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Today is May 11

The history of umbrellas

Technology evolves with breakneck speed, and it is not too often that one can say he or she relies on something that has gone largely unchanged for centuries. But each time you reach for an umbrella, you’re relying on an invention that’s more than 4,000 years old.

Evidence suggests umbrellas originated in ancient Egypt and nearby Assyria. The earliest umbrellas or parasols were used to provide protection from the sun. These earliest umbrellas were made from palm leaves attached to sticks. According to UmbrellaHistory.net, umbrellas signified rank and nobles used the devices to keep their skin pale and untouched by the sun. In Assyria, only kings had the right to be protected by elaborate parasols.

Anyone who has been kept dry during a downpour because of umbrellas can thank the Chinese. The modern-day rain umbrella is a variation of waterproof parasols created in the 11th century BC. The earliest waterproof umbrellas were made of silk or paper that was waxed and lacquered for protection. Again, umbrellas signified a person of esteem, and the more elaborate the umbrella, the more important the person being protected by the device.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that the umbrella became popularized in the western world, according to the history and invention site ThoughtCo. The word “umbrella” comes from the Latin root “umbra,” meaning “shade.” However, in the rainy climates of northern Europe, the waterproof umbrellas would be an asset for men and women hoping to stay dry. Persian traveler and writer Jonas Hanway popularized umbrellas through his own personal use, and men even called their umbrellas a “Hanway.”

The British helped define the modern umbrella and even opened up the first shop devoted entirely to umbrellas. James Smith and Sons opened in 1830 in London, producing umbrellas made from wood or whalebone covered with alpaca or oiled canvas. Curved handles were made by hand and were genuine works of art.

Steel-ribbed umbrellas would come several years later. Collapsible umbrellas would not appear for roughly 100 years, when Hans Haupt’s pocket umbrella and Bradford Phillips’ modern folding mechanism in umbrellas were introduced.

Modern umbrellas continue to be perfected, with certain types folding outward rather than inward to keep errant drops at bay; umbrellas that cannot be flipped inside out; those that can withstand very strong winds; and umbrellas that open and shut easily with the push of a button. China still reigns supreme in regard to the production of umbrellas, just as it did all those centuries ago

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1970 The Long and Winding Road was released by the Beatles.

When will self-driving cars hit the road?

Tech aficionados often know when the latest gizmos and gadgets are slated to hit the market and be made available to consumers. Anticipation tends to build around everything from the latest version of a popular smartphone to a new incarnation of a beloved gaming system. But perhaps no advancement in technology is as highly anticipated as the self-driving car. Industry experts note that the hype around self-driving cars, sometimes referred to as autonomous vehicles, has existed since 2004, when United States military experiments involving self-driving vehicles in the Mojave Desert garnered both attention and excitement. That anticipation and excitement waned as 2004 was left further and further behind in the rearview mirror, but the race to become the first auto manufacturer to build and offer driverless vehicles is still very much on. For example, in 2018 General Motors indicated its intent to make a fleet of self-driving taxis available in San Francisco by 2020. That did not come to fruition, though other auto manufacturers, notably Tesla, have indicated they have their eyes on potentially offering autonomous taxis in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic complicated, and likely delayed, the arrival of self-driving automobiles, though it remains to be seen just how much the pandemic affected the arrival of driverless vehicles. A recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance noted that many auto manufacturers who have worked on self-driving technology had initially set their sights on deployment in 2021. However, lab closures and social distancing measures enacted in response to the pandemic may have made it highly unlikely that 2021 will be the year the world sees its first fleet of self-driving taxis hit the road.

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In 1988 Irving Berlin turned 100. Over five decades, Irving Berlin produced an outpouring of ballads, dance numbers, novelty tunes and love songs that defined American popular song for much of the century. A sampling of just some of the Irving Berlin standards includes “How Deep Is The Ocean,” “Blue Skies,” “White Christmas,” “Always,” “Anything You Can Do,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Cheek To Cheek,” “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,” “Heat Wave,” “Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning,” “Easter Parade” and “Let’s Face The Music And Dance.” In a class by itself is his beloved paean to his beloved country, “God Bless America.” An unabashed patriot, his love for – and generosity to – his country is legendary, exemplified by his establishing The God Bless America Fund, which receives all income from his patriotic songs and distributes it to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

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