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monsoon

When Engineers were Engineers

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Watching the guts of the IBM Selectric Typewriter (ancient word processor to you Gen Y types) in operation is fascinating. It's even more fascinating when one realizes this is being done without any analog or digital electronics. No CPUs, no Ram, no sensors, no nothing. It was over 1100 finely machined parts operating to provide this action in this completely mechanical system. There was only an electric motor to provide kinetic energy to the system. The Selectric (introduced in 1961) was considered the Mercedes of typewriters in it's day and there are still millions in use even now. It had no peer as it was the only typewriter that had the moving golfball rather than the large moving carriage. It was also considered a fine example of mid 20th century industrial design.

How in the world did they develop such a machine without the benefit of CAD tools?

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That is awesome! :)

In reference to the question in your last sentence, as someone who uses a CAD program on a daily basis, I am constantly amazed at the things that were accomplished before CAD tools. I originally learned to do design and drafting on the drawing board, and to think of how much time it took me to produce a set of working shop plans compared to how little time it takes to do the same with the assistance of a computer is astounding!

In addition to this FINE example of craftsmanship and engineering (I honestly can't think of a better description), I often wonder how long it took to deveop the plans for the Empire State Building in the days before AutoCAD, and now its countless competitors.

Oh and for the record, the lady in the office next to mine, who has been working in that same office for about 30 years, still uses one of these for typing out company checks. I see it quite often, but this is my first time seeing its "guts".

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I've used a later model of that IBM typewriter in a typing class I took when I was a senior in High School. I wish modern computer keyboards were built to the quality of that typewriter.

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These typewriters were developed and manufactured in a huge IBM facility in Lexington, Ky. It was probably the biggest industry there beyond horse racing. As we all know the typewriter was doomed by the PC and small inkjet or laser printers. Ironically the plant that built these typewriters is now Lexmark which as we all know, is one of the largest manufacturers of printers.

Many businesses still consider a hand typed hand signed letter of official stationary to be the ultimate in classy business communication and will still used these typewriters to send out, say official letters from the high ups of the company.

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They had huge amounts of draftsmen back in the day. Now, with CAD, engineers have taken on the additional role of draftsmen and can do so efficiently. I was the last class to go through drafting with paper and I can tell you that even the most basic CAD program is a vast improvement over the drafting table.

I found some old aircraft drawings I used to show my drafting students. I couldn't imagine doing a complete B-29 on paper.

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They had huge amounts of draftsmen back in the day. Now, with CAD, engineers have taken on the additional role of draftsmen and can do so efficiently. I was the last class to go through drafting with paper and I can tell you that even the most basic CAD program is a vast improvement over the drafting table.

I found some old aircraft drawings I used to show my drafting students. I couldn't imagine doing a complete B-29 on paper.

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The Selectric was the coolest thing ever. I remember typing a research paper on a brand new one (back in the day) and was amazed to find out it had a built in correction ribbon and could type words in italics.

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What I don't beleive is how anything got accomplished before word processors. The Seletric was cool, but word processors were a quantum leap.

While I agree CAD programs are an improvement in terms of efficiency, hand drafting is now a lost art. I loved drafting by hand... LOVED it! It really helped with my drawing obsession to just clear my head and draw. Now with the computer, it's not as much fun for me.

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You're right, hand drafting definitely puts you in a 'zone' when you're doing it.

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ugggh hand drafting, i remember blowing through so many pink erasers haha

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