Not Quite the End of an Era

erector ferris wheelThere are unique experience in each generation of people which when examined, I believe is fascinating and perhaps nothing is more telling than what children played with during their formative years.

What can we gain in understanding looking back over the past 100 years? As this attached video may be a bit long for many, I can suggest that many children now are missing the fun we once had. The Maker Techs of today are using the same concepts aided by digital technology to come up with even more variation.

In the United States we had a product called the Erector Set.  Earlier in the U.K., it was called Meccano. Just as Star Trek science fiction may have influenced future Astronauts and communication technology, I believe the use of erector and meccano influenced many to create or control new mechanisms.

One of the jobs I found to be most satisfying in my past was working on computer controlled motors, pumps and flow rates. I worked for a firm called Measurex. They employed me as one of their field technicians to use their sensors connecting a huge paper making machine to a mini-computer. I was responsible to service, make adjustments, do chemistry on final product and report weekly findings of the operation of this system as it enhanced the output of this 19th century steam and geared monster. Although most of its parts were built in the early 20th century, some of them as far back as the WWI era, the basic ideas of using this type of steam and electro-mechanical system to produce paper could trace its roots to the late 19th century.

Choosing the right sensors and the correct programming requirements for this to all work smoothly was the bit of genius behind their (Measurex) original design. I couldn’t help but think how maybe their childhood experience in playing with mechanical toys such as the Erector Set may have influenced them.

Here is the complete hour long program by presenter James May as he shows the usefulness of working with Meccano parts to build a foot bridge in Liverpool. Enjoy!

Although it may be considered old-fashioned as a toy now, the influence of this type of modular construction permeates the engineering world even to this day.

Mississippi bridge

STS-135 flyaround of ISS