Ropes and knots are among the most ancient and useful technologies ever developed by man, predating the wheel, the axe and probably also the use of fire. Today, they are fast on their way to become an obsolete technology.
The sheer number and diversity of knots that was once in use would be bewildering to the modern city-dweller. About 4,000 different knots are described, ranging from the very simple to the extremely complex.
Not so long ago, each profession or trade had adopted the knots best suited to its requirements, and knotting was part of their daily lives. There are some good knotting reference books available online, and all of them are older than most of us.
From the earliest civilisations right up to the start of the Industrial Revolution, humans used sheer muscle power, organisation skills and ingenious mechanics to lift weights that would be impossible to handle by most power cranes in operation today.
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.