6 Ideas That Were So Ahead Of Their Time Everybody Went Nuts
The unceasing forward march of technology isn't always greeted with open arms by an adoring public. Every once in a while, an innovation comes along that's so groundbreaking that humanity responds like a caveman banging his head on a rock after seeing the evil magic of a solar eclipse. Even in response to such innocuous things as ...
The First Man To Use An Umbrella In Britain Was Pelted With Garbage
Jonas Hanway came back from France with a new umbrella. Today, no one would give a crap, no matter how many Instagram posts he made about it. But in the 1750s, that made him the first man in Britain to use an umbrella, and all hell broke loose. He was continuously booed, and some people would even "pelt him with rubbish," so we hope that was a sturdy umbrella.
You see, at the time, the British thought that umbrellas were not only for sissies, but for French people. Umbrellas had existed in some form for thousands of years, but they didn't really catch on until France made them more convenient in the early 18th century. So to England, umbrellas became a symbol of Frenchness, like baguettes or going to war with England.
At best, people laughed at Hanway for being some sort of fashion-obsessed dandy. At worst, they tried to run him over with stagecoaches. Coach drivers were particularly incensed by this new technology because to them, rain meant money. If people realized there was a much easier way to get out of the weather, they'd lose business. When one of them tried to "solve" the problem by charging at Hanway with a hansom cab, his response was to demonstrate another use for his umbrella by "giving the man a good thrashing." England slowly warmed up to the umbrella, perhaps fearing they'd give France an offensive advantage in their next war.
Disney Animators Flipped Out About Tron, Tried To Boycott The Movie
When 1982 audiences saw the groundbreaking computer-generated imagery in Disney's Tron, they reacted with a resounding "Meh, let's see E.T. again." Disney's own animators, on the other hand, freaked the hell out. To them, this movie was an existential threat to rival the old gods.
According to Steven Lisberger, Tron's writer and director, "people used to hold up crosses when the Tron walked through the halls. We were the undead. We were making a film that was from the netherworld. They were just very afraid. This was the future and it was rolling down the most conservative linoleum hallways on the earth."
Disney's animators went so far as to boycott Tron's production, openly refusing to assist in the project in any way. They were so terrified that they forgot it might be smart to, you know, get in on the ground floor of a fledgling medium. Even the Academy refused to nominate Tron for its special effects because they thought using computers was cheating. One member of the crew did get an Oscar for something he created in the film ... 14 years later. Hey, maybe people will eventually come around on the sequel too.
Coffee Was Thought To Disrupt Learning And Cause Impotence
Coffee has fueled endless late-night study sessions over the years, so it's ironic that pearl-clutchers once accused it of making people less studious. One 17th-century Oxford academic argued that "serious learning" was declining because those darn kids today were spending all their time in coffeehouses. Tavern owners also complained that people were drinking that foul liquid instead of getting plastered on nice wholesome booze.
Soon, anti-coffee pamphlets began circulating around Europe. Some tried to scare people away with the claim that drinking coffee would turn you into a Turk. King Charles II of England decided that this was the time to order the destruction of all coffeehouses and ban the brew's sale. This was less about the drink itself and more about Charles' fear of ending up beheaded like his dad, since coffeehouses were a good place to talk politics. Charles abandoned the idea after finding out coffee had quite a few fans in England, and they were both pissed at him for trying and strangely motivated.
Meanwhile, in Germany, Fredrick the Great outlawed coffee roasting, and even employed sniffer dogs to suss out anyone who dared betray the national beverage, beer. In Sweden, all imports were banned, and if you were found with coffee, you'd be left without any cups or dishes. Your precious dishes!
Car Radios Were Considered A Threat To Public Safety
When car radios began taking off in the 1930s, legislators and insurance companies immediately foresaw a Mad Max-like future full of gore and vehicular violence. Their concern was that listening to the radio was so irresistible that drivers would zone out and crash.
Strangely, many drivers agreed. In 1934, 56% of the members of the Auto Club of New York said that car radios were a "dangerous distraction." On the other hand, radio manufacturers and owners pointed out that radios actually make driving safer, because they can warn you about bad weather, or keep you awake during long drives or dull conversations with your father-in-law.
Proposed laws against the scourge of car radios sprang up all over the country. Six states introduced bills that would punish people for driving with the radio on, or even for having one installed. Connecticut wanted to fine people $50 (about $825 today) just for having a radio in your car.
Most of these laws didn't pass, but a large section of the public was still terrified of car radios. That changed after World War II, when most white people moved out to the suburbs and commutes became longer. People found something even more terrifying than car radios: being stuck with nothing but your own thoughts for two hours.
People Thought Chess Would Make Players Dumber And More Dangerous
The next time someone tells you video games are making you stupid, lazy, or violent, kindly inform them that 19th-century people used to say the same thing about chess. When chess started getting popular in the Western world, critics considered it far dumber than whist, a card game in which the cards change value during play, leading to infinite variety. Meanwhile, chess, with its pitiful one novemtrigintillion possible games, was considered kiddie stuff.
One physician claimed that chess was causing smart people to waste their brainpower on a "rather selfish and un-social species of warfare" instead of doing something helpful for society, like getting mad about board games. Another critic lamented that kids who got into chess were being robbed of their mental energy by a game that "affords no benefit whatever to the body." Which is not true; professional chess players have astounding bladder control.
The "warfare" part was also a sticking point for some critics, who claimed that the gritty realism of this game (horses fighting people, towers that come out of nowhere and crush you) would make players more prone to violence. That or it made kings and generals ignore the actual wars raging around them because they were so engrossed in a match. If those complaints sound contradictory to you, that's only because you've been watching too many exciting chess livestreams on Twitch and your brain is now mush.
America Vehemently Opposed Pasteurized Milk
For centuries, people drank their milk raw, with a nice dose of disease-causing bacteria instead of cereal. That changed when French biologist Louis Pasteur came up with a new method of heating food to kill off the bacteria, which became known as pasteurization (lousization was harder to pronounce). Well ... it should have changed everything, anyway. People in America and parts of Europe valiantly fought this shady "not drinking germs every day" business for decades.
Why? First of all, people had gotten so used to the taste of filthy milk (and the crap they added to mask such filth) that they thought pasteurized milk tasted "cooked" and unnatural. They also didn't like the idea of paying extra for this silly "not dying of preventable diseases" business.
More surprisingly, many doctors and pediatricians opposed the process, under the reasoning that children needed the "good" bacteria and nutrients in raw milk, which would be destroyed by pasteurization. A 1892 Medical News article described how "the children who at first had fattened and thriven on sterilized milk became emaciated and anemic," and eventually "perished of non-nutrition." One doctor complained that pasteurized milk turned children into "deformed creatures," as if it was the ooze from the Ninja Turtles.
In fact, to this day, some people are still upset about the government taking away their precious bovine tuberculosis (the CDC lists 144 outbreaks connected to raw milk between 2007 and 2016). Man, people sure love getting diseases.
E. Reid Ross has a couple books, Nature Is The Worst: 500 Reasons You'll Never Want To Go Outside Again and Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, both available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. RG Jordan is not big on social media, but he is big on working and eating food, so you can contact him at RGJordan4@gmail.com if you think his words are funny or insightful.
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