There's something about looking at these forgotten scenes, that really stirs up my imagination. I want to know what happened to the people in them. Where did their lives go from this moment in time? Did they know how much things were going to change in just the next few years? How did they cope?
The dominant technology of the day is usually there to be seen. Perhaps not front and centre, maybe off to the side. An early model car, or a steam powered ship. An iconic device from the era that silently defines the age. Something that the locals of that time took for granted, and assumed would be forever.
Yet we observers from a century later, know different.
We see the carefree expressions on the faces in the photo's, and know that some real challenges lay just ahead of them. We easily spot the unusual device or profession in the photo; the one that we know didn't make it. We mentally project it's trajectory over time. It's downfall, and ultimate disappearance. We sense the scale of the disruption that it would have caused.
And we know it's happening to us in exactly the same way, right now.
The arrival of Netflix in Australia a few weeks ago has almost certainly signalled the end of the local (ailing) dvd rental store, not to mention whole chains of dvd sales stores. The mobile-app-based taxi service Uber, was recently confirmed as one of the most popular forms of domestic transport, despite being essentially illegal in many parts of the world. Incredibly, the taxi aspect of Uber may just be the tip of a very disruptive iceberg. And the FAA release of new commercial drone legislation, has started (albeit very tentatively) perhaps the greatest revolution in transport logisitics we have ever seen.
Will we look back on pictures of taxi drivers, video store facades and delivery truck drivers with the same knowing sense of nostalgic melancholy?
How much have our manufacturing processes changed over just the last few years? I knew 3D printing was going to disrupt, but it wasn't until I read about Rolls Royce printing sintered titanium parts for turbines, that I really got how big a deal this is going to be. Disruptive may well be an understatement.
So will there come a time when a manual lathe or a hand file, and the skills required to use them are considered an anachronism? Will the move toward additive manufacturing in both the commercial and enthusiast arena's displace what we know to be the staples of a home machine shop: A lathe, a mill and a set of files. Or will there always be a place for the home creator to turn a dial, and make a pile of chips?
Just like the people in those photo's, I really don't know.
But I have a suspicion that the low (and getting lower) barrier to entry of 3D printers, will make printed items seem more like a commodity, rather than a creation. By contrast, I think traditionally manufactured items will appear to be more unique. They will have more of a story; the careful output of the home shop artisan. I mean no disrespect to those who love the additive technology; there is certainly a craft associated with modelling a part in 3D and getting a good printed result. But perhaps the current revolution will serve to even more clearly define the boundary between the two.
Either way, I've often thought that what we make in our home shops is often more about creativity than utility. After a hard week at the real job, you get home on the weekend, and make something cool in the shop. It's fun to design things and then express your idea's in metal and wood. For some it's just to impress the family, for others it's a prototype for a new line of product. For many it's quite simply an outlet for their creative expression. Their version of art.
Maybe the tools used to get there simply don't matter. Perhaps it will be a blend of all technologies. All I know for certain is that there are few activities in life that make me feel as relaxed as spending time in the shop. So I'm off to make a pile of chips.
The old fashioned way.
Thanks for dropping by,