Friday, March 03, 2006

My New Car

I discussed buying a new car here but didn't say what I got. It was a Toyota Corolla. (Bought a VW Beetle in 1966, and Corollas in 78, 91, and 2006.) Each time I've bought I'm struck by the improvement in the cars. Cars don't improve on the same time scale as PC's, but they do improve. Of course, not everything is an improvement, just like with PC's and software. The manual is bigger for my new car and I feel more need to study it. There are "features" that I doubt I'll use (like the I-pod connection socket), which is certainly true of software.

I recommend Henry Petroski's books--he teaches engineering history at Duke, writes on the history of technology, like pencils, paper clips, bridges, and a very nice memoir on growing up as a paper boy on Long Island. One of his themes is the need for tradeoffs, which I do see in the new car. For example, the back seats now have the head/neck rests, a safety measure. However they reduce the visibility for someone who learned to drive by craning his neck instead of checking the nonexistent right side mirrors. Another of his themes is that we learn from failure, which I firmly believe.

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