To be fair to the utter dislocation that India IITL will be undergoing, the unified India we have in ours is only the result of the East India Company expanding by leaps and bounds up to the Sepoy Rebellion in OTL, and then the Crown stepped in. Considering how diverse India is, not just on religious and ethnic lines, but almost everything; one could make the argument that the unified India we see IOTL is the aberration among various timelines.

And dear lord, a societist, threshold weapon happy Japan as as TTL's equivalent to North Korea is just deliciously twisted.
 
This talk about the Combine being the 1950s USA from hell is interesting because I did a lot of reading on the subject for my dissertation and it really does fit. (On that subject, Total Cold War, One Nation Underground, and The Imaginary War are all excellent works on the subject of political regimentation in Cold War America.) The 'people don't know what is good for them' and the transformation of a particular nation's values into universal values would all be familiar to American presidents from Roosevelt to Eisenhower and beyond. Except whereas the United States started with its punitive military expeditions and blatant political manipulation, and was able to adopt the Good Neighbor Policy for much of the 1930s through to 1965 (debatable) as the fruits of this, the reverse will happen with the Combine. After decades of comparative toleration of the diversity of its satellite states, the UPSA will transform into the Combine and will forcibly mold the former Hermanidad in its image, regardless of the consequences. Well the comparison is not entirely water-tight, I think the Combine is going to have some features of the USSR - its avowedly ideological and revolutionary aims, the depth of political manipulation which even Eisenhower and Nixon would blanch at, and the lack of even the somewhat restricted democracy of 1950s America.

teg
That seems quite believable, and fits with the general theme that our own ideologies don't really fit with the political debate ITTL- if that's the case, why shouldn't aspects of both the USA and USSR be present in the Superpowers as well.
 
Not exactly. The Whigs were Carolinians (an analogue of the Northern Democrats) and the Supremacists were nativists (an analogue of the more warlike Republicans). There are also the Patriots (an analogue of the Northern/Peace Democrats) and the Liberals (an analogue of the more radical Republicans).
It changed over time. Here's a brief run-down:
When the ENA was given self-rule in 1788, two main parties formed: the Patriots (or American Tories), who were more aristocratic, closer to British interests and favoured a more unitary state, and the Constitutionalists who wanted more independent policies and more power to the Confederate governments. A faction of the Constitutionalists who wanted more democratic policies broke away to become the American Radical Party. Over time the Constitutionalists then more thoroughly broke apart over Catholic emancipation and (to a lesser extent) slavery and split into the Whigs and the Neutrals. The Whigs were more of a southern slaveholder party but one which advocated Catholic Emancipation, and the Neutrals were a western frontiersmen's party which allied with the more urban ARP to form the Radical-Neutral Alliance which eventually merged into the Liberals. The Whigs grew to dominate Carolina but with virtually no support anywhere else, which both politically divided the ENA and made is almost impossible for anyone else to form a majority government. The Supremacist Party arose in New York in criticism of the corrupt aristocratic machine politics of the Patriots, and became a populist and nativist movement which objected to American Indians being allowed to retain some of their lands and privileges within the ENA, and condemned Carolina and the Whigs for their activities.

As of the 'present day', the Whigs are now gone from the ENA when Carolina left (and are now banned), the Liberals are a pro-business, pro-immigration party roughly equivalent to a mix of Republicans and Northern Democrats from the OTL USA of the late 19th century, the Patriots are reduced to third party status after being discredited over their handling of the end of the Great American War, and the Supremacists retain their nativist instincts but also advocate a more aggressive foreign policy. There is also now a small working-class labour party, the Mentians, which is dominated by immigrants. The two big parties that always form the government (though sometimes a minority government or with coalition partners) are the Liberals and Supremacists. Currently the Liberals are quite dominant due to public approval of the 'Seventies Thaw' in relations with the UPSA and the ensuing economic boom.
Thanks for the explanation.
 

Thande

Donor
Thanks to everyone who voted for LTTW in the Finished Timelines and Scenarios Turtledove category this year, and I am pleased to say it has won! To celebrate, though I am spending most of my time editing Volume II for publication at present, I thought we all deserved a fresh update.










Part #216: Number Crunching

“Yes Mary, make sure the event at the First Croydon Rifles doesn’t clash with the Wives’ and Mother’s Tea Supper—v. v. important we don’t let the fragrant Jocasta and her minions get there first. Is it still Col Daniels doing the honours or has the old bat shuffled off this mortal coil since last year – God I hope so, it’s Scylla and Charybdis trying to decide where to stand so you’re close enough so he can hear you but not so close he’ll drench you in spit. Politics, eh—should have stuck to the bar, I know...”

—From the Correspondence of Bes. David Batten-Hale (New Doradist Party--Croydon Urban)​

*

(Dr. David Wostyn)

We are now an hour into the mission and still no report from Capt MacCauley and the others. I am growing concerned but according to our orders we can do nothing but retreat in these circumstances. Regardless, Bes. Batten-Hale’s books are nearly exhausted. Lt Tindale did discover while packing up our equipment that someone (he suspects Sgt Mumby for no reason I can see) had purloined a copy of one of our older source books from the library we were using. I trust Capt MacCauley or Lt McConnell will give him an earful when they find out—I hope that we will see them again to see it happen...

*

From “12 Inventions that Changed the World” by Jennifer Hodgeson and Peter Willis (1990):

As we write these words, the ypologist is increasingly becoming not merely a powerful but esoteric device in the hands of government, military or industry, but a commonplace mainstay of the average citizen’s home. This was a result that could not have been dreamed of by the many pioneers of ypologetics over the years. Indeed, the field of ypologetics is one which typically resists all attempts by apotheosists[1] to isolate it down to one man (or woman) with a vision. Ypologetics as a science has long, deep roots into the past of the human race. In some ways it is inextricably bound up with the history of mathematics itself. Our conceptions of ypologetics as a purely modern phenomenon were radically changed with the discovery of the Antikythera Device in 1921[2] and the realisation that early attempts at mechanical ypologising machines predate the birth of Christ. Since this time, historiographers have typically argued against what they claim is an arbitrary distinction between the modern ypologist, with its shimmering screen and clacking keyboard, and inventions as far back as the Babylonian abacus in the third millennium BC. Both these machines, and everything in between, are ultimately a product of the same universal human impulse: to expand capabilities in the field of mathematics beyond what an individual human brain can hold.

If we are to risk the wrath of these historiographers and put a date on the dawn of the ‘modern’ history of ypologetics, we could likely do no better than call attention to the work of the German mathematician Heinz Müller (1822-1889). Born into a poor family in a village near Kassel, Müller showed promise in his studies at school but there was no chance he could be sent to university given his family’s position. That was, at least, until the Popular Wars intervened and his father was pressed into the High Saxon army attempting to defeat the Populist uprisings. During this process Müller senior came into wealth under carefully unspecified circumstances, and he used part of this wealth to send his bright second son to the University of Leipzig, which was completing a shift towards more ‘utilitarian’ studies as with many European universities following the Jacobin Wars.

Mathematics was a greatly desired field of expertise for many reasons, some more obvious than others. First of all, military science would always need trigonometry and, later, differential equations in order to calculate artillery trajectories. This became increasingly important as more refined and consistently manufactured rifled artillery and shells produced more predictable and reproducible firing behaviour. Techniques of resistance to artillery fire such as armourclad ships and mobile steam platforms (far refined from its debut in the Jacobin Wars) made the mathematics even more complex, as did the need for firing solutions for those mobile artillery pieces which eventually became true Protguns. The slowly increasing significance of aerocraft, from spotter balloons to steerables capable of limited bombing, meant that finding firing solutions for antidrome weapons also became a hot topic. Ypologetic analysis of walls and redoubts for siege warfare, predicting weak points, was a field that crossed over into architecture and even insurance. Lloyd’s of London[3] regained its premier position among insurance brokers in the mid-1800s owing to the use of new formulae developed by the British mathematician Owen Peters, which more accurately predicted the vulnerability of buildings to earthquake and fire damage and adjusted the premiums accordingly. In 1868 the city of Arica in the Kingdom of Peru was badly damaged by a major earthquake; much of the city was insured, but paying out on the premiums almost bankrupted two major Meridian insurance brokers and necessitated their temporary and controversial nationalisation by President Valera’s government. Some buildings had been insured by Lloyd’s instead however, and having succesfully predicted an increased likelihood of earthquakes along the Pacific coast based on new data and theories’ impact on the Peters formulae, Lloyd’s survived the incident handily. This made Lloyd’s increasingly popular as a broker on the European continent and helped rebuild its reputation.[4]

Mathematics was also of interest to governments for other reasons. The socio-economic theories of Carlton, Godwin and Vasquez (to name but three) implied that it should be possible for banks and treasuries to anticipate bubbles and busts before they happened and adjust their strategies accordingly. In practice these efforts were often misguided and sometimes even made matters worse: it was suggested that not only was there insufficient data (leading to a push for more regulated monitoring of purchase habits, land purchase etc.) but also that the formulae and capacity to analyse it simply did not exist. Much the same arguments applied to attempts to use statistical analysis to improve public health. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, mathematics and especially ypologetics was ineluctably bound up with Optel and later Lectel communications. Optel in particular had a huge influence. The hexameric [6-bit] Derrault code, in which data was stored on punched tape as groups of six holes (allowing it to be read easily by blind operators) meant that programmes for operating programmable looms, including those set up to ‘print’ images, could be sent directly from one end of the country to another with no translation required. This meant that the programmables gradually shifted from a bewildering variety of codes and operating systems to a single universal hexameric Derrault-type setup for their punched cards. The continuing use of 6 as a multiplier for ypologetics today shows the impact of this, even though the ypologist we use today might be icosotetrameric [24-bit] rather than hexameric.[5]

Germany had been the home to developments in the field of artificial calculation for many years: back in the seventeenth century Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz had produced a mechanical calculating machine, the Stepped Reckoner, but had been hamstrung by the limitations of the technology and engineering of the time to produce precisely machined parts. Müller, however, was the first recorded individual to observe that Jacquard’s programmable loom principle could be applied to a machine for solving mathematical equations, a Lösung Maschine or ‘solution engine’ as he called it. The means for data storage and to write and enter a programme already existed thanks to the Derrault code (usually referred to as Derrault- Müller code in an ypologetic context).[6] All he had to do was develop a machine that would use encoded instructions to solve equations rather than stitch a thousand curtains the same way. Predictably, this was a little more difficult than such a blasé description implies. Many cast aspersions on Müller’s project, not least the computers (often women) whose jobs were threatened by his work if it was successful.[7] This would be a running theme through the difficult early years of the field, and was likely responsible for the popularisation of the term Ypologist (from the Greek word meaning to calculate) for the new machines, selected out of a host of competing terms: popular satirists of the day punned on the idea of Müller and his colleagues nervously ‘apologising/ypologising’ to an angry horde of women bearing sharpened slide rules.

Müller’s ultimate goal was a machine that could produce consistent and reliable lookup tables for polynomials and logarithms, something which had been frustrated by the volume of data and problem of human error. Achieving this took many years, in which he had to manage a fraught relationship with colleagues, assistants, engineers and his wife, not to mention fight for funding from patrons, the University and occasionally the High Saxon and German governments. It is a wonder that Müller was not driven mad by the experience (as he remarked himself) but he managed to keep the enterprise afloat by selling patents to minor breakthroughs, as he saw them. Notably the entrepreneur Friedrich Weiss was able to develop his successful ‘Weiss Maschine’ (known as a ‘Vice’ in the English-speaking world due to phonetic confusion; often mistaken for an abbreviated ‘Device’). This was a portable mechanical calculator based on a refined version of the Leibniz Wheel principle from the old Stepped Reckoner. Although only capable of fairly simple mathematics, increased reliability and novelty value made the Vice a popular purchase in the 1850s and 60s.[8]

Müller was doubtless cheated out of most of the profits by the manner in which he sold the patent (whereas Weiss’ company became one of the most powerful in Germany) but they were sufficient to keep him afloat until the final production of the Lösung Maschine in 1870. The ambitious design had been scaled back a few times by budgetary and practical considerations, but Müller’s dream was finally complete. The German government, becoming conscious of what an impact the machine could have, stepped in to purchase the design for a large amount before it could become general knowledge. This came too late, for Müller had been unselfconsciously sharing information with his colleagues in other countries during the long years when the government had not seen the potential of his device. All the Bundesreich’s move achieved was to convince the French, British, Belgian, Danubian, Russian (etc.) governments that this was important and therefore they had to fund their own mathematicians and engineers to duplicate it so they could find out what all the fuss was about.

The Solution Engine therefore rapidly proliferated around the world and was soon appearing a wild variety of different forms. It was the Scandinavians, looking for force multipliers in any future war with the Germans to reclaim Jutland, who realised that a machine optimised for artillery firing solutions could be made small enough to be carried on board ship (and indeed often became the centrepiece of a modern warship’s bridge).[9] Fire of such increased accuracy could potentially overcome the apparently invincible enemy armourclads by precise targeting of weak points; ironically, as fixed-focus guns became turrets to take advantage of this, they themselves often became such weak points. Inevitably the Scandinavian breakthrough could also not be kept secret, and by 1890 was even being sold to the Siamese, who were recovering from their modern but un-armoured fleet being routed by five French armourclads at the Battle of Penang in 1880—something which led to further reliance on working with the Meridians, which many Siamese military officers disliked the idea of.

It has been speculated that the science of ypologetics could have taken many different possible routes. Even the familiar rattling cogs and gears were perhaps not inevitable. Early work by some researchers on ypologists that used other means of data manipulation, such as the flow of liquid mercury or the movement of weighted balls, shows that alternatives were possible. Yet this is probably idle speculation, as it was natural for Müller and other early researchers to exploit the technology already available to them: programmable looms for data manipulation, and gearwork from the factory machines of the Industrial Revolution.

In the public eye, if not the theoretician’s, ypologetics has also always been associated with the printing or other realisation of data. The early Solution Engines did not have a readout that could be read by anyone other than a trained operator. The industrialist Weiss, who had a keener grasp of human nature than Müller, persuaded him to work with his engineers to produce one in order to make more impact at public demonstrations to government officials. This was however mainly for show, and later more universal readouts had to come later. Automatic printing was a natural way for solutions to be made visible, less exclusive than the pin-hole tape which could be transported elsewhere and transmitted by Optel, but only read by those who knew the Derrault- Müller code. Ultimately the resolution of this came not from Müller but from the French engineer Fabien Darrieux. An unashamed patriot, Darrieux viewed the encroachment of Carolinian-developed Lectel on France’s indigenous Optel network as an affront to his country’s national pride. In 1864 Darrieux filed for a patent on a machine which achieved the Holy Grail of many who had worked with Optel and the Derrault code for two generations: a machine that could read a hexameric punched tape and convert it to printed plaintext using a very simplified typeset and an ink ribbon to constantly refresh the type. Darrieux had intended to argue that his machine would only work with Optel, and so show the older telegraph’s superiority over the foreign Lectel. However, much to his chagrin, other engineers rapidly came up with ways to translate Lectel electric pulses to a form that could be fed just as easily into the Darrieux Téléscripteur. If anything, Darrieux probably hastened the downfall of Optel for mainstream communication. His work led to the development of the first true typographer [typewriter] by the British Nonconformist clergyman William Watts in 1867 and arguably had even more impact in that manner (no pun intended).

The Darrieux ink ribbon principle also led to the development of impact printers which could produce not only text but printed images by striking the ribbon with variously sized hammer tips to produce a so-called ‘spot-grid’ [dot matrix]. An image could be printed one line at a time, each line programmed by a Derrault- Müller punch tape. While this was in theory no different to the existing technique by which images could be woven by a Jacquard programmable loom, that had not been very practical for mass production—though some newspapers in the 1840s-70s did include woven inserts showing asimcons of the latest frightful murderer/lovely debutante/both of the week. Now the images could be printed alongside the text, leading to a huge growth in newspapers which emphasised their graphic components.

While most of the breakthroughs up to this point had happened in Europe, the rising powers of the Americas with their swelling economies greatly exploited them. Not only did elaborate new graphical newspapers proliferate in both North and South America (even including some early, disastrous colour experiments) but those papers often contained information—concerning such matters as weather forecasts, ship schedules, betting odds, or house prices—which had ultimately been produced by a Solution Engine somewhere. Despite the old fears and the satirists’ cartoons, Solution Engines did not put computers out of a job: many retrained as Solution Engine operators, their mathematical knowledge often required to provide a check against the machines malfunctioning. Companies which attempted to use cheap innumerate labour to handle the machines often found themselves out of pocket for wildly inaccurate calculations which their operators had not immediately realised must be incorrect due to the machines being set up wrongly. Because of this association with the former computers, the role of Solution Engine operator and telescripter [teleprinter] was associated with women for many decades and in some countries a stigma even developed against men using them, though this was not universal.

One thing which the Solution Engine boom of the late nineteenth century did not produce was a general-purpose ypologist capable of multiple tasks. Solution Engines were typically designed for a single specific task, such as artillery ranging of a specific gun; only engineers or particularly gifted operators could modify them even to make calculations for a different gun, never mind to instead calculate the odds of Penumbra winning the Rockingham Stakes (though some did try). In 1890 the American industrial scientist Joseph Higgins Remington argued that the next big breakthrough in ypologetics would be such a machine capable of many different tasks – a ‘Versatile Engine’. Remington himself was not the man to produce such a machine, but ended up lending his name to it when it came about.[10] The impact of the Solution Engines upon warfare, long theorised but with only occasional skirmishes as evidence, was about to be tested—for the 1890s was the decade in which the Long Peace would come to an end...






[1] People who embrace ‘Great Man’ interpretations of history, especially ‘Great Inventor’, either to produce a simplified narrative or else to over-emphasise their own country’s achievements because the Great Inventor in question was one of theirs.

[2] Known as the Antikythera Mechanism in OTL, where it was discovered twenty years earlier.

[3] Lloyd’s reopened in 1816 following the rebuilding of London after the French invasion under Hoche. It retains a significant secondary headquarters in Liverpool as a legacy of its move to that city in the immediate aftermath of that invasion, which eventually split off as a rival company.

[4] The same earthquake happened in OTL. Lloyd’s modern reputation in OTL was however built instead by their response to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, in which their unconditional payout of an unanticipatedly high sum impressed potential future customers.

[5] In contrast to OTL where computing has tended to move in doubling multiples of 8 bits (8, 16, 32, 64...), though 24-bit machines do exist in OTL (such as the SNK Neo-Geo console).

[6] Note that ‘programm(ing)’ terminology ultimately dates back to the seventeenth century, when it was used to describe selecting an order of songs to appear on a concert programme; it long predates modern computing.

[7] In OTL ‘computer’ (also dating back to the seventeenth century) originally referred to a human mathematician solving equations and processing data, often as part of a team. A common subject for such calculation was astronomical data, such as predicting the return of a comet. The occupation became particularly associated with women (though male computers did exist) in part simply because they were paid less at the time and the employer could therefore afford to hire more staff and process more data for the same outlay. In OTL, of course, the term was displaced by new inventions, whereas in TTL ‘computer’ continues to refer only to a human doing the role, and ‘ypologist’ is used for an artificial device.

[8] This loosely resembles two devices from OTL, the earlier Arithmomètre of Thomas de Colmar and the later Curta of Curt Herzstark. In looks the ‘Vice’ more resembles the Curta, but is larger and cruder due to more limited manufacturing techniques—certainly not capable of being marketed as a ‘pocket calculator’ like the Curta!

[9] This type of analogue computer was developed in OTL at the turn of the twentieth century by Arthur Pollen and Frederic Charles Dreyer (separately) and recommended by Royal Navy use by Lord Kelvin.

[10] In OTL we would use the term ‘Turing-complete’ to desc ribe this.
 
Interesting, so ITTL we've got a distinction between male dominated mechanical engineering and female dominated IT?
Not to mention mainstream personal mechanical calculating devices. My intuition is that silicon-based electronics could be made superior for almost any purpose (information density, output bandwidth, physical robustness): I have a hard time seeing a situation where it will forever be economically impossible to put in enough investment to develop a competitive electronic alternative to a conventional ypologist. Of course, I have no clue how close 1990 is to that expected turnaround point; I wouldn't make any claim that electronics couldn't be as irrelevant to present-day computing as they are to the authors' time's.

BTW, how does one pronounce the first syllable of "ypologist"?
 
Not to mention mainstream personal mechanical calculating devices. My intuition is that silicon-based electronics could be made superior for almost any purpose (information density, output bandwidth, physical robustness): I have a hard time seeing a situation where it will forever be economically impossible to put in enough investment to develop a competitive electronic alternative to a conventional ypologist. Of course, I have no clue how close 1990 is to that expected turnaround point; I wouldn't make any claim that electronics couldn't be as irrelevant to present-day computing as they are to the authors' time's.

BTW, how does one pronounce the first syllable of "ypologist"?
Eep I think
 
Interesting. Muller seems a lot more practically-minded than Babbage ever was (and therefore has a non-symbolic impact.
Interesting, so ITTL we've got a distinction between male dominated mechanical engineering and female dominated IT?
Damn, this is interesting. Female programmers. I'd probably be ostracized ITTL.:p
Whilst never female dominated, programmers did used to be a lot more likely to be women OTL (though I think it peaked at 30%). A lot of the reason for the decline was probably indirectly the attempts to establish "software engineering" as a profession.
 

Thande

Donor
Whilst never female dominated, programmers did used to be a lot more likely to be women OTL (though I think it peaked at 30%). A lot of the reason for the decline was probably indirectly the attempts to establish "software engineering" as a profession.
Yeah. This is more meant to be one of EdT's "this unlikely-sounding thing is actually exactly what happened in OTL" bits. Women were more commonly associated with jobs involving computer operations (if not always programming) up until I think about the 1970s in OTL.

The "hire more women because you have to pay them less" thing for both human computers and later artificial computer operators is also totally OTL, leading to...less than PC terms for female work groups such as Pickering's Harem.

Also, bizarrely, I named Müller before discovering there was a German computing pioneer called Müller in OTL a couple of generations before...so I just changed his location from Saxony to Hesse and made the implication that this one is the first one's grandson.

Not to mention mainstream personal mechanical calculating devices.
That is also OTL, to be clear, though they're a bit different in TTL. OTL had these being sold as early as the 1820s, but the 'Vice' in TTL is meant to be an earlier and cruder (more like bucket-sized) version of this, which is rather more capable than the Arithmometer. (I actually came across the Curta in this video, which explains how it works and what it is capable of).
 
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The "hire more women because you have to pay them less" thing for both human computers and later artificial computer operators is also totally OTL, leading to...less than PC terms for female work groups such as Pickering's Harem.
Oh, I thought Pickering's Harem was a reference to that one incident when John Adams appointed Timothy Pickering the United States minister plenipotentiary to the Barbary states, and when he came back ten years later after a long and distinguished service, it was discovered that he had in secret converted to Islam and embraced polygamy, creating a huge scandal in Boston society over his marriage to some 14 North African women. :p

Excellent chapter as always, glad you worked out an excuse to use Hodgeson's and Willis's 12 Inventions again (which I understand you felt you could not just have Batten-Hale coincidentally owned)and, of course, loved the steampunisk development of (primitive) computers. In particular loved how computer programming has become a women's thing. That and the connection to typewriters. In The Difference Engine, one of the things I found cool about the author's alternative technology was that they had *typewriters already from the get-go record what was being typed on some sort of tape on which holes were punched, and that you could then simply plug that tape into some printing machine and reproduce the manuscript you had written elsewhere.

Though I must say that I still wonder how with all these inventions happening earlier than OTL you still have the modern-day world of LTTW being technologically behind OTL modern-day. I believe I remember reading you saying at some point that they're at a 1970s-80s level of technology over there.
 
Oh, I thought Pickering's Harem was a reference to that one incident when John Adams appointed Timothy Pickering the United States minister plenipotentiary to the Barbary states, and when he came back ten years later after a long and distinguished service, it was discovered that he had in secret converted to Islam and embraced polygamy, creating a huge scandal in Boston society over his marriage to some 14 North African women. :p

Excellent chapter as always, glad you worked out an excuse to use Hodgeson's and Willis's 12 Inventions again (which I understand you felt you could not just have Batten-Hale coincidentally owned)and, of course, loved the steampunisk development of (primitive) computers. In particular loved how computer programming has become a women's thing. That and the connection to typewriters. In The Difference Engine, one of the things I found cool about the author's alternative technology was that they had *typewriters already from the get-go record what was being typed on some sort of tape on which holes were punched, and that you could then simply plug that tape into some printing machine and reproduce the manuscript you had written elsewhere.

Though I must say that I still wonder how with all these inventions happening earlier than OTL you still have the modern-day world of LTTW being technologically behind OTL modern-day. I believe I remember reading you saying at some point that they're at a 1970s-80s level of technology over there.
Others have been delayed, and I think that was referring to some specific aspect.
 

Thande

Donor
Part #217: Beneath the Waves

“Any idea where the report from the Chatsworth Institute has gone?”
“The one about the Southwark Tunnel. I need to crib the economic case against it for this debate.”
“No I don’t remember having it last. I thought you had it.”
“Look if the blasted thing turns up in the middle of Angie’s homework somebody’s head’s going to roll, and it’s not going to be mine...”

—From the Correspondence of Bes. David Batten-Hale (New Doradist Party--Croydon Urban)​

*

From “12 Inventions that Changed the World” by Jennifer Hodgeson and Peter Willis (1990):

But if Watson was largely indifferent to the triumph his work had produced, the world was not. From that day forward, nations across the planet would scramble to get a slice of the proven potential of submersible technology for themselves...[1]

Unsurprisingly, ‘Mr Elias Watson’s Marvellous Innovation’ was headline news in an increasingly globalised world, and drew attention even from the newspapers of distant climes which would otherwise have been indifferent to the Great American War for the most part. While the idea of a submersible boat was not new, the military potential of the Innovation was immediately apparent from all but the most hidebound of armchair admirals. It has been argued that Mr Watson’s intervention into the Great American War came at not merely a crucial moment from a military-strategic standpoint, but also the ‘alienistic moment’ in which this global readership was primed to most appreciate such a dramatic breakthrough. Comparisons have been made to Jean de Lisieux’s La Vapeur est Républicaine, the sense that steam technology received such attention because it had been tied inextricably to the broader wave of political turmoil and social change unleashed by the French Revolution. Similarly, at a point where the Great American War had seemed to be a comedy of errors crossed with a relentless slog of apparently futile advance and retreat, the idea of a war-winning wonder weapon that could change the course of huge conflicts at a stroke was highly appealing to many. Simple solutions that make dramatic changes have always spoken to the lowest common denominator in the popular thought of mankind, and this alienistic flaw can doubtlessly be held partially responsible for the fact that so much history is written in blood.

But this is to digress. Those thinkers who did see beyond the obvious recognised the point that a war-winning wonder weapon can be built by the enemy as easily as one’s own country. There was no diabolically advanced ultimate secret at the heart of Mr Watson’s Trident, merely a painstaking refinement of principles of buoyancy that had been studied for years around the world. Soon everyone would have their own Marvellous Innovation, their own ironshark, as the weapon soon became known as. That term appears to be of German origin, the earliest use of Eisenhaifisch being traced back to a copy of the Hamburger Zeitung published in 1853, only three years after Mr Watson’s dramatic act. For whatever reason it gradually displaced the multitude of other terms then in circulation and a form of it is now used in most languages.

One reason for this may be the prominence of the German-Scandinavian dispute over ironsharks that formed part of the centrepiece for the ‘Underwater Prohibition’ debate of the 1850s and 60s. The arguments for Prohibition began, not in Germany, but in France. François Resnais, first as leader of the opposition and then as Prime Minister, argued vociferously that ironsharks were an ‘ungentlemanly’ and ‘inhumane’ method of waging war which should be banned, the act of using them akin to a cowardly stab in the back. Of course, many older commentators observed the irony that the leader of the French Adamantine Party, the descendants of Olivier Bourcier’s Jacobin remnant, would start invoking such sentiments: fifty years before the Revolution had supposedly put paid to protestations that any act could be considered illegal or immoral on the field of battle. This illustrated just how far the Adamantines had come, and was naturally condemned for this reason by the small Noir party which idolised such Jacobin attitudes. It is, furthermore, debatable just how much Resnais sincerely meant his moral arguments. He had ulterior motives aplenty. Watson had shown that an ironshark could neutralise even a large and powerful armourclad ship of the line. Reliable, mass-produced ironsharks would effectively level the playing field between those countries with large, powerful navies and those without. France definitely fell into the former category. Resnais was also known for his policies of military cuts that led to conflict with the leadership of the French Army and Navy, and led to those institutions fanning public paranoia of an imaginary German invasion in the hope of gaining popular support for more military spending. While the French Navy more typically demanded more armourclads rather than new ironshark projects, it is easy to view Resnais’ opposition to ironsharks in general as being a clampdown on the Navy’s grandiose plans.

Resnais attempted to set up an international conference to propose a global moratorium on ironshark development. This was doomed before it began, as the two biggest proponents of ‘Underwater Prohibition’ were the French themselves and the Germans—who, as mentioned above, were metaphorically at each others’ throats throughout Resnais’ premiership, and this only worsened after Resnais was replaced by the hostile Tourneur. While the Germans’ own fleet was only sluggishly growing, and one might imagine that the Germans would welcome ironsharks as a leveller against enemies such as Belgium, in fact the tone of the debate had already been set by the Scandinavians. Following the German conquest of Jutland in 1854,[2] Scandinavia began to elect revanchist governments which continuously plotted to regain the peninsula against overwhelming enemy numbers using levelling war innovations. The ironfish fit the bill precisely, even though it could only control the Baltic rather than defeat the Germans on land. Of course, the bitterness across the Lillebælt would only intensify with the Kulturkrieg of a generation later, but nonetheless the bounds of the debate had been set. Scandinavia boasted of ironshark projects, and therefore German public and establishment opinion came down on the other side.

Yet, as said above, the division between France and Germany prevented the two from cooperating on Resnais’ moratorium. There was only a lukewarm response from the ENA and Britain, despite the fact that it had been an American ship which had suffered Mr Watson’s attack. Naturally the ENA had been the first power to begin plotting the construction of its own ironsharks, and the Imperial Navy had no desire to waste the funds they had sunk into the project. Furthermore, when Lewis Studebaker became President he argued that the nature of the long supply lines for Meridian trade and resupply with Carolina meant that, though the ironshark had been a Carolinian invention, it was the other side who would be more vulnerable to its widespread use. The Meridians themselves, of course, were also busy with their own ironshark project, while the British government (particularly under President Cross) saw the levelling of ironsharks as a useful way to short-circuit the way that the Royal Navy had fallen behind its competitors in the first half of the nineteenth century. By the 1870s, there were regular sightings of British ironsharks patrolling the English Channel—and, much to the retired Resnais’ displeasure, they were often faced by French counterparts. The first French ironsharks were actually developed in Spanish shipyards, partly for the sake of plausible deniability against accusations of hypocrisy, but also because Spain’s shipbuilders had retained a reputation for innovation ever since the Cacafuego of the Jacobin Wars. Despite the repeated troubles the country went through in the nineteenth century, this reputation survived.

It should be remembered that given the limitations of technology at this point, ironsharks were regarded as exclusively short-range weapons operating out of coastal bases, not unlike how ironpikes [monitors] were restricted to rivers and coastal waters. Long-range remoras would not come about until the leadup to the Pandoric War, and would be a war-changing weapon when they did emerge. Until that time, ironsharks were seen as a way to make coastal waters highly dangerous for enemy ships and therefore protect ports from capture, fleets in harbour from attack and—increasingly, as guns became larger and more accurate on lineships—cities from bombardment. At most they could function as commerce raiders only in areas such as the West (or East) Indies where many islands offered locations for bases. The potential for American ironsharks against Meridian-Carolinian and other Hermandad trade, observed by Studebaker, was one of the major causes behind President-General Araníbar’s rapproachment with Studebaker’s later colleague Albert Braithwaite and the ensuing neutralisation of Cuba.

Initially ironshark projects were also limited by underwater weapons technology. Watson’s spar torpedo was both short-range and dangerous, always risking an explosion that would sink the ironshark as well as its target. It was not until the development of the self-propelled steeltooth torpedo by the American inventor Herbert Gordon Walker in 1862 that more long-range attacks by ironsharks became more practicable. This helps explain the apparent paradox that the cultural impact of ironsharks often seems several years delayed from the initial shock of the Trident incident in 1850: they were less of a credible fear for ordinary people until they were paired with steelteeth.

Some countries lagged behind in the ironshark movement. Paradoxically, given how synonymous the country later became with the technology, the Italies were initially distracted from development by the Peninsular War. Danubia, the Ottomans and the Russians were all slower to observe the potential of ironsharks, frustrating military analysts both then and now, as ironsharks could have played a significant role in the Euxine War. The process took longer in some places, with Siam purchasing Meridian ironsharks in the 1880s and then seeking to develop their own, regarding the weapon as a useful way of overcoming the deficit in armourclads that had seen the embarrassing Siamese defeat to the French at the Battle of Penang in 1880. The levelling potential of the ironshark was, as before, highly apparent. The fact that the weapon was seen as primarily a defensive one also appealed to those countries seeking to play off potentially troublesome foreign partners, such as Feng China, Persia and the Republics of California and Formosa. A defensive fleet of ironsharks, backed up by ironpikes to police the rivers in the case of China, was a useful guard against European encroachment without being viewed as an expansionist threat that would unite the squabbling European traders against it. Corea, still a little conservative in its military culture in some ways, took a little longer and was deploying its first ironsharks as the Pandoric War broke out. However, having incorporated lessons from the mistakes made by European projects, the Corean ironsharks were recognised as particularly high quality from the start—though the training of their crews did not always live up to that potential. Meanwhile, there were those countries subsumed into others’ spheres of influence which were not permitted to build their own independent ironshark fleet. One of the lesser causes of resentment in Carolina against their Meridian colonial masters was that Hermandad nations such as Carolina fell into this category: the nation that had invented ironsharks was forbidden from possessing them.

This supreme irony is the closest that the world has ever come to anything close to Resnais’ ‘Underwater Prohibition’ dream. If the notion had not seemed remote enough, the centrepiece of the California-hosted WorldFest 1880 was the final nail in the coffin of Resnais’ idea. As the Californians launched a display of firework rockets across the Hidden Gate [Golden Gate] to form an arc of fire like a heavenly rainbow, an apparently inconsequential merchant steamer steamed through the centre of the arc. At this point, she seemed to have engine trouble and sank soon afterwards. As the watching foreign dignitaries cried out and called for help, their Californian hosts told them not to worry. Minutes later, the steamer resurfaced. California had successfully disguised a functioning ironshark as an ordinary surface ship. The message was clear to the three powers who faced off one another in California: Russia, the UPSA and the ENA. California could defend herself, and none could be certain where her defences lay. All of Resnais’ planned inspection regimes had been rendered worthless. And, of course, it also meant that the Hermandad moratorium was not so enforceable as the Meridians had hoped...

The impact of ironsharks was not purely a military one. As noted above, Mr Watson’s act had come at the ‘alienistic moment’, a time when audiences worldwide were primed to hear more of this startling new technology. An explosion of scientific romances followed, the so-called Submarine Rage: the biggest movement in the genre since the Automaton Craze ignited by Cuthbert Lucas earlier in the century.[3] The quantity of the writings produced was remarked upon by many commentators: Michael Chamberlain, then a freshman MCP, commented ‘Apparently there are no stories left on dry land; if one was to judge our world by fiction alone, I am not sure if I could even attest to the continued existence of a land above the oceans’. Naturally, this led to the usual situation of a vast diversity in both quality of writing and how the setting was handled. One Submarine Rage story might be a blood-pumping military adventure tale, a hypothetical future war which would be fought beneath the waves, often layered with the patriotic fervour of Meridian-American tensions or Franco-German paranoia. A second might be a detailed, serious attempt by a scientifically informed writer to speculate on the nature of the deep ocean floor if a suitably capable submersible could be built.[4] A third might suggest the same kind of voyage to the depths of the ocean, but then imaginatively invent underwater civilisations of mermen who would follow the submersible back to the surface in order to conquer the civilisations of dry land. The best known of these ‘fantastic invasion bloodies’ is of course The Abyssal Empire by Joseph Taillant (1870) which not only reinvigorated the Submarine Rage genre after a few fallow years, but also effectively spelled the end for traditional German ‘invasion bloodies’ being taken seriously by French society. Coming out in the same year as Tourneur’s fall from power, it was greatly symbolic that the invaders now had to become fictional beings, and indeed Taillant hints at a pan-human alliance against the Ondine with Germans fighting alongside Frenchmen.[5]

This political edge was likely partially responsible for The Abyssal Empire becoming the iconic work that is still read today in many languages, but we should not neglect the point that Taillant was simply an excellent writer telling a compelling story. Despite this, however, it was Taillant’s work (along with that of many other writers) which prompted commentators to argue that ‘Submarine Rage’ was far too broad a genre to group such diverse writings under. Many of the more serious scientific speculators resented being grouped with a man who invented mermen virtually out of whole cloth, not least because his book was so much more popular than theirs. The scientist and literary critic Gustave Mansart suggested a new form of literary classification between ‘hot-blooded’ works, whose first priority was to tell a gripping story, and ‘cold-blooded’ works, which primarily strove for accuracy and consistency. Mansart was more neutral in his intentions than many of his imitators, with ‘hot and cold’ too often becoming a vehicle for snobbishness by cold writing advocates rather than a simple descriptive classification. It is only in the twentieth century that the critical establishment has conceded that a hot scientific romance can be as valid a piece of art as a cold one.[6]

The Submarine Rage saw feedback into the public imagination. The Lord Washington incident had made some people fear ironsharks, but as always a thousand fictitious ironshark attacks are more influential than one real one. In Britain the pages of the Register and the Semaphore in those years are filled with articles bemoaning financial difficulties for transport steamer companies which come regular as clockwork when a new ironshark thriller comes out and scares some gullible punters off the voyage. Questions were asked in Parliament, with Ian Biggs-McGifty, the eccentric Populist Burgess for Portsmouth Coastal, openly arguing that Submarine Rage books should be banned to protect the public from their own imaginations (and to secure his constituents’ livelihoods). Meanwhile his counterpart in the UPSA was the Unionist deputy for Asunción-VII, Domingo Orrego, who argued (from his safely landlocked constituency) that Submarine Rage books had the potential of leaking military secrets to the general public. He made extravagant claims that Portuguese-Brazil, safely squashed into the Hermandad as a vassal of the UPSA, was in fact working on an ironshark project based on these alleged leaks. Nothing ever came of the accusation, but it did poison relations within South America for a few years.

Yet not all the popular impact of the Submarine Rage was so negative. Not all the scientific authors discussing the potential of submersibles for ocean floor exploration were as dry as Taillant’s jealous opponents. Tales such as Jack Cusworth’s Four Thousand Fathoms speculated about what the ocean floor might be like in an engaging way which aroused public curiosity. It was Cusworth’s native Britain that launched the first explicitly oceanographic mission in the form of HMS Explorer, an obsolete bomb-ship which had been hastily renamed from her original name of HMS Explosion.[7] Despite what public perception of the mission then and now has suggested, the Explorer did not take a submersible with it, only a diving bell—a modern and innovative one, but not a powered submersible. Ignoring such inconvenient facts, the Explorer’s year-long mission was a hugely significant milestone in oceanic exploration, sounding the Explorer Trench south of Guam, the deepest point in the Earth’s oceans. Captain Mitchell’s researchers discovered that the Trench was around 4,500 fathoms deep—thus the wild guess title of Cusworth’s Four Thousand Fathoms had been unexpectedly close. The Explorer was only the first of many ships launched to explore the ocean floor, both with and without submersibles. As with the WorldFest, in the years of the Long Peace it was a useful non-combative way for nations to compete with one another for the crown of public opinion. Public attention began to fade but was reawakened in 1888 when the American oceanographer Daniel Wynne successfully took the first deep-sea asimcon, giving a new sense of reality to the sketches produced by earlier researchers.[8]

This explosion in deep-sea research was not merely an act of nationalist competition or shallow public attention, though, but fed into the ongoing debate about Paleyan Environmental Breeding, the origins of life on Earth, and Neo-Catastrophist interpretations of inheritance. Some theories had predicted barren depths and were gradually disproved as more and more life—often mysterious, unpredictable, even horrifying life—was uncovered from the depths. Sadly, craniography and Superhumanism were not among them. Nonetheless, for a man who had sought to build his ‘Marvellous Innovation’ primarily as a scientific research vessel, Mr Watson might have had the last laugh after all...














[1] This excerpt follows on from the one in Part #188.

[2] This is rather inaccurate, as there was no formal ‘Germany’ at the time, only the Bundesliga, and 1854 was the year of the Treaty of Bordeaux recognising the conquest.

[3] Note ‘submarine’ in this context is used as an adjective not a noun, the original meaning of the word which is now little seen in OTL but remains the only meaning in TTL.

[4] As before, note the terminological distinction between ‘ironshark’ for military submarine and ‘submersible’ for civilian research vessel.

[5] Ondine is the French spelling of Undine, a water nymph from German mythology. Taillant’s Ondine are rather different from the original mythology, but the popularity of his work has mostly obscured the latter except in the eyes of experts (compare how Dracula has confused the original vampire mythology in OTL).

[6] ‘Hot’ and ‘cold’ scientific romances are therefore loosely the TTL equivalent of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ science fiction. The terms are sometimes applied a bit more generally than their OTL analogues, however: a pure piece of fiction with no fantastic elements can have the terms used to describe it too. Sometimes this is fair, such as calling a military thriller ‘hot’ because it ignores a real-life weapons range limitation to allow a dramatic shot felling the villain. However, at other times it is used negatively as an act of snobbishness, such as using ‘hot’ to mean ‘inconsistent, poorly written’.

[7] Former bomb-ships were used in scientific expeditions in OTL, such as those of HMS Terror and Erebus, although the Explorer’s mission is more akin to that of HMS Challenger in OTL (which was iconic and influential enough to give its name to many other research vessels and a space shuttle). In OTL of course the Explorer Trench is called the Challenger Deep.

[8] It should be understood that ‘deep-sea’ here means ‘what could be reached in late nineteenth century diving bells and submersibles’.
 
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Thande

Donor
Very nice, liked the nod to Twenty Thousand Leagues, and I assume Craniography and Superhumanism are Phrenology and Eugenics.
Thanks and they are, I previously mentioned them in an earlier update. I've always been annoyed by how people think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea means depth rather than the distance the Nautilus travels, so I decided to put in an analogue whose actually is meant to mean depth :p Verne's work did help inspire the Challenger expedition in OTL so it's a neat parallel.

I just updated the text because I realised I forgot to add a reference to the invention of the torpedo.
 
Whilst the 19th century estimate was about 8km, isn't the modern one more like 11 (which would be 6,000 fathoms)? Given submarine exploration seems more advanced here, it seems likely they would have a more accurate figure by now.
I caught the Verne thing, and wasn't sure if it was deliberate or not at first, but I like it.
Great stuff as usual, of course (though I think hard and soft are transposed in the footnotes).
 
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