dailyO
Technology

From the way we weave to how we bake bread, the world really hasn't changed

Advertisement
Amit Khanna
Amit KhannaJan 10, 2015 | 12:14

From the way we weave to how we bake bread, the world really hasn't changed

Some things have not changed in a long while. In fact many common things we use every day probably are almost identical to their prototypes. Let's look at the wheel, one of the first inventions of humans. The humble bullock cart or Tonga or for that matter the potter's wheel (5000 BC) are pretty much the same as they were a few millennia ago. Even the rubber tyre on your bike or car has not changed since John Dunlop invented the first rubber tyre in the late nineteenth century. Yes, minor changes in materials and better reinforcement (radial tyre) may be seen through the years but that's it.

Advertisement

It was in 1804 that the first locomotive hauled a train over rails in Wales. We have almost similar trains running on almost similar tracks and sleepers running today. Until a few years ago we also had steam locomotives in use in many parts of the world. There has been virtually no change in design and comforts of a train carriage. In India, 150 years after trains were introduced we still use a hole in the floor of a small lavatory to defecate. And people still travel on train roofs! That reminds me you must have noticed High Transmission Cables strung across tall pylons race past you as you travel on railroads or highways. In spite of rapid advancements in materials and this is the way electricity has been transmitted since its invention 150 years. Nor have the plugs, switches, meters and fuses altered much.

We have all seen the neighbourhood dhobi ironing clothes with a rusty coal iron. Clothes have been pressed in such ways for centuries. Even the steam iron is more than 120 years old. Did you realise that the ubiquitous glass bottle has been around in some form or the other since 1500 BC? Dry cleaning of clothes is done almost done a hundred years ago. Kerosene may have given way to Benzene and other newer solvents but the process remains the same. The bespoke tailor even today uses the same tools of trade as his forefathers did centuries ago. So do all other artisans: weavers, metal workers, embroiders, masons, carpenters, butchers and bootleggers.

Advertisement

All this talk of AK-47s and other sophisticated fire arms would imply the basic rifle has disappeared. No sir, the modern, bolt-action rifle and chamber-firing revolver are essentially unchanged from their predecessors, and operate exactly the same way they did for our great grandfathers. In fact, other than the advent of the semi and fully-automatic mechanisms, and vast improvements in sighting (i.e. telescopes), a hunter or a police constable from 100 years ago would have no trouble using a modern rifle (beyond bemoaning their poor quality of manufacture). A sailor would use a boat 100 years ago the same way as a modern yachtsman, except that the rig would be of nylon today.

Let's look around the kitchen and pantry. Baked beans still come in cans and tomato ketchup in a bottle. The bread is baked the way it was 200 years ago. The pressure cooker is the same since 1864. The best pizzas are still baked in wood fired ovens and the best tandoori chicken is made not on a rotisserie but a clay tandoor. You still use frozen peas and vegetables. Bottle openers, knives, cutlery, rockery, pots and pans all go back centuries. As does most of the furniture.

Advertisement

Newspapers are edited, printed and distributed as they were 300 years ago except for changes such as from letterpress to offset and hand painted pages to computer layouts. So, from scissors and locks, thermometers and fountain pens to knitted pullovers, patchwork quilts, leather coats, cotton swabs, antiseptics and aspirin, the past clings on to our present with a reluctant obstinacy.

The last 10 years has seen cataclysmic changes and from wireless telephony to the Internet of Things and it has been one rollercoaster ride. Metamorphosis is a word which sounds alien to digital natives but in a larger cosmic scheme of things nothing much has changed. As Arthur Koestler remarked the human brain has not evolved much from the Neanderthal.

Last updated: January 10, 2015 | 12:14
IN THIS STORY
Advertisement
Advertisement
Please log in
I agree with DailyO's privacy policy