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Sir Topham Hatt would not be pleased

Posted by Christopher Shea  May 15, 2009 02:12 PM

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Tom Vanderbilt, author of the entertaining and enlightening "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)," asks the following question: What technology has actually gotten worse -- in America, anyway -- since the early 20th century?

Trains. While the Japanese and French enjoy their superfast bullet and maglev trains, the United States has witnessed such developments as the following:

Going from Brattleboro, Vt., to New York City … took less than five hours in 1938; today, Amtrak's Vermonter (the only option) takes six hours -- if it's on time, which it isn't, nearly 75 percent of the time.
Some technologies have advanced faster even than sci-fi artists predicted. Not trains. (Left, a 1997 cell phone, as envisioned in the 1981 film "Escape from New York; right, an actual 1997 phone.)

(Photos from Statistical Modeling)

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1 comments so far...
  1. Wasn't "Escape from New York" set in a Manhattan-as-prison? If so, one might imagine that a well run system of cell towers would not be in place, so perhaps a better comparison would be a 1997 satellite phone (although it seems even less likely that these would be available). At any rate, something that didn't require such extensive infrastructure.

    Posted by jhm May 16, 09 10:43 AM
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