Computing Through Time

Credit: Ergun Akleman

In the early 19th century, the world was abuzz with a new form of transportation that would change the way people moved around forever: the velocipede. Also known as the “bone shaker,” the velocipede was a precursor to the modern bicycle and was invented in France in the 1860s.

The velocipede was a two-wheeled vehicle with pedals attached to the front wheel, making it somewhat difficult to steer and balance. Despite this, it became a popular mode of transportation among the wealthy and adventurous, who enjoyed the freedom and excitement that came with riding it.

In the years that followed, inventors around the world began to experiment with new designs and variations on the velocipede. One such variation was the pentacycle, a five-wheeled vehicle that offered greater stability and ease of use than the velocipede.

The pentacycle was first patented in 1869 by the American inventor Charles Lallement, who had also played a key role in the development of the velocipede. The design featured four small wheels and a larger central wheel, with pedals attached to the central wheel to provide power.

Despite its advantages over the velocipede, the pentacycle never achieved the same level of popularity or success. However, it did serve as an important milestone in the development of the bicycle, paving the way for new designs and innovations that would ultimately lead to the modern two-wheeled bicycle we know today.

Today, velocipes and pentacycles are regarded as historical curiosities and are often featured in museums and collections dedicated to the history of transportation. However, their impact on the development of the bicycle and the evolution of transportation more broadly cannot be overlooked.

In conclusion, the velocipede and its variations, such as the pentacycle, represent an important chapter in the history of transportation. These early innovations paved the way for new designs and technologies that would ultimately transform the way we move around the world. While they may seem primitive by modern standards, their legacy lives on in the bicycles we ride today, which owe a great debt to the inventors and pioneers who came before us.