Mechanical and digital

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When I was a child heavy machinery ruled our town.  My father, my uncles, our neighbours, worked in the steel mill.  Our area was full of coal mines, iron mines, slate quarries, ports.  The world of work, the man’s world was the world of heavy industry, of machines.  On the way to Canada during the sea voyage, my father took me down to the engine room.  Later I wondered how that happened.  Perhaps he told the chief of the engine room that he had been an officer in the navy and with the easy camaraderie that exists between men who struggle with and who control the material world, he had been allowed to come in and, yes, to bring the girl too.  I was terrified by the noise, by the sheer size of the pistons that, my father explained to me, drove the shop’s propeller.  He had already explained to me how the propellor worked to drive the shop forward and I had been fascinated, charmed by the inventiveness of men.  I say “men” very deliberately since I knew that women had nothing to do with this.  It has always been a source of wonderment and awe that people ( now it is people) could invent something that could harness nature and bend it to his will.  Now things have changed.  Heavy industry is no longer king, the driving force of world economy.  Everything is digital, high tech, microchip.  Sometimes I have a great nostalgia for the huge terrifying machines.  At first glance they are all-powerful, relentless, overpowering.  But, there is a more subtle fear attached to a micro-wave oven.  All is hidden to the layman, the non-sailor.  Yes, sometimes I have a certain nostalgia for the fountain pen. . . over the iPad, I mean.

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