Old Mechanisms Deserve New Attention

September 29, 2009

2 Min Read
Old Mechanisms Deserve New Attention

One of our cats got a bit too chunky for her health, so I thought seriously about building a small treadmill to give our feline friend some exercise. People have used treadmills for thousands of years and you can find a short video of a recent cat treadmill at: www.videovat.com/videos/2606/cat-treadmill.aspx. What’s old in new. It looks like the cat gets a “treat” every once in a while, but that motivation defeats a weight-loss plan.

Anyway, the ancient design of treadmills made me remember an interesting book in my collection, “Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements,” by Henry T. Brown. This 122-page paperback book offers mechanical designers a lot of food for thought. You’ll find some intriguing devices, each of which has its own illustration and a short description. None of the devices are new: the book’s first print run dates to 1868. But in 1995, the Astragal Press reprinted the book, which sells for $14.95. (ISBN: 1879335638). For book information, visit: www.astragalpress.com/.

For other worthy books about old-but-still-useful mechanisms, take a look at the four-volume series, “Ingenious Mechanisms,” published by the Industrial Press. Volume I arrived in 1930 and Volume IV went to press in 1977, so the books cover a wide period of mechanical designs. (Or not so wide, considering the history of the treadmill.) You can buy individual volumes ($US 41.95 each) or the entire set ($US 145.00). Visit: new.industrialpress.com for more information.

(You will find lower prices at Amazon, but they reduce the publishers’ profits and makes it more difficult for them to reprint interesting books.)

Dover Publications (www.doverpublications.com) also offers a variety of mechanical-engineering books at reasonable costs. Many of Dover’s books are reprints of older books that still have value. Most of the paperback books cost under $US 30. Some books have undergone a revision or two.

Given the state of the art in our current mechatronics world, it’s interesting to see what engineers and designers accomplished before the use of electronics, microprocessors, and software. –Jon Titus

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