The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Wednesday, June 04, 2003
JANE JACOBS ON PROGRESS AND PLEASURE: "The first successful railroad in the world was an amusement ride in London. Many of us can remember when plastics were used for little except toys and kitchen gadgets, and for piano keys as a lower-cost replacement for ivory. Tennis rackets, golf clubs and fishing rods afforded the first uses of strong, lightweight composites of plastics reinforced with fibers of glass, boron and carbon; now those composites are starting to replace metals in some construction products, some types of springs, pipelines, and aircraft and automobile parts. Computer games preceded personal computers for workaday use. For years before artificial voices were being incorporated into computerized work tools to call out the temperatures of equipment or to sound explanatory warnings, they were being used in computerized toys and gimmickry for children (e.g., 'Speak and Spell') and were being prematurely written off by 'serious' developers and users of computers as cute but useless. In my own city today I notice that solar heating is largely a passion of hobbyists, as is drip irrigation, which conserves labor, fertilizer, water and space in home vegetable gardening.

"'All big things grow from little things,' [Cyril Stanley] Smith comments, 'but new little things are destroyed by their environments unless they are cherished for reasons more like esthetic appreciation than practical utility.'"

(from
Cities and the Wealth of Nations, 1984)


posted by Jesse 3:19 PM
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