Monday, January 02, 2012

Doomed to Repeat

You’ve heard the cliché that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, haven’t you? I was looking around for some old Texas pictures recently and happened on the one shown above. It was taken in 1904 and portrays a Coney Island tourist attraction featuring the 1900 Galveston hurricane and flood…the infamous one that claimed over 8000 lives and led to the construction of Galveston’s seawall.

The picture is from the treasure trove of century-old high resolution images posted online by Shorpy. Their images are so sharp that it’s often possible to pick out small detail and enlarge it for closer inspection. The vehicles at the right in the picture caught my attention…no horses! Hmm, early horseless carriages? Yep.

Another Shorpy reader posted a period ad identifying the vehicles and my mind started churning. There is a $2000 price shown in the ad; also, a 35-mile range, and some other detail information about those old busses. They are c.1904 battery powered transports, on the road just before gasoline engines went into the coming mass of horseless carriages about to hit the roads. Many of Shorpy’s images were taken around the NYC area, so in them you have not only state of the art photography, you also see cutting edge technology of the time.

Let’s think about this for a moment. That 1904, $2000 price translates to about $48,000 in today’s dollars and that 35-mile (electric motor) range before needing a recharge sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Don’t know if those old buggies were prone to bursting into flame, but recent news of GM and other “plug-in” car recalls due to fire hazards doesn’t give me too much confidence in them. I would also wonder why, after over a century, we haven’t been able to get any improvement on both range and cost? Especially if “plug-in” cars are such a great idea?


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