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Hardware Root Page

Colchester Triumph
Science and Society Picture Library (Colchester Triumph)

Here you'll find anything to do with hardware. To me this is mainly mechanical engineering, and although electronics is often described as hardware, I cover anything I do in relation to electronics under the firmware banner.

As a business I don't really aim to be a mechanical engineer proper, merely a hobbyist. Nevertheless it is my opinion that mechanical engineering is a forgotten tenet of postmodernist progress and so it has it's own important place here on this site.

Since I have a particular interest in historic railways, and am in fact attempting to draw a railway locomotive in the links above on the left, I thought it necessary to say why.

Knowing that I wanted to put a section devoted to the development of a model steam locomotive on this site, some months ago I chose Gladstone as a suitable target. The choice of this locomotive was easy. There are essentially four reasons;

  • As far as I am aware, no-one offers drawings for this locomotive in 5" Gauge. If I finish the research and drawing, then perhaps there is a possibility that people will want to buy drawings and castings.
  • The locomotive is one that would have run regularly through my home town, more than 100 years ago.
  • The locomotive is preserved, and that means I can see it, if I need information I can't find in books.
  • Because of it's huge splashers, and distinctive paintwork, the final model will look a treat.
Colchester Bantam Saddle (Colchester Bantam Saddle)

As a result of researching Gladstone, I have become more interested William Stroudley, it's 19th century designer. In particular I was interested in his position in time relative to the well known greats of the industrial revolution. I suppose this stems from a desire to understand what they did and didn't know. Certainly we have things much easier today. As my research developed I also began to think about how and when the industrial revolution must have had it's impact on my local area.

The reason I think mechanical engineering is important, is that it underpins transport. In particular the railways drew the industrial revolution along, powered by fossil fuel. The railways had a massive impact on society. In particular, they created an implicit expectation of availability for materials and information, and we still harbour this expectation today.

Back in the industrial revolution, they didn't know the problems of dependence on fossil fuels we face today would be so great. At the time, all they wanted was to develop successful businesses. I don't think they knew just how successful they would be.

Sine Bar
Carter Tools (Sine Bar on Surface Plate)

Even if they did know what would happen, they would have been right to think that a new technology would come along and save the day. At the dawn of the industrial revolution, the potential of nuclear energy was yet to be revealed. Nevertheless, the impact of people like Watt and Brunel on the world then, now affects us more than it did them. If there are problems, it's not because of what they did. The problems, if they truly exist, have been caused by our use of their bequest.

In the main we depend on transport, not on fossil fuels. The link is indirect. Until we find a way not to depend on transport, fossil fuel dependence will continue, unless we can decouple transport from fossil fuel. For the railway, this has largely already been done. The problem is that our demand has now exceeded the capacity of the railway to deliver. None of the systems we depend on now, like cars and aeroplanes, is easily decoupled from fossil fuels. Whatever we do, we will still need transport systems for food and waste. Fundamentally, the population has grown larger and we cannot function without transport.

Fringes in a Fabry-Pérot interferometer
Wikipedia (Fabry-Pérot interferometer)

I believe society must do all it can to understand those greats from history, and in particular what it was that caused them to be successful on our behalf. Without that understanding, society will be unable to make the leap it needs now for the society of the future.

Industrialised transport will be central to our survival in future, and without innovative mechanical devices that perhaps can work without oil, there will be no transport on the scale we need. Without that transport we all have a big problem. We need modern equivalents of those past greats that we now take for granted. We need people like them to solve these big new problems.

If you're interested in who these greats actually are, check out this link.

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Last modified: SolFlu  Tue, 15 Sep 2009 19:09:38 GMT