In 1930, long-distance flying was still a hazardous business, but as the decade progressed, the 1930s saw the establishment of commercial air routes throughout the world. By 1932, a regular service had been set up between London and Capetown; Colonel Lindbergh made a 29,000-mile air tour in 1933 to survey the world routes. England and Australia were linked by an airmail service in 1934, and, by island hopping; passengers could fly from San Francisco to Hong Kong in 1937. Flying over the Atlantic posed a problem because no airplane could fly for 2,000 miles without re-fuelling. But because of trial flights by the airlines, in 1939, the Boeing 314 flying boat, "Yankee Clipper," made the first airmail flight from New York to Spain and England.
During the 1930s, cars had most of the features that we enjoy today, but in America, cars were owned only by the middle and upper classes. During this period, the car bodies were designed to be more curvy and more streamlined and less box-like. Most of the cars had more headroom and legroom - although some models developed the low lines so that driver and passengers could scarcely see out. Engine performances improved because of better fuels, materials and design. "Balloon" tires' independent suspension gave a more comfortable ride. Direction indicators, such as the semaphore arm, which clicked out from a metal case on the side of the body came into use, as well as bumpers. Front windows had safety glass and the electric windshield wiper replaced the hand-operated wiper. There was a big demand for the sliding sun roofs. Station wagons became the all-purpose vehicle, but luggage was still carried on a steel rack fixed at the back of the car.
Finally, the back of the car was extended to accommodate the addition of the "boot" or "trunk." A notable advance occurred when Armstrong-Siddeley introduced a semi-automatic gear box, to be followed by the Daimler's Fluid Flywheel which did away with the clutch. By 1939, in America, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs had been fitted with a fully automatic gear change known as the G.M. Hydromantic.
In the '30s, electricity became available, transforming industry, entertainment and the home. "Faraday built the first electric motor in the 19th century, but, for many years, electric lighting and domestic gadgets were luxuries which only the rich could afford." The vast majority of the middle and low income still heated their houses with coal and used gas, oil or kerosene to light their homes. Industry relied on steam power and streets were dimly lit by gas.
"Advances in these areas did not come until the 20th century with the building of power stations in the more advanced countries and by the construction of national grids of transmission lines. By 1931, Charles Parsons' steam turbine had provided the world with vast quantities of electrical power. Electricity became essential for many industrial processes, for driving machines and making machine tools, for railways, cranes, lifts, collieries and rolling mills in the steel industry. The diesel-electric locomotive was a new source of power." The Ideal Home Exhibition held in London in the early 1920s, featured an all-electric house - which was mainly for light and heating. In the '30s, new houses were wired for electricity, but older homes could not afford the cost. Electric washing machines and wringers were manufactured in 1937, but were too expensive for the average household. Then there were all kinds of items offered to the public such as cookers, toasters and kettles - if they could afford them. Electricity became widely available also in Britain, Germany and Russia. "By the '30s, electricity had become the measure of civilization."
Scientific discoveries made in the '30s were used later in the military devices during WWII. "Early 'accelerator,' devised by J.D. Cockroft and E.T.S. Walton, the British atomic scientists who observed disintegration of a nucleus under impact of artificially accelerated particles. Following upon Rutherfords' discovery that the nucleus of the atom could be split, scientists from the United States, France and Germany worked out a new kind of physics. They explored properties of matter, the inner structure of the atom and its nucleus. Their work led to the nuclear explosion which ended World War II." New materials such as aluminum, polythene, nylon and synthetic rubber, as well as nickel chrome alloy were produced and used in jet planes. Research was developed in agriculture to increase quality and yields of crops and livestock. Chemists produced new fertilizers to increase crop yields; Silos and artificial driers were built; weed-control and crop-spraying were produced to get rid of pests; the use of tractors became more common, along with threshing-machines, reapers, binders and corn-harvesters. Medical science also improved such as the isolation of vitamins; immunization against yellow fever; a vaccine for polio; sulphanilomide drugs made their appearance. Then some of the more common discoveries, which most of us can relate to, were the inventions of the ballpoint pen, an amphibious tank, parking meters, pedestrian crossings and automatic traffic signals.
"DDT made its appearance and so did sound-proofing, an electrostatic copying process, and the absolute altimeter to prevent air crashes over mountains." And surprisingly, the theory of electronic computers was already understood.
(Continued next week)