Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Why didn't the space programme invent the Kindle?

Why didn't the space programme invent the kindle?
Surely such a device would have been immensely valuable in an environment where both space and weight are restricted. It would probably have helped sell them as well, and provided an answer of sorts to all those people who keep banging on about traditional books being so wonderful (which they are). The notion that the space age required something different surely would have had some traction.
Of course, there are also modern arguments in favour of books, like carbon capture for instance. If the entire population of the world had ten extra books each, how much carbon would that take out of circulation?
Anyway, back to the space programme; we have often heard how going into space produces lots of really great innovations, though the only one I can ever remember is the biro that will write on the ceiling. Anyone who is an avid book reader is bound to wonder what the astronauts did with their time up there whizzing round and round the world. Even more so in the space station, sitting in a fairly small apartment for months on end.
I don't imagine that they took a pile of books with them, because the weight would be too much, though we do know from watching the Apollo 13 movie that at least one sneaked a small tape recorder on board. If they did take books someone would have been advertising those books by now as the best book to take into space with you.
Listening to 'The long view' on the BBC this morning I caught a one line explanation - they looked out of the window. The programme was comparing the Challenger ocean exploration voyage a hundred odd years ago with the space exploration by the shuttle. The Victorian pioneers apparently did read books when they were pottering along in quiet seas, but the spacemen looked out of the window.
I don't want to imply that this means that the space men were somehow not up to the mental task of reading, because we know that they are all both physically and intellectually top performers. What it does tell us is something of just how captivating and completely original the view from a spaceship must be. Something so novel in it's experience that it has to be watched whenever possible.
Another snippet of the programme explained that although the physical environment of the space station is restricted. (I'm struggling here not to say there is no space in a space station) You can however, make the most of it because weightlessness means that the ceiling is as good as the floor or walls to store things. What they didn't do was store things near portholes because the crew wanted to spend their free time sitting there and looking out.
OK so all this is hearsay off a radio programme and I have no idea how true it is, but maybe it does explain why the space programme didn't invent the kindle.

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