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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Survival of the inexplicable

Evolution can inform things as well as organisms. Usefully too. It spotlights anomalies where an item has ceased - for unknown reasons - to develop and has entered an evolutionary cul de sac.

The worst car I ever owned was an Austin Cambridge - by far. As I struggled with ownership I might, if I'd been better educated, have comforted myself with the thought that better cars lay ahead. With the Cambridge there was even more retrospective comfort in that better companies lay ahead and the manufacturer, BMC, then BL, then who knows, was to wither deservedly. A case of evolution acting as it should.

But I cannot say the same about the deck-chair. I neither know nor care when this cynical exercise in bad ergonomics (the science of man's relationship with his immediate environment) was devised, only that it too should have withered. It is difficult to get into and out of, induces agony just behind the knees, and can guillotine the finger-tips of the wary. Yet still it persists. You may say it has a certain gaiety. I would say... no, I won't say it.

Tin-opener technology has a come a long way. Tone Deaf and, before that, Works Well, have celebrated this progress. But a deficient design is still available, notably in French street markets. It is fabricated from pressed mild steel, suggesting it may have appeared soon after WW2 when cheapness and shortage of materials were dominant. The handle is painful to hold, the cutter tears at the tin resulting in flesh-menacing jaggery, and the fold-away cork-screw is based on a helix that is so narrow it often pulls straight out of the cork. Who favours this thing? Those who must have a tin-opener like grannie's? Nostalgia like that can be bad for you.

5 comments:

Tom said...

I learned to drive (in England at least) on an A40, gentle sweetness in metal form, and a pleasant change from Magirus-Benz, crash gearbox, 3-ton RAF lorries. Other than the A40, I never drove any other Austin.

I agree totally with your comments about old-fashioned tin-openers. But my major complaint would be about drawing pins. You know the type which when you try to push them home, the spiky shaft becomes disengaged from the flat head and penetrates the tip of the thumb. A most dis(un)engaging contrivance.

Joe Hyam said...

Deck-chairs appear not to have changed at all in their structure and basic design over the years. This is of course in no way true as you rightly say. I too have noticed how they have surreptitiously evolved faults which make them hard, almost impossible to sit down on let alone rise from. Shame on deck-chair manufacturers.

Rouchswalwe said...

You'd not catch me drinking a pint in a deck chair, that's for certain!

Roderick Robinson said...

Tom: The drawing-pin (called a thumb-tack in the US) is a perfect example of technology going down a burrow and not re-emerging. Surely the experience you cite must have happened to managers working at drawing-pin mfrs. How on earth were they able to continue thrusting their product on a suffering world. Those guys - and one has to feel they were male - deserve their own private Nuremberg.

Joe: An interesting idea. That certain types of technology have evolved backwards - that defects have been surreptitiously added. The work of the Devil, surely. Is the Devil entitled to an initial cap? I only arsked.

RW (zS): Unlike your OT stance in the post that precedes this one, your comment here has just the shade of lunacy I'm looking for. I award you an OBE - the Order of Bedlam Extraordinaire.

Ellena said...

I have tried regular, organic, free run, you name it. Why does chicken no longer taste like chicken?