Missiles and rockets guided by “machines that think” are already in the air. Do our fantastic plans for tomorrow doom all piloted aifcraft?

By R. C. Sebold,
Vice President of Engineering, Convair, As told to B. W. Von Block

THE war of the future? Giant intercontinental missiles hurtle through space at 10,000 miles an hour —untouched by human hands. Pushbuttons send a screen of supersonic interceptor missiles streaking skyward to blast the attackers to bits with atomic warheads. . .

This is what you read in Sunday supplements. Tomorrow, say the aeronautical crystal gazers, the only humans left in the skies will be passengers. Not only fighters and bombers will be controlled by electronic brains, but so will commercial passenger and cargo transports. The pilot, these pundits claim, just isn’t stylish anymore.


Mounted on rocking-horses, recruits of the British cavalry are now receiving preliminary training in horsemanship. At the Army Equestrian School, at Weedon, England, the wooden horses were recently installed to give rookies the feel of the saddle and practice in mounting and dismounting before they tackle the spirited animals stabled at the school. In advanced horsemanship, the wooden horses are also employed in teaching acrobatics and trick riding. They are said to be especially useful in helping riders acquire the right balance when a horse takes a hurdle. Dismounting from one of the rocking-horses, by means of the spectacular neck-roll, is being demonstrated in the photograph by the chief instructor.

Are Skyscrapers Bombproof? (May, 1941)

Are Skyscrapers Bombproof?

American Type of Building May Be Answer to Raiders

AMERICAN skyscrapers, often the butt of foreigners’ jokes, stand ready to attain a new and indispensable usefulness. In the view of experts, they constitute a highly satisfactory, if not impregnable, defense against all types of bomb attacks. Even without added safeguards, they can safely protect millions of city dwellers and workers from explosives, gas, and incendiaries. And by the addition of sandbags and steel in vital sectors, they can be made almost as safe as the most elaborate shelter.

naval fire-control… AND FORD INSTRUMENT COMPANY (Mar, 1955)

These ads for Ford Instruments are so weird. They are all for military components and they all use puppets… Could you imagine Boeing using Miss Piggy in an ad for cruise missiles?


Firing at a target many miles away from a pitching and rolling ship, steaming at full speed, requires rapid, complicated computations. Special computers and drives must do this job.

Throughout the past forty years, engineers of Ford Instrument Company have been specialists in this field — from their design of the earliest Rangekeeper in World War I to the latest great Naval electro-mechanical-electronic computers. As in their missile and aircraft instruments, their nuclear controls and weapon systems, the criteria of dependability and precision are the characteristics of Ford designed and manufactured computers and controls.

Secrets of the Mystery Gun that Shelled Paris (Jun, 1930)

Secrets of the Mystery Gun that Shelled Paris


Chief Artillery Engineer, A.E.F.

The secrets of the Paris Gun! For the first time in any magazine, Modern Mechanics here reveals the inside facts concerning the most startling and closely-guarded mystery of the World war—the official story of the giant German guns which, in 1918, dropped shells on Paris from a distance of 75 miles, a feat so incredible that artillery experts refused to believe it possible, thinking for a time that the shells were bombs dropped by high-flying aircraft. After the war the guns were destroyed and all information concerning them locked in secret archives. It was declared high treason, punishable by death, for anyone who possessed vital information concerning the guns ever to divulge it. Nevertheless, Col. Miller, author of this article and of the gripping book, “The Paris Gun,” obtained military pictures and technical secrets from confidential German sources which has enabled him to reveal to Modern Mechanics’ readers the astonishing story of the longest range guns the world has ever known.

New Boeing “Death Angel” to be World’s Fastest Bomber (Aug, 1931)

I just think “Death Angel” is a cool name for a plane.

New Boeing “Death Angel” to be World’s Fastest Bomber

THE latest addition to Uncle Sam’s air forces is a veritable flying fortress-Dubbed the “Death Angel” because she is capable of attaining highest speed of any bomber and can carry a ton of explosives, four machine guns fore and aft and a crew of five men, the giant Boeing bombing plane shown above will prove one of the nation’s most fearful weapons. The plane has a wing spread of 86 feet and is powered by two 575 h.p. motors mounted in the wings.

World’s Greatest Radio Listening Post (Apr, 1936)

World’s Greatest Radio Listening Post

RADIO fans take pride in the number of stations they can “log” and verify, especially if these are at a great distance. Contests for the most successful listening are as popular, now that one may hear Australia or South America, as they were in the days when people sat up in the hope of hearing Pittsburgh or Schenectady. However, the prize for the world’s most systematic listening should go to Mdlle. Marianne (the personification of the French Republic, as Uncle Sam is that of the United States). She has erected the world’s most elaborate receiving station for the purpose of listening to and recording broadcasts, as illustrated here.

Safety Computer Forecasts Atomic Fall-out Pattern (May, 1956)

Safety Computer Forecasts Atomic Fall-out Pattern

How “safe” is it to test an atom bomb ? Will wind-blown radioactive dust or charged rain clouds endanger life or crops in inhabited regions?

The National Bureau of Standards recently developed a “portable” analog computer to assist in predicting radioactive fall-out from a nuclear explosion. The fall-out pattern appears instantly on oscilloscope (left of photo) after weather data and the size and type of bomb are “told to” the computer by setting dials. As computers go, “portable” means that it will fit into a truck.

Wind-carried fall-out even from “small” atomic tests has traveled as far as Paris and Tokyo when caught in the “jet stream” of the upper atmosphere.

German Firemen Protected by Odd Sprinkler System (Feb, 1931)

German Firemen Protected by Odd Sprinkler System

IT’S a far cry from the old bucket brigade to modern fire-fighting efficiency. Even now the American fireman is known as a “smoke-eater,” but that term would hardly fit the present day fire laddie in Germany, for with the new portable sprinkler system adopted by some of the larger cities of that country a fireman may approach quite close to the flames without becoming singed.

The outfit, which looks like a deep sea diver’s uniform is equipped with a sprinkler helmet which operates off a connection attached to the nozzle of the hose. The fireman can control the spray by a simple movement of a hand lever.

“Nerve Center” Guards New York (Oct, 1941)

“Nerve Center” Guards New York

ARMY AIR CORPS SETS UP ELABORATE DEFENSE SYSTEM AMERICA’S most elaborate air-defense information center has just been completed in New York City. It is the best equipped in the world. Minute-by-minute reports from more than 6,000 field observers will enable Air Corps experts, working” at tables that resemble pieces from a giant jig-saw puzzle, to plot the progress of enemy bombers and to direct the swift climb and attack of interceptor planes.