Tuesday, April 1, 2014

We are living in amazing times

I first got interested in old stuff back in the 70’s. A lot of the guys I rode with were into vintage motorcycles and so it didn’t take long before I had a couple of old bikes in my own cluttered garage. The first was a 1956 Norton Dominator that really had seen better days, but it was a cheap introduction to the vintage scene. Used and abused it needed everything from basic maintenance items to cosmetics such as a new seat pan and rust-free handlebars. I never did complete the restoration because I traded it up to a Dominator collector for a newer Norton Commando (the first of several). But what I did learn while I owned it were the arcane processes of the day involved in finding and acquiring parts for old motorcycles, whether OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture), NOS (New Old Stock), or after-market replacements.
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The first step was to join the local CVMG (Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group) chapter. This group treated each and every restoration as a team effort and would offer all sorts of advise on how to proceed, what substitute parts could be made to fit/work, and failing that, what businesses might sell the specific parts you needed. And if you were really lucky someone would have the original parts manual for your bike and let you borrow it for a while.
The next step was to embark on a letter-writing campaign to a number of those businesses (most often in the UK) asking if they had the part you needed and at what price. This step usually took about a month before you got a response. And sometimes you’d go through 2 or 3 iterations before you finally tracked down what you needed. Then you’d send off a money order and wait for the package to arrive, hoping they hadn’t in the meantime sold the last one in stock and were waiting for a backorder (which happened more than once).
If all went well (which it hardly ever did) you could have what you needed in your hands in about 2 months. Which was when you realized you also needed a frippen to hold the widget in place and so the process started again.
And that was for a 20-year-old motorcycle – not ancient by any means.
2014-04-01 15.48.49Contrast that to today. I now have a 63-year-old outboard motor that needs a variety of parts – seals, coils, condensers, points, gaskets, impeller, etc. At 9 AM this morning I discovered the coils needed replacing. Enter Google. By noon I had the original and replacement part numbers and several sources of supply (including eBay, of course). A quick phone call to the local NAPA Parts store and the parts were on order, to be delivered by the end of the week. For a 63-year-old motor.
Ain’t technology grand?
I think I’ll put one of my spare computers in the shop – but that’s another project for another day.
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10 comments:

  1. It has become such a small world thanks to technology, it's amazing! If only my grandfather (or even my father) could see it now, what would he think?

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    1. One almost has some sympathy for Thomas Watson of IBM who is reputed to be the originator of this quote in 1951: 'I think there is a world market for about five computers'. He could no more envision the future world than we can really appreciate how far and how fast we've come. And how long can it continue at this pace? Wish I knew.

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  2. Our world has definitely changed, sometimes I fear not for the better anyway I digress. The internet has definitely solved problems when you are searching for parts. Pretty cool that you have that old outboard.

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    1. Thanks Dar. And re change, see my reply to VStar Lady above. It really is almost unfathomable.

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  3. Canajun:

    We have reached the point of diminishing returns. We have progressed more in the past 10 years since the inception of civilization. We have too much manufacturing capacity. Information is available to all of us at our fingertips, or touch screens . Everything you want to know about anything can be found using our computer in the comfort of your home.

    I am not sure this is a good thing. Perhaps we would have a better life living in simpler times and also with stores closing on Sundays

    bob
    A weekend photographer or Riding the Wet Coast

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    1. Bob - I don't disagree but I wonder if our ancestors didn't say the same things back in the early 1900's when the automobile, airplane, etc were shaking their world? I have trouble seeing where it's all going, but others have some incredible visions I imagine.

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  4. I have missed emotions. Well I am impressed at the ability to have information at my fingertips, I worry about how we - and if we - understand that info.

    Well its certainly benefical for things like parts and "how to do" video's, I'm not sure if the internet provides us with a deeper understanding of the history of a particular subject.

    Or even if that history is accurate.

    Technology is neutral....it's what we do with it that is not.

    Off topic somewhat I know...but it's still worth thinking about.

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    1. Robert - It is certainly worth thinking about. I think we are seeing a major shift in knowledge and understanding, relying less on memory and more on Google or Wikipedia. So there's no need to really read or understand a topic, one can simply look it up if need be. So we are stuck with 140-character tweets, 30-second (or less) soundbites, and attention grabbing headlines so we'll actually purchase a newspaper. I'm old-school and even I find myself succumbing to the dumbing down of media of all types. Worth thinking about even if only to be aware what's happening to ourselves.

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  5. I have seen the future, and it's going to get one heck of a lot more bizarre than we can know. Google Glass, bio-informatics, motion capture interfaces, wearable computers, shirt-and-trouser-area-networks (SATANS), near-field communications payment and information transfers, imbedded tracking chips, QR code tattoos... it's all punishment for when I laughed at my in-laws struggling with cell phones and voicemail.

    There's no hope that I'll be able to adapt in any real way.

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    1. David - All the stuff you mention is readily available today; it's the stuff we can't even imagine that's either going to be exciting or extremely frightening - and maybe both.

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