Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The New Model-T

Ask my wife, and she will tell you that I over-analyze things. Everything has an action/re-action effect that sometimes stumbles and sometimes rolls into the future.

Changes affect us in different ways. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes, change is bad. We don’t tend to know that change was bad until long after the affect has taken hold.

Predicting how change will affect us is a tricky thing. It is basically guess work based on past experience. I started thinking about this recently when I was looking at a picture of pony dung. You know, mare droppings, used oats, horse shit.

If we study history, and I don’t mean just ‘read’ about it, but really study it, we learn that things really don’t change. Only the trappings that we live in change, and they in-turn change our perception of how we see and interact with the world around us.

The picture below is a crop of a much larger image taken with a film camera circa 1909. It shows an urban street somewhere in the mid-west. A halycon image that looks tranquil and serene. See that street there? That is horse dung in the middle of the road.


Ya see, back before Henry Ford and General Motors burdened us with the concept of ‘personal’ transportation, everything in the world was horse (animal) powered. There was a huge industry in this country related to the stabling and upkeep of horses. There were breeders, oat suppliers, farthers (horse shoe repairmen), black smiths, horse reapers that would come and take your dead horse away and yes.....guys whose job it was to go around and scoop up the horse shit off the street.

Then along came mass production and internal combustion and everything changed. Check out the next cropped image form another photograph taken about 15 years later. Notice the difference? No more horse poop. No more horses period. In the span of two decades everything changed. All those jobs that related to the horse industry....gone. I don’t know what the guys that worked for the city shoveling horse shit did after they lost their jobs, but they had to do something.


So was the car better than the horse? Certainly more powerful and less temperamental. Definitely not as organic or user friendly though. There were only so many things that could go wrong with a horse.....numerous thing could go wrong with a car. It was probably harder to get drunk on a horse and mow down people in a cross walk, but it also took a lot longer to get to the next county, much less the next state.

So what is the point of all this? Change is happening again. Change always does. And when the change is complete, there will be a lot of people looking for new jobs and some jobs are never coming back.

So what is the new Model-T? What didn’t we have 10 years ago that everyone is going to have in 5 years?


They are coming, there is no question about that. Are they a good thing? Time will tell. The affect they will have on how we perceive the world and relate to each other is going to be profound.

Cars seemed like a great thing back in the 20s. Everyone wanted one. But I assume that most folks burdened with car payments, while they sit in stop and go traffic on the expressway today might have a different opinion. I wonder how much we will love / curse the iPad in 20 years. Anyone have any thoughts on the matter?

(All of the images referenced here along with many others can be found at the Shorpy Website.)