Making the Point – Eleutheros

From our Friend at How Many Miles from Babylon

Going Digital

There are other things to say about the escape from Babylon, but first I have wanted to illustrate a point of the last post with something I heard recently.

Every discussion about energy use per force always includes some variation of urban legend that someone has invented a fuel delivery system (it used to always be a carburetor until those fell out of common use entirely) which will enable a gasoline powered vehicle to get 200 mpg. The reason you don’t have one on your car is that all the oil companies have conspired to buy up the patents and keep the device off the market to prevent a drastic decline in the consumption and price of gasoline. Now, my take has always been that if such a device existed, keeping a lid on it or its use would be impossible. It would, for example, be so valuable that people would make them in secret machine shops and fit them to your car for a hefty fee. Wouldn’t you buy one?

The legend persists. Locked away somewhere in the vaults of the US Patent offices there is the design for a gizmo that would solve the world’s energy crisis, reduce pollution, ease global warming, and give the world’s economy a shot in the arm such that it has never seen. Yet Exxon or Citgo or some such has bought up the patent in order to keep it off the market.

I heard a rumor much like that recently and dismissed it out of hand. If this device really existed, it would virtually wipe out an entire industry in a short span of time. The proponents of the magic carburetor theory would say that this industry would buy up the patent and keep this device off the market so as not to lose nearly the entirety of their sales. I say knowledge of it would be impossible to contain, and the absence of this device in reality is proof of its non-existence.

Are you ready for this? I warn you it’s far fetched, but I really did hear this. There is a type of camera that someone has invented that doesn’t use photographic film. No. It uses a photosensitive electronic plate and makes a digital image on a memory chip! The rumor goes that you can take dozens of pictures of excellent quality, then transfer them to a computer, and use the camera over and over again without having to replace anything but the batteries. And here’s where it gets really unlikely, it is powered by common AA or AAA batteries which are supposed to last for weeks. AND the whole thing could sell for about $200.

Now really! If such a device existed, you know Fuji and Kodak would spare no expenses to keep it a secret, or at least keep it a rumor, and buy up every patent to keep it off the market … IF such a thing could be done. But I say, if it actually existed, which it doesn’t, everyone would have one. Film sales and film developing would go into the toilet in a matter of months. The photographic film industry would just about disappear. Moreover, if that device were really possible and feasible what would prevent it being incorporated into other common devices such as ….oh …. I don’t know …. PDA’s and cell phones? And the photos themselves, if they were really digital images, why, software could be developed to enhance, modify, crop, and otherwise manipulate the pictures. One hour photo shops would disappear because now photos would be one second, you could photograph an event and have it on the internet in seconds.

Yes, indeed, if such a camera existed, which it doesn’t, everyone would have one by now. Just like everyone would have one of those magic carburetors if they existed.

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