The image on the cover of Linux System Programming is a man in a flying machine.
Well before the Wright brothers achieved their first controlled heavier-than-air flight
in 1903, people around the world attempted to fly by simple and elaborate machines.
In the second or third century, Zhuge Liang of China reportedly flew in a Kongming
lantern, the first hot air balloon. Around the fifth or sixth centuries, many Chinese
people purportedly attached themselves to large kites to fly through the air.
It is also said that the Chinese created spinning toys that were early versions of helicopters,
the designs of which may have inspired Leonardo da Vinci in his initial
attempts at a solution to human flight. da Vinci also studied birds and designed parachutes,
and in 1845, he designed an ornithopter, a wing-flapping machine meant to
carry humans through the air. Though he never built it, the ornithopter’s birdlike
structure influenced the design of flying machines throughout the centuries.
The flying machine depicted on the cover is more elaborate than James Means’
model soaring machine of 1893, which had no propellers. Means later printed an
instruction manual for his soaring machine, which in part states that “the summit of
Mt. Willard, near the Crawford House, N.H., will be found an excellent place” to
experiment with the machines.
But such experimentation was often dangerous. In the late nineteenth century, Otto
Lilienthal built monoplanes, biplanes, and gliders. He was the first to show that
control of human flight was within reach, and he gained the nickname “father of
aerial testing,” as he conducted more than 2,000 glider flights, sometimes traveling
more than a thousand feet. He died in 1896 after breaking his spine during a crash
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Flying machines are also known as mechanical birds and airships, and are occasionally
called by more colorful names such as the Artificial Albatross. Enthusiasm for
flying machines remains high, as aeronautical buffs still build early flying machines