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Steampunk Technology and War Fighting?

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  • Steampunk Technology and War Fighting?

    Hey guys!

    Here's a thought. Ever heard of a Difference Engine? It's basic an eight ton calculator designed in the early 19th century by the greatest genius you've never heard of, Charles Babbage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Difference_engine

    How could this have affected war fighting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? My thought is not much. Better artillery computations, maybe twenty years advancements in computing, absolute tops. The Brits proved it was possible to build using 19th century tech, but it seems to me to be too expensive to put into use en masse

    Or what about airships before the turn of the century? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airships. According to this, there were viable flights as early as 1852. Imagine had they REALLY taken off as a means of rapidly tansversing the Plains, and then the Atlantic sometime after that. Could we have seen Union Airships bombing Confederate lines? Or better yet, doing battle insertions behind enemy lines like Black Hawk Helicopters do today? Maybe dogfights between Dirigibles in the Franco Prussian war and World War I?

    Yes there are qualifications. Helium had not been discovered yet and hydrogen was too explosive. But what about ammonia? Noxious yes, heavier, yes, but not nearly as flammable. Think about it: a pressurized, possibly heated balloon full of ammonia, carrying passengers, probably the elite due to costs, across Oceans of the world at 50-60 miles an hour. Thatís a hell of a lot faster than ship, but probably without a lot of freight. I donít think the airship would change the course of any conflict in any significant way, mostly due to the costs of deploying airships in large numbers, but damn the coolness factor is off the charts!

    And this is my favorite to speculate about: the Space Cannon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_cannon
    Imagine it: 19th century people firing sh!t into space. Worldís first satellite, in 18--. But there are problems aside for the technicals. Project Babylon proved it can be done, but the right angle is hard to find. It would cost a LOT of money. And itís potential as a weapon is limited. It would probably function a lot like the Kaiser gun: it would be too venerable, not cost effective, unable to devastate enemy targets (even if they can reach to the other side of the planet) and the barrel would have to be changed constantly.

    In short I like the ideas of the Steampunk genre but I think there are reasons some of the Victorian tech stayed ahead of its time. So what do you guys think?
    How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
    275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

  • #2
    You might like to read The Difference Engine by William Gibson & Bruce Sterling. It shows a London of 1855 where Babbage's engine has transformed society, and not always for the best. It is a series of related vignettes rather than a novel, filled with solid Victorian research and many historical characters.
    All questions are valid, all answers are tentative.

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    • #3
      lots fo technologies have been available to most civilisations for almost ever, but the potential was not seen.

      for example: steam engine - how stupid can that be? stupid enough for this to wait unti 18th century and 19th century. Imagine Romans with railways...

      same for Gas!
      piero
      "Freedom cannot exist without discipline, self-discipline, and rights cannot exist without duties. Those who do not observe their duties do not deserve their rights."--Oriana Fallaci

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      • #4
        Ehhh, I read the summary to the Difference Engine, and I think it takes things WAY out of proportion, a common sensationalist trope in AH. The Engine itself is a marvel, but it is only an analog computer, and a very big, expensive and delicate one at that.

        As for the airships and space cannon, are we then in agreement they would not change the face of war in any significant way, if at all?
        How many Allied tanks it would take to destroy a Maus?
        275. Because that's how many shells there are in the Maus. Then it could probably crush some more until it ran out of gas. - Surfinbird

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