Lost / Ignored Knowledge

This post is going to start with a fairly long digression, please go with it and I promise we’ll get to the point eventually.

The first car I owned for a significant period of time was a 1985 Mark II VW Golf. It had a 1.3 litre engine and cost £350. I owned it for 3 or 4 years and then sold it for £350. Maybe everyone loves their first car and the freedom it provides, memories of driving it to 18th birthday parties sleeping in the front and then driving home. I did get to know the lady from Green Flash pretty well and I do remember spending not small amounts of time on the side of the road with it, but there were 2 characteristics of this car that made me prefer it to cars I’ve driven since:

  1. I was a better driver than the car was a car – I could drive with my foot fully down on roads I knew. After the Golf I drove a Ford Probe in which putting your foot down had you making very rapid progress. Maybe I’m just not a very good driver but I didn’t find it as fun having to be very careful with the accelerator
  2. Stuff that went wrong with it was pretty straightforward to diagnose, understand and fix being purely mechanical.

So while working in a tech company and appreciating progress and innovation, I have a lot of sympathy with www.lowtechmagazine.com and the view that not every problem with a high tech solution.

Not all innovation is progress. A great example of this is the TV industry where you see companies fervently trying to sell new, more useless innovations and features. 3D TVs are a great example, that Philips one which glowed around the edge, the new curved ones which look ridiculous etc.

These people are having loads of fun:

Embed from Getty Images

Low Tech Magazine publishes a limited range of long-form articles examining how older technologies may still enrich our lives today. Favourites of the magazine are trolleybuses and cargo bicycles. A post I particularly enjoyed was on living in the solar envelope – how town planners of old understood how to make their built environment most comfortable for all. The example of Barcelona as planned and then how that plan is being destroyed by a desire for greater density is very interesting.

The sister site No Tech Magazine is also good and updates more regularly, but Low Tech Magazine is the one to start with.



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