Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The World's Oldest

A Mental Floss article inspired me to find the oldest examples of some modern technology.  I've been toying on and off with having an occasional series on obsolete technology - one of my son's interests.

Some technology is a lot older than we think.  Other technology, such as the television, took the combined effort of many over many years.

The oldest recorded voice (from what I can find online) - April 9, 1860. No, it wasn't recorded by Thomas Edison's phonograph, which wasn't invented until around 1877.  Rather, this was recorded by a French invention called the Phonautograph, patented in 1857. The problem is, there was no way to play these recordings back at the time and the recordings were lost - until 2008, when several were found.

Here is the  Pantelegraph- a precurser to the fax machine - put into use in the early 1860's (this above is a replica).

The first automobile?  If you count a self propelled steam tractor as an "automobile", the first auto dates from 1769.  If you don't, the first modern auto dates from 1885.

The first battery?  Could be 1799, which seems to be the most accepted date.

But, some claim, the battery was invented much, much earlier.

The first air conditioner?  Well, the Chinese invented the rotary fan prior to 1313 A.D.   The modern air conditioner? Possibly in 1902.

And the first computer? Well, that depends on what you call a computer.

If you consider something called the Difference Engine developed by Charles Babbage in 1822 as being the first computer - unfortunately it was never built completely until 1991, as Babbage could never get funding for his invention.

Finally, the first passenger elevator?  1743, for King Louis XV, although lifts existed long before then.

And then is the technology of my childhood (I am 61) so much of which my 20-something son has never used:  typewriters, rotary phones, onion paper, telegraphs, and more.  That is the kind of stuff I would want to blog about - along with items such as wire recorders (ever hear of those), eight-track tapes, floppy discs, and cassettes.

Makes me wish we still had our son's Apple IIe....

Would you want to see a series on recent obsolete technology?


  1. I'd enjoy a post about recent obsolete technology, Alana. It's amazing how quickly things change, isn't it? And it tickles me that kids are getting interested in records (they say vinyl) and "old-fashioned" typewriters again.

  2. Interesting, Alana! Yeah, I think I would like to learn more about obsolete technology. I found the clip with the first voice fascinating!

  3. This was a fun read! I'd like to know about the old ways of writing letters and old ways of banking too. I wonder if that's part of technology still?

  4. Very interesting! I had no idea there was a version of the "fax" machine so long ago!

    It is mind-boggling to realize kids now have never seen or used such things as typewriters or rotary phones! And even "dial up" internet service is becoming "so 1990s"!

    Early pieces of technology that fascinate me are the early Singer sewing machines.

  5. Yes, it's amazing how fast technology changes. So hard to keep up! It would be interesting to have a post on obsolete technology: sure, do it! ;) <3


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