Gearing down

I took a walk along an abandoned Norfolk Southern rail that runs through our town. A few decades ago I would pull my little ones in a red wagon to greet our neighbors as they came off the train.

These gears moved the gates that blocked the road, a job once done by humans when the railroad first ripped its way through our neighborhoods.

If you run a small current through the rails, a train’s axles will short the current, and the system will “know” something is up.

The newer signals no doubt rely on computers. Our kids pay a price for this. Knowing how to manipulate an Arduino UNO is fun, but not a whole lot of thought goes into figuring out how the “machinery” works because there is none.

Coding is literally symbolic. It’s clean, it’s cool, it’s profitable.

No gears, no grease. (Yes, I know plastic gear kits are available for Arduino kits. Why not just use a servo?)

Still not all kids are living virtually. Just a few yards from the dead gears and torn wires is an art show seen by few humans, and maybe only one from the 1950s.

The mechanics of an aerosol can are be more easily understood. The kids are alright.

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