The Best Buggy Whip Manufacturer.

distributorcap ny

There was a time was this country made things – and (hold your breath) invented things. Now it seems like all we do is make money and trouble (well with regards to money, just a small minority, the rest of the world can attest to the trouble). Most of us struggle to just stay afloat in a country that is more and more just about moving money around. Manufacturing, which is one the very basics needed to allow a nation’s economic engine to thrive (see China, People’s Republic of) – is nothing but a shell of its former glory. Look at all the old factories being converted into super-chic condos in the old industrial towns of the Northeast. Look at the hapless travails of the once-mighty American auto industry. Steel? Garments? Television Sets? – virtually gone from the production process in the American economy. So what do we do instead – we manufacture financial products like derivatives and hedge funds – and move a lot of money around. Except even that is going overseas (or more likely underwater).

Outsourcing – the bane of the 21st century America, is not just limited to manufacturing — we are even outsourcing our ingenuity and creativity. I would bet half of all high school students couldn’t tell you what NaCl represents or think ultraviolet is a shade of lip gloss.

One of the great kernels of American inventiveness was the space program. What started as an unhealthy race with the enemy — who could get into space, get to the moon, control the skies first – turned into a healthy laboratory for invention, ideas and progress for America and the world. There always has been a lot of controversy as to whether or not space exploration warranted federal funding – that it should it have been financed as private enterprise. But for once a Federally run program actually made a plethora of stuff that is part of mainstream consumer society.

The development of space technology has helped create many medical advances, common household products, and business tools that we now take for granted. The first manned program from NASA – Project Mercury began in the late 1950’s and helped to develop blood pressure tests in order to ensure that ventures into space were safe to human health. The coating of satellites to protect them from small space debris – well that technology is now scratch proof eyeglass lenses. Nickel Titanium, a versatile metal alloy with strange shaping properties – is used to adhere braces to teeth. Without telemetry – the science of remote measurement – there would be no automatic monitoring for alarm systems, oil rigs, or chemical plants. Also no cell phones, cameras, remote radio broadcasts, or global positioning systems.

The Tempur-Pedic foam in beds, the Tephlon coated pans to fry and sauté without sticking and the microwave for cooking and reheating are direct results of products developed by NASA. Also daily used household products such as Ziploc bags, refrigerants, oven mitts, bakeware, and inhalers were either derived from or used within the space exploration programs. You have cable or satellite television – well that is another by-product of the space program.

What else? – the remote would not lower your garage door, a CD would not hold more than a song or two. Your sandwich would be stale by lunchtime, your soda would be in a cup and your insulated lunch bag would be brown and paper (in another words, not insulated). Tools were specially made for the moon landings – because the Apollo astronauts would be hard pressed to find outlets on the moon.

The material used to make space suits was used to make lightweight sneakers. Polarized sunglasses – thank NASA. Non-invasive thermometers to take temperature — an offshoot of how NASA astronomers determine stellar heat via infrared technology. Dimples on a golf ball – well they did tee off on the moon.

Water purification, gym equipment, bicycle helmets, ski boot parts, portable heaters and coolers, joy sticks for computer games – the list goes on

And of course Tang.

That is the practical. Then there is the grandeur and expansion of human knowledge. The wealth of information, data and facts about “how did we get here” cannot be discounted or disregarded. It was not intelligent design that gave us the following pictures – but a design of intelligent experiments and machinery that has allowed to finally see our neighbors in the Solar System with the Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizon (which will reach the planetoid Pluto in 2015) projects.

Jupiter from Galileo – 2002

Saturn from Cassini – 2007

Uranus from Voyager – 1986

Neptune from Voyager – 1989

Yes there was a time America invented, created and made things, a time when America cared about learning and exploring, and a time when America was the envy of the world for our daring leaps forward in science and education. Yes there was a time, and it seems that time, which had been slowly slipping away, is under rapid retreat from the current management. In fact many of the policies our current government endorses takes science back to the dark ages. Without another burst of ingenuity and manufacturing in a very short time — America will definitely be the best buggy whip maker on Earth.

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~ by distributorcap on April 29, 2008.

18 Responses to “The Best Buggy Whip Manufacturer.”

  1. I want to believe that we can unravel some of this and go back to making things and being creative again. If not, well then it’s over. I’m torn between trying to figure out what we can do to change things (because what has to be done doesn’t seem difficult, finding the political will to do it, however, seems impossible), and suggesting to my nephew and nieces (when they are a bit older) that they should study abroad.

  2. Great post. It isn’t often that I stumble across someone in the blogosphere that “gets it” regarding the space program. I lament what’s been done to NASA by the bureaucrats. It’s amazing what they’ve managed to accomplish after all the short sighted hacks. I root for all the private sector endeavors because politicians can’t fuck with their funding.

    [sigh] At least, I’ll get to see the Grand Tour completed with Pluto before I die.

    Thanks again for posting this.

  3. Good post d-cap. I have always had an interest in the cosmos.Unfortunately i am considered a dork. As we march backward in our spiral of deevolution I can onlky thank god that are some brilliant (a small number) youngsters that will continue to innovate the state of the art.
    Oh yeah and we have that pesky ‘moores law’

  4. We have spent so much time trying to be the sheriff of the world that we have failed ourselves.

    I don’t know where we go from here, but if it’s a positive path, I’m for it.

  5. I remember in the late 70s and early 80s, how excited I was to get the National Geographic issues with the photo spreads of Viking and Voyager. Those were the days that propelled me into engineering. Needless to say, the engineering is long gone, but that excitement for such things is still there and that root of exploring the unknown, of tackling the impossible scientific problem isn’t being watered anymore.

    As you said, we’re only searching for a more efficient way to make a buck. We being the top 1%. But you’re far too optimistic. You know the buggy whips will be made in Mexico or Guatemala. But I’m sure we’ll still be number one in manufacturing cans of cheese puffs.

  6. If it turns out I’ve left three variations of the previous comment up here please delete the extraneous ones. Thanks for a good post.

  7. Ahh! A comment posted this time so here goes with my final try to leave a real message. You see I was reminded of the pathos of ‘A Space Oddity’ when I read your article. The vision of our planet as a fragile blue environment hanging in the vast darkness of space had a profound effect on me all those years ago and I thought Bowie captured the feeling perfectly. I guess not everybody understood but I hope there’s still time.

    Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
    I’m feeling very still
    And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
    Tell my wife I love her very much (she knows!)
    Ground Control to Major Tom
    Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
    Can you hear me, Major Tom?
    Can you hear me, Major Tom?
    Can you hear me, Major Tom?
    Can you hear….

    “ am I floating round my tin can
    Far above the Moon
    Planet Earth is blue
    And there’s nothing I can do.?

  8. A few years ago, Kat and I visited the space center in Huntsville, Werner von Braun’s homebase. I tried to explain to her the sense of discovery, of hope, of promise that we all felt in the late 60s and early 70s as our astronauts soared through space and we were the technological leaders of the world. She, a child of the Reagan era, brought up on a steady diet of cynicism and outsourcing, just couldn’t wrap her mind around it all, and it made me sad to think that no one is likely to ever feel that way about America again. We’ve lost so damned much, Dcap. So damned much.

  9. I, too, remember when the space program was exciting and long to have that again and to share it with my kids.

  10. I wanted us to spend some of our great technological capital on building dykes that could hold back the Mississippi so we could rebuild the ninth ward in New Orleans. But apparently we can’t build jack-shit. How long ago did the Dutch build their dykes? What the hell is wrong with our Army Corps of Engineers that they can’t build dykes?

    I thought the space race was a lot of money spent to give us glad wrap and Tang. Why can’t we spend that kind of money on rebuilding our infrastructure? I’d rather save planet earth than look for another planet to colonize and fuck up.

  11. Utah, I think we’ll save planet Earth only by challenging ourselves and expanding beyond our current capabilities. If we keep doing the same stuff, we’ll keep getting the same results. Maybe thinking big will the beginning of significant changes. Humans need to be challenged and inspired. We need a Renaissance, an Enlightenment, and maybe even a Scientific Revolution.

  12. Obama is talking about an ‘Apollo’ type program to combat/deal with global climate change. In theory that makes sense: Make it a national priority by committing the time, money and resources to GETTING IT DONE. If we really did that, then that could be a means by which we, as a nation, renew our reputation as innovators and seekers of excellence.

    Sadly, though, I doubt very much that the will either of the government or the will of the people is there. We are so complacent as a nation. The ‘haves’ are too busy doing what busy rich people do, and the ‘have nots’ are feeling hopeless. The people in the middle mostly feel helpless.

    Great post DCAPNY. And I love the pictures.

  13. Why invent things? That’s not “where the money is.”

    Great post, D-Cap.

    Our brand of capitalism is not about “progress” anymore.

  14. Piny – I want to believe too – we have done it before, but as you said we don’t have the will to do it again – we are too busy living in fear instead of living boldly

    DED – the space program was a crowning achievement in American ingenuity and guts – but if you don’t have an ROI of 8 billion percent by the next day – no one cares

    David – thanks. From one dork to another – I hope someday the dark cloud of bush and people like him will be lifted and we can get our dorkiness back

    POP – I am normally the optimist, but when I see people still rooting for bush and still wanting mccain and still talking about intelligent design – I am quickly becoming the pessimist

    Randal – good point – even the buggy whips will be outsourced. You actually see good billionaires like warren buffet, but for every buffet there is a enron, worldcom or tyco – where more money is all that matters

    Susan – I love bowie – so I guess I am showing my age. And that is a great song

    Dg – we have lost so much and I cannot figure where or when — it really seems to have started around the time we were defeated (yes defeated) in Vietnam – and we have spending 35 years trying to prove we weren’t. everything else doesn’t matter – just avoiding fear and embarrassment

    Scarlet – I remember stopping everything to watch them walk in space, walk on the moon and get Apollo 13 home.

    Utah — while the home planet needs a lot of work – we do need to keep expanding our minds and seeking knowledge – not just expanding our wallets

    Scarlet – you echoed what I am thinking

    Anita – complacent would be good at this point – we are cowering and cowards – we have let the inmates run the asylum and we are afraid to speak up – we are rome and the fall.

    M fred – thanks – American capitalism is only about “who ever has the most money when he/she dies wins” – all science and invention today is done by other nations – we just go around telling people how to live, not making lives better.

    I will end with a big F-you to George Bush, who has the nerve to spend time honoring the Giants while the economy collapses around him. Plus for giving the most inane and idiotic press conference of his term the other day

  15. DCap- Speaking of Chimpy, and the space program.

    When asked about Chimpy’s plan to go to Mars, Al Sharpton said, “I think it’s a great idea, when is he leaving?”

    If that possibility isn’t reason enough to support NASA, and Al, I don’t know what is.

  16. Yes, DCap, but the innovations are now strangled by the Frankenstein monster called the M-I-C. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military-industrial_complex

    The Pentagon Strangles Our Economy: Why the U.S. Has Gone Broke
    By Chalmers Johnson

    Bear in mind that when many of the innovations you speak of we were still convinced that we could continue being the energy piggies that we are, that technology would allow us to utilize our own substantial reserves of oil.

    Probably won’t happen

    It’s an ecological nightmare.

  17. Great post, DCap. I tried to write a comment yesterday but my wifi acted up and it didn’t post. This was an excellent summary of pretty much everything that’s wrong today and it just goes to show that our country has peaked and we are on our way down. I don’t know if we can come back but you did a good job of showing what happened and pointing out that letting things like the space program just go without a fight are another way that we will continue to go downhill.

  18. that should have been “is another way…”

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