Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are You A Mechanic or a Technician?

        Do you prefer to be called a mechanic or a technician? What intrigues me about that question is the variety of responses one encounters when the question is asked. Laypeople especially ascribe various meanings to each term, and often the definitions of each term are completely opposite from one person to another. This may not be one of the more important issues in the repair field, but it points out how language can be used (or misused) according to one’s point of view, vocation, station, or personal bias.

One view I often see is that a technician is more accomplished or knowledgeable than a “mere” mechanic. Often what is meant is that a technician is adept at using technology (computers or scanners) to help diagnose and repair modern, processor-controlled vehicles. By extension, this must mean that we are “better” repair people than our predecessors who worked on earlier technology. This is ludicrous, of course. A person’s skill in any endeavor can only be judged against his contemporaries. A great wide receiver who played 20 years ago would still be among the best, if he was born in the modern era.

Maybe one problem is the perceived meaning of the word “technology”. Today we tend to use the word to mean computer-related devices and systems but traditionally, it refers to the collection of tools, including machinery, modifications, arrangements and procedures used by humans. Thousands of years ago technology was a rock bound to a stick and the use of fire. Until the 1970’s auto technology was carburetors, breaker point ignition, and drum brakes. Maybe the word technician just sounds better, and more modern to some people.

I guess it’s obvious I prefer to be called a mechanic. One issue I have with being called a technician is that there are so many different kinds of techs in many different fields. There are EMT’s, computer techs, quality control techs, and engineering techs, to name just a few. Mechanics, on the other hand, are understood to be repairers of vehicles (or aircraft). I also see the nature of the work as being different. Many technicians follow a fairly rigidly prescribed process or procedure to arrive at a solution or a verifiable result. Lab techs need to exactly follow a set procedure on a given sample to ensure that the result of the test is correct and unambiguous. A mechanic has a process to follow during diagnostic and repair, but that process is changed or modified as circumstances dictate. Imagine if an EMT decided to change a procedure during an emergency situation. I realize that some technician jobs approach or closely resemble the duties of a mechanic. A cleanroom Process Technician for example, is a mechanic who repairs and adjusts vacuum systems and process chambers where electronic chips are manufactured.

 It is only my opinion but I feel the term "mechanic" is more descriptive of the work, and I don’t see the need to “dress up” or legitimize my vocation with a new title. Maybe I’m old school, but I do believe in using precise language when specific descriptions are needed.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A milestone for The Toolbox

Hello everyone.
On September 5, 2014 The Toolbox reached the milestone of 50.000 page views.
Thanks to all who stopped by to check it out.

Graph of Blogger page views

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Steam locomotives were the semi tractors of the 19th century.

I recently took a vacation trip to Colorado and New Mexico. I shot these short videos of one of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad trains leaving New Mexico and heading north into Colorado.

The first video is of the train leaving the yard in Chama, NM.

Cumbres & Toltec #484 leaving Chama, NM

The second video is the same train a little further north in Colorado. The grade to the top of the pass is about 4%.

Cumbres & Toltec #484 in Colorado

Sorry the quality of these videos aren't first-rate. I wasn't really expecting to make these, just happened to be there when the train was loading passengers. Think of these locomotives as the semi tractors of the 19th century. They also resemble trucks in that although large and heavy-duty, their design was intricate and ingenious. Check out this site on different valve gear used to control the steam to the cylinders and you will have some idea how much development went into later designs.