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Disposable America

I remember watching part of a movie a while back with David Ogden Stiers as a musician and this young lady who came to audition her violin with him. When she finished he told her that the she played the piece flawlessly but that her performance lacked feeling. Lacked soul. Lacked emotion.

I feel that this country has lost it’s feeling and soul. It’s emotion.

Before the industrial revolution everything you got was made by hand one at a time. There very likely were apprentices and helpers involved but it was one at a time. Each unique in some way from the the others. made by craftsman an artisans who learned and honed their skills and trade over the years.

Then the industrial revolution got underway big time. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, most things were being built in factories and thanks to people like Henry Ford – on some kind of assembly line. But even with assembly line techniques and interchangeable parts, most of what was made was of fairly high quality. As you can see with this 1938 Philco floor model or this Model A Ford.

Some were of very high quality indeed. Like the E. H. Scott or this high end Zenith Stratosphere. Not only did they make the radios, they made a lot of the parts inside as well. Even the vacuum tubes. And the mechanical tuning assemblies were also complex and well made. As you can see in the photos above, the cabinetry was of very high quality as well. With fine detail work and wood inlays and a fine finish.

This attention to detail carried over to WWII. With nearly everything made for the war effort. For the time they used the best available parts. I myself have owned a number of pieces of equipment and radios from that time period and am still impressed with some of the designs and workmanship used. Even small radio receives and transmitters made for bombers by the millions and by different manufacturers had were of the highest quality available at the time. Using precision gear reduction tuning and heavy shielding and other things.

There are those who are of the opinion that this attention to quality was also part of what lead to the depression of the 1930s. That the car makers and electronics makers of the time did too much of a good thing. The products lasted too long and the newer models were not enough improved for people to want to buy new ones. So sales slowed down, inventory remained unsold and people began to be laid off. All this before the bank failures and what not.

This kind of craftsmanship could still be seen up through the early 1950s but some time around the middle of the 1950s and onward things began to change. All of this long before the Japanese and German imports began to appear in any numbers. The fancy cabinetry was going as was the inside quality as well. Early television sets had nice cabinets and well well designed for their day. But by the mid 1960s the cabinetry there was pretty much gone and the electronics inside got cheaper and cheaper.

New and improved was not so much since the electronics inside did not change much from year to year. I know I used to repair them. No real change came in the electronics until the manufactures began to offer solid state television sets. And RCA and Zenith and GE and the rest did not do this until SONY began selling their new TRINITRON sets here which made our stuff look like stone knives and bear skins by comparison.

And by the late 1970s even RCA and Philco were pretty much gone. Zenith followed soon there after. Only the names remained. And the jobs went with them. Quality electronics along with quality furniture and cars became a niche area. Mostly for high end audio equipment and sports cars.

Along the way personal physicians who made house calls and spent time with their patients and milkmen who delivered the milk and left notes in case the cows got into the alfalfa. Local TV shops and corner markets as well.

And we began to just throw things out. Not because they could not be repaired, but because they were out of fashion some how. We started to be a disposable society. Doctors who treated cases instead of people and civilian deaths became collateral damage. And now there are those who seem to think we have a disposable planet as well.

So here is an example of what we were once capable of.

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