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  • Anticipating Email by Three Hundred Years February 3, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beachcombing is in a technological mood and is looking for technologies that have been anticipated, against all odds, in previous ages. What about for example this late seventeenth-century anticipation of email: or perhaps we should be more modest and say the electric telegraph.

    But… to advance another instance. That men should confer at very distant removes by an extemporary intercourse, is another reputed impossibility; but yet there are some hints in natural operations, that give us probability that it is feasible, and may be compassed without unwarrantable correspondence with the people of the air. That a couple of needles equally touched by the same magnet, being set in two dials exactly proportioned to each other, and circumscribed by the letters of the alphabet, may effect this magnale [great thing], hath considerable authorities to avouch it. The manner of it is thus represented. Let the friends that would communicate, take each a dial: and having appointed a time for their sympathetic conference, let one move his impregnate needle to any letter in the alphabet, and its affected fellow will precisely respect the same. So that would I know what my friend would acquaint me with; ’tis but observing the letters that are pointed at by my needle, and in their order transcribing them from their sympathizing index, as its motion directs: and I may be assured that my friend described the same with his: and that the words on my paper, are of his indicting. Now though there will be some ill contrivance in a circumstance of this invention, in that the thus impregnate needles will not move to, but avert from each other (as ingenious Dr. Browne in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica hath observed) yet this cannot prejudice the main design of this way of secret conveyance: since ’tis but reading counter to the magnetic informer; and noting the letter which is most distant in the abecedarian circle from that which the needle turns to, and the case is not altered. Now though this pretty contrivance possibly may not yet answer the expectation of inquisitive experiment; yet ’tis no despicable item, that by some other such way of magnetic efficiency, it may hereafter with success be attempted, when magical history shall be enlarged by riper inspections: and ’tis not unlikely, but that present discoveries might be improved to the performance.

    Beach loves that line ‘riper inspections’ and full intends to use it in the next months and, God willing, years.

    Before readers trip each other up with admiration for our author what about though this subsequent theorising on communication at a distance with a strange combination of plastic surgery and telepathy?

    Besides this there is another way of secret conveyance that’s whispered about the world, the truth of which I vouch not, but the possibility: it is conference at distance by sympathized hands. For say the relators of this strange secret: the hands of two friends being allied by the transferring of flesh from one into another, and the place of the letters mutually agreed on; the least prick in the hand of one, the other will be sensible of, and that in the same part of his own. And thus the distant friend, by a new kind of chiromancy, may read in his own hand what his correspondent had set down in his. For instance, would I in London acquaint my intimate in Paris, that I am well: I would then prick that part where I had appointed the letter [I] and doing so in another place to signify that word was done, proceed to [A] thence to [M] and so on, till I had finished what I intended to make known.

    Perhaps most genius is prolific blundering rather than ‘riper inspections’?

    Any other anticipated inventions by men with vision but not invention? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    5 Feb, 2012: thanks to Invisible for this piece from the Telegraph about the man who seemed to anticipate an international media platform like youtube. ‘Lomax dreamed of a “global jukebox” to disseminate the material he had gathered during decades of fieldwork and the New York Times reports today that, 10 years after his death at the age of 87, technology has finally caught up to Lomax’s imagination. His massive archive – some 5,000 hours of sound recordings, 400,000 feet of film, 3,000 videotapes, 5,000 photographs and piles of manuscripts – will soon be able to be accessed online, much of it free and some for sale as CDs or digital downloads.’ Thanks Invisible!