drones were looked at so long ago.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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6/29/2014 | 10:54:39 PM
"War: What is it good for?"
As terrible as war is, it's amazing the innovations war can inspire.

Not WWI, but I recently read about how crazy glue was developed/adapted to quickly seal soldiers' wounds on the battlefield in Vietnam.

Warning: You probably don't want to try this at home.  A special formulation is used for medical purposes, and differs from the typical "household" crazy glue/super glue -- which can burn the skin.
yalanand
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yalanand,
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6/30/2014 | 12:22:05 PM
Re: "War: What is it good for?"
@Joe: Yes indeed, war brings innovation in a short time, while peace brings innovation after a lot of time spent. What made WW2 stand out was the use of Radio and Electricity. Probably the most powerful inventions and a step for modern warfare.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
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6/30/2014 | 1:03:33 PM
Re: "War: What is it good for?"
Joe, this reminds me of the trauma surgeons in Boston hospitals who commented they used medical lessons they had learned in the Iraq conflict when they treated Boston marathon bombing victims. I did not know about the super glue example.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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7/2/2014 | 2:11:20 AM
Re: "War: What is it good for?"
@Laurianne: I learned about the super glue thing from Breaking Bad.  There's an episode in the first season where a character uses it to heal a wound (although he's using the household stuff -- which, again, may not be the best idea).
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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6/30/2014 | 9:20:01 AM
Tactics Didn't Keep Up
As Curt suggests, the military tactics during WWI didn't keep pace with the technology advances -- trench warfare in an era of nerve gas, advanced artillery, and aerial offensives. In that sense, WWI was like the US Civil War a half century earlier, when lines of men marched forward to face automatic weapons.
rmanske53101
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rmanske53101,
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6/30/2014 | 12:36:23 PM
Re: Tactics Didn't Keep Up
Rob, I must disagree with you comment about trech warfare being old technology.  It was BECAUSE of technology that the trenches were dug in WWI, specifically new technology of the Machine Gun.  Marching (or even running) acorss open, baren land was suicide due to the rapid fire and reliabiliy of the machine gun, making it impossible to go hundreads of yards to attach your enemy.  Nerve gas was developed to counter the trenches as it hung close to ground and stayed in the treaches for days. The Tank was developed to breach the trenches, as well as the Thompson Machine Gun (the Tommy Gun) and pump action shot gun was for close quarters clreaing of the trenches.  Technology made the troops hide for their lives in trenches, then everyone tried to figure out how to breach the trenches to win the battle.  WWI was all about new technologies and how the militaies attempted to adapted to them, and in many cases, didn't do it well.
RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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6/30/2014 | 12:51:29 PM
Re: Tactics Didn't Keep Up
Excellent point, but either way the tactics didn't keep up. The tactics (trench warfare) developed to counter certain technologitical adances (more sophisticated and reliable automatic weapons) were proved ineffective with the advent of still other technologies (nerve gas, tanks, air warfare, etc.). Seems like trench warfare could have worked during the Civil War. 

 
rmanske53101
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rmanske53101,
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6/30/2014 | 1:05:48 PM
Re: Tactics Didn't Keep Up
Agreed, for during the Civil war, there were the early adoption of the trenches.  But the lessons wern't learned by many till WWII, when the Germans simply went around the French Maginot line (the ultimate trench line with the latest technologies) with a mating of technologies and tactics.  The Americans were already developing fast moving tactics, but the Germans developed and implimented them first, smashing through and by-passing the French defences easily, using the technoligies of fast moving warfare; tanks, infintry carries and aircraft.
ka7ehk
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ka7ehk,
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6/30/2014 | 12:17:56 PM
Technology did not begin with WW1
People forget that one of the advantages that the North had in the American Civil War was the telegraph. That is "new technology", most certainly. But, we are also guilty of gross hubris if we define "technology" only in terms of things electrical. The rocket, the teel blade, armor, the cannon, the trireme, the chariot, the cross-bow, were all examples of new technology directed toward combat. It did not start with WW1 - far from it.

Jim Wagner

Oregon Research Electroncis
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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7/1/2014 | 12:29:24 AM
Re: Technology did not begin with WW1
@Jim Wagner: Right you are!  Of course, this article, you'll notice, came on the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand, which started WWI -- so the point is more about recognizing that anniversary.  Nonetheless, your points are very well taken!  Basic technologies that we take for granted today -- or even consider quaint and far outdated -- were extremely advantageous in early warfare.


The much-debated "heat ray/death ray" of Archimedes immediately comes to mind.  Whether or not it's true, the guy did some pretty neat stuff when it came to warfare.

(@Curt/Dave: Maybe earlier warfare technologies would be a good topic for a followup?  Or a Geekend piece?)

Anyway, all this talk of triremes and chariots and technological development desperately makes me want to play Sid Meier's Civilization now.
yalanand
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yalanand,
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6/30/2014 | 12:19:56 PM
Re:7 Surprising Technologies From World War I
You can only understand how advanced a country is in technology if you start a war against that country. Many countries were still advancing slowly. If there wasn't a world war, most countries wouldn't have become what they have today (some became superpowers, and some deteriorated).
zerox203
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zerox203,
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6/30/2014 | 12:41:57 PM
Re: 7 Surprising Technologies From World War I
Wow, fascinating piece, Curt (and, I think it might be first one of yours that I've read on InformationWeek. Good timing!). The big notion that was drilled into my head in high school was about how War serves to drive the economy - which of course, ties into the fact that it's motivated by economic concerns to begin with. What it also ties into is the inevitable development of technology that comes with it. In eras gone by, maybe that economic drive was simply in the form of putting people into work (in factories, etc.), but it seems in the modern age it has changed to be the development of technologies that go on to explode into the consumer market after the war.

War breaks all the rules - governments will do anything they can to get ahead, red tape be damned... and that gets things done a little faster. You're right, though - some of these I had no idea about. Of course, it goes without saying that medical technology would be pushed to the forefront on the battlefield, but I'd never seen a picture of such a truck before now, and I wouldn't have guessed that that's what it looked like. At first, I felt a little cheated at your use of the 'wristwatch' (is it technology just because they put a strap on it?), but looking at it now, there's no denying that that simple act had in impact on our technology that we're feeling to this day. It continues to have an impact on our constant obsession with putting wrist-things in our science fiction. How crazy is that?
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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7/1/2014 | 12:31:36 AM
Re: 7 Surprising Technologies From World War I
@zerox203: "Wrist stuff" is cool (just look at the fans of FitBit).  One of my favorite pieces of tech conference swag are these orange rubber bracelets, put out by Avere Systems, that are really USB drives.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
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7/3/2014 | 1:59:58 PM
Re: 7 Surprising Technologies From World War I
@Joe   Rubber braclets ?  That are usb drives ?   Nice. I  am wondering if I would rather that than the drive on my keychain ?
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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7/4/2014 | 5:06:57 AM
Re: 7 Surprising Technologies From World War I
@Technocrati: Well, at least if it's on your keychain, you're not likely to lose it.

Unless, of course, you lose your keys.  But then, you've got other problems too, in that case.

I also have some fun ones in interesting shapes, such as rubber poker chips.

My least favorite ones are the ones that are embedded in this plastic business card-like thing.  I mean, hey, handy for your wallet, I guess, but I see people just rip the drive itself right off of those things.
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
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6/30/2014 | 8:06:20 PM
WWi more technical, but Civil War set patterns that played out in it
The Civil War has been marked by historians as the first modern war; in its latter stages no one had to instruct the troops to dig trenches. By its end, repeating rifles and gatling guns were in use. The First World War was horrible for the scale that it brought to trench warfare, each side hurling a million shells into the lines of the other in a battle. Then there was the influenza afterward, believed to have been a particularly virulent virus that jumped from the bloodstream of pigs being slaughtered for the troops into the blood of humans doing the work. One horror begets another. So many young people who survived the carnage of the war were then killed by the disasse.
tekedge
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tekedge,
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6/30/2014 | 11:34:51 PM
technologies from World War 1
I think the basic technology always existed, we just work on it and make it sophisticated and smart. But there is still more possibilities out there which future generations will enjoy
tekedge
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tekedge,
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6/30/2014 | 11:35:18 PM
technologies from World War 1
I think the basic technology always existed, we just work on it and make it sophisticated and smart. But there is still more possibilities out there which future generations will enjoy
Jamescon
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Jamescon,
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7/1/2014 | 11:03:37 AM
Carnage and technology
Curt. Great slideshow. I've seen some general media coverage of the 100th anniversary of The Great War, but it's pretty limited (on comparisonn to the D-Day coverage), maybe because all the vets and most of their immediate families are gone now. What is impossible to grasp today is the carnage, where the deaths of 10,000 men in a day simply met that the pompous military leaders would vow to attack again the next day. It was all for the sake of an extra few hundred yards of mud and the egos of nations that wanted to play with new military toys, such as dreadnaughts, airplanes, tanks, machine guns and even new generations of rifles. 

Add to that the misery brought home in the form of influenza (entire families dying in a house that nobody would enter and being unable to do anything even if they did enter), and the fact that WWI really only laid the groundwork for WWII. It's true that the US Civil War may have introduced more technology, but as you note WWI made more general use of those technologies. Then WWII was fought based largely on the next generation of technology and people.

This slideshow was a wonderful idea, and I hope it sheds a bit of light on just how horrible war is, even if it awakens just a few people.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
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7/3/2014 | 1:57:35 PM
Turn the Lights On. What Year Is It ?
Thank you Curtis for a really interesting looking at how the military has influenced tech.  We tend to think things have been around forever - like electricity for instance.

1882 wasn't that long ago.


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