December 27, 2015

My Two Cent$

Analog Thinking in a Digital World

by Mike Ruefer 
Davenport, IA - I’ve touched on the fact in previous columns that I really don’t like change. For the most part I wish things as they were in 1982. That’s the year I graduated from college so that’s good enough for me. It’s easy for me to think this way and it all goes back to when I was born and the world I was brought into which is so different from today.
As a Baby Boomer, the generation of our upbringing was simple. Our home was basic and technology came into the home via Bell Telephone and transistor tubes. We had everything we needed to be happy. There was no air-conditioning and only a few fans, one black and white television, one dial phone, one record player, a few am radios, and a hot water boiler furnace with radiators to keep us warm in the winter. My mom cooked with an old gas stove and the refrigerator was small. Dad had one car that he drove to work and we rode bikes and took the bus for trips to downtown. Life was good and it stayed this way for almost half my life.
Technology slowly crept into my life and by the early 1980’s, around the time I graduated from college, my family home moved from the golden era to life with color TV, air-conditioning, stereos and push button phones. We had come of age and it was also good.
The racing was also changing. Cars went from actual stock cars to tube frame wedge cars and back to something almost stock appearing again with stickers on the plastic nose piece. It was a weird transition but as technology changed in life, technology changed in racing. Race cars have went from being hand built to store built.
Computer processors are the biggest reason for this fast paced world we live into today. I was introduced to personal computing in 1995. I was given a laptop by my employer and it had something called Windows. I only knew one kind of window but challenged myself to learn all I could about computers and this new thing called the Internet. It opened my mind to a world that was basically locked into a mindset that was south of Locust Street.

Technology changes expeditiously. Leap frogging so fast that what we buy today is outdated with new and better technology in a very short time span. It’s hard to keep up with but we must or risk being ever so far behind. This true in life, business and in racing.
The photography bug really hit me in 2000. Before that I was just the casual fan taking photos with my small film camera. It was fun to take pictures, send in the film and see the results a few days later. My first digital camera was a Sony that used a floppy disk and that was cool. After that it was full steam ahead with digital SLR bodies, lenses and all the goodies. I wasn’t just happy with the camera and lens I had but I wanted the next one and then the next one. I had to keep up with technology!
I like technology for certain things, I reject it for other things that I wish would just stay the same. For example I’ll use music. In my opinion there was nothing better than vinyl records. The album covers were like artwork that took you into the mind of the band. If I wanted to listen in my car, we had 8-Track and then cassettes. For a while I thoughts cd’s were fine but when music went to digital download I shut off. What was I buying? Virtual songs? At least with cameras I have a drawer full of outdated bodies that are worth nothing much like all my old albums, 8-Tracks and cassettes. This though is a wrong mindset. Digital music is bad but digital photos are good? Should I think this way? No! I’m just not keeping an open mind to technology and staying to close to my ways of the past. I’m not improving myself with the advancement of new technology.
As much as I sometimes think that racing should be as it was when cars ran rear leaf springs and chassis adjustments involved simple changes in shocks, springs, camber and caster. The reality is those days are gone forever. There is no holding back the technology in racing. Overtime Late Models have evolved into what they are because it’s what we’ve wanted it to be. We want safe, fast and great handling cars that thrill and excite us. CAD designed chassis and components that interact with the mechanical vibration forces of cornering and acceleration produce great racing today. Combining technology with very talented car builders that truly understand engineering principles is eventual in Dirt Late Model and showing impact now. Let’s not forget the drivers! Today we have some of the best drivers ever! Driving the best cars the Dirt Late Model world has ever seen!
Up to this point I’ve not mentioned cost. The cost of technology is staggering. The cost of keeping up with technology can be detrimental if you can’t afford it. Keeping up with technology though a cost of doing business has a fine line. How much technology can you, I or racing afford? Even the billionaires who race Formula 1, can’t afford all the technology that is available to them. At some point there has to be a happy medium.
I really don’t know what the happy medium is. To limit technology to the point where it limits creativity and ingenuity is not such a good thing especially if the technology is mostly not understood by many but only a few. I truly appreciate the need to apply limits to what is or what is not available. If only a few have or can afford certain technological advances then that’s not good for the group as a whole.
What I’ve always loved about Dirt Late Model racing is the creativity and ingenuity. Different designed chassis, components, panels, noses, engines and set ups make it thrilling to watch. Someone is always trying to find an edge to be faster, better and win. Creativity sets Dirt Late Model racing apart from other forms of racing in my opinion.
The digital engineering technology of today is here and the analog ways of the past are gone forever. Let’s find the happy medium and not become so rigid that bright thinking is stifled with regulation. Because something is different it just might be good and the way things should be in the future to keep Dirt Late Model racing heart pounding and exciting. Now if technology was free the issues would be simple but they are not. Now it’s time for me to go out buy a new camera and add to my collection. Got to keep up with technology.