Monday, January 17, 2011

The Evolution of Technology

Several years ago we visited the Natural History Museum in Chicago.  The one exhibit that sticks in my mind was a series of scale models of steam engines demonstrating the improvements made over time.  Our first computer had 48k of ram and a tape drive.  Most of us can remember 5.25 floppies but few in their 20's have ever seen them.  Our modern technology did not arrive as it is but has evolved, each advance building on what has gone before.
 Recently Hubby and I visited the Folsom Powerhouse.  It was decommissioned about the time that the power plant Hubby worked at was being built.  A sturdy structure was common to both plants.  This one was built of brick in the 1890's while the Gorge plant was made of concrete in the 1950's.
 The more modern plant has a vertical shaft.  The turbines are in the basement and the generator is in a housing outside the plant.  A much quieter arrangement than we see here.  Here the turbines are inside the building and so are the generators.  This horizontal shaft transmits the energy from the turbines to the generator on the other side of the wall.  The operators worked in the same area and the noise would have been deafening.
 This crane was used for lifting and moving the generator for repair.  While the basic form has not changed, this was moved by manpower while today's cranes have motors to move them along the tracks.
 Most of the pieces of equipment I could recognize, though their form has been refined over years some elements remain the same.  This is a governor and the housing for the important part (it is the part at top that looks a bit like the smoke stack on an old locomotive) hasn't changed much.  The governor controls the speed of the generator buy spinning some balls in that housing.
 Knife switches, such as these, are still in use but more care is used today to shield them from human contact.  When engaged as these are they would be "hot" and anyone brushing against them would be fried!
Modern fire suppression in the plants uses an inert gas to smother a fire, a system that wasn't available 100 years ago.
Seeing this I realize that the basic technology has not changed much; water turns a turbine which turns a shaft which rotates the generator and produces electrical energy.  The biggest change has been in safety, equipment is shielded from human contact, generators and transmission lines are more efficient but otherwise, not much has changed since this, one of the earliest power plants, was built over 100 years ago.
The important technical inovation was learning how to convert the energy in moving water to electricity.  Once we could do this it was no longer necessary to locate mills near a source of moving water.

More information can be found at the State Park website.

See more views of our wonderful and interesting world at My World Tuesday, hosted for us by Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia.

20 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Fascinating post for the day, Martha! Amazing the progress, the differences we enjoy today. Great reminder of how far we've come in so many ways. Thanks for sharing this info with us! Hope you have a wonderful week!

Sylvia

Carly said...

It is interesting to think of how far computers have come along, and how quickly. Thanks for sharing!

Barb said...

Chock ful of information. I assume this is located near the river or lake at Folsom. Maybe I even pass it when I ride there!

Gaelyn said...

Interesting how some technology has only slightly improved (must be working) and other technology has moved on so quickly. We've lived through a lot of history and advances. Not all good.

Great post Martha.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Very interesting post. I've seen similar things in the natural gas business. Much of the old stuff is still in service because it is in the rate base or it is grandfathered in the emissions regulations.

The new stuff is a lot safer and much more expensive but uses lots less fuel and a fraction of the emissions.

Lily Hydrangea said...

It's so nice to see places like this have been preserved so that younger people can understand how far we have come.

EG Wow said...

Fascinating, Martha! I have never been inside a powerhouse but would LOVE to someday.

Carver said...

Very interesting post and great shots. It's incredible how technology has developed over time.

Babooshka said...

Now that was what I call an education. Blogging really is an eye opener.

Randi said...

Such a fascinating post. Yes, I remember my first computer...

Karen said...

I enjoy touring through old buildings. Interesting post and terrific pics.

Starnitesky said...

A really interesting post, so many changes in a relatively short time.

ρομπερτ said...

Of great interest your entry indeed. Remember those 'tape computers' as well as the large disk ones.

Made me wonder what me small will be able to see throughout his future years, remains the wish that humankind will make usage of all in a good and kind way.
Please have you all a good Tuesday.

daily athens

Carol said...

A very interesting post, and great photos to go with it. Amazing how much has changed....

Kay L. Davies said...

A very interesting post, Martha, particularly the fact that you could recognize the function of the old parts even though the form has changed.
It made me think, of course, of the changes in the industry where I spent my working life - printing, and newspapers, computerized long before anyone thought of having home computers. Daily papers now employ a mere fraction of the people they did in the 1970s, but in job-printing shops a lot of the equipment is still the same. I love to find a printing shop (not a photocopy shop) where I can breathe the smell of ink and paper.
And when we were first being computerized - would you believe 8-inch floppy disks?
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Lew said...

Interesting post! I have been in steam and nuclear power plans, but not hydro.

Reader Wil said...

Very interesting, Martha! I realise every day that we depend on electricity in almost everything we do. We cannot use the central heating without it! There will be no washing machine, no fridge, no TV or radio, no digital camera,no computer, no mobile phone, no electric cooker,no cash desks or checkouts in shops, no sliding doors in buildings or on ships,no elevators, no moving staircases, no trains,no planes...no modern kitchen utensils. But how did we do this all a hundred years or even 60 years ago? I think I am going to use this comment for my post for ABC Wednesday E for Electricity!

Lesley said...

This has been a fascinating read. there are so many things we just take for granted - as if they are just there by magic - yet there is always so much going on to make it happen. The safety changes are definitely good!

Jessica said...

Very interesting look around. Thanks for sharing. If you have the time, stop by my page at www.adventureswithjessica.blogspot.com and check things out. New followers are always welcome :) Thanks!

katney said...

Most informative. You find interesting places to visit. I was just remembering Yosemite, Bodie, and Moro Lake yesterday with a friend who had visited Yosemite last summer. She saw lots more water than we did.