Cars in Time


If you’re trying to be accurate or simplify tracking when things happen in relationship to each other one of the best techniques is to build a timeline. For example Henry Ford was born in 1863, so they would stick in other events that happened in the 19th Century possibly and continue into the 20th and 21st Centuries.

The problem is that you only can see which events happened when. If the goal is to give a clear context then you need an element of scale. In our Henry Ford example, it would be good practice to work out an event we can relate to that establishes when 1863 actually occurred. For instance, WWII’s Pearl Harbor in 1941 was halfway between when Henry Ford was born and 2019 – it gives a better idea to how long ago 1863 was.

A generation is a cohort of people who were born roughly the same time and whose upbringing was shaped by large events and the resulting cultural responses to them. Each generation lasts about 30 years. So another way to think of a timeline is by the number of generations that have passed between events.

Cars needed to have red flags in front of them in 1896 which was four generations ago (doesn’t seem as long as near as that!) or halfway between Sputnik falling to Earth and The Bridge Over The River Kwai winning an Oscar in 1958 and now.

The first car which didn’t need a crank to start was patented in the US in 1903 which was slightly less than four generations ago or halfway between President John F Kennedy being sworn in, the release of 101 Dalmatians in cinemas and The Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961 and 2019.

The introduction of the assembly line began the Ford Motor Company in 1913. This is about 3 and a half generations ago, or half way between the Vietnam protests, and the debut of Batman and the release of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine in 1966 and 2019.

The first automatic transmission of gears was in 1939 by General Motors. This is just over 2 and a half generations ago, or half way between Pink Floyd’s The Wall concert, the film releases of Alien and Life of Brian in 1979 and 2019.

Electric fuel injection began in 1966 (note that the half way points for Henry Ford being born, cars needing to have red flags in front of them and a car which didn’t need a crank being patented has already happened at this point, and this is the half-way point for the assembly line). This is slightly more than 1 and a half generations ago or half-way between Bill Clinton being made president, the release of Jurassic Park and the first launch of Endeavour in 1993 and 2019.

The first mass produced Hybrid car, the Toyota Prius was launched in 1997 (note that all the half-way points above have now happened.). This is slightly less than one generation ago or half-way between Barrack Obama becoming president and the premier of Breaking Bad in 2008 and 2019.

You should now have a clearer idea of when events happened! Or quite possibly you are even more confused. It might be worth reading the article again, just to see if it makes any more sense the second time! Just a thought. Or Check out this timeline online.



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