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Whatever Happened To Low Tech?
By George Porter
Lately I have been noticing that "high tech" is everywhere.
The car adds talk about high tech engines, transmissions, and
suspensions. The programs on TV talk about electron microscopes,
space walks, Hubble telescopes, brain surgery with computers,
and lots of other things that seem nearly impossible. The great
effort of the smart folks of this world seems to be to make a
computer chip that can do a zillion calculations in a millisecond.
Everywhere I travel I see people using laptop computers that
have more memory and information than the Library of Congress
and can communicate with any other computer in the world over
the information super highway. We all have VCR's and CD's that
play music with a laser beam.
We can take a single drop of blood from any one of the billions
of people in the world and identify the person it came from. We
send pictures over the phone and our TV sets pick up signals from
satellites in outer space over dishes in our backyard. Most of
the technology we live with today, taken for granted in our everyday
lives, did not exist 15 years ago. The computer I am using right
now is one year old and it is obsolete, I can't even give it to
my daughter in college because it is not powerful enough for what
her classes require.
The manufactured housing industry is filled with the same kind
of high tech. Engineers work on computers so big they would cause
the lights to dim in small towns. They design frame camber, roof
trusses, floor systems, wind loading, thermal efficiency, and
a thousand other things that go into the making a home. The diesel
truck that delivers the home works by injecting a highly refined
petroleum product into a compressed and turbo charged cylinder
full of air under thousands of pounds of pressure. This charge
is timed to a microsecond so that it instantly explodes when the
piston is just beyond top dead center. It can do this hundreds
of times a second, running for half a million miles before you
And then we have set-up.
It is almost like we left home on a family trip in a super
sonic jet and forgot the baby. I can show you set-up manuals today
that say you don't need frost-free foundations in the North, all
you have to do is adjust the anchors every day as the ground shifts
beneath the home. Some manuals say all you need to set a $60,000
multi-section home are a couple of boards and some grease. This
is not low tech, it's NO tech.
We don't need lasers and computers to set homes but we surely
need some good low tech common skills. A $20 home made water level,
some safe rolling and jacking equipment,and a few hand tools are
all the equipment you need to do it right. But that is not enough,
the manufacturers need the skill to write a manual that the set-up
guys can read; and then show them how to use it. This may be very
low tech, but guess what, the high tech stuff won't work without
it. Solving this problem will have a greater positive effect on
the industry than any computer chip ever made. We can do it if
we try, we have to, our future depends on it.