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Cranks of the Dark Ages
March 8, 2007 4:15 PM   Subscribe

The dark ages of western Europe – nasty, brutish, and short -- did nevertheless produce technical innovations in metallurgy, agriculture, and, as identified in the Utrecht Psalter, a groundbreaking simple machine: the crank.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (22 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
There were no "Dark Ages"
posted by stbalbach at 4:56 PM on March 8, 2007


can I be the first commenter to be amused by the headline in the last link: "SOME SIDELIGHTS ON THE HISTORY OF BORING TOOLS"?
posted by scruss at 5:00 PM on March 8, 2007


"Boring tools"; either a wonderfully misspelled invective or an amusing double entendre.
posted by quin at 5:06 PM on March 8, 2007


MetaFilter has no shortage of cranks.
posted by wendell at 5:13 PM on March 8, 2007


Thanks!
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:57 PM on March 8, 2007


Yes. Thanks.
posted by philfromhavelock at 6:03 PM on March 8, 2007


Metafilter: Home for Boring Tools
posted by miss lynnster at 6:35 PM on March 8, 2007


no, miss lynnster, that would be CiX ...
posted by scruss at 7:32 PM on March 8, 2007


The Middle Ages may have been nasty and brutish, but short they were not. Also, the phrase is part of a longer statement by Thomas Hobbes on the condition of man: "...the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short."

That is how boring is spelled, in both senses. It's been momentarily amusing to generations of machinists.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2007


Nasty, brutish and short, yo.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:04 PM on March 8, 2007


I meant 'Boaring tools', of course KG.

Yep. That is totally the case. Didn't make a rookie mistake. Nope, not me. Boaring, that is the joke I was going for.
posted by quin at 8:25 PM on March 8, 2007


"Boring tools" ...

For ages, if you looked up 'Boring' in the U.K. Yellow Pages, it said: "See: Civil Engineering."
posted by carter at 8:33 PM on March 8, 2007


Heh. My dad was an engineer for many years. And yep, he's boring. And -- love him lots -- but he's kind of a tool too. Good ol' dad.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:53 PM on March 8, 2007


I'm not that into boring cranks but I do have to support a thread on a book from Universiteit Utrecht. Go alma mater!
posted by jouke at 9:59 PM on March 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I heard on the History Channel that the problem in the Dark Ages was not enough God.
posted by washburn at 10:18 PM on March 8, 2007


So, would the period of, say, 800-1000 be considered the Late Early Middle Ages?
posted by FreedomTickler at 10:51 PM on March 8, 2007


What stbalbach and Kirth Gerson said. Interesting article though.
posted by greycap at 11:05 PM on March 8, 2007


Also, the phrase is part of a longer statement by Thomas Hobbes on the condition of man: "...the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short."

solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 11:09 PM on March 8, 2007


It was the "Dark Ages" 'cause it was Knight Time!

(dodges blows, scurries away)
posted by pax digita at 5:35 AM on March 9, 2007


I always had trouble believing that the crank wasn't invented in the west until the ninth century, considering the greeks and romans had levers, pulleys, gears, wheel + axles, and screws.

The crank is the single most important machine of the industrial age, after the steam engine. The crank allowed the power of the engine to be harvested for rotational motion enabling leaps in transportation and mechanization.

For a pictures of cranks and other simple machines. Java animation of a crank.

It's amazing to think that our modern world is a result of century long gaps between the invention of extremely simple devices.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:35 AM on March 9, 2007


I have never understood why Cranks and Cams are 2 different things. The direction of the conversion from linear to rotary and back shouldn't make a difference should it?
posted by Megafly at 12:04 PM on March 9, 2007


The Romans actually had the crank but it was treated as more of a laboratory curiosity.

Who needs a clever solution to a problem when you can just throw a bunch of slave labor at the job.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2007


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