The Technium

Loving Technology

I’ve been looking for examples which describe the love people often show technology. Reader Christopher Quinn submitted a lovely one, and no surprise, it concerns cars. If there was ever technology that people can fall in love with, it has to be cars. Quinn sends a few excerpts from the book Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin (1983), which features engineer Peter Lake.

“Winter’s Tale” (Mark Helprin)

p 417      Peter Lake climbed down into paradise.    Walking through that place, he felt like Mohammed in Bismillah. Everything was shiny, sparkling, alert, and familiar. The machines seemed to greet him with the same ingenuous affection as a class of kindergarten children receiving the mayor. And as they puffed and revolved and did their mad angular dances, Peter Lake realized that he was a mechanic. In each section of the half-acre of machinery, years of knowledge charged out from the interior darkness and stood at attention like brigades and brigades of soldiers on parade. The realization was locked in place as if with strikes and bolts. 

p 419    “Look at this engine,” he said, staring enthusiastically at the huge and graceful piece of machinery under the perfection tattle. “She’s gorgeous, isn’t she, like a young girl come back from a June day at Coney Island. This is called a comely engine. When she approaches a hundred percent efficiency, superheated steam turns inward, and becomes so volatile that it pushes apart two rather heavy tandy pices (the kind with the calabrian underglides) and rises through a secret flue into this chamber here, where it pushes around an eighteen-eight-three silver dollar at near-musical speeds. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know why it has to be an eighteen-eighty-three dollar, but that, as I recall, is the custom.”    The two mechanics were speechless. 

p420    “…When they designed it, they had more in mind than just power in and power out. The whole business is like a giant puzzle. It’s sort of an equation. The pieces are interrelated, as if they were the instruments of an orchestra. To be the conductor, ” Peter Lake said with a grin, “you have to know every instrument. And you have to know the music.”

If you know of other writers who wax lyrical about their creations, email me (sorry comments are currently off).


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