The History of the Jetpack

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On May 3rd, Swiss pilot Yves Rossy, nicknamed “Rocketman”, successfully flew his winged jetpack over Rio de Janeiro for 11 minutes. Since the turn of the 20th century, the jetpack has been a fixture of science fiction, capturing the imaginations of the young, old, and insane. The Daily Sprat documents the progress of the jetpack since its earliest conception.

Classical Antiquity

Ancient Mesopotamians and Egyptians longed to reach into the heavens and triumphantly punch the testicles of their merciless deities, who had consistently trodden upon their subjects lives with floods, plagues, and pesky slave revolts. Hieroglyphics of Jewish slaves strapped to chairs on top of clay pots filled with petroleum and flax seed suggest a testing phase for various launching mechanisms.

Not until the rise of the Roman Empire did the jetpack concept transition from a means to send Semites into the stratosphere to a device with military applications. Apollodorus, the Greek engineer, invented a rudimentary “flight satchel”, described as “a sack of strong hide, filled with bitumen, quicklime, and the blood of a prepubescent slave, to be worn round the waist of a fortuitous legionary.” The first legionary to test it was incinerated.

Medieval China

Academics concede that Chinese alchemists were the first to create large craters out of human beings with the formulation of gunpowder in the 9th Century. By the 13th Century, gunpowder progressed from fireworks to high-efficiency bone-and-sinew-separating devices of death. Out of the pile of limbs came the “Dragon’s Throne”, considered the first manned rocket and possible precursor to the kamikaze pilots of World War II.

Designed by gunpowder enthusiast Jiao Yu— who is quoted to say “all that is whole, in truth, wishes silently to be blown into tiny bits”—the “Dragon’s Throne” was a gunpowder-filled iron bell upon which a soldier would sit with spear at the ready, aimed at the enemies’ fortifications, awaiting to die honorably as a splatter mark on the stone wall.

Jiao Yu would later remark that he probably didn’t need to man the rockets, though it added a nice element of heroic tragedy to the drama of battle.

The Renaissance

The prolific painter, engineer, and proto-mad scientist Leonardo da Vinci had drawn up conceptions for the tank, the helicopter, and—as any evil genius would—the personal rocket pack, the culmination of da Vinci’s obsession with flight and steam power.

Like many of da Vinci’s inventions, his initial concept was strikingly similar in aesthetic design as its modern counterpart. Da Vinci’s rig relied on steam pressure build-up in a charcoal-heated copper boiler. A trigger would release the pressure, the subsequent force launching the wearer into the sky.

Under the assumption that the test subject would remain stuck in the sky, a re-entry contingency was never planned and the test subject plummeted into the Dome of Santa Maria. To his patron Lorenzo de Medici, da Vinci said, “How could I have known? I’m a Florentine polymath, not Sir Isaac Newton.”

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The Third Reich

Originally intended to aid German engineer units in World War II in crossing minefields and other obstacles, the Nazi-developed pulse-jet jump pack was eventually used in a program for infantry, dubbed Himmelstürmer (“Sky Stormer”). In the initial experiments, calculated jumps could be made up to 60 metres at 15 metre altitudes.

The first volunteer squad of Sky Stormers had so much fun frolicking about in their jetpacks, the combination of adrenaline and jet fume-induced euphoria led to the entire squad of gleefully bounding storm troopers deserting the Wehrmacht for the Eastern Alps on a spiritual quest of self-discovery. They were never heard from again, nor were the rockets recovered.

Post-Cold War

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the most well known functioning jetpack device, the Rocketbelt, was put to use in the name of peace by pop-sensation Michael Jackson, during his 1992 Dangerous World Tour, from which all profits went to charity.

Michael Jackson would later use the jetpack to round-up “lost” children and whisk them away to the Neverland Ranch in true Peter Pan fashion, minus the free will.

MJ

The Future of the Jetpack

The flights of Yves Rossy and his winged jetpack reveal the possibilities of the jetpack as personal transport. Though still experimental, technological progress may soon make sustained jetpack flight a possibility.

What will the future hold for the jetpack? Not unlike the science fiction of the early 20th Century, only our imaginations will limit the possibilities.

Unless you’re poor. These things don’t come cheap. Seriously, one-percenters only.

M. Scott Caldwell is The Daily Sprat’s chief historian and has recently written The Complete History of the Bic Pen, which has already been recognized by academia as the definitive history of the ballpoint and the gold standard of historical writing on stationary.

Video gaming no longer fun

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Millions of gamers across the world came to the sudden, frightening realization that video games are simply not fun anymore.

“It cannot be denied any longer,” said Entertainment Software Association spokesperson, Rob Golfi. “Video games have ceased to produce a pleasurable experience for the common consumer.”

“The industry is no longer sustainable,” Golfi continued, who has already packed up his office into a faux-wood-print cardboard box. “I don’t know what’s coming to replace it, although I suggest moving all of your investments into whoever makes paddle-balls.”

On the heels of a major gaming season, starting with Gears of War 3 in 2011, to the recent release of Mass Effect 3which sold 890,000 copies on the first day of release in North Americathe sudden disinterest in gaming comes as a complete shock to the industry.

While shareholders reel, wondering why industry leaders had no inkling of the coming catastrophe, it seems that gamers themselves are just as perplexed.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Matt Blasinsky, former gamer of Columbus, Ohio. “I used to really enjoy fighting off dragons with my destruction spells and fending off hordes of apocalyptic aliens while finding time to bang women outside my species. But, now all I want to do is be productive at my job, maybe get in some overtime.”

“I can’t imagine why on earth I enjoyed run-and-gunning prostitutes in my stolen FBI sedan,” said Donna Fern of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. “I’d much rather be organizing my bills and getting caught up on paperwork.”

This sudden desire to be productive and follow through with one’s responsibilities seems to be the new cultural paradigm that has former gamers in a chaotic dither to get their shit together.

“Why would I want to play out the fantasy of being a member of an assassin’s guild on the cusp of the Italian Renaissance, when I could be helping my dad clean out the garage and finish my dissertation on the Crimean War?” says Tim Reubens of Athens, Georgia, a formerly avid Assassin’s Creed fan.

Other goods and services have also been markedly affected by the sudden and steep downturn in video gaming. Frito-Lays has already announced record drops in sales. Hundreds of pizzerias are near bankruptcy as all-night gaming is now faux-pas.

“Video game enthusiasts made up a very large portion of our consumers,” said Red Bull spokesperson Penelope Hurwitz. “These same people are now getting a decent night’s rest, spending time with their children, having wholesome meals with family. All of this healthy eating and activity really kills our sales.”

Since the surprise mass-moratorium on gaming, many students and professionals have reported an unfamiliar feeling that can only be described as “focus”, which is coupled with a decrease in the constant nagging feeling felt throughout the day to go back home and finish a quest, known as “The Itch”.

Even church attendance has had a small but significant jump in the last week.

“It seems that people who had formerly structured their lives around worshipping the Triforce have needed something to fill that void,” said Archbishop Peter Usili. “So, why not fall back on the old standards?”

“As much as fake-worshipping Elune was more spiritually rewarding than letting my life be dictated by old men in robes, sitting on hard wooden pews and being guilt-tripped every weekend is much more fun,” said Heather Cervenka, former World of Warcraft player and recent Roman Catholic convert.

This sudden and unexpected progression in modern civilization and immense public interest in the arts, sciences and spirituality is expected to last until Assassin’s Creed 3 is released on October 30, 2012.

M. Scott Caldwell is too busy building a mosaic of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man out of Rubix cubes to do a decent parody of a writer’s bio footer. So suck it.