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Looking back at all the progress humanity has made through the last century, it's perfectly natural to feel a little bit moved by the power of human ingenuity and our thrive for constant improvement. It's natural, but also totally wrong. Because if you really look into the history of our technological development, you'll notice that the force driving us forward all this time wasn't our need to better ourselves or seek out truth in all its forms, but rather our desire to see naked people touch each other's junk.


"Oh yeah, now I can see them waaay better"

5
Home Video Technologies

Nearly the entire technological world as you know it today owes its thanks to pornography: Take VHS for example. Before CDs or DVDs came along, the videotape cassette was the hottest shit since the Human Torch got drunk and binged on Taco Bell Fire Sauce. The idea that you could record and watch movies whenever you wanted was completely unheard of before VHS, and the concept singlehandedly revolutionized home entertainment. But it wasn't an instant success: Some of the early VCR models cost as much as $800 in today's money, and that's not even accounting for the blank tapes, which came at prices up to $50 a pop. And speaking of those blank tapes: The MPAA was so concerned about the ability to copy movies that they not only refused to support the system, but actually called it the Boston Strangler of the movie industry and tried to get it banned in a court of law.


You know who else used VCRs?

The format had no corporate backing, it was heavily criticized, a bitch to program, and didn't even come with the Apple logo to help justify spending your kids' college fund on it. Why the hell would anybody buy it then?

To watch porn, of course.

Up until the end of the 1970s, smut films accounted for well over half of all videotape sales in the United States. In Great Britain and Germany that number was as high as 80%. This is largely because, prior to VHS, the only way to see two naked people boning was either paying to sit in an X-rated movie theater with a room full of lonely men in trench coats or a pair of powerful binoculars. The former was only seriously considered if you didn't mind accidentally sitting in what-you-will-pray-to-God-turns-out-to-be gum, and the latter required way too much patience for your more casual, weekend pervert. Porn on videotape changed all that, and the public desire for cable repairman schlong pulled the entire format into the limelight.


It also saved billions in dry-cleaning bills.

When the first laser discs were introduced, they offered essentially the same exact thing as VHS tapes. But with prices reaching almost $150 per disc, no amount of improved picture quality could engorge the consumer's hot, throbbing interest. Then along came DVDs. By making heavy use of their additional content capabilities, like multiple camera angles and deleted scenes, the porn industry helped keep the DVD alive until the prices dropped and the general public could afford to adopt the format.


Masturbation is the mother of invention.

4
Porn Made Your Digital Camera Possible

Other businesses soon took note of pornography's unstoppable selling power and decided to get in on all that sweaty, moustachioed action. First among them was Polaroid with their early digital cameras. The digital camera had a lot of advantages, but the improved picture quality, editorial control, easily adjustable settings and reduced film costs all paled in comparison to digital's best selling point: Now you could point a camera at your genitals and not have to run it through a gauntlet of snickering Walgreen's employees to enjoy the fruits of your sexy labors. And the camera companies adjusted their marketing accordingly.

Those are actual advertisements, and the message is very clear: With our digital cameras, you can now safely take tons of naked pics and not have the entire photo kiosk staff masturbating over them later, which YOU KNOW THEY TOTALLY WERE DOING UP UNTIL THIS VERY MOMENT.

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3
Guttenberg May Have Invented the Printing Press, Porn Made it Go

The only truly surprising thing about those ads is that these businesses took so long to notice porn's influence on consumers in the first place. It's been happening for centuries now: In 1524, there was a book published called "I Modi" (The Ways) by Pietro Aretino and Giulio Romano. If you were to ask an art/literature expert about it, you might hear that "I Modi" was a series of beautiful illustrations depicting contemporary Italian life, accompanied by Aretino's masterfully composed sonnets. If you asked anybody else, they'd just show you this:


Hey guys, what's happeniHEYYOOOOO!

Now, you won't really hear anyone arguing that "I Modi" was anything but an awesome, old-timey combination of professional wrestling and hardcore pornography; but you also won't hear anyone arguing about how it played a huge role in the popularization of print and literature... which it totally did. Guttenberg and his Bible might have gotten the ball rolling, but for centuries Aretino was one of the most read authors in Europe (today considered the father of erotic literature,) and his works were being printed and passed around more often than the pastor's daughter at a church summer camp. It was the first and only book many people came into contact with, and this pornography fostered widespread literacy all across ye olde Europe.


This is Pietro Aretino. Honestly, we would be surprised if he didn't write porn.

2
The Internet: Even More Powered By Porn Than You Thought

And that brings us to smut's latest, greatest achievement: The creation of that Internet thingy you've been reading about in all the papers lately.


Extra! Extra! Free boobs, you guys! Holy shit!

It's obvious that the internet wouldn't have been nearly as popular if it wasn't also place to watch people get their hump on from the comfort of your own suspiciously locked home office. But it could be argued that if it wasn't for hardcore, nasty, orifice-violating pornography, the internet we all know today might not have been born at all. We're not saying porn invented the internet -- we all know that was Al Gore channeling aliens in an abandoned lighthouse - we're just saying that almost every piece of modern internet technology can be traced back to the adult trade. Or at least that's the opinion of Jonathan Coopersmith: A professor at Texas A&M University who teaches the history of technology. For example, during the bad old years of the internet, porn sites were the only places that asked you to pay for stuff online: Viewing content via fee-based subscriptions, credit card verification and internet billing systems all originated with and were perfected by porn. Today, all those things are employed regularly by multinational companies like Amazon, E-bay and iTunes. And because the best kind of filthy sex is moving filthy sex, the consumers soon required more than just still pictures to float their lonely, one-man boats. So porn was also one of the first and only businesses to offer streaming videos, helping to popularize the practice elsewhere, and even spurring the development of Flash technology.


Internet, I am your father!

The porn industry was the Lewis and Clark of the internet age: Bravely exploring new territories and orifices, proving to serious businesses that there's gold in them-there hilly mounds. That's not conjecture on our part: In their early days, companies like Google, Yahoo and AOL all carefully studied online smut (for research, dammit!) to copy their business strategies.

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1
Smut May Help Clean Up the Internet

It's still happening today, too. All sorts of online businesses are taking their cues from porn, especially when it comes to fighting online piracy. See, the X-rated industry is actually one of the leading developers of anti-piracy software. And that's just one of many reasons why we should all have been paying attention to that huge porn industry conference a few months ago (Boobs. Boobs were the other reasons). They even ambitiously stated that they intend to fully eliminate online piracy by 2012, and we're not even going to mock them for that lofty goal, for the same reason smart men don't mock their girlfriends: They can withhold sex from them.


It might just turn out that the Mayans were right.

The reason why porn is always on the cutting edge of technology is easy to see: Just like a sheltered Midwest girl starting her first year at college, the porn industry is both willing and eager to experiment. Most "normal" companies have a carefully calculated budget strategy laid out for their next decade of business. They simply cannot afford to deviate from that plan, so there's no room to just screw around and find new market positions. All porn does is screw around and find new positions! It also helps that a lot of the porn executives are relatively young people always willing to try new things (provided lots of lube and a safety word). There's a lot of talk in the porn industry about new technology, like 3D porn, and porn-streaming apps for the iPad, the latter being announced on the very same day the device was announced by Apple. Not twenty four hours from the very concept of a device being revealed, and already we could confidently say: There will be tits on that.


Next order of business: Porn on microwave displays, and I'm not just talking about typing '69' into the timer, Jenkins.

Today, all the big talk in the smut peddler circuit is about mobile adult content. Already there are plans for services like real-time adult chat rooms on cell phones - as if perverts needed any more assistance masturbating on the bus. But porn isn't that short-sighted. They've got long-term goals too: In the words of Ilan Bunimovitz, the CEO of Private Media Group, a huge priority for the next decade is funding new advancements in Artificial Intelligence to use for pornographic purposes. On the one hand, we're all very excited at the prospect of experiencing AI in our lifetimes. Because, as history has shown, that new technology has a good chance of being commercially available within the next couple of years with porn's influence pumping away behind it. On the other hand, it is now a very real possibility that the first question we will ask this newly-birthed digital life form -- a being that, by its very existence, challenges our whole perception of what it means to be human -- will be: "You gonna take your top off, or what?"


I don't like the way you stare at me, Dave.

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online journalist, Japanese-English-Polish translator and life-long Internet porn "scholar." You can contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com.

For of Cracked's insight into porn, check out 6 Ways That Porn Runs The World and 10 Popular Porn Scenarios That Seem Highly Implausible.

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