Military-Grade Awesome

Sub-Sonic: Britain’s Hedgehog

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Yesterday we looked at a less than successful weapon developed by the awesomely named Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Today, we look at one that was much more successful. Not to be confused with the Soviet Fire Hedgehog, the British Hedgehog was an anti-submarine weapon that actually proved more deadly than depth charges.

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Genius Innovators

Martin-Baker

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By the time the sound barrier was broken by Chuck Yeager not long after WW2, the US and Britain finally figured out what the Germans and Swedes had known for years: jumping out of a plane was no longer an option. Initially, the US Army Air Forces looked at using a compressed spring system that would actually have a downward ejection. When this didn’t work, they contacted a little British Company called Martin-Baker.

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Airborne Awesomosity

Bipolar Lightning

The British Electric Lightning is sort of the Forrest Gump of aircraft. It was the result of the cancellation of a research program that had resulted in the construction of another aircraft, but that aircraft — the Miles M.52 — was never finished. After the cancellation of the Miles program, the Brits realized they had to do something, so they issued a new specification in 1949 for what would be regarded as a prototype fighter.

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Computers You Should Know

Colossus: First Electronic, Digital, Programmable Computer

A Colossus Mark 2 computer. The operator on the left is Dorothy Duboisson. The slanted control panel on the left was used to set the pin patterns on the Lorenz. The "bedstead" paper tape transport is on the right.

During WWII the Brits had a problem. The Germans had taken over all of Europe, and only a little bit of water and a whole lot of tenacity stood between them and falling to the Third Reich. But there’s a pretty high level of intelligence in the UK, and they focused all they could on destroying the Axis and keeping themselves from having to speak conversational German every day. One of the areas they focused on was breaking the German codes so they could read the enemy’s mail. In order to do that, they built the first electronic, digital, and programmable computer. Others had these features before, but not all together.
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Deconstructing Technology

Send it Through the Tube

The pneumatic tubes at the bank are intriguing things, especially to a child. Mommy puts the check in the bottle, sticks it in the machine, whirring sound, wait, wait, whirring sound, and there is a wad of cash and some Dum-Dums. Pure magic.

But have you ever said to yourself, I have seen these things at the banks forever, when in the world did somebody come up with this? Continue reading Send it Through the Tube

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