Man’s love affair with the wheel 48



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A long time ago, men discovered the wheel, and cries of “Yippee!” were heard around the world!

No longer did they have to drag the little woman about by her hair, never again would they carry a deer on their backs to feed the family, and visiting the people in the cave just down the valley would be so much easier too.

They had to work out later that travel down was easy, but you still had to pull the thing back up again afterwards! It did mean though that if you were going down, not to visit the neighbours but to slaughter them, having some sort of vehicle meant you could take much more heavy armament with you, in the form of spears, rocks, etc. On top of that, the people who made the startling ‘wheel’ discovery were also in the process of taming horses, which they’d already discovered could pull things, and this very quickly led to the development of the chariot. Progress is swift when the desired result is killing other people!

And so began man’s love affair with what became the major means of transport, for many centuries.


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As suggested above it most likely started with the chariot, a machine taken to superb levels by the ancient Egyptians, light, fast moving, and could go pretty well anywhere a horse could go. The Romans developed the chariot further, into a massive machine, hefty enough to break down solid barriers and kill enemies. Some are even reputed to have attached large steel blades to the hubs for the purpose!

Hannibal never did discover the wheel, so he had to spend weary months crossing the steps of Asia and the Alps of Europe on an elephant; but he still beat up the Romans with their chariots!

By the middle ages, the wealthy of the world realised they could travel in much greater comfort if they put a lid on the chariot, added a couple more wheels and called it a coach, which required up to six horses to pull it, with the poor animals having to be changed every few miles, or they died! Quite inconvenient and very expensive! It also became necessary at about this time, to start building actual roads, so that the coaches had some chance of arriving at their destination, rather than being inescapably bogged in some forest glade!

The next great leap forward occurred when some bloke in Germany invented an engine, bolted it onto a carriage and chugged off down his local street, to the consternation, if not fear, of his neighbours; they had never seen anything traveling at eight miles an hour before, in fact the theory had always been that speeds like that would be fatal! As most people are aware, for quite a long time after this initial discovery, all cars had to proceed with a man walking in front carrying a red flag of warning, which rather defeated the object of having the vehicle in the first place!

From those early days cars developed exponentially, able to go faster, with greater comfort. Service stations opened up along roads, replacing the chemists’ shops which had at first been the only source of petrol, and new experts sprang up called mechanics, men capable of repairing the new fangled machines, a frequent requirement in those early days.

This brings us right up to date with the modern car, a metal magic carpet, capable of thinking for itself, telling us the way to go, providing more comfort than the average living room and demanding roads as smooth as the proverbial baby’s bottom.

It is generally, the second biggest investment the average family makes and it’s the greatest status symbol ever invented. It’s also one of the world’s most efficient polluters.

But the clincher is – what on earth would we do without them!?

Brian Lee

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