Wednesday, May 12, 2010

OBMag #1 update: Feral Technology

An excerpt from the Feral Technology column in issue #1:

"The futurist Ray Kurzweil once commented that; “I'm an inventor. I became interested in long-term trends because an invention has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world in which it is started.” Throughout history, there have been examples of inventions whose usefulness has long out-lived it's inventor. Here are a few examples of 20th Century designs of the highest order..... In this new era, when the “Amerikan Empire” is sliding into decline and the only thing we seem to be able to manufacture are high fructose corn syrup, “financial instruments” and porn, it might be helpful to look more closely at gadgets that really work- and work, and work.....

The 3-speed Bicycle
Before the 1970s explosion of japanese road bikes with derailleur gears, the English-style 3-speed ruled the roads. In fact, the 3 speed roadster accounts for more than ½ of the bicycles ever built. The Raleigh DL-1, with it's fully enclosed chain-case, rod and roller brakes and giant 28 inch wheels made it the perfect all-terrain bike of it's time. Designed in 1913 for the British military, it eventually served across the empire as the bike of choice of police, mailmen, couriers and commuters from Kingston to Shanghai. The first manufacturing facility built in post-imperial India was a bicycle factory, which still produces an exact replica of the DL-1. Across Asia, the English-style roadster is the platform of choice for cargo bikes and pedi-cabs.

At the heart of every English-style 3 speed is the Sturmey-Archer 3 speed hub. The fully enclosed hub is nearly impervious to the elements, and extremely rugged. To disassemble and reassemble the planetary gears of a 3 speed hub is a lesson in physics, and some might say a peek into the clockwork of the universe (okay, mostly old hippie bike mechanics say that...). Many variations have been built with up to 7 speeds, and the “DynoHub” includes an AC generator for powering lights. In America, 3-speed bikes built in the UK with Sturmey-Archer hubs were sold up until the late 1970s, labeled as Robin Hood, Sears brand, and even K-Mart. Easily found at second hand stores for $50 or less, these workhorses will still out-ride and out-last any cheap bike bought from Walmart....."

Read more in OBSOLETE Magazine #1 - out July 1st.