The tool's the thing, wherein to feel that power which it may bring. pendulum clock


The automobiles

Which is it to be? We observe that the London Times has lent the weight of its authority to the word "autocar," which it now prints without the significant inverted commas but with a hyphen, "auto-car." We believe that the vocable originated with a journal called the Hardwareman, which succeeded in obtaining the powerful support of the Engineer for its offspring. As for ourselves, being linguistic purists, we do not care for hybrid constructions--"auto" is Greek, while "car" is Latin and Celtic. At the same time, such clumsy phrases as "horseless carriages," "mechanical road carriages," and "self-propelled vehicles" are not meeting with general favour. Why not therefore adopt the philogically sound "motor-car," which could be run into a single word, "motorcar"?

["The Electrical Engineer," Dec. 20, 1895]










Contemporary society has been influenced to an extensive degree by automatic appliances.
 Three aspects of Technology
 autodrawing torus

The technical aspect

The social aspect

The imaginative aspect



Tectonic or the technical aspect of technology gears

All tools, devices, instruments, utensils or implements do something. The technical aspect of any device largely dictates what it does, can do, and is used for by most people. Because of our widespread reliance on machinery, we anticipate instantaneous gratification of our needs because steam engineautomatic appliances and systems instantly fulfill our needs or demands. The technical aspect of automatic machines is that they can instantly accomplish a task.


The car itself is a technical achievement of the utmost complexity possessing over 10,000 moving parts. Before the car could be assembled earlier inventions from the wheel, to the clock, including the differential gear, belts, steel and electricity (battery and spark plugs) all had to exist. These are the technical features of automotive engineering that allow our cars and trucks to provide us with the services we demand of them.


six cylinders

The invention of the automobile's internal combustion engine changed transportation and our behavior; though it may well have contributed to altering the world, the tool itself --from a purely technical perspective-- automotive engineering and production revolutionized how we live, love, travel, play and work.



etoile the star    




The social aspect or facet


Every invention, tool complex and sets of related tools influences social relations. From the use of condoms and birth control pills to the domestication of plants and animals in the distant past, social relationships are greatly affected by the technology people have and use. The social aspect of technology means more than just how widespread and easy to use any tool becomes. The social impact of tools is both obvious and subtle because we depend on the precise timing and integration of people, machinery and electronics to make automated systems like electricity, computers, satellites, communication, and transportation systems work.

This high degree of interdependence demands precision, zero tolerances, exact colonial liverymeasurements, and detailed work patterns. All of these automated machines and gadgets we use today have the need for higher order intelligence. In previous times the social aspect of tools was less demanding in a mental sense since physical work was commonplace in making tools and using devices. The social dimension of tools is also referred to as the organizational, or behavioral adjustments people have to make in order to use, construct or distribute the tools that comprise the tool complexes we rely on.

pendulumOne important example of a change in social, behavioral, or organizational aspects of tools is the case Pursell argues when he insists that technology organizes time and space. In colonial times the sun directly overhead at noon was used to set local clocks. People traveled by foot or animal assisted transport moving more slowly than the apparent motion of the sun. During the day the sun apparently moves 15 degrees per hour across the face of the planet.

What would occur if a new form of transport could accelerate and maintain a motion at or faster than the apparent solar motion? With the coming of steamships and steam railroads, space and time would change. Especially with railroad travel, local time determined by the position of the sun at noon became obsolete because it was not standardized. Between New York and Boston, or London and Bristol there could not be a plethora of local time keeping units, if there were to be accurate printed timetables to predict the arrival and departure of speedy trains and faster shipping.

time zones

Thus the international standard time was adopted and London would have the same time as Greenwich mean time and the established standard for calculating time east and west of the prime Meridian. London and Oxford would now have the "same clock-time," much to the dismay of local interests; even if the sun is overhead at Greenwich before it is directly overhead in Oxford.




protein The imaginative aspect or facet.

The imaginative facet of technology is discovered in the realm of metaphors and in theruby slippers symbolism attached to tools and devices. In a very real sense images that tools convey to us are powerful means of discovering how widely and deeply technological changes affect societies. Take for example, the consequences of a growing and widespread reliance on automatic appliances is filled with peril and opportunity. The peril is for those who are ignorant of how these tools weave our lives together with machines, resources, and intelligence. Yet there is vast opportunity for the bright, knowledgeable and studious person -- irrespective of their gender, to respect the hidden power of technology and master some of the power latent in the use of tools.

The opportunity that technology brings is that as automation roadbecame widespread,distinctions in strength, ability and agility in the use of automated machinery between men and women diminished dramatically. Indeed, women were employed in textile plants and children employed in coal mines because they could be paid less than men. Imaginatively speaking as tools decreased the differences among people and diminished the role of skilled labor, many writers saw the industrial revolution as soul stealing.

winged lion of  timeThe winged lion here in a portrayal from the Middle Ages shows the beast holding an hour glass wherein the sands flow from the top to the bottom chamber of the glass revealing the passage of time. Time was significantly affected in the human imagination by the creation of the mechanical clock and by the 19th century time and motion studies completely altered how people experienced time.

In the modern world time measures alarm_clock_time_fliessperformance and efficiency, whereas in the medieval period, time's passage was marked by ritual prayer observances in both the Christian, Islamic and Buddhist worlds. As a form of a tightly coupled system, automated tool complexes can fail. Dependent as automation is on key inventions, including the discovery of electrons and the control of radiation, without tightly coupled systems the world of quantum dependent electronic devices would wither to an abrupt end. The scientific-industrial revolution to which Snow speaks so clearly with respect to its importance has enveloped our lives in an interdependent cocoon so dense we hardly notice how it works, where it guides us, and how it informs us about the unseen world of subatomic particles, microchips and semi-conductors.

Perhaps a new religion of compensation for failure with rituals extolling back-up systems and insurance are needed to cope with the complex --tightly-coupled– automated systems that run our world?

Henry Ford



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