Mechanical Tech

When you think of technology, what do you think of? Most people would say cell phones, computers, and other transistorized gadgets. But there’s a whole other world of technology out there that’s equally exciting and all too often forgotten by most of us – mechanical technologies. While the history of electronics is short, mechanical technologies have changed the world for thousands of years. For instance, technologies like Archimedes’ screw or the lighthouse of Alexandria were developed before the birth of Christ. But to me, no mechanical technology is quite as interesting as clocks and watches. From the sundial to the Apple watch, man has been interested in the passing of time. And while it’s easy look at smart watches as an engineering marvel, they’re really not much different from a phone or tablet in extreme miniature form. In fact, smart watches are far less exciting – technology wise – than many of the analog watches out there today. For instance, the Citizen Navihawk watch is able to set the time based on radio signals from around the world, runs on solar power, contains a circular slide rule, and shows time in multiple timezones. Containing 5 different dials and 8 hands, just looking at the watch in action is fascinating. Another interesting Citizen watch is the Altichron. While having far fewer dials than the Navihawk, it offers something even more practical – a compass and altimeter. Of coarse, there are countless other mechanical engineering marvels out there – such as automatons and mechanical robot hands. Even more exciting? The union of electronic technology and mechanical technology! Components such as reed switches and tilt switches use mechanical means to interact with electronics. Mechanical hands wired with servos allow us to create machines that can interact with the world in the same way we do.  So, as we as a nation continue to focus on STEM, let’s not forget that it’s not just about electronics! The technology behind mechanical objects is just as exciting and indeed it’s the union of mechanical objects and electronics that will take move us into the future!

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