[LMB] OT: hand-tools

Jim Parish jparish at siue.edu
Sun, 23 Nov 2003 15:51:44 -0600

Andy Hill wrote:

> This is something psychologists refer to as 'functional fixedness'.  A
> person is 'programmed' to think of an object or motion as being used
> in only one way and is then unable to wrap their mind about using it
> differently.  I encounter this _ALL_ the time as a custodian and
> student teacher.  Having been an auto mechanic for ten years I was
> forced to start thinking about things differently because speed is
> money and if you can get around buying a special tool for a job then
> there's more money in your pocket.

In this light, people might find Henry Petroski's _The Evolution of Useful 
Things_ interesting. (I mentioned it earlier, in connection with the rise of 
cans and can openers.) He devotes considerable time to the rise and 
fall of complicated silverware sets, making - among other things - the 
case for oyster forks, and the case for their disappearance. I found the 
book fascinating. (Petroski writes a monthly column on engineering for 
"American Scientist", and has a knack for making the commonplace 
exotic. One of his earlier books, which I haven't gotten around to 
reading yet, is entitled _The Pencil_...)

Jim Parish