Renaissance technology

Renaissance technology

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Renaissance technology is the set of European artifacts and customs which span the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 period, roughly the 14th through the 16th century. The era is marked by profound technical advancements such as the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

, linear perspective in drawing
Perspective (graphical)
Perspective in the graphic arts, such as drawing, is an approximate representation, on a flat surface , of an image as it is seen by the eye...

, patent law, double shell domes
Santa Maria del Fiore
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi...

 and Bastion fortresses
Star fort
A star fort, or trace italienne, is a fortification in the style that evolved during the age of gunpowder, when cannon came to dominate the battlefield, and was first seen in the mid-15th century in Italy....

. Sketchbooks from artisans of the period (Taccola
Taccola
Mariano di Jacopo detto il Taccola , called Taccola , was an Italian administrator, artist and engineer of the early Renaissance. Taccola is known for his technological treatises De ingeneis and De machinis, which feature annotated drawings of a wide array of innovative machines and devices...

 and Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 for example) give a deep insight into the mechanical technology then known and applied.

Renaissance science
History of science in the Renaissance
During the Renaissance, great advances occurred in geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, manufacturing, and engineering. The rediscovery of ancient scientific texts was accelerated after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, and the invention of printing which would democratize...

 spawned the Scientific Revolution
Scientific revolution
The Scientific Revolution is an era associated primarily with the 16th and 17th centuries during which new ideas and knowledge in physics, astronomy, biology, medicine and chemistry transformed medieval and ancient views of nature and laid the foundations for modern science...

; science and technology began a cycle of mutual advancement.

Basic technology


Some important Renaissance technologies, including both innovations and improvements on existing techniques:
  • mining and metallurgy
  • blast furnace
    Blast furnace
    A blast furnace is a type of metallurgical furnace used for smelting to produce industrial metals, generally iron.In a blast furnace, fuel and ore and flux are continuously supplied through the top of the furnace, while air is blown into the bottom of the chamber, so that the chemical reactions...

     enabled iron to be produced in significant quantities
  • finery forge
    Finery forge
    Iron tapped from the blast furnace is pig iron, and contains significant amounts of carbon and silicon. To produce malleable wrought iron, it needs to undergo a further process. In the early modern period, this was carried out in a finery forge....

     enabled pig iron (from the blast furnace) into bar iron (wrought iron
    Wrought iron
    thumb|The [[Eiffel tower]] is constructed from [[puddle iron]], a form of wrought ironWrought iron is an iron alloy with a very low carbon...

    )
  • slitting mill
    Slitting mill
    The slitting mill was a watermill for slitting bars of iron into rods. The rods then were passed to nailers who made the rods into nails, by giving them a point and head....

     mechanized the production of iron rods for nailmaking
    Nail (engineering)
    In woodworking and construction, a nail is a pin-shaped, sharp object of hard metal or alloy used as a fastener. Formerly wrought iron, today's nails are typically made of steel, often dipped or coated to prevent corrosion in harsh conditions or improve adhesion...

  • smeltmill
    Smeltmill
    Smeltmills were water-powered mills used to smelt lead or other metals.The older method of smelting lead on wind-blown bole hills began to be superseded by artificially-blown smelters. The first such furnace was built by Burchard Kranich at Makeney, Derbyshire in 1554, but produced less good lead...

     increased the output of lead over previous methods (bole hill
    Bole hill
    A Bole hill was a place where lead was formerly smelted in the open air.The bole was usually situated at or near the top of a hill where the wind was strong. Totley Bole Hill on the western fringes of Sheffield consisted of a long low wall with two shorter walls at right angles to it at each end...

    )

15th century


Crank and connecting rod
Crankshaft
The crankshaft, sometimes casually abbreviated to crank, is the part of an engine which translates reciprocating linear piston motion into rotation...


The crank
Crank (mechanism)
A crank is an arm attached at right angles to a rotating shaft by which reciprocating motion is imparted to or received from the shaft. It is used to change circular into reciprocating motion, or reciprocating into circular motion. The arm may be a bent portion of the shaft, or a separate arm...

 and connecting rod
Connecting rod
In a reciprocating piston engine, the connecting rod or conrod connects the piston to the crank or crankshaft. Together with the crank, they form a simple mechanism that converts linear motion into rotating motion....

 mechanism which converts circular into reciprocal motion is of utmost importance for the mechanization of work processes; it is first attested for Roman water-powered sawmills
Hierapolis sawmill
The Hierapolis sawmill was a Roman water-powered stone sawmill at Hierapolis, Asia Minor . Dating to the second half of the 3rd century AD, the sawmill is the earliest known machine to combine a crank with a connecting rod....

. During the Renaissance, its use is greatly diversified and mechanically refined; now connecting-rods are also applied to double compound cranks, while the flywheel
Flywheel
A flywheel is a rotating mechanical device that is used to store rotational energy. Flywheels have a significant moment of inertia, and thus resist changes in rotational speed. The amount of energy stored in a flywheel is proportional to the square of its rotational speed...

 is employed to get these cranks over the 'dead-spot'. Early evidence of such machines appears, inter alia, in the works of the 15th century engineers Anonymous of the Hussite Wars and Taccola
Taccola
Mariano di Jacopo detto il Taccola , called Taccola , was an Italian administrator, artist and engineer of the early Renaissance. Taccola is known for his technological treatises De ingeneis and De machinis, which feature annotated drawings of a wide array of innovative machines and devices...

. From then on, cranks and connecting rods become an integral part of machine design and are applied in ever more elaborate ways: Agostino Ramelli
Agostino Ramelli
Agostino Ramelli was an engineer who designed the "book wheel" or "reading wheel".During the Siege of La Rochelle , Agostino successfully engineered a mine under a bastion and breached the fortification, making him popular with his commander, Henri d'Anjou, who later became Henri III of France.In...

's The Diverse and Artifactitious Machines of 1588 depicts eighteen different applications, a number which rises in the 17th century Theatrum Machinarum Novum by Georg Andreas Böckler
Georg Andreas Böckler
Georg Andreas Böckler was a German architect and engineer who wrote Architectura Curiosa Nova and Theatrum Machinarum Novum ....

 to 45.

Printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...


The invention of the printing press by the German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg (1398–1468) is widely regarded as the single most important event of the second millennium, and is one of the defining moments of the Renaissance. The Printing Revolution which it sparks throughout Europe works as a modern "agent of change" (Eisenstein) in the transformation of medieval society. The mechanical device consists of a screw press
Screw press
A screw press is a type of machine press in which the ram is driven up and down by a screw. The screw shaft can be driven by a handle, or a wheel. It works by using a coarse screw to convert the rotation of the handle or drive-wheel into a small downward movement of greater force. The overhead...

 modified for printing purposes which can produce 3.600 pages per workday, allowing the mass production of printed books on a proto-industrial scale. By the start of the sixteenth century, printing presses are operating in over 200 cities in a dozen European countries, producing more than twenty million volumes. By 1600 their output had risen tenfold to an estimated 150 to 200 million copies, while Gutenberg book printing spread from Europe further afield.

The relatively free flow of information transcends borders and induced a sharp rise in Renaissance literacy, learning and education; the circulation of (revolutionary) ideas among the rising middle classes, but also the peasants, threatens the traditional power monopoly of the ruling nobility and is a key factor in the rapid spread of the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

. The dawn of the Gutenberg Galaxy, the era of mass communication, is instrumental in fostering the gradual democratization of knowledge
Democratization of knowledge
The democratization of knowledge is the acquisition and spread of knowledge amongst the common people, not just privileged elites such as priests and academics.-History:The printing press was one of the early steps towards the democratization of knowledge....

 which sees for the first time modern media phenomena such as the press or bestseller
Bestseller
A bestseller is a book that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on lists of currently top selling titles that are based on publishing industry and book trade figures and published by newspapers, magazines, or bookstore chains. Some lists are broken down into classifications and...

s emerging. The prized incunables, which are testimony to the aesthetic taste and high technical competence of Renaissance book printers, are one lasting legacy of the fifteenth century.

Parachute
Parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...


The earliest known parachute design appears in an anonymous manuscript from 1470s Renaissance Italy; it depicts a free-hanging man clutching a crossbar frame attached to a conical canopy. As a safety measure, four straps run from the ends of the rods to a waist belt. Around 1485, a more advanced parachute was sketched by the polymath Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 in his Codex Atlanticus
Codex Atlanticus
The Codex Atlanticus is a twelve-volume, bound set of drawings and writings by Leonardo da Vinci, the largest such set; its name indicates its atlas-like breadth. It comprises 1,119 leaves dating from 1478 to 1519, the contents covering a great variety of subjects, from flight to weaponry to...

(fol. 381v), which he scales in a more favorable proportion to the weight of the jumper. Leonardo's canopy was held open by a square wooden frame, altering the shape of the parachute from conical to pyramidal. The Venetian inventor Fausto Veranzio (1551–1617) modifies da Vinci's parachute sketch by keeping the square frame, but replacing the canopy with a bulging sail-like piece of cloth. This he realizes decelerates the fall more effectively. In 1617, Veranzio successfully tests his parachute design by jumping from a tower in Venice.

Mariner's astrolabe
Mariner's astrolabe
The mariner's astrolabe, also called sea astrolabe, was an inclinometer used to determine the latitude of a ship at sea by measuring the sun's noon altitude or the meridian altitude of a star of known declination. Not an astrolabe proper, the mariner's astrolabe was rather a graduated circle with...



The earliest recorded uses of the astrolabe for navigational purposes are by the Portuguese explorers Diogo de Azambuja
Diogo de Azambuja
Diogo de Azambuja was a Portuguese noble.He was a knight of the Order of Aviz in the service of the Infante Dom Pedro, son of the Regent Infante Peter, Duke of Coimbra. After Peter's defeat and death in the battle of Alfarrobeira , he accompanied his master into exile...

 (1481), Bartholomew Diaz (1487/88) and Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama, 1st Count of Vidigueira was a Portuguese explorer, one of the most successful in the Age of Discovery and the commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India...

 (1497/98) during their sea voyages around Africa
Portuguese discoveries
Portuguese discoveries is the name given to the intensive maritime exploration by the Portuguese during the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese sailors were at the vanguard of European overseas exploration, discovering and mapping the coasts of Africa, Asia and Brazil, in what become known as the...

.

Dry dock
Dry dock
A drydock is a narrow basin or vessel that can be flooded to allow a load to be floated in, then drained to allow that load to come to rest on a dry platform...



While dry docks were already known in Hellenistic shipbuilding, these facilities were reintroduced in 1495/96, when Henry VII
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

 of England ordered one to be built at the Portsmouth navy base
HMNB Portsmouth
Her Majesty's Naval Base Portsmouth is one of three operating bases in the United Kingdom for the British Royal Navy...

.

16th century


Floating dock
Dry dock
A drydock is a narrow basin or vessel that can be flooded to allow a load to be floated in, then drained to allow that load to come to rest on a dry platform...


The earliest known description of a floating dock comes from a small Italian book printed in Venice in 1560, titled Descrittione dell'artifitiosa machina. In the booklet, an unknown author asks for the privilege of using a new method for the salvaging of a grounded ship and then proceeds to describe and illustrate his approach. The included woodcut
Woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

 shows a ship flanked by two large floating trestles, forming a roof above the vessel. The ship is pulled in an upright position by a number of ropes attached to the superstructure.
Lifting tower

A lifting tower was used to great effect by Domenico Fontana
Domenico Fontana
Domenico Fontana was a Swiss-born Italian architect of the late Renaissance.-Biography:200px|thumb|Fountain of Moses in Rome....

 to relocate the monolithic Vatican obelisk in Rome. Its weight of 361 t was far greater than any of the blocks the Romans are known to have lifted by cranes.53.3 t at Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near...

 ; 60−100 t at the Jupiter temple of Baalbek
Baalbek
Baalbek is a town in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude , situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire...

 .

Early 17th century


Newspaper
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...


The newspaper is an offspring of the printing press from which the press
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 derives its name. The 16th century sees a rising demand for up-to-date information which can not be covered effectively by the circulating hand-written newssheets
Avviso
Avvisi were hand-written newsletters used to convey political, military, and economic news quickly and efficiently throughout Europe, and more specifically Italy, during the early modern era...

. For "gaining time" from the slow copying process, Johann Carolus
Johann Carolus
Johann Carolus was the publisher of the first newspaper, called Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien . The Relation is recognised by the World Association of Newspapers, as well as many authors as the world's first newspaper...

 of Strassburg is the first to publish his German-language Relation by using a printing press (1605). In rapid succession, further German newspapers are established in Wolfenbüttel (Avisa Relation oder Zeitung
Avisa Relation oder Zeitung
Avisa Relation oder Zeitung was one of the first news-periodicals in the world. It was published in Wolfenbüttel, Germany in 1609. The printer/publisher was Lucas Schulte. The first issue states that the news had been collected from various countries by January 15...

), Basel, Frankfurt and Berlin. From 1618 onwards, enterprising Dutch printers take up the practice and begin to provide the English and French market with translated news. By the mid-17th century it is estimated that political newspapers which enjoyed the widest popularity reach up to 250,000 readers in the Holy Roman Empire, around one fourth of the literate population.

Air-gun

In 1607 Bartolomeo Crescentio described an air-gun equipped with a powerful spiral spring, a device so complex that it must have had predecessors. In 1644 Mersenne spoke in detail of "sclopeti pneumatici constructio", and four years later Wilkins
John Wilkins
John Wilkins FRS was an English clergyman, natural philosopher and author, as well as a founder of the Invisible College and one of the founders of the Royal Society, and Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his death....

 wrote enthusiastically of "that late ingenious invention the wind-gun" as being "almost equall to our powder-guns". In the 1650s Otto von Guericke, famed for his experiments with vacua and pressures, built the Madeburger Windbuchse, one of the technical wonders of its time.

15th century


Cranked Archimedes screw

The German engineer Konrad Kyeser
Konrad Kyeser
Konrad Kyeser was a German military engineer, author of Bellifortis , a book on siege engines popular throughout the 15th century...

 equips in his Bellifortis
Bellifortis
Bellifortis is the first fully illustrated manual of military technology, dating from the start of the 15th century...

(1405) the Archimedes screw with a crank mechanism which soon replaces the ancient practice of working the pipe by treading.

Cranked reel
Reel
A reel is an object around which lengths of another material are wound for storage. Generally a reel has a cylindrical core and walls on the sides to retain the material wound around the core...



In the textile industry, cranked reel
Reel
A reel is an object around which lengths of another material are wound for storage. Generally a reel has a cylindrical core and walls on the sides to retain the material wound around the core...

s for winding skeins of yarn were introduced in the early 15th century.

Brace
Brace (tool)
A brace or brace and bit is a hand tool used to drill holes, usually in wood. Pressure is applied to the top and the tool is rotated with a U-shaped grip....



The earliest carpenter's braces equipped with a U-shaped grip, that is with a compound crank
Crank (mechanism)
A crank is an arm attached at right angles to a rotating shaft by which reciprocating motion is imparted to or received from the shaft. It is used to change circular into reciprocating motion, or reciprocating into circular motion. The arm may be a bent portion of the shaft, or a separate arm...

, appears between 1420 and 1430 in Flandres.

Cranked well-hoist

The earliest evidence for the fitting of a well-hoist with cranks is found in a miniature of c. 1425 in the German Hausbuch of the Mendel Foundation.

Paddle wheel boat powered by crank and connecting rod mechanism

While paddle wheel boats powered by manually turned crankshaft
Crankshaft
The crankshaft, sometimes casually abbreviated to crank, is the part of an engine which translates reciprocating linear piston motion into rotation...

s were already conceived of by earlier writers such as Guido da Vigevano
Guido da Vigevano
Guido da Vigevano was an Italian physician and inventor. He is notable for his sketchbook Texaurus regis Francie which depicts a number of technological items and ingenious devices, allowing modern scholarship an invaluable insight into the state of medieval technology...

 and the Anonymous Author of the Hussite Wars, the Italian Roberto Valturio
Roberto Valturio
Roberto Valturio was an Italian engineer and writer born in Rimini. He was the author of the military treatise De Re militari .-References:...

 much improves on the design in 1463 by devising a boat with five sets of parallel cranks which are all joined to a single power source by one connecting rod
Connecting rod
In a reciprocating piston engine, the connecting rod or conrod connects the piston to the crank or crankshaft. Together with the crank, they form a simple mechanism that converts linear motion into rotating motion....

; the idea is also taken up by his compatriot Francesco di Giorgio
Francesco di Giorgio
Francesco di Giorgio Martini was an Italian painter of the Sienese School and a sculptor, as well as being, in Nikolaus Pevsner's terms, "one of the most interesting later Quattrocento architects'" and a visionary architectural theorist; as a military engineer he executed architectural designs and...

.

Rotary grindstone with treadle
Grindstone (tool)
A grindstone is a round sharpening stone used for grinding or sharpening ferrous tools. They are usually made from sandstone.Grindstone machines usually have pedals in which to speed and slow the stone to sharpen metal to the point of perfection....



Evidence for rotary grindstones operated by a crank handle goes back to the Carolingian Utrecht Psalter
Utrecht Psalter
The Utrecht Psalter is a ninth century illuminated psalter which is a key masterpiece of Carolingian art; it is probably the most valuable manuscript in the Netherlands. It is famous for its 166 lively pen illustrations, with one accompanying each psalm and the other texts in the manuscript...

. Around 1480, the crank mechanism is further mechanized by adding a treadle
Treadle
A treadle [from OE tredan = to tread] is a part of a machine which is operated by the foot to produce reciprocating or rotary motion in a machine such as a weaving loom or grinder...

.

Geared hand-mill

The geared hand-mill, operated either with one or two cranks, appears in the 15th century.

16th century



Grenade musket

Two 16th century German grenade musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

s working with a wheellock
Wheellock
A wheellock, wheel-lock or wheel lock, is a friction-wheel mechanism to cause a spark for firing a firearm. It was the next major development in firearms technology after the matchlock and the first self-igniting firearm. The mechanism is so-called because it uses a rotating steel wheel to provide...

 mechanism are on display in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich.

Technical drawings of artist-engineers



The revived scientific spirit of the age can perhaps be best exemplified by the voluminous corpus of technical drawing
Technical drawing
Technical drawing, also known as drafting or draughting, is the act and discipline of composing plans that visually communicate how something functions or has to be constructed.Drafting is the language of industry....

s which the artist-engineers left behind, reflecting the wide variety of interests the Renaissance Homo universalis pursued. The establishment of the laws of linear perspective by Brunelleschi
Filippo Brunelleschi
Filippo Brunelleschi was one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance. He is perhaps most famous for inventing linear perspective and designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, but his accomplishments also included bronze artwork, architecture , mathematics,...

 gave his successors, such as Taccola
Taccola
Mariano di Jacopo detto il Taccola , called Taccola , was an Italian administrator, artist and engineer of the early Renaissance. Taccola is known for his technological treatises De ingeneis and De machinis, which feature annotated drawings of a wide array of innovative machines and devices...

, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, a powerful instrument to depict mechanical devices for the first time in a realistic manner. The extant sketch books give modern historians of science invaluable insights into the standards of technology of the time. Renaissance engineers showed a strong proclivity to experimental study, drawing a variety of technical devices, many of which appeared for the first time in history on paper.

However, these designs were not always intended to be put into practice, and often practical limitations impeded the application of the revolutionary designs. For example, da Vinci's ideas on the conical parachute
Parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

 or the winged flying machine were only applied much later. While earlier scholars showed a tendency to attribute inventions based on their first pictorial appearance to individual Renaissance engineers, modern scholarship is more prone to view the devices as products of a technical evolution which often went back to the Middle Ages.
Technology Date Author Treatise Comment
Pile driver
Pile driver
A pile driver is a mechanical device used to drive piles into soil to provide foundation support for buildings or other structures. The term is also used in reference to members of the construction crew that work with pile-driving rigs....

1475 Francesco di Giorgio Martini Trattato di Architectura Drawing of such a device whose principle must be according to the Brazilian historian of technology Ladislao Reti "considered original with Franceso".
Centrifugal pump
Centrifugal pump
A centrifugal pump is a rotodynamic pump that uses a rotating impeller to create flow by the addition of energy to a fluid. Centrifugal pumps are commonly used to move liquids through piping...

1475 Francesco di Giorgio Martini Trattato di Architectura Water or mud-lifting machine "that must be characterized as the prototype of the centrifugal pump".

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