Sunday, 2 April 2017

Orientation, Knowledge and Innovation

At some point around 1920....in the rurals of Alabama, my grandfather made a trip up to a Ford dealer....going likely by some convenience (either by horseback, bus, or neighbor's Ford Model T).  Cash was laid down for the vehicle of choice....black in color....and some type of orientation was given.

No one talks over the orientation or length involved....my humble guess is that it was most of two hours to cover the fifty-odd things you needed to know, and a brief drive to demonstrate motion, braking and turning.

In verbiage from this period....my grandfather would probably have taken six hours to describe the brief orientation.

No one ever talks about these operator's manuals from this period, and I seriously doubt that they would have been more than ten pages max.

It is an interesting view to sit down and realize that the previous generation, with his father....that your mode of transportation was limited to just horseback, wagon, or train.  The generation prior to that?  Just horseback and wagon.

Eight generations ago...my relative crossed the Atlantic on a vessel that took a minimum of six weeks.  It was a miserable trip and was probably something that you didn't have any desire to repeat.  His orientation onboard?  It probably took six minutes for them to lay out the sleeping area....the galley where food would be prepared, and the top deck.  Your biggest priority was the 'head' where the toilet facilities (the bare minimum) existed....likely to be a bucket.

The tenth generation of my family made a decision to move from a safe and comfortable rural location on the northeast side of England, to London.  It was a distance of 112 miles....figure three days on horseback to reach London.  Orientation?  Probably none.

Over the 90 years since my grandfather's brief orientation with the dealer?  I can climb into a car and travel the 112 mile distance (same as from Kirby Bedon to Lodon) in about 70 minutes (at least that fast on German autobahns).

Later this fall, I will do the Frankfurt to Auckland, New Zealand trip.  With a minor stop in the middle, I could have wrapped up the whole trip in roughly 22 hours.  Orientation?  Other than sixty seconds of some safety briefing on the get-out procedures, there will be little else.

I sat a month ago going over the operators manual of our car....an Audi TT.  It's roughly 200 pages of data, charts, graphics, pictures, etc.  To be honest....forty-percent of it is useless and would never be of importance to anyone.  Fifty of the pages are critical in nature, and you have to more or less memorize.  The current German drivers manual?  The US Army manual which is handed out is 98 pages long (AEP 190-34).  You have to memorize at least 100 signs, and have a fair knowledge of 50-percent of the rules.

All of us now live in a fairly robust society, with orientation and use of skill-sets are necessary to survive.  It's not just about baking chocolate cake, installing a satellite antenna, or putting a new laptop into use.  Whether we realize or not....there's likely 100,000 skill-sets that we are all using now on a routine basis....all based on some orientation and what we've added to that knowledge.  My grandfather probably did well with 3,000 likely 3x5 cards of knowledge as his basis for everyday life.  I'm probably working with 150,000 3x5 cards of knowledge.  Some with engineering or medical backgrounds are surviving with probably 500,000 3x5 cards of knowledge.

The thing is...no one ever sits down and thinks about the amount of distance covered in this short time-span.  Rarely do we think about two or three generations ago, and just how limited things were, or how difficult something might have been.  Two generations ago....a guy with pneumonia could have easily died.  Two generations ago....your chief ability to communicate a long distance was primarily a letter, or a short telegram.  Two generations ago, your operator's manual to a car would have taken you 15 minutes to read.

Life, whether we like or not....has become more complicated.