Living Inside of the Machine


Big Clockfaces of the Munttoren ("Mint Tower") in Amsterdam the Netherlands by Arjan RichterWe tend to think of buildings as simple boxes filled with stuff, stuff like furniture and houseplants and people. Filled with machines like computers, kitchen appliances, toilets, thermostats, and elevators. You can hear, even now, the hum of HVAC, the flick of light switches, and the turning of keys in locks all around you as these machines grind away for your comfort, bringing you the climate you want. The entire building that you are in is a life-support system, ticking along silently.

We All Got Wood and Nails, and We Sleep Inside of This Machine

There are some houses and buildings out there, though, that are mechanical and that go about their purposes with no regard to the people living within them. You go inside these buildings and huddle within their cogs and gears like a mouse hiding in a grandfather clock.

We Build a Clock

Some of these mechanical buildings come in the form of bell towers, which were one the earliest forms of public time keeping, rising high above the low houses around them so that their peals could travel far distances and call people to religious services, or send out civil alarms and defense alerts. The first driving mechanisms for these bells were people, pulling on ropes, but eventually the bells became automated, ringing steadily on their own. And although only a crazy person would want to live in a building that is essentially an echo chamber for a giant bell, people (especially clergy) still did.

The Clock Ticks Once

And people still do live in clock towers, which are the more advanced version of a bell tower - they are, in fact, bell towers with clock faces added on. The earliest of these is the Tower of the Winds, a horologion (which means timepiece) built in Athens, supposedly in 50 BC. Unlike a modern clock tower, which has a clock face with hands, the Tower of the Winds has eight sundials. In Devonshire, England, Peter's Tower is a clock tower built in 1885 and was previously used as a shelter for sailors during bad weather, and is now used to house guests in its four rooms alongside the clockwork.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse by Wikimedia CommonsThe Clock Strikes the Time

That is not all that towers are used for--taking advantage of the free power source provided by gravity, lighthouses were driven by giant weights that fell, inch by inch, slowly down the central well of their towers, while the lighthouse keeper spiraled around them on his way up or down the stairs, to the different rooms of the lighthouse. The lighthouse at Pigeon Point, in San Mateo County, was one of these types of lighthouses, its 8,000 pound glass artichoke of a lantern spinning around as the weight descended down the length of the tower.

Obtain exhaustive knowledge of lighthouses by reviewing The Lighthouse Encyclopedia : The Definitive Reference or just focus on one by reading The History Of Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

And a Brilliant Light Shines Forth

People also used to sleep in underground towers, in missile silos sunk into the Earth, at the bottom of which were tiny, cramped bunkrooms like the living quarters of an Apollo moon capsule. Like a revolver, the cylinders of these silos held towering rockets ready to six-shoot the moon or the USSR while tiny people skittered from bunkroom to bunkroom, never seeing the surface. Nowadays, even though the war machines kept in these silos are long obsolete, people live in the missile bases, turning them into modern homes below ground.

A Light So Bright You Can See Your Skeleton By It

Before there was electricity, there were still mechanical buildings. Windmills aren't just super-cool hipster-living apartments. They're machines that drive a millwheel or a pump, and back before the Industrial Age, they were used to process grain and pump water for irrigation, and even now they are still used to generate simple power for simple tasks.

And Your Skeleton Looks Like a Wooden Frame

One of the myths about the earliest computers is that the term "bug" for software errors came from actual insects getting trapped in the computer's guts and gumming up the works. The machine would jam when an organic being was introduced into its moving parts.

Unlike a mill, which is designed to take in organic material - grain or whatever - and pulp it up. The building machine turns and turns and gnashes the teeth of its gears, while organic you and organic I worm our ways deeper into its guts.

Photo credit: Arjan Richter and Wikimedia Commons


Author Bio:

Josh Pearce is a robot made out of liquid metal!

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