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11 Modern Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think

For a long time, we've been able to pride ourselves on the fact that we're smarter than our primitive ancestors. Sure, they made fire and the wheel and invented language, or whatever, but we brought technology.

Turns out a lot of our most technologically sophisticated inventions were already invented, which does nothing but remind us how useless we are.

#11.
iPod

Believed to have been invented in...

In 2001, if you are a die hard Mac fan. Or 1997, if you are aware cheaper MP3 players existed before Steve Jobs figured out people would pay twice as much to hear their pirated songs on the bus if the MP3 player looked like the bastard son of Eve from Wall-E and a pocket calculator.

Actually Invented in...

In 1979, Kane Kramer and his friend, James Campbell, came up with the idea of a portable music player the size of a cigarette box. The music player baptized as the IXI System stored music digitally in a chip and had a display screen and buttons to navigate it.

They even built five prototypes they showed potential investors. Wow! That sounds amazing! So they sold it, became gazillionaires and everybody listened to ABBA songs they downloaded with their Ataris, right? Well, no, obviously not.

The IXI had one big problem: It only had enough memory for three and a half minutes of music, which does screw you up if you had your heart set on carrying "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" anywhere you went. And how were you supposed to get your music files back in the decades before Napster?

Since almost nobody had computers in those days, Kramer suggested putting terminals in music stores, connected via telephone with a central music server so users could buy and download their music at the store. Keep in mind we're talking about 1979 phone modems, which means Kramer's idea also involved people bringing their own tent and enough food for camping for two months while they downloaded "Funky Town."

#10.
The Automobile

Believed to have been invented in...

Late 19th century or early 20th century, or whatever the hell that World of Motion ride at EPCOT said.

Actually Invented in...

A French inventor named Nicolas Joseph Cugnot built one, back before the American Revolution.

Back when most people were blaming their diseases on fairies and the evil eye, Cugnot had one great idea: a horse carriage minus the stupid, smelly horse. In 1769, he finally finished his horseless carriage; a steam-engine-powered automobile that looked like a steampunk Big Wheel.

It could carry four tons while traveling at the break-neck speed of two and a half miles per hour (people had really weak necks in those days).

Why did we never read about Napoleon's mechanized, steam-powered army trampling England under their godless robotic wheels? Well, the inventions had problems. While testing his vehicle in 1771, Cugnot lost control and discovered the unique sensation we've come to know as "crashing into a brick wall." You might think that you could laugh off such a crash at five miles an hour, but try it while sitting in one of these bastards.

Despite being an undeniably revolutionary invention, it was still slow, heavy and horrible to drive. Cugnot ran out of money to improve his invention, and while the French government was interested in continuing with the idea, a little uprising of the people called the French Revolution put an end to that.

Cugnot escaped to Belgium where he lived in poverty. Fun fact: There were about 600-700 million people on earth when Cugnot was born. That's also how many cars there are now.

#9.
Heat Rays

Believed to have been invented in...

In 2007, headlines blared that the US military had unveiled an unstoppable weapon in the war against comfortable temperatures. The Active Denial System looks like a car that can catch scrambled porn channel signals, but its purpose is far more sinister and less useful: It shoots a beam that heats people's skin to an uncomfortable 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

That sounds low, but remember the idea is to disperse crowds, not turn people into ash, War of the Worlds-style.

Actually Invented in...


"Dammit! The naked guy walked into the picture again!"

Well you could go all the way back to before 400 BC, when polished surfaces could be used to focus sunlight to ignite fires or cauterize wounds. But heat rays only got interesting in 212 BC when Archimedes supposedly built a heat ray to burn down enemy ships to defend the city of Syracuse.

As our commenters will be glad to point out, many scientists consider Archimedes' heat ray a myth, including the guys from Mythbusters. But some equally smart people disagree.

Doctor Ioannis Sakkas, a Greek engineer with the name of a Star Trek villain, conducted experiments in 1973 to prove that Archimedes crazy ass death ray was possible. Instead of using one giant mirror like others who tried and failed, Sakkas used 50 human sized bronze mirrors that, when reflecting light unto the same small wooden boat, managed to ignite it in a short time.

And as any scientist can tell you, when confronted with two possible theories, the scientific method dictates that we must go with the one that is awesome.

#8.
The Computer

Believed to have been invented in...

Some time around World War II, by Alan Turing or by Konrad Zuse, depending on whether you ask Alan Turing or Konrad Zuse.

Actually Invented in...

Some time around 1833. Charles Babbage was a man who hated errors. Mistakes and mathematical untidiness burned his ass so much he decided to build a ludicrously complex machine just to stop idiots from not doing math right.

In 1822, Babbage proposed the idea of building a mechanical calculator to tabulate polynomial functions. The British government, or those officials who didn't fall asleep while Babbage explained the idea, gave him a huge bag of money with a pound sign painted on it and sent him to work on it. 10 years later they finally figured out Babbage was never going to finish the machine because he was an insufferable ass who pissed off everyone who tried to help him.

By that time Charles had already moved on to bigger things. He looked at his awesome polynomial functions tabulator and thought "You know what's more rad than polynomial functions? A machine you could program to do all different kinds of math!" And so he conceived the Analytical Engine. And he built it and then laid back and played Grand Theft Horse Carriage: Manchester happily ever after, or he would have if he had ever managed to finish a damn thing in his life.

He asked the British Association for the Advancement of Science for funds, and was promptly denied, since all of their money was presumably tied up with a guy who said he could cure the evil eye with some leeches or something.

The last version of the machine read programs and data from punch cards and had a memory capable of storing 1,000 numbers with 50 decimal digits each, which roughly translates to 20.7 Kb. Only a partial model was finished, when Babbage died in 1878 while still trying to perfect the design.

As a side note, Babbage's invention lead to the invention of a new career. Augusta Ada King, countess of Lovelace, created the first program for the never finished machine (a program to calculate Bernoulli numbers) becoming the world's first programmer.


Programmers should still be required to wear this.

#7.
Submarines

Believed to have been invented in...

Most people will either tell you World War I or 1870, the year Jules Verne predicted the invention in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Actually Invented in...

The first description of a submersible ship that did not involve magic, witches or copious amounts of booze actually came in 1580 from William Bourne, an English inn keeper who designed a way for ships to decrease and increase volume to change density. Since Bourne was an inn keeper and preferred to breathe air, the world had to wait until 1623 for the first submarine to actually be built. Dutchman Cornelius Drebbel's submarine was propelled by 12 oarsmen and could sink to a depth of 15 feet.

Since people like to beat the crap out of each other so much, the world only had to wait another 30 years for the first war submarine. Tired of Van Damme being its only weapon, Belgium built a submarine for war.

The good old US of A then got in on the action, trying to use submarines in the revolutionary war. In 1776 Ezra Lee piloted the Turtle, a submarine built by 16-year-old Yale alumni, David Bushnell. The Turtle's weapon was a drill to make holes in enemy ships and put time bombs into the holes. We can only guess patriot general Wile. E. Coyote came up with that one.


You apparently had to operate the drill with your dick.

#6.
Video Games

Believed to have been invented in...

1972, the year Pong and the Magnavox Odyssey came out.

Actually Invented in...

1948, when Thomas Goldsmith Jr., a professor of physics at Furman University, patented his horrendously badly named idea, the Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device.

The Amusement Device was based off old military radar displays, which were just dots on a screen. They figured you could put some kind of overlay on the screen with pictures of aliens on it or whatever, and you'd have a rudimentary game where you could shoot projectiles at the bad guys. Despite being only kinda crappy, it was still too expensive to be marketable and only a few prototypes were ever built.

The second video game came out three years later. British electronics company Ferranti built the NIMROD, a computer designed to play one game and one game only, the classic game of NIM.

Go on, play NIM online so you can relive the forgotten golden age of video games: we'll wait.

Back? Yeah, that sucked; especially because the bastard computer keeps winning (obviously, it cheats!). Like all computers from those days, it was the size of Adam West's Bat-computer, and simulated a game that's played with 16 match sticks. So the first computer game was only useful if you were the world's greatest NIM player, or just extremely short on matchsticks.

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