Blasts from the Past

HTMLized by Dennis Holmes.

History of Body Armor

1989: Personal Plastic Industries is formed. By the end of the year light plastic armor is being experimented with.

1991: Personal Plastics introduces a new line of armored clothing. Armored clothing is available to citizens who have the money and a legitimate need for it -- Personal Plastics runs background checks on anyone who orders a suit; known criminals are not sold to.

1993: Most police officers in large U.S. cities wear body armor to protect themselves against the crazies that are beginning to roam the streets in force. By the end of the year Personal Plastics is marketing armored clothing through several department stores.

1995: Most citizens wear Personal Plastics suits to protect themselves from random violence.

1996: Two teenage boys are shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. Both were wearing full Personal Plastic "street clothes." The lawsuits that follow are both expensive and embarrassing for Personal Plastics and cause them to lose many customers, mostly to ArmourTech, a new company from the U.K. Personal Plastics immediately starts looking into new, more durable polymers.

1999: A major breakthrough in the ArmourTech laboratory. The new style armor is lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and can stop a 9mm slug at point-blank range. However, a terrible explosion in the labs delays production at least two years. Industrial sabotage is suspected, but not proved. Meanwhile, Personal Plastics strikes up a major deal with the U.S. Army and immediately begins shipping full suits to troops fighting the Free Oil States.

2003: Full suits of body armor from ArmourTech become available to everyone with the money; most celebrities and politicians invest in it immediately. By the end of the year Personal Plastics is nearly bankrupt.

2010: Body armor saves many lives during the cycle gang years, and is now cheaper than ever before. During this year Personal Plastics HQ is raided by mercenaries and completely destroyed. Rumor has it that they were in ArmourTech's pay. Personal Plastics Industries is no more.

2016: In the midst of the food riots ArmourTech comes up with an elaborate mixture of ceramic, steel and reinforced plastic, to create a lighter, tougher body armor.

2023: ArmourTech's new-style body armor is now in widespread use all across North America. Body armor now is not only a means of personal security, it has become a fashion statement. Several new body armor companies spring up in the U.S. However, all buy rights to ArmourTech's patented CSP design, and ArmourTech makes millions overnight.

2036: Fireproof suits are perfected and released to the general public.

2040: Body armor continues to be the clothing of choice among autoduellists and citizens the world over.

50 Years Ago Today

The world's biggest airship, the Sentinel 1000, made by Britain's Airship Industries, is scheduled to make its maiden voyage late in 1990.

Among the Sentinel's novelties is a "fly-by-light" control system: signals from the controls are encoded in light pulses and transmitted by optical fibers to the drive units. The ship's 73-yard-long envelope, containing the helium which provides its lift, is made from a tough, new laminated fabric that should not need any maintenance for ten years.

The Sentinel 1000, which has a maximum speed of 57 knots (66 miles per hour), is essentially a half-size test model for the Sentinel 5000 that is being built for the American navy under a $170m contract. This will be the platform for a new airborne early-warning system -- a wide-aperture phased-array radar being developed by Westinghouse. The huge airship, 143 yards long and 65 yards high, will be ready for its test flight in 1992. Its three engines give it a top speed of 90 knots (105 mph) and its large pressurized cabin will allow it to operate at altitudes of up to 3,350 yards. At its normal speed of 40 knots (45 mph) the Sentinel 5000 will be able to operate for 60 hours without refueling; it can also be refueled in the air. The ship will (in theory) be virtually invisible to enemy radar because of its extensive use of high-tech materials.

Another English corporation, the Advanced Airship Corporation, based on the Isle of Wight, has designed an advanced non-rigid airship (ANR) specifically for passengers. The prototype is due to fly before the end of the year. The 66-yard ANR is lightweight and streamlined to reduce drag, which should enable it to fly fast -- about 92 mph -- and carry a bigger payload than any other airship of similar size. Its gondola can be fitted out to take 30 passengers for short trips, 26 for trips of up to two hours (with a lavatory and galley) or as a luxury "restaurant in the sky" seating 14. The ANR will also be marketed as an aerial platform for military and police work. Smaller airships can be used for advertising or for filming and broadcasting. Thunder and Colt in Oswestry, which also makes hot-air balloons, has built seven electronically-controlled two-man airships costing 330,000 ($635,000) each, compared with several million dollars for a bigger craft. Lower down the price range, there is a one-man DG-14, standing about nine yards high, which is making test flights in Cirencester. It was developed by Cameron Balloons of Bristol, as a toy for a company director, Don Cameron. The aim was to keep it as simple as possible; Cameron describes it as "fly-by-string." It is steered by a nylon cord which moves the rudder, and is powered by four chainsaw engines stuck together. It should sell for around 70,000 ($133,000).
-- The London Economist, 25-31 August, 1990.