Forgetting technology is as hard as learning about it: For example, gasoline car technology. When the Magliozzi brothers, Ray and Tom, ruled the automotive airwaves, they adopted the nickname “the Tappet brothers.” Even back then, very few people knew what a tappet was. But I knew.
And if anyone asked, I was proud to explain that tappets rode the camshaft and moved pushrods that moved the rocker arms that opened the valves on an overhead valve engine. I can go on. Tappets had been largely replaced by hydraulic lifters, which I also knew about. A hydraulic lifter was a gizmo that cleverly made up for any wear in the pushrods. I also knew what a pushrod was.
But electric cars will have none of these things. And all this knowledge I stuffed in my memory is useless. The next generation of cars will have no valves at all. I know all about valves. I even know about sodium-filled valves. Want to know about them? No? Want to know about rocker arms? Or four-barrel carburetors? Or timing-belt tensioners? Or top dead center? No to all that? Fine.
How does a mechanically self-absorbed person like myself get rid of all of the internal combustion information and related intricate operations? All sorts of gasoline engine parts and functions that used to be incredibly important, and nearly supportive of life itself, are now to be replaced by whatever makes electric cars go, soundless and smokeless.
I propose to start by forgetting about mufflers, which have been rendered completely unnecessary by electric power. Follow along. The manifold comes from the exhaust ports. It is connected to the Y-pipe. Then the exhaust pipe went under the car, where it joined the catholic converter that filtered out the tetraethyl lead. This was called the … whoops! Maybe not the catholic converter.
And what about the relay solenoid? I know all about master cylinders and brake fluid. And radiators, and radiator fans! And thermostats! And hoses! You show me an electric car, and you show me where the radiator hose is. Forget it. Which is what I have to do.
This is not like clearing disk space on an old laptop. Discard color information? Discard everything you knew about V-8s? Not that easy. Not just pushing a key.
Ray and Tom are off the air (Tom died in 2014) gone to the great memory Go-Jo pump in the sky and are, no doubt, laughing at the helpless like me, whose heads are clogged with useless terms and mechanical concepts, all totally worthless as electric cars race soundlessly by. In the future, there will be no pistons. There are no piston rings, there is no piston slap. There are no wrist pins, no connecting rods, no crank shafts, valve cams, no flywheels, no Bendix gears. I even have to forget who William Hugo Bendix was. Obviously, no one is going to care about him. He was a genius, but that’s the way it goes.
So, life rolls on. With some effort, I can forget all about the thousands of engine and transmission parts that I have studied, lubricated, replaced and gained self-importance by knowing about.
It will all disappear, gone with the synchromesh tranny and the transfer case. There will be no more tappets. And there are no Tappet brothers. Well, I’ll forget about tappets, though I’ll always remember the Tappet brothers. But if anyone asks, I will no longer tell them about the tappets I used to know. That’s OK. They won’t ask.
Jeff Danziger lives in Dummerston. His editorial cartoons and Teeds appear regularly in The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.