Before either of these two methods had become available for the practical navigator, he was very considerably hampered in his techniques of navigation. He was accustomed to sail along the coast until he reached the latitude he wanted. Then he would strike out on an east or west course, along a parallel of latitude, until he made a landfall. Except by an approximate dead reckoning, he could not tell how far he was along the course, yet it was a matter of great importance to him that he should not come unawares onto a dangerous coast. Having made his landfall, he sailed along the coast until he came to his destination. It will be seen that under these circumstances every voyage was very much of an adventure. Nevertheless, this was the pattern of voyages for many centuries. It can be recognized in the course taken by Columbus, in that of the Silver Fleet, and that of the Acapulco galleons. (Wiener 1989 :137)
The first place where steam power came into practical use was in replacing one of the most brutal forms of human or animal labor: pumping of water out of mines. At best, this had been done by draft animals, by crude machines turned by horses. At worst, as in the silver mines of New Spain, it was done by the labor of human slaves. It is a work that is never finished and which can never be interrupted without the possibility of closing down the mine forever. The use of the steam engine to replace this servitude must certainly be regarded as a great humanitarian step forward. (Wiener 1989 :140)
WIENER, Norbert. 1989 . The human use of human beings: cybernetics and society. London: Free Association Books.