Downloading cars, houses and aeroplanes is no science fiction.
In the future, a desktop fabricator may be as common as a desktop computer today, 3D-printers might complement inkjet printers. Downloading, sharing and printing of appliances might become as ordinary (and controversial) as it is today with music, movies and texts.
Yet, downloading objects is already possible with a familiar computer configuration. At least, if the objects are made of paper and if you are willing to spend some time cutting and pasting. Paper cut-outs have a long history, but thanks to the internet they are making a comeback.
Using imaging software, the objects can be scaled to your liking. Some models are very simple and childlike, others are extremely complex and are rich in detail. They can be surprisingly strong. There are tonnes of paper models to find – many of them are downloadable for free. An overview.
Internet users continually need faster connections to surf the web at the same speed.
Because of their low speed, dial-up internet connections are considered hopelessly out of date. Yet switching to a faster broadband connection or even a fibre connection will only yield a speed increase for a short period. Faster connections also threaten the democratisation of the internet.
More than 200 years ago it was already possible to send messages throughout Europe and America at the speed of an aeroplane – wireless and without need for electricity.
Email leaves all other communication systems far behind in terms of speed. But the principle of the technology – forwarding coded messages over long distances – is nothing new. It has its origins in the use of plumes of smoke, fire signals and drums, thousands of years before the start of our era. Coded long distance communication also formed the basis of a remarkable but largely forgotten communications network that prepared the arrival of the internet: the optical telegraph.
Hand powered drilling tools and machines The drilling tools that appeared in the late 19th century were not only a vast improvement over earlier tools; they also have many advantages over their present-day successors, the power drills.
Firewood in the fuel tank Wood gas cars are a not-so-elegant but surprisingly efficient and ecological alternative to their petrol (gasoline) cousins, whilst their range is comparable to that of electric cars.
The Citroen 2CV: cleantech from the 1940s In spite of all the high-tech that has been squeezed into cars since then, the 2CV from 1949 is still more energy-efficient than the smallest model of the French car designer today.
The bright future of solar powered factories To power industrial processes like the making of chemicals, the smelting of metals or the production of microchips and solar panels, we need a renewable source of thermal energy.
Trolley canal boats For many centuries, canal boats were propelled by men, horses or mules on the towpath beside the water. Before diesel power took over, engineers developed several interesting methods powered by electricity: trolleyboats, floating funiculars and electric mules.