In 1848, the British Admiralty came up with a practical experiment to determine, once and for all, the most efficient method of propelling a steamship. For some time the exponents of the new screw propeller had sung its praises against the more traditional paddle wheels. Paddle wheelers thought propeller supporters nothing short of screwy. So the Admiralty arranged for a paddle steamer, HMS Alecto, to go head-to-head (or rather stern-to-stern) with a prop driven boat, HMS Rattler. A cable was thrown between the two ships and the captains were ordered to sail away from each other at full steam. Rattler won. towing Alecto astern at 2.5 knots, and from that moment on the days of the paddle steamer were numbered.
I was reminded of the beauty of this experiment the other day when I considered two new Apps I had acquired for my gleaming new iPhone. The first was "The Mobile Good Beer Guide" from the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA). This little beauty uses the iPhones GPS facility to (a) calculate where you are; (b) work out the closest CAMRA listed pubs selling real hand-pulled ale to your current location; and (c) provide you with detailed instructions on how to stagger to the pub. The search facility provides you with a list of Good Beer listed pubs in order of their distance from your current location.
Up against the CAMRA App is one from the software firm Skycoders called Cask Finder. This uses the brewing industry supported Cask Marque listing of over 4,000 pubs which have met minimum standards for keeping and serving real, cask-conditioned, beer. It uses your current GPS determined location to provide you with a map of all Cask Marque pubs in your locality. On the surface of things, the Cask Finder App seems to have a lot going for it : it is free (compared to £5 for the CAMRA App) and it provides other information such as lists of Beer Festivals and the location of breweries. But, of course, the only way to really determine the winner of this particular contest is to organise a trial. So within the next few days I am hoping to persuade the Good Lady Wife to drive me to some random unknown location. I will then sample the nearest recommended Cask Finder pub and the nearest Good Beer Guide recommended pub. The contest will be decided head-to-head, or rather pint-to-pint. It will not be easy, but someone has got to do it. For research. For posterity. Think of it as my contribution to modern technology.
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