Posts Tagged ‘Anniversary’

Twenty Years of WWW

Science inspired the world wide web. Two decades on, the web has repaid the compliment by changing science

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Four Decades of a Flying Giant

By John Strickland

An object of boyish wonder, an aviation milestone, a sea-change for cheap air travel, a Jumbo of a plane, the Boeing 747 celebrates its 40th birthday.

Four decades ago, Boeing’s prototype 747 took to the skies over Washington State for a flight lasting some 75 minutes.

The aircraft, named City of Everett after the location of the factory where it was manufactured, handled well. And so was born the aircraft which has become an icon of the aviation industry and helped bring cheap airline travel to millions of people.

I remember as a small boy at the time, watching awestruck a BBC documentary about the development of the 747. The music used to convey the imposing size of the aircraft was Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights – familiar today from the opening sequence of the Apprentice.

What then made the 747 unique was that it was the first “wide body” aircraft – it had more than one aisle. Today this is the norm for most long haul (and some short haul) aircraft. But at the time it was a big step towards reducing any sense of travelling in a narrow tube, and inducing a sense more equivalent to flying in a large room with high ceilings.

Also new was the upper deck, accessed by a spiral staircase. When the aircraft entered service this was initially a rather exclusive bar for first class passengers – today it is more typically used as an additional business or economy class seating area.

The 747 also saw the introduction of “big fan” engines, with an air intake large enough for a person to stand in. These engines were considerably more powerful than earlier generations, but in their early days did experience some problems with overheating.

The upper deck was also the location for the cockpit, requiring pilots to learn new techniques for handling the 747 from this new vantage point, for landing, take off and taxiing around airports

Airports had to adapt to the sheer size of the new plane once it entered service in 1970 with, for example, wider and stronger taxiways and new jetties (the walkways that connect with the plane).

For airlines the big question was whether they would be able to fill the massive increase in seats, with a doubling of capacity compared with previous jet aircraft.

Less glamorous

There were times, particularly in the early 70s when the 747 did seem too big, as airlines struggled after the oil price shocks of the time. But over the years, airlines have been successful in attracting customers with most choosing a 3-class layout with around 350-400 seats.

Against this growth the travel experience has arguably become less glamorous and more frustrating – just think of those times when several 747s arrive at once and disgorge all their passengers and baggage into the arrivals hall.

Nevertheless, since that first flight, the 747 has fulfilled the faith of its designers and has led to reductions in air fares, opening up air travel to many in a way that was previously unimaginable

This has been made possible by the economies of scale which a larger aircraft can offer.

In simple terms the overall costs of operating an aircraft with, say 400 seats, are typically not double those of an aircraft with 200 seats. In effect, the cost per seat is reduced.

On the one hand, the increased size of the 747 necessitated airlines offering lower fares to encourage more customers and on the other, it gave them the economic basis on which to do so profitabl
y. So although we might complain of travelling in “cattle class” we have the 747 to thank for being able to do so at affordable prices.

The 747 has also found a place in popular culture. It is one of the few modern aircraft to have made it into song – “I lost my heart on a 747” (Tom Paxton) and “got on board a westbound seven forty seven” is a line from “It never rains in southern California”.

This is an aircraft that has truly made its mark.

John Strickland is an air industry consultant.

Happy Birthday, Facebook: 5 Reasons We Love You (PC World)

facebook-logo1Posted on Wed Feb 4, 2009 1:06PM EST

– To commemorate the fifth birthday of Facebook, the ultimate social networking site, here are five reasons it has changed the face of Internet communication forever. 1) Facebook created the definitive social networking experience. In a world where most of our daily communication comes in the form of e-mail, IMs, and other Internet-based methods, Facebook has fused these elements in one package. With more than 150 million active users, Facebook is, quite simply, where it’s at. It has e-mail; it has IM; it has Twitter-infused status updates; it has everything one needs to find and reconnect with old high school buddies, make new friends, and build a cohesive online community. Facebook is used by businesses, non-profit organizations — even presidents. Practically everyone who values connectivity in this high-tech world of disembodied communication has latched onto Facebook as a central hub for engagement. 2) It has a streamlined, smooth interface. Facebook’s overhaul of its popular user interface caused quite a stir when it debuted. Groups gathered, hoping 1 million angry shouts would restore the look. Months later, people have accepted the alteration and no one has really made a cohesive argument for its original state for some time. But what’s most important about Facebook’s interface is that it’s easy to use, and relatively difficult to get lost within. Tabs guide users through the variety of posted items, and an iPhone app makes it easy to log in on the go. Put frankly, it’s beautiful in its simplicity. 3) It gave users an alternative to its crappy cousin, MySpace. MySpace is a mess; it’s like an HTML epileptic fit. Besides its reputation for being the stomping ground of sexual predators and its rather filthy casual sex underpinnings (it’s not nicknamed MeatSpace for nothing), MySpace complicated social networking with its failed ambitions. Everything MySpace has tried to do to separate itself as a different entity — namely MySpace Music — has been met with failure and criticism. Facebook took a different approach and focused on the core of its raison d’etre: social networking. Though Facebook accomplishes much more than that, its basic content stands alone. 4) It’s a hub for education and student communication. Schools and publishing companies flock to Facebook as a way to connect students with other students. Through study groups, help guides, and other forms of student interaction generally relegated to different sites spread all over the Web, Facebook has proven to be a successful and effective catalyst for student success. Sure, Facebook is a huge time-suck, and probably distracts more students from cracking books than motivates them, but when it does push students towards achievement, it wins. 5) Great apps. The death of Scrabulous shocked the Facebook nation. People had grown so accustomed to logging in and playing an alternate version of Hasbro’s Scrabble that when it disappeared, it was sorely missed. Thankfully it returned as Lexulous, and Hasbro has implemented its own fantastic iteration called — wait for it — Scrabble. But it was the moment that Scrabulous died that signified how important and cherished Facebook apps are to users. They’re easy to install, fun to use, and a great way to pass the time. In just five short years, Facebook has become a household name for communication. It has captured the minds and hearts of a generation and turned into a phenomenon unlike what its creators could have expected. So three cheers for Facebook, and to another great five years.