These days we all spend a lot of time looking at computers. In today’s connected, app-driven world, there can be little time for anything else. A skill set that is fading into the sunset is the ability to work with tools.
The previous generation had a different experience. Sound companies once carved their place in the market by their ability to fabricate. Visit a loudspeaker designer and you would find a fully-equipped wood and metal shop for hammering out ideas. Without the ability to fabricate, a sound contractor was at a great disadvantage. If they couldn’t source a part, they had to make it – sometimes on-site.
When my son went off to college in the early 2000’s, he was immediately designated the handyman for his frat house because “None of the other guys knew how to use tools.”
I recently performed some polar measurements on a loudspeaker array prototype. As part of the project I needed to isolate one of the small array transducers into a box of its own, a box which didn’t exist. It had to have exact external dimensions for the edge diffraction to be right, and it had to rotate about an exact point in space for the polar measurements. By the time an hour had passed, I had used a table saw, jig saw, electric drill (with Forstner bit), pneumatic nail gun, and band saw, along with a MIG welder, on some scrap materials that I harvested from the wood and metal shop bone yards. It was ugly and cost nothing, but it was exactly what I needed.
Modern audio practitioners have to know a lot of stuff – much more than previous generations. The time that could once be devoted solely to audio must now be divided between multiple technical fields, each of which could take a full-time effort to master. There’s only so much time, and becoming proficient with tools can get crowded out. There’s just no time. But is there?
Time is a resource, and it can be reallocated. My advice to the up-and-comers? Put down the smart phone, turn off the social media and the fantasy sports, and learn how to use tools. Browse the tool department at Home Depot and ask “What’s this for?” Buy some tools and start tinkering. Fix, repair, modify, destroy. Learn what makes stuff “tick.” Can you solder? Why not? Over time you will develop a skill set that will make you indispensable to your employer, or set you apart from your competition.
That app that we are staring at will soon be obsolete. The ability to use tools will never be. pb