Thread: Tech levels
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Old June 22nd, 2018, 02:08 AM
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Originally Posted by nobby-w View Post
Plenty of other technologies could have been invented much earlier than they really were. For example, pretty much all of the tech available to wet etch integrated circuits was available by the turn of the 20th century. In other circumstances we could have seen a recognisable personable computer on the market by 1900-1920.
I very much doubt it. We may have had the bits that go into wet etching but there was one critical detail missing at the turn of the twentieth century - atomic theory. Many scientists still did not believe atomic theory (and note the proton had not been discovered yet) and there was no understanding of the quantum effects that make microprocessors work. It would require 1905 and Einstein's Annus Mirabilis for the paradigm shift.
It would be like building a radio transmitter/receiver in 1800 without first knowing radio waves even exist.

Hindsight only works to a point - for centuries we worked metals without knowing a thing about what was happening to the atoms within the metals. Now we understand it we can do stuff with metals and alloys that would appear as magic.

Electric cars have been a technical possibility since the first half of the 20th century, but economics were never in favour of the tech. If it weren't for the cold war we might never have developed rockets large enough to lift a satellite into orbit.
Very little of the technology we have today is anything more than a refinement and miniaturisation of stuff that we have understood for decades. These improvements have been driven by investment and free market economics.

New potential breakthroughs such as mass production and application of graphene, a working city scale fusion reactor, single stage to orbit space interface are all still a way off.

The old chestnut of the Romans developing steam engines was a possibility but it never happened. They could also potentially have developed gunpowder, industrial chemistry, sailing craft capable of crossing the Atlantic, or a wide variety of other technologies. There were similar golden ages in China, the Caliphates and various other regions.
As I said upthread - the Romans could not scale up their toy to make a useful engine in any case. The stagnation of China scientifically and technologically is an interesting journey into the history and philosophy of science.
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