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Old 01-04-2017, 09:38 AM   #21
ericthered
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

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Originally Posted by maximara View Post
As James Burke described it the process was well within the TL2 Rome had: Design a reusable mold (bronze statues), carve the letter in a soft copper bar (around since the Greeks), and pour molten lead in the mold (Romans used lead for the pipes). Nothing in that list was beyond the ability of the TL2 Romans.
Romans are a poor example for TL2. They're very much pushing TL 3. Look instead at ancient Persia or Babylon, the Germanic tribes the Romans found, and pre-alexandrian Greece. Romans are TL2 in the same way World War II is TL6.

But yes, TL3 is probably sufficient for moveable type.
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Old 01-04-2017, 09:44 AM   #22
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

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Romans are a poor example for TL2. They're very much pushing TL 3. Look instead at ancient Persia or Babylon, the Germanic tribes the Romans found, and pre-alexandrian Greece. Romans are TL2 in the same way World War II is TL6.
Yeah, at a certain point, you have to stop arguing that a civilisation is advanced in x, y, z and maybe several other areas and acknowledge that maybe it is better described with a higher base TL.

Showing an earlier culture at TL3 when some later cultures were still TL2 would also be a good first step in getting rid of that pesky assumption of history as an inevitable progression to our inimitable selves, which often seems hard-coded into many people's view of the world.
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Old 01-04-2017, 12:20 PM   #23
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

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Several things here

The first known Encyclopedia was Natural History and dates from c77 CE. It consisted of 37 chapters spread over 10 books.
Yes, but Pliny is almost useless at learning any practical craft. Its a book of "cool facts about nature from my library." Diderot's Encyclopédie is a very different project, designed to preserve and spread the knowledge of Enlightenment France, including things which had previously never been written. It is one branch of a project which started to take shape in the 17th and 18th centuries which includes things like patent law, professional journals, agricultural fairs, etc. and argued that the kind of knowledge which experts had traditionally hoarded should be open to all in order to further progress.

One cool thing is that this project is still ongoing! It has won many battles over the past 300 years, but there are still trade secrets and very expensive books and datasets and long copyright terms. Arguments about "security through obscurity" and how to distribute academic research are just the latest skirmishes.

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Latin had been standardized 75 BCE and when the Western Roman empire fell apart it became the defacto international language of what had been the Western Roman empire.

Because the Muslim world, India, and China didn't have this common language cultural exchange between their cultures and the old Western Roman Empire was limited.
Things were translated when enough people wanted them to be (and most technical texts had been in Greek anyways) but writing had a very small role in the spread of technology even inside one language region. As I said, no early printed book describing how to make armour has left any trace on the present, but there is lots of evidence for a town which wanted to develop its armour industry luring journeymen and masters from a town with a strong industry.
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Old 01-04-2017, 02:54 PM   #24
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

Sean's right: the printing press had almost nothing at all to do with the spread of technology between cultures.

Anthony's right: the Romans could not have developed a Gutenberg-style printing press (movable type made from lead won't work). The best they could have done is wood-block printing.
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Old 01-04-2017, 03:32 PM   #25
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Were the Romans incapable of reproducing the lead-tin-antinomy alloy used to make Gutenberg's type? They clearly had access to all three metals in some form, but apparently not metallic antimony. But Gutenberg didn't have access to metallic antimony, either, so I'm not sure why that's a limitation.

Gutenberg also had to re-engineer the hand press to apply pressure more consistently across the entire press. I'm not sure if that modification was beyond Roman engineering or just something they hadn't need to do because it's an unnecessary frill when you're pressing olives.
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Old 01-04-2017, 03:36 PM   #26
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

I thought that another often overlooked necessity to the printing press was the invention of the right inks.
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Old 01-04-2017, 04:08 PM   #27
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

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Were the Romans incapable of reproducing the lead-tin-antinomy alloy used to make Gutenberg's type? They clearly had access to all three metals in some form, but apparently not metallic antimony. But Gutenberg didn't have access to metallic antimony, either, so I'm not sure why that's a limitation.

Gutenberg also had to re-engineer the hand press to apply pressure more consistently across the entire press. I'm not sure if that modification was beyond Roman engineering or just something they hadn't need to do because it's an unnecessary frill when you're pressing olives.
If Gutenberg travelled back in time, retaining all of his knowledge, he probably could have developed his printing press using Roman technology. The Romans could not make the same advance for a whole host of technological and sociological reasons including the lack of precursor skills and technologies and the availability of cheap slave labour.
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Old 01-04-2017, 06:23 PM   #28
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

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James Burke is a journalist, not an engineer. Pure-ish lead is a bad type metal: it shrinks too fast as it cools to take a sharp impression, and wears and spreads too fast in use. Guttenberg developed a lead-tin-antimony alloy, after a lot of effort. I'd question the Romans' ability to develop that technology without knowing it was possible in advance.
Good point. They could use wood type as the Chinese did. Wouldn't be as durable as metal type but it would be better then pure lead.

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If Gutenberg travelled back in time, retaining all of his knowledge, he probably could have developed his printing press using Roman technology. The Romans could not make the same advance for a whole host of technological and sociological reasons including the lack of precursor skills and technologies and the availability of cheap slave labour.
Lest Darkness Falls is a novel about a 20th century man being sent back to 535 CE and he redevelops the printing press with very basic knowledge on how it worked.

Technologically the Roman could have developed the printing press. The precursor skills were there but the incentive to put them together wasn't

Slaves that were able to read and write were rare though exactly how much of the Roman population free and slave was literate is debated (I have seen it as low as 5% and as high as 30%). Also Mechanization (of a sort) existing in Roman times with water power being the go to. Thanks to the cam water power could pound objects faster and harder then any human being.

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Originally Posted by mlangsdorf View Post
Were the Romans incapable of reproducing the lead-tin-antinomy alloy used to make Gutenberg's type? They clearly had access to all three metals in some form, but apparently not metallic antimony. But Gutenberg didn't have access to metallic antimony, either, so I'm not sure why that's a limitation.

Gutenberg also had to re-engineer the hand press to apply pressure more consistently across the entire press. I'm not sure if that modification was beyond Roman engineering or just something they hadn't need to do because it's an unnecessary frill when you're pressing olives.
Of course we are debating what is possible without magic. With magic (especially common magic) the TL goes pear shaped real fast. Take the lowly Copy spell, anybody literate who knows Dye can learn it.

One of the things medieval monasteries did was copy what survived the Western Roman empire going down the tubes. In fantasy terms we are talking about normal to high sanctuary with many monks having Blessed or even better Power Investiture making the Copy spell a very common spell.

Last edited by maximara; 01-04-2017 at 07:12 PM.
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Old 01-04-2017, 08:17 PM   #29
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Even today one of the reasons that places like Silicon Valley exist is because it is easier to hire skilled workers in a narrow specialty to get the rest of your workers up to speed on it. So you setup shop near others in the field.
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Old 01-05-2017, 04:17 PM   #30
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Default Re: Trouble with Armor and Worldbuilding

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Lest Darkness Falls is a novel about a 20th century man being sent back to 535 CE and he redevelops the printing press with very basic knowledge on how it worked.
That is a novel, not a historical document. Realistically he couldn't have done this without Gutenberg's rather specialised knowledge and skillset.
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