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Alternate 707

Posted March 8, 2016 into Writing by John Birmingham

An interesting question has come up in the Beta edit of Cairo. Harry and Julia catch a flight from London to Cairo, via Rome, on an augmented 707, ie a passenger jet based on the original design, but updated with the accelrated technology of the post-Transition 1950s.

One editor insists the 707 was already in service by the time of the story, approx 1954, to which I replied this is an augmented analog of that original design. Why not go up to a 737 then, he asked?

I don't think it's likely. I can see the Temps jumping to jet travel a lot quicker, and getting something like a 707 into the air well before it was due. But I don't see them being able to accelerate their technological base to the point where they can magic up advanced late 20th Century kit just because they've read a wikipedia entry. They're rocking 1970s miniaturisation in the 1950s, sure. But not 1990s.

Still, I will throw the debate open to the floor.

39 Responses to ‘Alternate 707’

S.M. Stirling mumbles...

Posted March 8, 2016
I agree, particularly when you're talking about economically feasible mass production rather than making a one-off at vast expense.
It's a matter of materials and machines to make machines to make machines. The 1950's could make 707's; with augments to their production methods they could make -lots- of -improved- 707's. And they'd know the next steps, so by the mid-60's they could make lots of 747's and such.
The difference would be that instead of having a few early 707's in the mid-1950's, they'd have lots of them.
They know -what works- so they can avoid lengthy preliminary stuff and avoid dead ends.
Incidentally, when they do catch up with the 2020's, they're going to be in a bit of a fix, because their R&D model for 40 years will have been based on reverse-engineering future tech rather than pushing the envelope themselves.
At that point they're going to have problems with the institutional culture that all their specialists will have been in for their entire professional lives.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted March 8, 2016
Good point about the train wreck in the 2020s. I can see that being a real problem in public research institutes. But I imagine private corporations such as the rapacious Slim Jim Enterprises would be pushing as fast and hard as they could into undiscovered territory.

S.M. Stirling reckons...

Posted March 9, 2016
Only if it paid -- and it won't pay until all the stuff the uptimers brought with them has been commercialized.
They'll have lost the experience of doing fundamental research by that point -- their scientists will know what the uptimers know about basic stuff, but they won't have the experience of finding it themselves.
This will require adjustment.

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S.M. Stirling ducks in to say...

Posted March 8, 2016
Innovation is partly concepts and partly basic materials science and production techniques.
Eg., if you could take an AK-47 or an Uzi back to say 1900, any of the world's big arms makers could have duplicated them in a month or so.
They'd have gone: "Wow, radical coolness!" but there wouldn't be anything they couldn't immediately grasp and make -- the result would be slightly less reliable and a bit heavier, but not much. They knew about gas-operation and blowback.
Laser sights would be an entirely different kettle of fish; they wouldn't understand the principles and they couldn't duplicate the mechanisms monkey-see monkey-do.
They could understand the -concepts- behind a jet engine, but they couldn't make it -- the alloys and so forth would be beyond them. They probably could with a decade or so of intensive effort if they had the engineering data, though.
(Nb: they'd wonder about the tactical doctrine behind the AK and the Uzi, though -- both are solutions to problems that hadn't been articulated in 1900, mostly ones that arose in 1914-1918.)

Murphy_of_Missouri mumbles...

Posted March 9, 2016
Per innovation and invention, I do wonder how the society would evolve. I doubt that they would simply become the equivalent of Pakistanis in the mountains making perfect copies of AK-47s, at least not in the United States. It is too easy to see contemporary engineers, mechanics, and techs pouring over blueprints and while admiring the work also going, "Wait . . . why did they do that? You know, I think this might actually work better."

The innovation and invention might go off in some oddball directions. I doubt that the alternate versions of say, Steve Jobs, or other such folks, are going to be content to merely copy from their prime timeline counterparts. Assuming that they are born in the first place. It may well be that the further from the Transition the timeline gets, the more distorted follow on events may become.

S.M. Stirling puts forth...

Posted March 9, 2016
They won't -just- be copying, but they don't -need- to do any fundamental research for a generation -- they're playing catch-up technologically, and they had three generations of pure research handed to them.
By then they'll have gotten into the habit of moving on to the next uptime step.
New stuff will start up again, but it'll take a while.

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Stuart ducks in to say...

Posted March 8, 2016
The 737 was launched to service the short to medium range market, it's not applicable as an 'upgrade' to the 707 which was always built as an long range jet (relative to the standards of the time). The key technology upgrade to the next generation of jets wasn't the electronics, it was the turbofan, especially in the high-bypass configuration, as opposed to the turbojet which powered the first and second generations (707, 727, 737). Turbofans were a big leap forward in efficiency. The 707 was upgraded to low-bypass turbo fans in 1960 which I think would match with your augmented version

Timbo is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
This, so much. Have a look at the 100 series 737; it ain't the versatile machine the modern ones are.

http://modernairliners.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/msa_737_100.jpg

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insomniac asserts...

Posted March 8, 2016
There's nothing to say an augmented 737 couldn't be an aircraft in service, it's just that Harry and Jules happened to be flying into Cairo in the 707. It doesn't have to be the latest tech with everything just because.

Murphy_of_Missouri puts forth...

Posted March 9, 2016
Why would it be a 737? The 707 is a long range aircraft whereas the 737 is a short haul aircraft?

The next step in the design ladder would probably be a 767, which is going to be outside the capability of the Contemporaries to reproduce.
I could see, possibly, an effort to produce an earlier variant of the 747. But the point which is being forgotten is that these things have to make money for their owners. Without an economic need, one is unlikely to sink the crazy amounts of money into pushing to far ahead of the development envelope.

Thus I'd argue sticking with a 707, perhaps heavily upgraded, certainly with some design characteristics lifted from more advanced aircraft that could easily be incorporated into the earlier design.

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 9, 2016
I agree with sticking with the 707. My point is there will be many different aircraft in service, and you could move to any of the 7X7s, but that doesn't mean you have to use them in the story.

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pi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 8, 2016
I don't know man, you could learn a lot from wikipedia, but I think you're barking up the wrong tree.

http://archive.cnx.org/contents/c400f8a0-5268-4d6c-a384-b3f513ee613a@4/digital-system-design-chapter-1-part-1-historical-background-of-ic-technology

It all depends on how much time you have to develop fabrication plants and develop silicon (and other) refining techniques. Imagine how many avenues you wouldn't go down when choosing the materials that you were going to be using for developing IT infrastructure? Imagine if you all still had the war-footing and industrial capture, and could apply it to techniques you already knew were going to work.

Add on to that project management and development management techniques (like Agile) and you get advanced proto-type development tools as well. Things get developed faster and better. I don't think it would take very long at all before you're producing things that start testing the boundary of what we're currently doing today.

pi mutters...

Posted March 8, 2016
Imagine if you could put John von Neumann onto it...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann



Dirk mutters...

Posted March 9, 2016
or even a thinktank with the likes of Galbraith, Heisenberg, Bohr, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Forbes_Nash,_Jr. and Arthur C. Clark

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johnb78 mutters...

Posted March 8, 2016
707 entry into service is 1958, not 1954, so there's already a notable advance on OTL (another relevant question is, how does the Transition affect the Comet program? Do we end up with an eight-year headstart on commercial jet aviation because the first jet airliner doesn't fall apart from pressurisation stress and poor manufacturing practice overlap...?)

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 8, 2016
One of the Betas asked about the Comets. I haven't put them in the text, but will study them for the long form AoT novel that'll follow Stalin's Hammer.

Murphy_of_Missouri is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
Comets have a terrible initial safety record and never recovered from that in the original timeline.

Dirk is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
that's is true Murpy, but metal fatigue - the main safety thing that plagued the comet - would be known now in the 20-20 (or 2021) hindsight you would have now.

Bangar reckons...

Posted March 9, 2016
At least there'll be no square windows ;)

Murphy_of_Missouri would have you know...

Posted March 10, 2016
Square windows and jets certainly do not seem to mix well, do they?

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Geekstreet mutters...

Posted March 8, 2016
Any thought of Concorde? It first tested around '68, used heavily developed versions of the prevailing turbojet engine paradigm, probably took loads of input from post-war military experience in supersonic flight. Nothing too radical in materials science or production technologies that couldn't be accelerated by a couple of decades or more following a good diet of Wiki.

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Trevor Pyle puts forth...

Posted March 8, 2016
You explained it pretty well in the Original Trilogy. I may have drawing and schematics of how to build an iPhone, but that doesn't mean that I have the photolithography necessary to build the processors. I can't build an A9x processor, but my scientists DO know how to build an 8088. And they use that to build a 386, who then use that to design the titanium crystal fan blades for the latest generation of GE high-bypass turbofans.

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Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted March 9, 2016
The Comet has been suggested but in our timeline it didn't have a great safety record, nor was it very popular.

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Sparty mumbles...

Posted March 9, 2016
Murph - Comet it was ground breaking that's why it didn't have a great safety record and led to discoveries about metal fatigue....1st Transatlantic Airliner - British 1st (and only) Super Sonic airliner- British. Enuff said.
But I agree on the 707 - and to take a real world case - its taken us 60 years to advance out own computing and manufacturing tech to gain the benefit of reverse engineering the Roswell UFO to produce the TR3B with adaptive camouflage and gravatic propulsion http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread517987/pg1

Murphy_of_Missouri mutters...

Posted March 9, 2016
I don't think they are going to have the capability to produce a Concorde that early either.

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Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 9, 2016
I think one point which is being missed in this discussion is that of economic need/demand.
It is one thing for someone to say that the military needs a certain item and then justify it, to a degree, with a bottomless defense budget.
It is quite another to expect a civilian organization to subsidize something that is not going to make them any money, short of getting supplemental funding from the government to engage in such research.

The 707s are right on the cutting edge in our timeline, a long range aircraft. I don't see any viable alternatives which wouldn't require a great deal of explaining.

It should also be pointed out that we had a similar debate years ago concerning whether or not the Contemporaries could develop F-86s, AH-1s, UH-1s, and A-4s after Final Impact was released. I'm certainly in favor of having the latest cool stuff on the page, but it should be buttressed by a smidgen of a reality check.

Or, just asking the simple question.

Who is going to pay for it?

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Dirk reckons...

Posted March 9, 2016
Economics and other issues in an alternate Europe.
The altered state of Europe will be a factor also in this, as are the military and economic consequences of it all.
Let's elaborated:
707 vs Comet
So BOAC is flying 707 these days. Or at least something that looks like it. This would mean that a lot on industry policy in the UK (or even in Europe) as we know it in out timeline is out of the window. Britain was iot about 4 years ahead on the US in jet design and associated airplane development, and highly selfcentered in construction. Airplanes and to a lesser extent ships were the main exports of Britain at the time, so what did replace that? Reliance on a not independent India? Tank production i.e. Nato standard tank is the Centurion? Not letting become Germany the industrial powerhouse it is today, by killing of VW and or Mercedes (which would be killing for Nato rearmement btw) to strengthen the likes of what would become British Leyland? So would a V force made up off B-52's. Would this happen? A partly demobilized Britain would have to create about 2-4 milion jobs to get ex servicemen to earn a keep. This excluding the women who are kicked out of a job in our timeline.
How is Western Europe organised?
Germany is bigger, France is smaller, Southern Italy is a bananarepublic. So NATO would be less powerfull but also less divided as it would have been in our time. De Gaulle would have been less of a factor (and be in charge of a frontline state), Germany led by Adenauer (who would have been killed most likely) or Willi Brandt would have a bigger say, as would have the Benelux block. A European Union? Probably in an accellerated process even. Not just Coal and Steel but a freetrade/freetravel zone from (United?) Ireland to Switzerland (also a frontline state) and from Finland to franco-Spain. And Churchill was in favor of this and if he played his cards right have a role like Merkel now. The additional trade would make up for a part of the extra economical growth. Also the Marshall plan (the other thing to pay for this) would be implemented, opening up Europe for US exports and getting Europe's agriculture and industry back on track.
Yes as Pi sayed, modern techniques would be implemented and follies with 20-20 hindsight killed in the crib. But will this kill national interests? Does Europe go "Warsaw pact" in weaponsdesign (for the most part with the exception of Chechoslovakia the WP used the same weapons) ?
Military consequences
The Red Army in it's heyday iot would have +/- 50.000 tanks. NATO was in a tankkilling mode (an emphasis was laid on mobility - tanks, cheap tankkilling weapons and airpower) and had tactical nukes as part of its defence strategy. To do this economically you would have to stick to uniformity in weapon systems (i.e. one type of battle tank/fighter/bomber/APC/artillery) and a shitload of them, same ammo for everybody, one command and control structure, more ships to protect your sealanes and or a greater US presence in Europe, compulsary draft for soldiers and automation of certain parts of defence (minefields, automated air defences etc.) and a fixed amount of your GDP to spend on it. So not the 2% as is the NATO standard but maybee 5-10%. Nationalisation of the defence industry to keep prices down. Investing in infrastructure to ship troops around more quickly
Question is would that be feesible?

Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted March 9, 2016
I suspect given that the Marshall Plan would have less territory to cover, given that more of it is under Soviet Control, that it might be possible to create a more unified, transatlantic economic policy.
One issue Britain may want to watch for is the collapse of their industrial economy circa the 1960s. It might even accelerate given the conditions extant in the new post war timeline. It would seem to me that the key would be a reform of the nation's education system which could provide workers needed for the post-industrial economy, rather than continuing to churn out cogs for factories soon to go dormant.

Dirk puts forth...

Posted March 9, 2016
Yes. Education is a key. But it's part of a triad. the other things being infrastructure and agriculture. But there is nothing wrong in learning at least one foreign language (English is compulsory here since the late fifties) and scheme's like Erasmus in which you can study in other parts of Europe.

But there is more low hanging fruit. Building houses with roofs facing south for example. You know solar energy will come online sometime in the future, so prepare your housing stock for it in advance. Make your infrastructure redundant in the sense you add extra room (an integrated pipe or something like that) on either sides of roads, rails and rivers so you can simply roll out optical cabeling (FttH or copper in the 50s-60s) when it comes online.
And be prepared to have Europe feeding itself in stead of relying on food imports from US/Aus/NZ. In a submarine warfare scenario it weakens the effect on a starving population.

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GhostSwirv swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 9, 2016

While Comets and 707s to 737s are all very nice ... surely Harry is flying Jules to Cairo wearing his own personal Jet Pack?

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DarrenBloomfield asserts...

Posted March 9, 2016
first: read "Rebooting Civilization: Survivors’ How-to Guide for Restoring Technology after the Apocalypse" (by astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell). It's not timetravel - but outcome is the same - he traverses the practical ground - and all the implicatiosn - of trying to rebuild technology when you have all the constituent parts except being able to actually do it. It's a brilliant read. Excerpt and review here:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rebooting-civilization-survivorse28099-how-to-guide-for-restoring-technology-after-the-apocalypse-excerpt/
On the 707/737 debate. I feel they'd almost certainly augment the 707 rather than leap. The economics of aircraft production, and amortising a massive sunk cost compels it. Not sure even the disruption from uptime is enough to tip that.

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Aaron is gonna tell you...

Posted March 9, 2016
I think it would ultimately encourage innovation now that everyone knows the future is waiting. reverse engineering will still happen but having to work it out still requires creative thinking. I think there could be a sideline mention of how some nations might decide to invest in developing their means to develop stuff for long term advantage. Also I wonder just how fast you can push development even with the future knowledge as some interests would want to protect their existing advantage.

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S.M. Stirling ducks in to say...

Posted March 9, 2016
One big impact -- the main reason economic planning doesn't work well on the whole is that you can't predict the future. You don't know what will work, so you try a lot of stuff and let competition winnow it.
But in this timeline, they DO know what will work, and why. They're operating by hindsight.
It's like a country playing catch-up rather than one pushing ahead into unknown territory.

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S.M. Stirling asserts...

Posted March 9, 2016
To take a specific example: industrial policy and planning policy generally in the UK was a terrible clusterfuck after 1945. (Take a look at the horror that is Milton Keynes.)
So there's an opportunity to avoid a lot of errors -- no Groundnut Scheme.
Some of the same mistakes will be made, because of strong institutional pressures and "motivated reasoning" about how X would have worked with a bit of tweaking.
But a lot could be not made.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted March 9, 2016
Check out this recent Freakanomics podcast: http://freakonomics.com/podcast/i-pencil/ if nobody knows hot to make a pencil, what chance metallurgy leaping 60 odd years?

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DarrenBloomfield reckons...

Posted March 10, 2016
Meiji period Japan - the opening up of Japan to the world from mid 1800s is a good analog to technology from the future - the West really was the future to a fuedal society. It leapt from the medieval to modern in about the same timeframe JB is requiring the whole mid-20th Century world to do so.
Thus far it seems to be working out as well for them as for the Japanese...

Murphy_of_Missouri mumbles...

Posted March 10, 2016
Second this, and good call, Darren.

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DarrenBloomfield reckons...

Posted March 10, 2016
Don't encourage me Murph - I could go on about this all day. I'm an economist by training (*hissss*) and the Meiji period (and Weimar republic) have kid of roped my in (as they marry my love of history - both economic and military history). It is fascinating.
Which is why I love alternate history stuff: seeing how great writers juxtapose plausible do overs with what we know imperfect actors did the first time around. There's a great line in "Cairo" - that sums it up nicely.
"This world wasn't making the same mistakes all over again. It was making a whole new bunch, all of its own."
This is exactly what would happen!

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted March 11, 2016
Sorry 'bout he bold, not entirely sure what happened there.

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