President’s Note: Modernizing Old Technology
This past weekend I had to laugh at my daughter as she did some college math homework. She was working online and using a dry erase board at the same time. I asked her why, and she said she was tired of working assignments on paper and erasing mistakes over and over to rework the problems. The dry erase board was faster and easier.
I pointed out to her that the dry erase board was the modern version of the slate boards used in one-room schoolhouses. Each student had a piece of slate to work problems on, and then could wipe it clean for the next assignment. No one could afford paper, or even had access to paper and pencil. Even my dad used paper for work in school, so this was really moving back in time.
The combination of a computer and dry erase board struck me as a strange juxtaposition. Studies have shown that we retain more when we write it down, as opposed to typing it into a computer. While we embrace new technologies, we still find some old technologies useful. The same holds true in agriculture.
Go into any hardware or farm supply store and look around. Every one still has hand tools. Even though we use power equipment to cultivate market garden crops, we still use various types of hoes to weed. We still use a pitchfork to move manure or mulch. Even on a modern combine, sharpened metal blades cut the crop. While it is powered by an engine, it is still a knife used to cut the crop.
How many times have you wired something and forgotten the electrical wire strippers, reached into your pocket, and pulled out a pocketknife to stripe a wire? Which reminds me – how many of you carry a pocketknife every day working in agriculture? I have since I was in middle school.
I have spoken to some individuals who prefer to sharpen a knife with a whetstone because they feel a power sharpener removes too much metal too fast and shortens the useful life of a knife.
We have access to cordless screwdrivers, but for many tasks a simple handheld screwdriver works best. Which brings to mind one area where we have moved forward: drilling holes in wood and metal. I only use power tools for this type of work.
Some technologies do become obsolete over time, but some are modernized and find good use in today’s world. Think about it in your day-to-day work. Where do you use an old technology because it is the best tool for the task, even though more “modern” technologies exist?