Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Airship Legacy - Part 6

Click here for Part 5

This update is fun. Deals a lot with different technological developments going on in this timeline. Different developments with airplanes and airships, with the railroads, and with computers and the internet. 


            For 40 years, the airship ruled the skies, and dominated international air travel. By 1975, there were nearly 700 ships in passenger service between the German, American, British, Canadian, and Australian airship programs. The trans-continental ships could carry 400 passengers in a mere two days from continent to continent. Passengers enjoyed grand comforts only surpased by the gigantic sea-going passenger liners that crossed between Europe and America, which were starting to decline in use by the mid-1940s.
            Jet engines had been used by the Amerian and German militaries since the early 1950s, first by the German Luftwaffe in 1954, and by the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1957. Daimler-Luft introduced the first passenger jet aircraft in 1969, and Boeing in 1970. Lufthansa had completely switched to jet aircraft by the end of the 1980s. U.S. Airways began using jet aircraft in 1972, and American Airlines in 1973, and within a decade they’d switched over completely to jet aircraft. PanAm shocked many by purchasing jet passenger liners in 1974, to start a complementary service to bring air travel to more cities in the US and North America and the Pacific.
            With passengers now able to cross the country or the ocean in mere hours as opposed to days, the airship’s days of owning the skies were numbered. Britian began using jet airliners in in 1974, and by 1985, over half of the flighs offered by British Imperial Airways were aboard jetliners. Many airships from the British, American, and Germany fleets were purchased by African and South American countries, and in a way continued large numbers of passenger use via airship in areas that had not had it before. The benefit in those countries were that airships could land nearly anywhere, and did not need the large runways that jetliners did.
 PanAm gradually increased jet airliner use throughout the 1970s and 80s, By 1995, 65% of PanAm’s flights were via jet aircraft. Nearly two-thirds of all domestic flights were by jetliner, and half of all domestic flights were now covered by the jet planes. The biggest use of airships by PanAm switched from carrying passengers from one place to another to pleasure cruises over the Carribean, and to Hawaii.            
- Anderson, Dr. Alexander. The Changing Face of Air Travel. New York: Colombia University Press: 1995.

AKRON, JULY 1- The Akron Airship Works have launched the GZ-84 USA Scholastic, for Yale University to use as an Educational ship, being able to conduct research trips and to take student on educational tours. Yale and PanAm jointly own this ship, and PanAm will oversee all operational aspects of this new ship.
-“ZGI Unveils “Scholastic Class” Airship,” The New York Times, July 1, 1965

LAKEHURST, MAY 3- The U.S. Navy Airship Corps announced today that they would be building a nuclear powered airship. The ship itself will be a slightly modified version of the Kitty Hawk class that the Navy has been using since 1960, and the nuclear reactor will be built and installed by special Navy engineers. Zeppelin-Goodyear has begun construction of the new ship, to be called USS Atomica, and will be ready for flight sometime early next year.
            If the ship is successful, the Navy says it will consider building several more, to serve as research vessels and scouts for the Pacific Fleet. This has been a dream of several ZGI designers since nuclear energy was first harnessed back in 1955.
-“Navy to Build Nuclear Airship,” The Washington Post, May 3, 1969.

TAMPA BAY, AUG 19-  The Navy has confirmed that the USS Proton, the third nuclear powered airship in the Navy’s fleet, has gone down not far from Tampa Bay, Florida. It is believed that out of a crew of nearly 150, about 70 have been confirmed alive, with about 30 missing and the rest confirmed to have perished.
            The USS Proton was one of the largest airships ever built at nearly 1800 feet long, and some experts believe this was the ships ultimate demise. The Proton’s captain, Jonathon Miller, reported that they had been caught in a sudden thunderstorm. The chief engineer at Lakehurst Naval Base stated that he believed the high winds and fluctuating air currents of the storm put too much strain on the ship, causing it to break up in flight and crash into the ocean.
            The Navy has already deployed crews to recover the nuclear reactor from the wreckage, hoping to prevent contamination of the sea life in that part of the Gulf of Mexico.
-“USS Proton Crashes off Florida Coast,” The New York Times, August 19, 1980.

WASHINGTON, JAN 1- After months of debate in Congress and after a grueling investigation by the Naval Airship engineers, the U.S. Navy announced today that it was cancelling the Nuclear Airship Program, in response to the disastrous crash of the USS Proton off the coast of Florida last August, which resulted in nuclear radiation being leaked in the Gulf of Mexico, enraging preservation activists throughout the United States and the world.
            Since the crash, the two remaining nuclear airships, the USS Atomica and the USS Electron, have been grounded, and all construction on the USS Neutron had been halted. The two ships in service will be decommissioned later this month and will be sold or scrapped. The not yet completed craft will most likely be reconverted into one of the new “Scholastic Class” airships that ZGI have started building.
-“Navy Announces End of Nuclear Airship Program,” The Washington Post, January 1, 1981.

            Under the policies of President Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., America greatly expanded and modernized it’s nationwide railway network. There were more lines providing cross-country travel, along with inter city travel. While there were several new cross-country highways, based on the designs of the German Autobahn, rail travel was still far more effective as a way to travel throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. It wasn’t until the 1980s that a second interstate highway expansion allowed for more people to travel by car more effectively than before.
            Travel by train was very comfortable. You could enjoy the privacy of a private cabin in a sleeper car, or be in a standard railcar. It was affordable, cheap, and made it to where automobiles were not needed for most interstate travel. In addition, federal grants made it easier for cities to establish mass transit networks in places that had not previously been able to afford them. Many states were able to maintain statewide transportation networks of heavy and light rail, along with bus service. After the expansion of the Federal Highway Network, and the gradual decrease in federal funds to rail and mass transit, automobile ownership began to grow quite rapidly in the US, so that by 1990, nearly 69% of Americans were licensed to drive cars, compared to just 34% in 1940 and 45% in 1960, and 56% in 1980.
-Thomas, Dr. Martin. Rails vs. Roads: How America Gets Around. Detroit: Midwestern Publishing House: 1997.

            The ideas that birthed what we think of as the modern computer of the 21st century were formed in the final years of the 1930s. Men like Alan Turing, George Stibitz and Konrad Zuse paved the way for the technology we so enjoy and take for granted today. Although both these men came up with their ideas in the 30s, they did not see real progress until the late 1940s, as governments around the world began to gain interest in these machines.
            The most famous is Konrad Zuse’s Z4 Machine, which launched the Zuse Computer Fabrik (ZCF) out of obscurity and into the seemingly eternal limelight. This machine, built in 1947, was a revolutionary form of technology. Across the Atlantic, IBM’s Galactica Machine came in as a close second for Zuse’s creation.
            In 1979, IBM wowed the computer world with the release of its Galactica X computer with the first integrated circuitry. Seven years later, IBM again caught the attention of the world with the Galactica XI, the first computer design to use microprocessors. It seemed as if America was now leading the computer industry that had begun to develop in America and Europe. However, Zuse wasn’t out of the game, not by a long shot.
            In 1991, ZCF released their Z10 “VolksKomputer”, or VK. It was marketed not to the government or to research institutes, but to the middle and upper class citizens, as a “new way to write, tabulate, or be creative”, and had approximately 100KB memory. It would be 5 years before the release of the Excalibur I by IBM, which had 500KB memory, by which time the Z12 had been released and was widely popular throughout Europe and the United States, and had 1MB of memory.  IBM’s Excalibur III, with 1.5MB of memory, soon caught up to the Z12 in sales after it’s release in 1998.
            In 2004, Zuse released its Z15, with 500MB of memory, and was the envy of the world until the release of the Excalibur V in 2007, which had a whopping 1GB of memory, which Zuse matched the following year with their Z17. Last year, IBM’s Excalibur VI was released, boasting 30GB of memory storage. ZCF states that they will hopefully release their Z18, with 100GB of memory storage, no later than 2011.
            One development over the last 10 years that has really revolutionized the home computer industry is the creation of the “global computer network”, which became available to the public in 1999. National computer networks had existed in the United States, Germany, and most other European nations since the late 1980s for public use, and since the 70s for military purposes. Linking all these national networks together has opened up new ways of communication and even commerce, with the rise of the first “e-stores” and “net shopping” in 2008. Many believe that this web of connected computers will truly revolutionize our society by 2050. Even now, projections are out that say that by 2020, 1 out of every 4 American households will own a VK, up from the 1 out of every 10 in 2009. Europe is expected to reach these numbers by 2015.
-“Quick History of the Modern Computer,” Time Magazine,  March 29, 2010.

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