Modern Aids

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a seed & plant supply company.  Its headline read that they had a stock of heritage seed packs available including one of the first (if not the first) climbing French Bean.  The variety of this bean – The Lazy Housewife.  The derogatory name derives from the fact that this variety of bean does not require de-stringing like runner beans: just topped & tailed and cut into short lengths before cooking, thus saving much labour in the kitchen!

This got me thinking about our attitudes to change in an ever changing world.  So often a really more efficient way of achieving a target arrives but it may take years for the new way to catch on.  Sometimes the new way is either mocked (rather like The Lazy Housewife above), or completely underestimated like the possible demands for television sets (people will soon get tired of watching a plywood box) and most famously in the fallaciously attributed statement that in 1943 Thomas Watson (the President of IBM) declared that he thought there was a world market “for maybe five computers” and “5,000 copying machines” –it was someone else!

My father bought my mother the first refrigerator in the street, it was noisy but it kept the milk and other perishable foodstuffs fresh for much longer than the larder, at the same time he purchased a washing machine to replace the copper that had to be removed so that the refrigerator could be fitted into the kitchen (it was a VERY small galley kitchen).  So at a stroke my mother could reduce the weekly number of times she needed to shop and reduce washday to a mere morning’s labour.  The gainsayers all said “We don’t need such things, why would we waste money on electrical appliances to block up the kitchen when we can go to the shop every day (except ½day Wednesday, ½day Saturday and whole day Sunday) for perishables, and send the washing to the laundry?”.  The latter point had a slight ring of truth but with two irascible sons and an engineer for a husband the stuff needing to go off to the laundry from our household alone would have filled the laundry truck.

These days few people would not have a refrigerator, a washing machine, a television or a computer and only a few pedants would have inkwells, quill pens, typewriters or a box of single use Nightingale Gramophone Needles.  There seems to be a tipping point with good new ideas, either they are “quickly” accepted and become the new normal or they fall away into history, sometimes to be found and resurrected eons later.  Leonardo’s “helicopter” drawing is a case in point.

So what will future generations think about the machinations of pro & anti vaxxers and pro & anti maskers when the main concern has to be getting “things” safe for the world population?