Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I keep thinking back to a television episode I watched as a kid in which a group of colonists stranded on another planet were forced to repair and reuse everything in order to survive. When the relief ship arrived to haul everyone back to earth the primary mister fixit urged everyone to stay behind, as his importance within the community would essentially evaporate once repairs were no longer crucial to survival. He elected to stay behind and everyone else boarded the return ship; it was not until they were riding atop the trailing flame of their rockets that he changed his mind, too late.

We've gone from largely hand built constructions that demand great skill to achieve precision to hand assembled constructions built from premanufactured components to altogether premanufactured constructions. Unrepairable in the climate of replacement, each generation relaxing the criteria of skill needed to maintain operation.

Having largely abandoned constructions built by hand, our remaining frontiers are burdened with the inclusion of heavy industry. Furthermore, disposable culture has tied industry up with the regurgitation of every day objects that could be scratch built or at the very least repaired and maintained from existing stockpiles. A purist will point out that these objects (such as audio amplifiers, engines, computing and communications machines) could be eliminated completely, without negating survival, personal strength or evolution. This, however, places demands upon the masses to shoulder a burden that has thus far been alleviated through the seeming perpetual output of industry.

Of course, it was pointed out some time ago that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Unless something is cyclical and self contained, perpetuation is highly improbable. Which brings me to the root motivation I have for my fascination of repair and with archaic technology in general.

Early technology is built upon human endeavor, it is attainable with simple tools. You and I can build this. Easily understood, should we work at understanding it. The fixation with application often overlooks fundamental construction. The construction that civilization has implemented to shore up its ever reaching (though largely directionless) plateau has become many generations removed from human creation. Hopefully if we awake one day to find ourselves on a depleted plain with limited tools and resources, we'll retain enough know how to forge survival.

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