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May 24th 2013 at 10:46:26 AM •••

Why is this trope called "the Penny Farthing effect"?

The Penny Farthing is a much simpler design than the modern bicycle. The pedals are directly attached to the front wheel (so if you pedal once, the wheel goes round once).

A limitation of that is, if you want the bike to be more efficient, your only option is to make the front wheel bigger and bigger - so that each of those revolutions takes you further. It was the later invention of bicycle gears that made it possible to have a passably fast bicycle that didn't require a dangerously large front wheel (there's a reason why the ancestors of our modern bikes were called "safety bicycles"!).

It certainly wasn't the case that someone came along and said, "Hey, guys... you know how we've always designed our bikes with dangerously big front wheels? How about we try *not* doing that?"

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May 25th 2013 at 12:40:49 AM •••

Yeah... how much of this trope is legitimately odd circuitous historical developments, and how much is Outside Jokes? That said, it's a fascinating discussion to have!

Jan 14th 2011 at 9:28:49 AM •••

People don't seem to understand this trope. Almost none of the examples given are actually appropriate. Both FPS mouselook controls and the moveable type printing press, for example, are in fact more complex systems than their precursors and are what one would reasonably expect to have evolved from the old.

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