Saturday, July 18, 2009

Test gear history

I found this picture back in April and thought cool. It looked like it could come from a Hollywood period movie yet it was real. I noted the page for future reference and then forgot about it.

My current company is in a huge building that's over a century old. It was one of the first buildings in the world to use reinforced concrete, and it used to be the headquarters for the United Shoe Machinery Company. The halls are decorated with little mementoes of the company's past: poster-sized pictures 50 to 100 years old, historical vignettes of life in the company's heyday, old-style shoes, and equipment used on the manufacturing line. One day I stopped to stare at this display.

It's an old poteniometer used for equipment calibration. So I dug around online and found out that it was manufactured by Leeds & Northrup in Philadelphia - evidently they were quite the test and measurement company back in the day (see this or this).

I connected this piece of equipment with what I'd seen back in April and thought a lot about old test equipment, where it goes, and the history of the equipment and the people who make them. Does the equipment eventually sit on a shelf for decades before it is tossed (or sent to theSmithsonian)? Do the people who devote so much time & effort to create this equipment get any recognition (other than a brief summary on Wikipedia)? Normally I'm not a very reflective or pensive person. But sometimes you just have to think about these sorts of things.

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