What's Old Is New And Refreshing Again

Oct. 21, 2010

I just got off the phone with my father-in-law. He is a long-distance truck driver. He also is a former blacksmith, U.S. Army Green Beret and general tinkerer. What he is not: computer savvy.

I just got off the phone with my father-in-law. He is a long-distance truck driver. He also is a former blacksmith, U.S. Army Green Beret and general tinkerer. What he is not: computer savvy.

Every so often I get a phone call from him that begins, "Are you sitting down?" His voice sounds distraught, his temper is on edge and I can tell he has been defeated. I always answer: "Are you having computer problems?" That launches him into a very lengthy description of exactly what he thinks of computers. This is a man who could revive a Kenworth truck engine along the side of the highway during rush hour, but put him in front of a computer and he's all thumbs.

After a few minutes of troubleshooting, I can usually talk him off the ledge and fix the problem. If it's a major glitch (he once "dropped" his laptop computer while getting out of his 18-wheeler), I try to gently tell him he needs to call in a professional.

So when my editor, Mark Rosenzweig, forwarded a column to me from UK-based the Guardian, I thought of my father-in-law and how he may never have to feel down-in-the-mouth again about not being a hipster computer user.

Seemingly, our world has come full circle and hard-labor jobs that were replaced by clean desk jobs now may be the elixir for a failing economy.

The article's headline covers the gist of the story: Graduates shouldn't be afraid of the chisel and oil can.  The article basically states that more satisfaction can be gained by working with one's hands to complete a manual task than from sitting in front of a computer and "simulating" a task. The reason for the article stemmed from Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's call for a manufacturing revival. (Osborne is responsible for all economic and financial matters in the United Kingdom. His title would be equivalent to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.)

According to Simon Jenkins, the author of the Guardian article, "Only recently have psychologists and sociologists suggested that working with hands is more than just aesthetics, but is embedded in the human gene. Hands are what drew us from the slime. Thumbs differentiated us from other mammals. Neglect the hand and you distort, torture and dissatisfy the brain. That is why pianists live so long."

In my father-in-law's case, his tinkering on his truck is much better for his psyche and self esteem than sitting in front of the computer trying to find the cheapest fuel costs at the Flying J or his next load from FreightFinder.com. The irony? He has to read this article from his computer. . . maybe I will print it out for him instead.

Traci Purdum
Senior Digital Editor

Sponsored Recommendations

Keys to Improving Safety in Chemical Processes (PDF)

Many facilities handle dangerous processes and products on a daily basis. Keeping everything under control demands well-trained people working with the best equipment.

Get Hands-On Training in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment

Enhance the training experience and increase retention by training hands-on in Emerson's Interactive Plant Environment. Build skills here so you have them where and when it matters...

Managing and Reducing Methane Emission in Upstream Oil & Gas

Measurement Instrumentation for reducing emissions, improving efficiency and ensuring safety.

Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Configurable Inputs and Outputs Transmitter

The Micro Motion 4700 Coriolis Transmitter offers a compact C1D1 (Zone 1) housing. Bluetooth and Smart Meter Verification are available.