2007-10-27

1928: The year we became lazy

Tonight I cooked up some cinnamon toast for dinner. I pulled out the bread knife and slice a piece off the loaf. It wasn't that difficult

Even growing up in the enlightened and tech-friendly seventies, we often sliced our own bread. Weekends with Italian food found my mother slicing up a loaf of Italian bread so we could sop up all our sauce and cheese. I doubt that was the most challenging part of the meal.

And yet, the invention of "Sliced Bread" is the benchmark by which all other technical achievements are now judged.

When Otto Rohwedder invented the bread slicing machine in 1928, I'm sure he was meeting the needs of the day. But did he really think that this would be the apex of American science and engineering?

Incredible new inventions are said to be "the greatest things since sliced bread" implying that all inventions before the new one fall to their knees beneath the aura of the bread slicing machine.

We have space shuttles that go to the stars and come back (usually), computers that let us communicate with millions of people around that world, medical machines that can actually replace human organs, and none of that compares to sliced bread.

To say the internet is the greatest things since sliced bread means that even if sliced bread is no longer the top of the invention heap, it is still better than supersonic air travel, live TV from around the globe, the polio vaccine, and even plastic.

People say that US society began its decline with the Bush administration, or the Lewinsky scandal, or the insider trading scandals of the 80s, or the "Me Decade" of the 70s, or the hippie movement of the 60s, or the McCarthy witch hunts of the 50s. They're wrong.

They country began its slow decline when we decided we were too damn lazy to slice our own bread.

1 comment:

LDK in STL said...

No, this wasn't the point of your post but you probably knew that I'd have to comment on it, anyway ----
space shuttles (and other space capsules) do not go to the stars, and flippantly stating the fact that some of them did not come back was uncalled for in a post that you yourself labeled as "silly."