Do it in the road: Timed Obsolescence

  1. Do it in the road
  2. What You Need

How Specs Live Forever

A story too good to be true

The US Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates. Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

Why did “they” use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing. Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that’s the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

So who built these old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts? The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots. Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United State standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman army war chariot. Specs and Bureaucracies live forever. So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse’s ass came up with it, you may be exactly right. Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back-ends of two war horses.

I said I wasn’t going to tell you how to get onto the infobahn yourself. I lied. I’m sure that by now you’re just aching to sneak your way onto the net, especially if you’re a priest, a teacher, or a cop.

Everything that I tell you here is probably going to be wrong by the time you read it, but that hasn’t stopped other writers from writing entire books that end up being obsolete by the time they hit the shelves, so why can’t I waste a few measly chapters?

However useless the next few chapters end up being, there’s a foolproof way to get on the net, and it’ll work for at least a few more years. Call up a friend who’s already on the net and ask them how they got there. It might be a little hard to find someone, they’re probably not talking openly about the whole thing (especially now that I’ve shown them out to be drug dealers, pederasts, and newspaper reporters), but if you offer them an eighth, or maybe a taste of your son, I’m sure they’ll be happy to give you the number of the electronic pusher who gives them their net connection, and you can take it the rest of the way from there. Flash a little green, scream like a modem in heat, and you’ll be on-line.

One call is all it takes: you’re hooked.

  1. Do it in the road
  2. What You Need