Tag Archives: history

The least autonomous cars?

Since my last post was about the most high-tech cars around, let’s go to the other extreme (well, almost), and look at the earlier days of automotive user interfaces. This, for example, is a handy guide for drivers of the Model T Ford, showing how you should adjust the throttle, and advance the ignition, based on what you want to achieve.

Kids these days have probably never seen a manual choke, let alone a manual ignition advance! (If you want to know what an ignition advance lever is and why you might need one, Wikipedia will tell you). Now, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had to use one either, but I’ve ridden in cars where the driver did.

I’ve never actually ridden in a Model T, though I’ve sat in one, in Henry Ford’s garage, no less. But if you should ever find yourself in the driving seat, don’t assume that the three pedals and the handbrake-like lever will do what you expect.

Here’s a nice demonstration to show you the basics:

The previous holocaust

Tomorrow is the centenary of the start of the second biggest genocide in history.

Here’s what I wrote about it ten years ago:

Who remembers the Armenians?

My wife’s family, on one side, are Armenian. Her grandparents managed to escape the ruthless Turkish ethnic cleansing of 1915 by getting a boat to America, but most of the rest of their families were wiped out.

This is one of history’s biggest and yet least-known atrocities, so it’s refereshing to read Ben Macintyre’s article What’s the Turkish for Genocide?, which suggests that Turkey really ought at least to acknowledge its past before being allowed into the EU.

The question “Who remembers … the Armenians?”, by the way, was used by Hitler to reassure his generals that another holocaust they were embarking on would not be a long-term problem. It would be sad if any future dictators were still able to use the same reasoning.

Ridge and furrow

One of the fields in nearby Coton used to be ploughed using the medieval ‘ridge and furrow‘ technique. The remaining undulations are fairly subtle, but they made pretty patterns as the snow melted.

Ridge and Furrow

A pleasing demonstration of the benefits of even a very slightly south-facing slope!

Cambridge Chronicles

Mitchams cornerCantabrigian readers might enjoy a site I’ve just found, Andrew Brett’s Cambridge Back Chat. It’s a fine collection of local history blog posts on a variety of subjects… I, for one, didn’t know that Mitcham’s Corner was named after a clothes shop that used to stand there. Here’s another view.

The entry I enjoyed most, though, is a very pleasing account of a Bleriot-pattern monoplane landing on Parker’s Piece in 1911.

The full piece is here, and I recommend reading the whole thing, but here’s an extract:

At last Mr Moorhouse gave the word “Let go,” and the machine darted forward across the turf at a great pace, heading slightly to the left of the electric light standard in the centre of the Piece. After running about 120 yards the machine was seen to be rising. The wheels were lifting off the grass, and the whole structure was inclining gently upwards. A few yards and she was wholly clear of the ground, and soaring gracefully upwards. It was a beautiful and a wonderful sight to see how the slender fabric seemed to be converted from a thing of earth, struggling as it were to free itself from the invisible bonds that held it down, into a thing of grace and beauty, fairy-like, almost ethereal, freed from grosser things, that seemed to glide through the air as if it were in its native element and to exalt in its freedom from the trammels of earth. There was something awesome in the sight. One seemed to be looking on at the birth of some strange new thing of wondrous possibilities – the dawn of a new era in the history of mankind.

Ah, local papers were worth reading back then!

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser