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Modern Wonders
Ever since the wonders of the world were codified by people with a bit too much time on their hands we have been obsessed with these sort of lists. Long may that be the case.
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Eye Print anyone?
Modern Wonders
A machine the size of a small car could play bridge

Card 39 shows a 30 ton treasury door. It was needed to combat the ever increasing skills of safe crackers of the time. When closed it was airtight and watertight (can you have one without the other?) 34 inches thick it weighed 30 tons and has four keyless combination locks and a time lock.

Card 47 has eye-prints. It is interesting to see this as a modern wonder in 1939 as it is still vaunted as something of a modern wonder today. Rather like the office of the future, it is something we can do but for some reason it never quite happens.

We all know the basic principle so no need to go over it here but the base of the card does note, 'Thus once again science has come to the aid of the criminologist' It never really has as far as I know. Probably because few criminals have ever been unlucky enough to leave an eye-print behind at the scene of a crime.


The cinema was old hat by 1939 but it does get a mention as new technology was always bubbling forth from this well. The card shows some monsterous machinery used to show films and notes that sound and vision is now on the one film. The film was highly inflammable during this period and the card ends 'As the illustration indicates, elaborate precautions are taken against fire.' Well maybe you'll be able to see them but I am blowed if I can.

Card 43 deals with the television studio and this was rather more a modern wonder. The BBC only started regular broadcasts, November 1936. The card goes on about the equipment now being of a size where outside broadcasts were possible. Some of the early broadcasts being, the Coronation Procession and tennis at Wimbledon. Bet they did not know we were soon going to be able to put a camera in a cricket stump, or strap one onto someones hat.

Modern Wonders
And finally...

Card 45 shows a Super Calculating Machine. This was the 'Differential Analyser' developed at MIT. At the time it was described as one of the most comprehensive pieces of mathematical machinery ever made. In fact it seems it was capable of significantly less computing than an electronic calculator which gets put in the end of a ruler nowadays. The differences do not end there, a team of technicians had to control the 'Differential Analyser' and it filled a complete room.

As if that was not enough the final card of the set (card 48) is reserved to a 'Slot Machine which plays Bridge' This marvel of mechanical wizadry was able to play a number of pre-determined bridge hands. You put the money in the slot and played the thing rather like operating a telephone switchboard it would seem. The fact it was about the size of a telephone switchboard is also remarkable. I wonder how many of these machines were made and whether there are any left. Just imagine if the computing power you are using to read this site was reliant on the technology that produced such a machine. You would all be viewing this site via public display booths about the size of sports stadia and still the technicians would have to interpret the flashing lights for us.

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Related pages
World Wonders
Engineering Wonders

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Saturday, 11th October 2008