Transport then and now

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transportTransport then and now provides you with the opportunity to explore how transport has changed over the years and how it has affected people lives. These activities are centred around the theme of Science and Technology from the IGCSE ESL curriculum which explores the way we use technology and science in the world.

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Watch a video about the beginning of transport.

More videos resources available from eduMedia here.

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Since prehistory man has tried to get a boat. The raft which is a simple assembly of tree trunks and branches is probably the first means of transport. Domestication made it possible for the first tribes to harness animal strength. However, land Transport was not really developed until the invention of the wheel about 3,000 years before our time.

First used in agriculture the wagon or the plough harnessed the force of men or animals very often the ox or the horse. To move heavy loads more easily on loose or uneven soil roads were built and much later even railroads. The horse became man’s best companion for work and transport especially following the invention of the shoulder collar and the horseshoe. For centuries horsepower would considerably influence the history of humanity.

You will hear a business expert giving a talk about the future of shipping. Listen to the talk and complete the sentences.

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Thank you for coming along to today’s business talk. The topic is slightly different today and will be useful to anyone interested in overseas trade and shipping. I’m going to tell you about the possibility of remote-controlled ships – that’s ships with no crew or captain on board, but controlled from somewhere else. Your first thought might be that this doesn’t sound possible, let alone sensible. But drones – those are planes with no crew – already exist, and driverless cars too, so there’s no reason why ships can’t be next.

Let’s consider some of the reasons in favour of developing this technology. Firstly, of course, the lack of crew would reduce costs quite significantly, be much safer, and also be more environmentally friendly. You might think that these ships would be more dangerous, but in fact, the majority of accidents that occur at sea are due to human error, rather than extreme weather or poor maintenance. And there’s plenty of research available to support this statement. Another point to consider is the role of a ship’s captain. In the past, the captain would’ve spent long days controlling the ship, steering it in the right direction. However, technology has progressed so fast that most systems on board are computer-controlled – which means that staff management is the captain’s biggest responsibility. So the reality is that you have highly trained people who only actually operate their ship for a very small amount of time why not have them operating ships all the time?

I can hear you asking yourselves how this would work. Well, the idea is that a ship’s captain would no longer work on the ship itself, but would be relocated to an office in a city. There, they’d be able to control not just one, but a whole fleet of ships, using a computer and several large screens. There would be lots of cameras located all around each ship, which would actually give the captain better views than he’d get if he was working on board.

Some people have expressed concern over this technology – saying that the ships could be dangerous for other smaller boats or even people working in ports. However, we need to consider that it’s the crew who are usually in danger if there’s a problem on board – so removing them is a logical step. And if a ship does get into difficulties, it will simply be shut down by the captain and will float where it is until the problem is resolved or someone turns up to fix it. In a moment, we’ll look at some pictures which show what these ships might look like. But first, are there any questions?

Listen to a conversation between two students about ships with no crew, and complete the sentences.

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M: So, did you manage to find out any more about this idea of ships that don’t have any crew?
F: Yeah, I found a couple of websites that were quite interesting.
M: Oh good, I did too. I wanted to find out more about the advantages – you know, like the ones the speaker mentioned in his talk yesterday.
F: Well, the most obvious advantage is that you could really cut operating costs. I mean, if you’ve got one captain in charge of ten ships, that’s a huge saving straightaway. But overall, it’s estimated it’d be as much as thirty per cent cheaper with this new technology – and if it goes ahead, that approximately fifty per cent of the world’s cargo ships will become remote-controlled. It’s incredible, isn’t it?
M: I find it quite hard to imagine! The other thing is that ships these days spend weeks or even months at sea, so the crew need to eat, sleep, wash – all of that would become irrelevant. And of course, heating wouldn’t be required in colder climates if there’s no crew on board.
F: And you wouldn’t have to have lifeboats either, as there wouldn’t be any people to get off the ship if there was an emergency! So, all these things mean that you’d be able to maximise the amount of space on these ships.
M: Yeah – remember those pictures we saw yesterday? All the things like stairs, and rails to hold on to, would no longer be needed. In fact, the whole design would be different.
F: There was one other thing I read about that just didn’t occur to me before.
M: What’s that?
F: It’s that if you don’t have crew on the ships, then pirates wouldn’t be so much of an issue. There’d be no prisoners for them to negotiate over!
M: And anyway, even if they did get on board, what would they do? With remote control, the captain is the only person who can control the ship. They wouldn’t be able to take it anywhere.
F: Of course!
M: So, did you find out anything else about the research that’s going on? That’s what I’d like to look into a bit more.
F: Well, I think it was an engineering company from Britain that set the whole thing up. And apparently there’s a big research centre in Norway where they’re currently working on the technology. And they predict that it’ll be mostly shipping companies in northern Europe that’ll want to use it –because wages for the crew are generally highest there.
M: Oh, right. Will you show me the site where you read about that?
F: Sure.
M: Thanks. Anyway, come on, we’d better get to our next lecture…

Ever since the first hominids left Africa, human beings have been on the move. The canoe was invented in 8,000 B.C. and the first form of public transportation was a stagecoach operated in Paris in 1662. Fast forward to today’s self-driving car prototype, and it’s clear just how far we’ve come.

Click here to see the dates invented.

Here are keywords and phrases covered in the talk about transport then and now:

  • agriculture
  • ancestors
  • best companion
  • combustion engine
  • domestication
  • driverless cars
  • harness animal strength
  • horsepower
  • industrial revolution
  • operating costs
  • overseas trade
  • poor maintenance
  • steam-powered car
  • straightaway
1. Nowadays, some countries are spending a lot of money to make it easier to use bicycles in towns and cities. Why is this so? Is it the best solution to transportation problems in those places?
2. There is a proposal in your country to raise the legal age for learning to drive a car by three years. The editor of your school magazine has asked you to write an article explaining your views.
3. Imagine that you are living about 150 years ago. What facts could you tell someone who is afraid of travelling by train to reassure them that train travel is safe?
4. Some people today are afraid of flying. Do you think it would help them to know how people used to feel about train travel?

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Explore the way we use technology and science in the modern world

Here you will find exercises to practice for the reading and writing section of IGCSE ESL examination for either the core or extended papers.

Exercise 1 (Questions 1 -4) - Short answer exercises

Exercise 2 - (Question 5) Gap-filled exercises

The more words you encounter and understand, the broader your day-to-day vocabulary will become. So, our IGCSE ESL Word searches are an excellent way to help to reinforce spellings. Word puzzles require not just a good vocabulary and a knack for spelling, but the ability to think logically and strategically. In the case of puzzles like our IGCSE Crosswords, it’s crucial to spell linked words correctly to be able to complete the task.
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