Thursday, April 26, 2012

Technologies, appropriate and not

I work in I.T., and spend a fair amount of time considering the intersection between technology and those who use it. Generally, this is a barren, ugly, benighted no-man's land of frustration and wasted time. So my mind keeps going back to Schumacher's concept of "appropriate technology"—which seems to have almost no relationship to information technology, as far as I can tell, with its obsession with smart phones, busy farkles, angry birds and augmented realities.

But it's a good jumping off point for considering my personal relationship with technologies, and those devices that strike me as 'appropriate technologies.' Many years ago, I considered 'technology' to equal 'tools,' and tools to represent the intersection or interface between the human body and a problem needing solving.

In that spirit, I would like to give credit to those tools which, in my mind, represent the most perfect solutions to the problems they are designed to address. These are the few devices which I have selected carefully, have owned for many years, and which in general, always make me happy when I use them. They are:
  • Stihl Chainsaw. The most amazing force-multiplier I've ever used.
  • 2003 BMW R1100s (and, by extension 1983 BMW R80ST)
  • Troy-bilt rototiller, ca. 1974
  • Skil worm-drive circular saw.
  • Craftsman wood chisels. Even after the kids sculpted stone with them.
  • Buck Multi-tool. For some reason, I've never seen a Leatherman I liked nearly as much or that did such a fine job, even though the Buck tool is a little...sui generis.
There may be others I have overlooked, but this little group is very special in how well they do what they are meant to do. They represent the perfect intersection of the human experience and a specific problem in need of solving. I have others that might eventually merit inclusion on this list, but we do not yet have the accreted personal history to justify their inclusion with this rarefied and select cohort.

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