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A View of the Past: The Wright Brothers

Author info: HighWire Press
Post date: 11.01.2016
Post type: Article
Subject: Technological innovation

Along with a number of others in scholarly publishing, I spend a lot of time looking for signals about what the future will be, and especially what might presage a real discontinuity.   In Silicon Valley, where I live — and especially in the press releases from the Consumer Electronics Show (which just finished for 2016) — there is so much breathless hype about wearables, drones and the Internet of Things (e.g., the connected refrigerator).  Sometimes it is sobering to read something not breathless about something that truly with hindsight deserved hype.   So I’d like to point you to the New York Times’ January 7, 1906 coverage of “Another Attempt to Solve Aerial Navigation Problem“: the Wright Brothers.

The Times’ subheads for the article begin:

Flying Machine Invented by the Wright Brothers Sails Through the Air Without Aid of Balloon or Gas Bag — Working On It in Secret for Years.

A FLYING machine, or aeroplane, constructed by two young brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, has been propelled by its own power and without any aid of balloon or gas bag, for distance of twenty-four miles in thirty-eight minutes, or at the rate of very nearly thirty-eight miles an hour.

Just this past week I was reading a story about Air Force One.  The story showed in a picture that the whole of the Wright Brothers first flight was less than the length of today’s Air Force One.

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