I was learning the Shu”t Mahartz Chiyus and came across his suggestion (#11) that Bar Kamtzar who the Mishna (Yoma 38) says could write all the letters of the Shem Hashem in one shot was actually using a printing press. “On the Main Line” mentioned the tshuvah a few weeks ago, but in the section he scanned he left out the beginning sentences. The Mahartz Chiyus is not just saying a cutesy pshat in a Mishna, but is making a more general point about technology. He writes: “Is it possible that Moshe Rabeinu who spoke with Hashem face to face, or Shlomo haMelech who is described as the wisest of all men, could not have invented a printing press before one of the gentile nations did centuries later?” One could make the same argument about any innovation, e.g. do you think Alexander Graham Bell was smarter than Shlomo haMelech? Of course not. It’s just that the world did not need telephones in Shlomo’s lifetime or he would have invented it.
I have actually seen similar arguments in mussar seforim . I don’t have an exact mareh makom but vaguely remember an Ohr Yahel writing that the Rishonim could have advanced science as far as we have in our time but they instead devoted themselves to Torah. Anyway, this Mah”C is the first time I have seen it in a more traditional halachic work.