A few of you will find this fascinating to page through .. Calculating Instruments and Machines by Douglas Hartree. Some obscure pre-digital machines as well as a bit of the dawn of the digital age as seen from 1949.
Telegraphy and pneumatic tubes created an internet of sorts during the Victorian Era. Pneumatic messaging was short range but high bandwidth. A nice piece on London's pneumatic network.
Telegraph operators formed an exclusive but unofficial community closed to themselves, forming the world’s first online community. They observed a strict hierarchy, as befitting the British class structure, that developed from the fact that the fastest and best operators worked in London at the busiest offices, with slower less accurate ones working progressively further out. Furthermore, operators had their own lingo and secrets. This caused concern for the businesses using telegraphs over the privacy of the messages.
Given that half the messages were sent by businesses, and many of those concerned stock and commodity prices, pneumatic messages were faster, more secure and more reliable than telegrams within cities. Telegrams were often forwarded on from station to station numerous times to reach their destination, and thus were seen by many eyes. Hence business and government readily took to the more secure pneumatic tubes as this reduced the number of individuals who read their messages.
Eventually, nearly all branch telegraph offices were connected directly to the CTO via pneumatic tubes but with only a few intermediate stations. The Post Office Engineer-in-Chief calculated that trunk 3 inch tubes, with cylinders carrying up to 55 telegrams that could be sent every 10 to 30 seconds (depending on the distance), was the equivalent of seven telegraph wires and 14 operators working at peak efficiency.
From the second century B.C. onward, the Roman government took an increasingly active approach to monitoring and controlling the grain supply. First, the government began to regulate and subsidize the price, ensuring that grain remained affordable to the masses at all times. By the Augustan period, the emperor was doling out as much as 500 pounds of grain per head to as many as 250,000 households. The emperors realized that the key to Rome’s stability was keeping its population well fed.
Yet, by the first century A.D., Rome could no longer be sustained by Italian harvests alone. It began to exploit its newly annexed fertile provinces, especially North Africa and Egypt, which soon became the largest supplier of Roman grain. It took as many as a thousand ships, constantly sailing, just to support the demand for grain in the city. With large grain ships typically capable of hauling more than 100 tons, and sea transport at least 40 times less expensive than land transport, Rome desperately needed a deepwater port close to home.
At about this same time, Roman engineering was beginning to manifest its unparalleled capabilities. The emperor Claudius concluded that the time was right to build an artificial port within Rome’s environs, one large enough to accommodate the demands of an ever-growing city. Portus was built from scratch, a couple of miles north of Ostia, along a coastal strip on the Mediterranean near the mouth of the Tiber River. It would become the linchpin in a new imperial port system that enabled Rome to be continuously and efficiently supplied for the next 400 years.
The enormous engineering project was begun by Claudius around A.D. 46 and took nearly 20 years to complete. It was the largest public works project of its era. At its center was an artificial basin of nearly 500 acres, dug out of coastal dunes. A short distance from the mouth of this harbor were two extensive moles, or breakwaters, constructed to protect it from the open sea. A small island with a lighthouse stood between the two moles and guided ships as they approached. With a depth of 20 feet, the Claudian basin was large enough, deep enough, and sheltered enough to provide ample anchorage for large seafaring ships heavily laden with as much as 500 tons of cargo.
In 1995 a symposium celebrating the 50th anniversary of Vannevar Bush's As We May Think article was held at Brown. I've seen many of the videos, but stumbled into a complete collection on the Doug Engelbart Institute's site. Fascinating viewing for those with an interest in the history of technology.
More retrocomputing .. My high school physics class had a storage room filled with demo apparatus from earlier years. Our teacher had little knowledge of what his predecessors managed to acquire and squirrel away. Two of us managed to get an old Heath EC-1 analog computer working. A great way to learn a bit about electrical engineering - how op amps work, the need for precision components, oscilloscope use, etc. This type of computer is also known as a differential analyzer as it is very well suited for solving differential equations. Trying to program it taught me a fair amount of basic physics and math. You had to understand how to formulate an equation to get the wiring right.
Here is a sample worked problem to solve the motion of a mass on a spring. You would connect up four op amps and other elements like precision potentiometers, a power supply and an output oscilloscope with what could be a rat's nest of patchcords.
Analog computers were heavily used in the aerospace industry post WWII up through much of the 1960s.
Heath had a larger model intended for engineers and universities - the ES-400. I haven't been able to find a full manual, although it is made of basic elements similar to the EC-1 .. just more of them. It was probably users knew what they were doing. You bought module kits and put them in a big chassis. The "full computer" cost $945 in the day - about $8,200 in 2015 money. It lacked a means to display the output and important input elements like function generators. No big deal as anyone who would possibly use an analog computer already had such kit.