First use of a count-down in SF?

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Marcus L. Rowland

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Sep 21, 2002, 7:45:58 PM9/21/02
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I think it was in RASFF several months ago that someone was asking about
the first use of a count-down in SF. At the time several people, myself
included, said that it was in a German film, Lang's _Die Frau im Mond_
(The Girl in the Moon) of 1929.

Well, I've got news for everyone. We were wrong.

Here's a quote from the final chapter of George Griffith's _The World
Peril of 1910_, published in 1907, describing the firing of an
interplanetary gun to destroy a comet on a collision course with the
Earth. This is on pages 308-9 of what I assume is the first edition:

The chronometers began to tick off the seconds of the last minute. The
wings of the comet spread out vaster and vaster and its now flaming
nucleus blazed brighter and brighter. A low, vague wailing sound seemed
to be running through the multitudes which thronged the semicircle of
moors. It was the first and perhaps the last utterance of the agony of
unendurable suspense.

Again Lennard spoke:

"Twenty seconds."

And then he began to count "Nine- eight- seven- six- five- four- three-
two- Now!"

The two fingers went down at the same instant and completed the
circuits. The next, the central fires of the earth seemed to have burst
loose. A roar such as had never deafened human ears before thundered
from earth to heaven...

OK, I'd guess that this is possibly the first usage in SF. Unless, of
course, someone knows better.

Incidentally, Griffith wasn't exactly the most imaginative author of the
time, so it seems likely that some sort of count-down was already
standard practice at the time he was writing.
--
Marcus L. Rowland http://www.ffutures.demon.co.uk/
http://www.forgottenfutures.com/
Forgotten Futures - The Scientific Romance Role Playing Game
"Life is chaos; Chaos is life; Control is an illusion." - Andromeda

Mark R. Leeper

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Sep 21, 2002, 9:16:49 PM9/21/02
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I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a
count-down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE
MOON. Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.

Marcus L. Rowland

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Sep 22, 2002, 3:38:40 AM9/22/02
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In article <3D8D1A01...@optonline.net>, Mark R. Leeper
<mle...@optonline.net> writes

>I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
>rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
>in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
>firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a count-
>down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE MOON.
>Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.
>

I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between launching an
interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.

Dan Kimmel

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Sep 22, 2002, 6:41:12 AM9/22/02
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"Marcus L. Rowland" <mrow...@ffutures.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
news:78zZpsAA...@ffutures.demon.co.uk...

> In article <3D8D1A01...@optonline.net>, Mark R. Leeper
> <mle...@optonline.net> writes
> >I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
> >rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
> >in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
> >firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a count-
> >down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE MOON.
> >Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.
> >
>
> I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between launching an
> interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.

I do. In the former case there are people aboard and there is the intent to
bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a target.

And while I hesitate to correct Mark Leeper, who has probably forgotten more
about obscure SF films than I'll ever know, Lang claimed not to have
"borrowed" the idea at all. Willy Ley, who was an advisor on the film,
wrote in _Rockets, Missiles, and Men in Space_ (and I'm quoting from a
citation in _Fritz Lang: Nature of the Beast_): "Knowing that Fritz Lang has
been in the Austrian Army in the First World War, I asked him whether he had
adapted some military practice which used a countdown. He replied that he
had thought it up for dramatic purposes when working on the film..."

And while the earlier citation is fascinating, the real question is which
one is likely to have been known to the people launching America's space
program? Ley and Hermann Oberth were both advisors on the film who later
worked in the US. How many people were reading a long-forgotten novel by a
not very talented writer?


David G. Bell

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Sep 22, 2002, 9:20:08 AM9/22/02
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On Sunday, in article
<c7hj9.49124$jG2.3...@bgtnsc05-news.ops.worldnet.att.net>
dan.k...@worldnet.att.net "Dan Kimmel" wrote:

> "Marcus L. Rowland" <mrow...@ffutures.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
> news:78zZpsAA...@ffutures.demon.co.uk...
> > In article <3D8D1A01...@optonline.net>, Mark R. Leeper
> > <mle...@optonline.net> writes
> > >I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
> > >rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
> > >in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
> > >firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a count-
> > >down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE MOON.
> > >Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.
> > >
> >
> > I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between launching an
> > interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
>
> I do. In the former case there are people aboard and there is the intent to
> bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a target.
>
> And while I hesitate to correct Mark Leeper, who has probably forgotten more
> about obscure SF films than I'll ever know, Lang claimed not to have
> "borrowed" the idea at all. Willy Ley, who was an advisor on the film,
> wrote in _Rockets, Missiles, and Men in Space_ (and I'm quoting from a
> citation in _Fritz Lang: Nature of the Beast_): "Knowing that Fritz Lang has
> been in the Austrian Army in the First World War, I asked him whether he had
> adapted some military practice which used a countdown. He replied that he
> had thought it up for dramatic purposes when working on the film..."

And the idea of a countdown may have been floating around in other areas
too, perhaps motorsport. I'm not going to claim any knowledge of the
history of that, but it doesn't seem impossible that a countdown was
used for starting competitors off on time trials and the like, even pre-
WW1.

> And while the earlier citation is fascinating, the real question is which
> one is likely to have been known to the people launching America's space
> program? Ley and Hermann Oberth were both advisors on the film who later
> worked in the US. How many people were reading a long-forgotten novel by a
> not very talented writer?

The chain of how it got into the US seems tolerably obvious -- Operation
Paperclip -- but that doesn't rule out an alternative source.

--
David G. Bell -- SF Fan, Filker, and Punslinger.

"Let me get this straight. You're the KGB's core AI, but you're afraid
of a copyright infringement lawsuit over your translator semiotics?"
From "Lobsters" by Charles Stross.

mike weber

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Sep 22, 2002, 10:11:28 AM9/22/02
to
On Sat, 21 Sep 2002 21:16:49 -0400, "Mark R. Leeper"
<mle...@optonline.net> typed

>I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
>rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
>in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
>firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a
>count-down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE
>MOON. Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.

Actually, i believe Melies did it in an earlier film -- granted, it
was a gun, but it was a Moon-expedition launch
--
=============================================================
"They put manure in his well and they made him talk to lawyers!"
-- Cat Ballou
mike weber -- <mike....@electronictiger.com>
Book Reviews & More -- http://electronictiger.com

Marcus L. Rowland

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Sep 22, 2002, 3:44:34 PM9/22/02
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In article <0rjrougjfvb5n3ght...@4ax.com>, mike weber
<mike....@electronictiger.com> writes

>
>>I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
>>rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
>>in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
>>firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a
>>count-down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE
>>MOON. Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.
>
>Actually, i believe Melies did it in an earlier film -- granted, it was
>a gun, but it was a Moon-expedition launch

OK, that's one that would certainly have been seen by Lang etc., so
another example of priority over Lang. As I said in my original post,
Griffith probably wouldn't have thought of it for himself, his mind
didn't seem to work that way, so I agree that it's likely that a count-
down was standard practice for blasting, big guns, etc.

It's funny how several people have suddenly shifted the goal-posts from
"first count-down in SF" to "first count-down of a rocket in SF." Unless
that was the original question, of course, and I'm remembering it wrong.

Kip Williams

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Sep 22, 2002, 7:32:37 PM9/22/02
to
Marcus L. Rowland wrote:
> In article <0rjrougjfvb5n3ght...@4ax.com>, mike weber
> <mike....@electronictiger.com> writes
>
>>>I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
>>>rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
>>>in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
>>>firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a
>>>count-down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE
>>>MOON. Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.
>>
>>Actually, i believe Melies did it in an earlier film -- granted, it was
>>a gun, but it was a Moon-expedition launch
>
>
> OK, that's one that would certainly have been seen by Lang etc., so
> another example of priority over Lang. As I said in my original post,
> Griffith probably wouldn't have thought of it for himself, his mind
> didn't seem to work that way, so I agree that it's likely that a count-
> down was standard practice for blasting, big guns, etc.
>
> It's funny how several people have suddenly shifted the goal-posts from
> "first count-down in SF" to "first count-down of a rocket in SF." Unless
> that was the original question, of course, and I'm remembering it wrong.

At first, they tried counting up. Two days later, they were still
counting. The launch was scrubbed while they conferred. A few
minutes later, they tried plan B, which involved counting up again,
but starting from negative ten. Then the engineers started started
saying "T" before each number (minus ten, etc), and a tradition was
born. Rumor has it, the T stands for Tradition, but we can't verify it.

--
--Kip (Williams) ...at members.cox.net/kipw
Beaver: "Oh, he didn't cheat a whole lot, just enough to win."
Gilbert: "That's all you got to cheat, just enough to win." ("Leave
it to Beaver")

Dan Kimmel

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Sep 22, 2002, 7:33:55 PM9/22/02
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"Marcus L. Rowland" <mrow...@ffutures.demon.co.uk> wrote in message
news:GixZvVAi...@ffutures.demon.co.uk...

> In article <0rjrougjfvb5n3ght...@4ax.com>, mike weber
> <mike....@electronictiger.com> writes
> >
> >>I think the point is that Fritz Lang did the first count-down to a
> >>rocket blast off. Lang needed a way to dramatize the firing of a rocket
> >>in his film. He borrowed the idea from the use of countdowns to the
> >>firing of guns in World War I. Lang was the first to associate a
> >>count-down with a rocket firing in DIE FRAU IM MOND or THE WOMAN IN THE
> >>MOON. Griffith may indeed have been the first use in science fiction.
> >
> >Actually, i believe Melies did it in an earlier film -- granted, it was
> >a gun, but it was a Moon-expedition launch
>
> OK, that's one that would certainly have been seen by Lang etc., so
> another example of priority over Lang. As I said in my original post,
> Griffith probably wouldn't have thought of it for himself, his mind
> didn't seem to work that way, so I agree that it's likely that a count-
> down was standard practice for blasting, big guns, etc.
>
> It's funny how several people have suddenly shifted the goal-posts from
> "first count-down in SF" to "first count-down of a rocket in SF." Unless
> that was the original question, of course, and I'm remembering it wrong.

I am very familiar with Melies' "Voyage to the Moon." There is no countdown
in it, not even in the version that includes his scripted narration.


Mark R. Leeper

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Sep 23, 2002, 7:33:21 AM9/23/02
to

Marcus L. Rowland wrote:

> In article <0rjrougjfvb5n3ght...@4ax.com>, mike weber
> <mike....@electronictiger.com> writes
>

>>Actually, i believe Melies did it in an earlier film -- granted, it was

>>a gun, but it was a Moon-expedition launch
>
> OK, that's one that would certainly have been seen by Lang etc., so
> another example of priority over Lang.


How quickly someone says something and it is accepted as truth. :-) Mike
just said only *he believed* that there was a count-down in Melies.
Mike simply remembers wrong.

Actually, the scene has dancing girls come out. Then a man come out
with a taper, climbs the ladder to the back of the cannon, lights the
fuse, and the gun goes off. There just is no count-down in the Melies.


> As I said in my original post,
> Griffith probably wouldn't have thought of it for himself, his mind
> didn't seem to work that way, so I agree that it's likely that a count-
> down was standard practice for blasting, big guns, etc.


It was. That was how Lang saw about it. It is a natural thing to do.
I used to work in a high school photo-lab that had a timer with a loud
buzzer. People needed to know when the timer would go off so they
didn't jump and spill chemicals so someone would be responsible to count
down. They had me do it a few times, but I used to start the countdown
a few seconds late so it buzzed when I got to six. That was just as
effective.


>
> It's funny how several people have suddenly shifted the goal-posts from
> "first count-down in SF" to "first count-down of a rocket in SF."


I did that. Countdowns come naturally. It's like asking where was the
word "equator" first used in SF. But countdowns have become closely
associated with dramatic rocket launches so the question was who was the
first to do that. That was Lang.

Alan Braggins

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Sep 23, 2002, 1:29:03 PM9/23/02
to
"Dan Kimmel" <dan.k...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
> > I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between launching an
> > interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
>
> I do. In the former case there are people aboard and there is the intent to
> bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a target.

Griffith's gun, yes. What about Verne's gun with people in the shell
intended to come back alive?

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey

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Sep 23, 2002, 2:49:54 PM9/23/02
to
On Mon, 23 Sep 2002, Mark R. Leeper wrote:

> Marcus L. Rowland wrote:
>
> > In article <0rjrougjfvb5n3ght...@4ax.com>, mike weber
> > <mike....@electronictiger.com> writes
> >
>
> >>Actually, i believe Melies did it in an earlier film -- granted, it was
> >>a gun, but it was a Moon-expedition launch
> >
> > OK, that's one that would certainly have been seen by Lang etc., so
> > another example of priority over Lang.
>
>
> How quickly someone says something and it is accepted as truth. :-) Mike
> just said only *he believed* that there was a count-down in Melies.
> Mike simply remembers wrong.
>
> Actually, the scene has dancing girls come out. Then a man come out
> with a taper, climbs the ladder to the back of the cannon, lights the
> fuse, and the gun goes off. There just is no count-down in the Melies.

Too bad later rocketeers followed Lang, instead of Melies. It would be nice
to see dancing girls come out before each launch. (Note that football games
have both a countdown clock AND dancing girls.)

> > As I said in my original post,
> > Griffith probably wouldn't have thought of it for himself, his mind
> > didn't seem to work that way, so I agree that it's likely that a count-
> > down was standard practice for blasting, big guns, etc.
>
>
> It was. That was how Lang saw about it. It is a natural thing to do.
> I used to work in a high school photo-lab that had a timer with a loud
> buzzer. People needed to know when the timer would go off so they
> didn't jump and spill chemicals so someone would be responsible to count
> down. They had me do it a few times, but I used to start the countdown
> a few seconds late so it buzzed when I got to six. That was just as
> effective.

Yet someone gave this man a degree in mathematics!

I think Marcus's discovery of Griffith's countdown is pretty neat.

Anyway, the last time Mark and I had a public discussion about this
<http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1995Jul21.190912%40fnalv.fnal.gov&output=gplain>,
I posted the following. It includes the quote from Ley's conversation with
Fritz Lang, in which, as Dan Kimmel has already pointed out, Lang denies
that his movie countdown derived from artillery countdowns.

My reference to "the guys at the Raketenflugplatz" below is to Wernher von
Braun and other Berlin rocket enthusiasts, who knew Hermann Oberth when he
was technical adviser on the movie, and who used some of the scrounged
equipment left over from Oberth's failed movie-publicity-stunt rockets in
their more successful rocket launches in the 1930s.

Anothe example of SF movies influencing rocket guys occurs to me. Marc
Rayman, who led JPL's Deep Space One team in operating the first ion-engine
spacecraft to escape the Earth, is a big *Star Trek* fan. When DS1 was in
space and ready to fire its fancy engine for the first time, and the
checkouts were done, everyone's attention turned to Rayman.

"Engage!" he said.

Bill Higgins
hig...@fnal.gov

=====
From: hig...@fnalv.fnal.gov (Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey)
Subject: The Countdown (was Re: Realistic film portrayals of spaceflight)
Date: 1995/07/21
Message-ID: <1995Jul2...@fnalv.fnal.gov>#1/1
references: <1995Jul1...@fnalv.fnal.gov>
<3u4ual$3...@vixen.cso.uiuc.edu> <
3uhsn1$q...@insosf1.netins.net>
organization: Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
newsgroups: rec.arts.sf.movies


[Tried to post this the other day and apparently it didn't get through.
Let's try again.]

In article <DBxyL...@nntpa.cb.att.com>, lee...@mtsol.mt.att.com (Mark R.
Leep
er) writes:
> In article <1995Jul1...@fnalv.fnal.gov>,
> Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey <hig...@fnalv.fnal.gov> wrote:
>>*Die Frau im Mond* (1929) [The Girl in the Moon]
> Each of these was accurate for its time, though it is hard to think
> of the first two as being really accurate on an absolute scale. FRAU
> is fairly accurate until the people get to the moon (except for the
> launch from under water). Thanks for reminding people that this
> great old silent film existed.

It pays much more attention to technical accuracy than any film before
it and many since. Also, Hermann Oberth was Lang's technical advisor,
and the film is intertwined with the story of German rocketry in an
interesting way.

> Lang had an inspiration.
> During WWI the artillery gunners had to warn people to protect their
> ears when the big guns were to go off. The gunners used to count down
> from ten to zero, with zero when the gun would fire. Lang decided to
> try that to build tension in his film. I have read that the fictional
> rocket in his film was the first to ever get a countdown.

Yes. Also, the guys working at the Raketenflugplatz loved the movie
(as did rocket experimenters in all other countries), and when they
got around to building and flying real rockets, they adopted Lang's
countdown, which now seems perfectly logical.

I hadn't heard the artillery story before, and, though it sounds
plausible, it is contradicted by Willy Ley in the following quote.
(Which doesn't mean it's not true.) In the 1968 umpty-umpth edition
of *Rockets, Missiles, and Men in Space*, is a footnote on p. 259
where somebody asks Ley about the origin of the countdown:

"Thinking back, I realized to my own surprise that it had first
been used in the film *Frau Iim Mond*. This was a silent movie,
and at one point the words "10 seconds to go" flashed on the
screen, followed by numbers, "6-5-4-3-2-1-0-FIRE." Knowing that
Fritz Lang had been in the Austrian Army in the First World War, I


asked him whether he had adapted some military practice which used
a countdown. He replied that he had thought it up for dramatic

purposes when working on the film; on a proving ground nobody would
possibly *think* of that side effect!"

Sloppily Executed Ideas Department: | Bill Higgins
I'm listed in the *Internet White Pages* | Fermilab
under "JOCKEY, Bill Higgins-- Beam." | Internet: higgins@OBSOLETE
Look it up. | Bitnet: higgins@OBSOLETE

Kip Williams

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Sep 23, 2002, 7:06:40 PM9/23/02
to

Isn't that where Ghost In The Shell came from?

mike weber

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Sep 23, 2002, 8:56:46 PM9/23/02
to
On Mon, 23 Sep 2002 07:33:21 -0400, "Mark R. Leeper"
<mle...@optonline.net> typed

>

>How quickly someone says something and it is accepted as truth. :-) Mike

>just said only *he believed* that there was a count-down in Melies.
>Mike simply remembers wrong.

Having never seen the film, i was going on remembrance ot commentaries
i read/heard longlongago. Which is why i phrased it that way.


>
>Actually, the scene has dancing girls come out. Then a man come out
>with a taper, climbs the ladder to the back of the cannon, lights the
>fuse, and the gun goes off. There just is no count-down in the Melies.
>

--

Kip Williams

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Sep 23, 2002, 9:44:18 PM9/23/02
to
mike weber wrote:
> On Mon, 23 Sep 2002 07:33:21 -0400, "Mark R. Leeper"
> <mle...@optonline.net> typed
>
>>How quickly someone says something and it is accepted as truth. :-) Mike
>>just said only *he believed* that there was a count-down in Melies.
>>Mike simply remembers wrong.
>
> Having never seen the film, i was going on remembrance ot commentaries
> i read/heard longlongago. Which is why i phrased it that way.

I was just wondering how long they've used countdowns in film leader.

Dan Kimmel

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Sep 23, 2002, 10:18:15 PM9/23/02
to

"Alan Braggins" <ar...@chiark.greenend.org.uk> wrote in message
news:4u1y7ko...@chiark.greenend.org.uk...

What about it? I don't believe Verne has a "countdown."


Dan Kimmel

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Sep 23, 2002, 10:18:16 PM9/23/02
to

"Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey" <hig...@fnal.gov> wrote in message
news:Pine.SGI.4.31.0209231...@fsgi01.fnal.gov...

> On Mon, 23 Sep 2002, Mark R. Leeper wrote:
>
> > Marcus L. Rowland wrote:
> >
> > > In article <0rjrougjfvb5n3ght...@4ax.com>, mike weber
> > > <mike....@electronictiger.com> writes
> > >

>


> > > As I said in my original post,
> > > Griffith probably wouldn't have thought of it for himself, his mind
> > > didn't seem to work that way, so I agree that it's likely that a
count-
> > > down was standard practice for blasting, big guns, etc.
> >
> >
> > It was. That was how Lang saw about it. It is a natural thing to do.
> > I used to work in a high school photo-lab that had a timer with a loud
> > buzzer. People needed to know when the timer would go off so they
> > didn't jump and spill chemicals so someone would be responsible to count
> > down. They had me do it a few times, but I used to start the countdown
> > a few seconds late so it buzzed when I got to six. That was just as
> > effective.
>
> Yet someone gave this man a degree in mathematics!
>
> I think Marcus's discovery of Griffith's countdown is pretty neat.

Indeed. Make sure someone notifies John Clute.

>
> Anyway, the last time Mark and I had a public discussion about this
>
<http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=1995Jul21.190912%40fnalv.fnal.gov&outp
ut=gplain>,
> I posted the following. It includes the quote from Ley's conversation
with
> Fritz Lang, in which, as Dan Kimmel has already pointed out, Lang denies
> that his movie countdown derived from artillery countdowns.

If I may be allowed a small plug, I have an essay on "Frau im Mond" which is
scheduled for the winter edition of ARTEMIS, the SF/space exploration
magazine put out by Ian Randal Strock.


Alan Braggins

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Sep 24, 2002, 7:49:46 AM9/24/02
to
"Dan Kimmel" <dan.k...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
> "Alan Braggins" <ar...@chiark.greenend.org.uk> wrote in message
> > "Dan Kimmel" <dan.k...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
> > > > I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between launching an
> > > > interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
> > >
> > > I do. In the former case there are people aboard and there is the
> intent to
> > > bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a
> target.
> >
> > Griffith's gun, yes. What about Verne's gun with people in the shell
> > intended to come back alive?
>
> What about it?

So "In the former case there are people aboard and there is the intent


to bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a

target." is not, in the general SF case, a distinction between


launching an interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.

> I don't believe Verne has a "countdown."

No, having just checked, there is a count up to forty seconds.
http://www.literature.org/authors/verne-jules/earth-to-the-moon/chapter-26.html
Murchison followed with his eye the hand of his chronometer. It wanted
scarce forty seconds to the moment of departure, but each second
seemed to last an age! At the twentieth there was a general shudder,
as it occurred to the minds of that vast assemblage that the bold
travelers shut up within the projectile were also counting those
terrible seconds. Some few cries here and there escaped the crowd.
"Thirty-five!-- thirty-six!-- thirty-seven!-- thirty-eight!--
thirty-nine!-- forty! FIRE!!!"

(And the people inside weren't actually expecting to come back alive,
merely to survive the launch and impact).
http://www.literature.org/authors/verne-jules/earth-to-the-moon/chapter-20.html
"But your fall on the moon, supposing you ever reach it?"
"It will be six times less dangerous than a sudden fall upon the
earth, because the weight will be only one-sixth as great on the
surface of the moon."
"Still it will be enough to smash you like glass!"
"What is to prevent my retarding the shock by means of rockets
conveniently placed, and lighted at the right moment?"
"But after all, supposing all difficulties surmounted, all obstacles
removed, supposing everything combined to favor you, and granting that
you may arrive safe and sound in the moon, how will you come back?"
"I am not coming back!"

Dan Kimmel

unread,
Sep 25, 2002, 7:12:14 AM9/25/02
to

"Alan Braggins" <ar...@chiark.greenend.org.uk> wrote in message
news:4u7khbd...@chiark.greenend.org.uk...

> "Dan Kimmel" <dan.k...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
> > "Alan Braggins" <ar...@chiark.greenend.org.uk> wrote in message
> > > "Dan Kimmel" <dan.k...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
> > > > > I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between
launching an
> > > > > interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
> > > >
> > > > I do. In the former case there are people aboard and there is the
> > intent to
> > > > bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a
> > target.
> > >
> > > Griffith's gun, yes. What about Verne's gun with people in the shell
> > > intended to come back alive?
> >
> > What about it?
>
> So "In the former case there are people aboard and there is the intent
> to bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a
> target." is not, in the general SF case, a distinction between
> launching an interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.

Huh?

But they do come back, don't they?


Alan Braggins

unread,
Sep 25, 2002, 8:34:16 AM9/25/02
to
"Dan Kimmel" <dan.k...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
> > > > > > I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between
> launching an
> > > > > > interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
> > > > >
> > > > > I do. In the former case there are people aboard and there is the
> > > intent to
> > > > > bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a
> > > target.
> > > >
> > > > Griffith's gun, yes. What about Verne's gun with people in the shell
> > > > intended to come back alive?
> > >
> > > What about it?
> >
> > So "In the former case there are people aboard and there is the intent
> > to bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a
> > target." is not, in the general SF case, a distinction between
> > launching an interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
>
> Huh?

You said the huge distinction between an interplanetary rocket and an
interplanetary gun is only the former has people in it. Verne has an
interplanetary gun firing a shell which has people in it. Sorry, I can't
think of any significantly clearer wording.


> > (And the people inside weren't actually expecting to come back alive,
> > merely to survive the launch and impact).

[...]


> But they do come back, don't they?

Yes, in the sequel. Someone miscalculated the necessary launch velocity,
so they don't hit the moon as planned, orbit, and use the retrorockets
(which were intended to soften the impact on the moon) to change course.
It falls back into the Pacific. (It avoids burning up by being very early
science fiction.)

Simon Bradshaw

unread,
Sep 25, 2002, 6:07:00 PM9/25/02
to
In article <Pine.SGI.4.31.0209231...@fsgi01.fnal.gov>,
hig...@fnal.gov (Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey) wrote:


> Anothe example of SF movies influencing rocket guys occurs to me. Marc
> Rayman, who led JPL's Deep Space One team in operating the first
> ion-engine spacecraft to escape the Earth, is a big *Star Trek* fan.
> When DS1 was in space and ready to fire its fancy engine for the first
> time, and the checkouts were done, everyone's attention turned to
> Rayman.
>
> "Engage!" he said.

He was hardly alone! When I was working as a satellite ops instructor back
in the mid-90s, I used to explain our protocol for sending commands to
the satellites as follows:

"You read out the next command in the command sequence. The ops assistant
reads it back to you. Once you're happy that it matches the next step in
the task you are carrying out, say 'Send'... or, if you are feeling
particularly sad, 'Engage'".

[Before anyone asks, 'sad' here is the colloquial UK usage of 'pitifully
and contemptibly nerdish'.]

--
Simon Bradshaw sjbra...@cix.co.uk
http://www.cix.co.uk/~sjbradshaw
*** The Science Fiction Foundation ***
http://www.sf-foundation.org

Dan Kimmel

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Sep 25, 2002, 6:21:13 PM9/25/02
to

"Alan Braggins" <ar...@chiark.greenend.org.uk> wrote in message
news:4u1y7in...@chiark.greenend.org.uk...

> "Dan Kimmel" <dan.k...@worldnet.att.net> writes:
> > > > > > > I don't think that we can draw a huge distinction between
> > launching an
> > > > > > > interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
> > > > > >
> > > > > > I do. In the former case there are people aboard and there is
the
> > > > intent to
> > > > > > bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at
a
> > > > target.
> > > > >
> > > > > Griffith's gun, yes. What about Verne's gun with people in the
shell
> > > > > intended to come back alive?
> > > >
> > > > What about it?
> > >
> > > So "In the former case there are people aboard and there is the intent
> > > to bring them back alive. In the latter, you're merely shooting at a
> > > target." is not, in the general SF case, a distinction between
> > > launching an interplanetary rocket and firing an interplanetary gun.
> >
> > Huh?
>
> You said the huge distinction between an interplanetary rocket and an
> interplanetary gun is only the former has people in it. Verne has an
> interplanetary gun firing a shell which has people in it. Sorry, I can't
> think of any significantly clearer wording.

With the goal of sending the people into space and not blowing up a target.
I don't see how you can
miss the obvious distinction.


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