Monday, June 11, 2007

Aerial Navigation Will Never Be Popular (1906)

The August 14, 1906 Lake County Times (Hammond, Indiana) ran an article by Sir Hiram Maxim titled, "Aerial Navigation Will Never Be Popular." An excerpt, as well as the original article in its entirety, appears below.

But I do not think the flying machine will ever be used for ordinary traffic and for what may be called "popular" purposes. People who write about the conditions under which the business and pleasure of the world will be carried on in another hundred years generally make flying machines take the place of railways and steamers, but that such will ever be the case I very much doubt.

See also:
A Hundred Years From Now. (New York Times, 1909)
Postcards Show the Year 2000 (circa 1900)
Collier's Illustrated Future of 2001 (1901)
Predictions of a 14-Year-Old (Milwaukee Excelsior, 1901)
The Next Hundred Years (Milwaukee Herold und Seebote, 1901)
What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years (Ladies Home Journal, 1900)


Unknown said...

A visionary from 1906, who knew?
But it makes sense of course. While trains are bound by tracks and cars by roads, there is nothing to prevent air-vehicles from crashing into each other. I'm still waiting for robot-drivers to take over chauffeuring on the road, then air will be a viable option

Mark Plus said...

If the world's oil supply has already started to decline, we'll see less and less air travel in the coming years any way.

Anonymous said...

"Inventor of Machine Guns, Etc."
the etc. is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I've found an amusing paleo-futuristic prediction right here on this comment page ; )

Anonymous said...

Surely Maxim's involvement with guns helped him see the trend. By 1906, many otherwise benign inventions had been employed for aggression -- with da Vinci's patronage only a more famous example.

In 2007, a sharp high-schooler can tell you about "degrees of freedom", "drag", and the intractible unpredictability of weather ... and mark_plus hit an important near-term note, energy cost.

Still, those obstacles seem surmountable. Planes could replace cars if a)energy is cheap, b) control is computerized, and c) collisions are non-catastrophic. I wouldn't suggest a computer-controlled pneumatic-body plane is impossible.

Another obstacle is the tradeoff between size and energy use. A large wing offers more lift per forward thrust, but a small wing needs less space when not in use. A rotating wing for lift is yet another power hog.

An inflatble-on-demand wing seems possible; cheap fuel seems possible; but I don't expect to see either in the next 30 years, even at our newly accelerating pace.

Progress has accelerated, but a rational effort at prediction includes noting the timelines for contemporary innovations: DLP, voice recognition, phone miniturization, collision avoidance radar, anti-lock brakes, digital jewelry watches, flat panels, flexible touch-screen scrolls, print-on demand, etc.

While "Grand Challenge" events have a very engaging and promising history -- most recently the X-Prize, Grainger Prize, and DARPA's 3 autonomous vehicle challenges -- the history of innovation for mass markets is sobering. It often requires huge sums and multi-decade investments in R&D ... which narrows the field to a small handful of organizations with abundant R&D resources -- AND a compelling motive to pursue the given innovation.

Anonymous said...

This looks and reads EXACTLY like some made up article for a retro edition of The Onion.