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Advancements in technologies made obsolete before they were perfected IOTL

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
One field related to the airship discussion is that of ocean liners. There undoubtedly continue to be colossal improvements in shipbuilding technology, but there has been no Blue Riband holder since 1952. Imagine how Queen Mary 2 might look if she were expected not only to be the height of opulence, but also to maintain an average speed of 35 knots or more?
The more streamlined requirements might end up meaning that liners never quite get as big as OTL, but might be more popular as they'll have a bit more old-world charm.
 

Md139115

God is Law and Law is God.
I can actually see a market for a very fast ocean liner. Right now, the most popular cruises among Americans are 5-10 day cruises in the Caribbean that either start out of Florida (aided by the low cost flights to the area from the rest of the US) or starting in the Northeast US and taking roughly two days at sea to sail down and either end in Florida or another two to sail back.

With an ocean liner doing 35+ knots, a crossing of the Atlantic in three days becomes possible. That opens the door for a cruise that is three days at sea, two in the British Isles, two in France/Belgium for seven days (plus transatlantic flight back) or another three days at sea for ten. That strikes me as a very good way to couple the American tourist’s love of cruising with the bucket-list desire to visit Europe. It also really works well for the critical summer months when children are off from school and families have more free time in their schedule, because the Caribbean is usually too hot, and the summer months are when the North Atlantic is at its fickle “best.”
 

Tabac Iberez

Impetious
Published by SLP
I can actually see a market for a very fast ocean liner. Right now, the most popular cruises among Americans are 5-10 day cruises in the Caribbean that either start out of Florida (aided by the low cost flights to the area from the rest of the US) or starting in the Northeast US and taking roughly two days at sea to sail down and either end in Florida or another two to sail back.
Counterpoint, there's no way in hell to build a ship that cruises at 35+ knots. I'm not going to say efficently, I'm not going to say practically, I'm going to be blunt and say it's flat out impossible. The only ships that get up in that speed and size range are modern supercariers, which have the advantage of multiple nuclear reactors to deliver the literal fuck-tons of horsepower you need at the levels of torque required to turn a house-sized propeller through the water times four to hit that speed. You're not getting that and the sheer cost that is a cabin arrangement on the same boat.
 

Alex Richards

A musical Hubble Space Telescope
Patreon supporter
Published by SLP
Location
Derbyshire
Counterpoint, there's no way in hell to build a ship that cruises at 35+ knots. I'm not going to say efficently, I'm not going to say practically, I'm going to be blunt and say it's flat out impossible. The only ships that get up in that speed and size range are modern supercariers, which have the advantage of multiple nuclear reactors to deliver the literal fuck-tons of horsepower you need at the levels of torque required to turn a house-sized propeller through the water times four to hit that speed. You're not getting that and the sheer cost that is a cabin arrangement on the same boat.
Please explain that to the SS United States.
 

Md139115

God is Law and Law is God.
Counterpoint, there's no way in hell to build a ship that cruises at 35+ knots. I'm not going to say efficently, I'm not going to say practically, I'm going to be blunt and say it's flat out impossible. The only ships that get up in that speed and size range are modern supercariers, which have the advantage of multiple nuclear reactors to deliver the literal fuck-tons of horsepower you need at the levels of torque required to turn a house-sized propeller through the water times four to hit that speed. You're not getting that and the sheer cost that is a cabin arrangement on the same boat.
You actually made me doubt myself for a second there, but...

Please explain that to the SS United States.
Yeah, the great lady did so without breaking a sweat. Incidentally though, there’s always been rumors that the hull-form of the Forrestals and subsequent carriers were based on her.
 

Md139115

God is Law and Law is God.
The fact it ran for ten years before it finally became too unprofitable and went out of use during a refit should be pretty evident. Eight boilers and four turbines aren't exactly easy to keep running, and modern options are only slightly better.
That wasn't the problem, the problem was that it was built right in the trough period in shipping history when planes were taking over the transatlantic transportation market and cruising hadn't yet become popular, in addition to the standard issues arising from running a US flagged vessel. Had she been built fifteen years later and in Britain or France, she'd probably just be getting out of service in this last decade like the QE2 or the France/Norway.
 

Archibald

Well-known member
Patreon supporter
aviation history is full of them...
Mixed propulsion aircrafts - two generations
First generation (1943-1948)
- piston + jet
- turboprop with jet
Second generation (1953-1959)
- jet + ramjet
- jet + rocket
All of them tried to help jet engine early deficiencies, all of them worked pretty well (Ryan Fireball, Breguet Vultur, Trident, Griffon) but all of them were cut short by... developments of jet engines.

Supersonic airliners - be them Concorde, Tupolev or Boeing. Already mentionned.

Intercontinental cruise missiles - they were killed by ICBM. - Matador, Navaho, Burya...

Mach 3 interceptors - killed by surface to air missiles, as were Mach 3 bombers (F-108, XB-70, M-52)

The 50's is kind of mass grave of extremely advanced aircrafts of all kind that were ultimately killed by ballistic missiles (Sputnik) and SAMs (U-2, 1960).
 

ForceA1

Multilateral Force: The Conning Towers of Babel
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Q5, the proposed replacement for QE2 was designed to reach 40 knots.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
The 50's is kind of mass grave of extremely advanced aircrafts of all kind that were ultimately killed by ballistic missiles (Sputnik) and SAMs (U-2, 1960).
Indeed. I always think there must be TLs where the wars came at different times and progress in different areas was slowed/speeded up, so rocket planes like the SR.177 might have become the norm for a generation
 

Japhy

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Albany, NY
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The fact it ran for ten years before it finally became too unprofitable and went out of use during a refit should be pretty evident. Eight boilers and four turbines aren't exactly easy to keep running, and modern options are only slightly better.
Yeah but you said it was impossible.


My humble if morbid contribution to this: Conventional Bombs at the dawn of the Atomic Era, the most famous superbombs of course being the Grand Slams of Dr. Wallis. Earthquake Bombs to destroy viaducts and U-boat Pens are impressive and amazing things, and of course become instantly useless once ground penetrating atomics come on the scene.
 

Thande

Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
Earthquake Bombs to destroy viaducts and U-boat Pens are impressive and amazing things, and of course become instantly useless once ground penetrating atomics come on the scene.
And now we see the turnaround with the MOAB and so on because of the atomic taboo.

This ties into another idea I've had - there must be pre-atomic TLs where long-range, intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional warheads (or maybe gas warheads etc.) came first, and are used routinely in warfare. There's the economic issue that they would be very expensive compared to the damage done, but you can see governments loving the idea of being able to make smoke rise over the capital of the country they're having brinksmanship with at the touch of a button, and there being no realistic way to stop it. More of a symbolic, terroristic weapon to undermine the confidence of the enemy country's people in their rulers' ability to protect them.
 

Sulemain

Brush NOT Benzo
Location
Coventry
And now we see the turnaround with the MOAB and so on because of the atomic taboo.

This ties into another idea I've had - there must be pre-atomic TLs where long-range, intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional warheads (or maybe gas warheads etc.) came first, and are used routinely in warfare. There's the economic issue that they would be very expensive compared to the damage done, but you can see governments loving the idea of being able to make smoke rise over the capital of the country they're having brinksmanship with at the touch of a button, and there being no realistic way to stop it. More of a symbolic, terroristic weapon to undermine the confidence of the enemy country's people in their rulers' ability to protect them.
That might lead to a race to see who can cram the most deadly chemical weapon on the nose of an ICBM. I know in the Cold War the Americans and Soviets put nerve gas warheads on the long range battlefield rockets. I don't see why the same wouldn't be possible with ICBMs.
 
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Archibald

Well-known member
Patreon supporter
And now we see the turnaround with the MOAB and so on because of the atomic taboo.

This ties into another idea I've had - there must be pre-atomic TLs where long-range, intercontinental ballistic missiles with conventional warheads (or maybe gas warheads etc.) came first, and are used routinely in warfare. There's the economic issue that they would be very expensive compared to the damage done, but you can see governments loving the idea of being able to make smoke rise over the capital of the country they're having brinksmanship with at the touch of a button, and there being no realistic way to stop it. More of a symbolic, terroristic weapon to undermine the confidence of the enemy country's people in their rulers' ability to protect them.
Does anybody remember that never-finished TL by Amerigo Vespucci - where non-atomic ICBMs replaced the A-bomb in Project Manhattan ?
"How I stopped worrying and loved the ICBM" was the title.
The usual issue with non atomic ICBMs being, others WMDs are not very useful as warheads. Smallpox or VX or anthrax tend to float away in the wind and not damage the target, plus the warhead re-entry or detonation (even conventional explosives) may incinerate them. That kind of issues.
Amerigo worked around the problem by mass-producing and mass-launching a boatload of rockets and raining them, by the thousands, on the unfortunate target. Final guidance being assumed by a B-29 orbiting at a safe distance. Even with conventional explosives, destruction reached Hiroshima level.

(dang, ninja'd by this post)
That might lead to a race to see who can cram the most deadly chemical weapon on the nose of an ICBM. I know in the Cold War night the Americans and Soviets put nerve gas warheads on the long range battlefield rockets. I don't see why the same wouldn't be possible with ICBMs.
 

Archibald

Well-known member
Patreon supporter
I shed a single brown-inked Minitel-shaped tear.

All the features of the Internet were there. Including the porn. Especially the porn.
LMAO. 3615 Ulla was so popular, and then there was this crass and gross and lame joke "Il manque Ulla dans la forêt"

A new design of steam locomotive produced today is far superior to, say, Evening Star, the final locomotive built by BR in 1960
there was a bright French engineer with the name of André Chapelon that had outstanding steam locomotive concepts... in 1946. Too late, alas.

Ed Costello said:

One field related to the airship discussion is that of ocean liners. There undoubtedly continue to be colossal improvements in shipbuilding technology, but there has been no Blue Riband holder since 1952. Imagine how Queen Mary 2 might look if she were expected not only to be the height of opulence, but also to maintain an average speed of 35 knots or more?
What is extremely remarquable is that not only airships did tried to mimick ocean liners. Extremely large flying boats - like the SARO Princess or Latécoère 631 - did the same, before and after world war II. And then giant aircrafts tried that, too - Bristol Brabazon, Lockheed Constitution.

In the end...
- very large boat (Queen Mary)
- very large airship (Hindenburg)
- very large flying boat (Princess)
- very large propeller plane (Brabazon)
... all headed the way of dinosaurs...

And I could even add "piston powered airliners" (Constellation, DC-7) and "turboprop powered airliners" (Bristol Britannia !) which were also wiped out by the Boeing 707.

So the 707 (and DC-8) kind of serial-killed no less than
- very large boat (Queen Mary)
- very large airship (Hindenburg)
- very large floatplane (Princess)
- very large propeller plane (Brabazon)
- piston-powered transatlantic airliner (Constellation)
- turboprop-powered transatlantic airliner (Britannia)

Just think about it. Eight different systems to try and cross the Atlantic, all of them in service within the span of three decades (let's say, 1932 - 1962). And only one of them, the last in the series, buried all seven before it !

And it could have been worse. Concorde was to bury the 707 (and 747, subsonic planes), BUT the Boeing SST was to bury Concorde - Mach 0.9, mach 1.8 and mach 2.7 cruise speeds, respectively !
In the end the Boeing 2707-300 (to be in service by 1980) could have crossed the Atlantic in two hours, an hour less than Concorde itself.

and if Philip Bono (and Elon Musk nowadays) had / have their way, transatlantic rocket ships would take only some minutes...
 
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Archibald

Well-known member
Patreon supporter
The NRO is the U.S military agency that managed the spy satellites that snapped pictures of the Soviet union with details as small as two inch, from a 100 mile high orbit, and right from 1965.
The problem was that the NRO satellites - shamelessly and cynically called the Key Holes ! - exposed their pictures on rolls of film, like reconnaissance aircrafts before them. Unfortunately one can't bring down a satellite to recover and process the film...
So they dumped the film into a capsule and send it down to Earth, and then an aircraft caught the capsule parachuting over the Pacific and then brought it to Kodak, Rochester, for processing and then to NRO HQ in Washington DC for analyzing - and then, to Nixon White House.

A very cumbersome process: 2 inch detailed pictures, yes, but with one or two weeks delay between orbit and the White House. This blew in their face during the Six Day War and the Soviet invasion of Prague. In both cases ISrael and the soviets literally outran the NRO satellites.

So they tried of course to turn the pictures into a beam signal and get them instantly. The trick was to scan the film into an electronic signal that could beamed to the ground, real time.
The NRO was trying to get digital pictures... in the 60's ! This pushed the state-of-the-art, to say the least.

It was called "film read out" - the film would pass into a primitive scanner and zap, electronic signal.

They tried a first time in 1959-1963 with SAMOS, result was so bad, they passed it to NASA where it become Lunar Orbiter. And it worked. But not for Earth - only around the Moon and for some dozen of pictures. The Soviet Union by contrast needed ten thousands of them... and storage in the 60's was quite primitive (a kilobit ? what's that ?)

They tried a second time in 1966 with FROG. This time they would read the film with a laser scanner. It worked better and for five years they spent 2 billions to get an operational system. Film Read Out GAMBIT: FROG !

Then in 1969 Bell Labs invented the CCD we all know - Charged Coupled Device. They designed the KH-11 around it (and later, NASA Hubble).

So now FROG faced the KH-11. Film read out vs CCD. In an ideal world the NRO would have both - because FROG system could be added to all the old film Key Holes - CORONA, GAMBIT, HEXAGON.. and turn them into real time birds.

Instead Nixon made the right choice and picked CCD - and the rest is history. FROG worked pretty well but was a dead end.

...this meant that, as of 1970 and two entire decades before us, poor civilians, the NRO had TWO competing digital imaging systems ! And they threw a perfectly good one into the ash heap of technology history...
 
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LSCatilina

Dictateur du Pioletariat
The vallus, the gallic reaper, could count if we include socially and economically obsolescence.
It's not really clear when it emerged, but it was particularly interesting on large plain latifundae as it represented an economy of workforce (which was relatively hard to come by in northern Gaul, at least in countryside) : there was a lot of waste both in grain and in hay, but it remained in use until the Late Antiquity.

The machine was eventuallt perfected, with wheels and certainly with harrows; and was used in conjuction with mouldboard ploughs in use in northern Romania.

So what happened? It was a technological dead-end, in the way it depended from the permanence of large agricultural demesnes and the large-scale management (where it was profitable for landowners to under go trough waste or harvest, either by accepting losses during the process, or even not harvesting some fields).
Political context, such as the decline and fall of the western Roman state, relative countryside insecurity and maybe more critically regionalisation of production and consumption (which may have been accompanied by the disuse of pre-industrial milling such as Barbegal) and the relative productive autonomisation of peasantry, such machinery ceased to be cost-effective and probably disappeared by the Vth or VIth century entirely; while new models of ploughs were simply more efficient, less costly to produce especially in a period where iron tools became rare.
 

Japhy

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Albany, NY
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Does anybody remember that never-finished TL by Amerigo Vespucci - where non-atomic ICBMs replaced the A-bomb in Project Manhattan ?
"How I stopped worrying and loved the ICBM" was the title.
Yeah, he didn't finish it and left the site because all of his time lines were plagiarized. Hell, he was even lazy enough to not swap out the critical phrases in that and his Paris is Burning tl.
 

Juan Vogel

Strong on middle initials, weak on ship detail
Not quite the same premise but I've always been interested by irrigation technology. On the farm we had three arguably distinct technologies - flood, centralised high pressure spray and decentralised low pressure spray so portable they're often towed by motorbike. The first being constructed in early 70s, the second in the early 80s and the third in late 90s. Although none are dead ends per se, as people keep going back to refine them further
 

Ed Costello

Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins
Sea Lion Press staff
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The Pool of Life
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A borderline case (related to my previous one) - audio amplification.

In virtually every context imaginable, vacuum-tube amplification has been superseded by transistor and digital methods on account of the latter being smaller, lighter, cheaper and more durable. The only real trade-off is that a solid-state amp will have less volume than a valve amp of equivalent wattage.

The one area where valves have not been completely superseded is in the realm of the electric guitar, and that is largely due to the circumstances in which the electric guitar came about. The Fender Telecaster (the first mass-produced electric guitar) was invented in 1950; the Roland Jazz Chorus 120 (the 'gold standard' solid-state amp) went on sale in 1975. That quarter-century forms the basis of the rock canon, all of it on the back of the valve amp - and because musicians cant help but mythologise tone, the legend of the valve amp has endured long past the point where it would normally have ceased to be a viable technology.

It might not actually take much to change that course. Leo Fender originally wanted to name the Telecaster the 'Broadcaster'; Gretsch, who made a line of drums called 'Broadkaster', threatened to sue, forcing a name-change (ironically, in the early 2000s Gretsch, now a renowned guitar manufacturer, would themselves be bought by Fender). If Fender were to fight the case, and lost badly enough to go out of business, that leaves Les Paul as the major champion of the electric guitar - and he was no stickler for tradition (actually, neither was Fender, but Paul was already a renowned guitarist rather than just a luthier so his legacy has a touch more cut-through). Given the latter's preferred guitar for the last forty years of his life was an instrument designed to be plugged directly into the sound-desk,* it's possible that not only valve amps but the concept of guitar amplification itself could be obsolete by now...



*I'll go into this in more detail at a later point; this will hopefully be more on-topic than this post...
 
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