A few thousand years ago, homo sapiens invented the wheel and – a little later – the lever. It took us humans a few more millennia until the wheelbarrow was invented – although it is, basically just a combination of the wheel and the lever. After that, it did not take too long for such basic things as the crank and the gear-wheel to be invented. And the steam engine, the Diesel motor and electricity…
And with the information and communication technology, we really got under way.
I often wonder when our house had its first electric motor. I am sure it was no earlier than 1955, when we moved from the country to the city. I still remember that, in the late fifties, a spin-dryer for our laundry basement was a modern achievement – and it definitely had an electric motor.
As far as I remember, there were no other electronic devices (Elektro-Geräte) in our household at the time. Until we got the first Märklin model railway. Then things really started to happen.
Up until then, the mechanical devices in our household all had a hand-crank. And complicated gear-wheels. For example the meat chopper, the coffee grinder, the machine for making cream. The drill, too, was hand-worked.
Consequently, I admired gear-wheels very much …
There came a day when our teacher took the class to see the Renk Zahnradfabrik
(it must have been in my third or fourth form)
– today, it is a stock-market enterprise and part of MAN AG.
The school was next to St. Anton’s church and not far from the “Wittelsbacher Park“. In this park, you could see something special: the “Rudolf Diesel Hain“. It was a quadrangle that had the size of an allotment garden and cypress-like plants grew all around it. There was an entry and an exit and inside were huge rocks from Japan. On copper plates, one could read what the Japanese People had written to thank the Great German Rudolf Diesel for his invention of the motor (at least that is how I remember it) that saved mankind world-wide from debasing and hard physical labour. That is why they had made the City of Augsburg – where the great man had been born – a present of this rock.
The Rudolf Diesel Hain was a nice piece of nature that became my cherished refuge when I could not be bothered to attend weekly mass on Sundays.
For me, the tour of the plant was very exciting. It is definitely something special to see how iron is processed – and the people working in the business were just as special. After the tour, the tour guide gave our teacher a rather heavy gear-wheel (perhaps 20 cm in diameter). It must have weighed several kilograms.
I assume that the gear-wheel was a throw-away product. It seems that the wife of our teacher was not too enthusiastic about the strange thing he brought home.
When school started on the next morning, he put it on his desk and announced: now you all will write an “adventure report” about our trip. And the winner (the student who wrote the best report) was going to get the gear-wheel as prize.
I was absolutely over the top. Because I absolutely had to get this gear-wheel. To be sure, I was the total outsider, because writing was my Achilles’ Heel. Since I had learned to read before starting school and was already through with most of the Karl May books, I found the school books rather boring.
But what is all this if there is a prize you absolutely want to win? Nothing!
Consequently, this was an essay I wrote with more effort than I ever again did anything in my life. I wanted that gear-wheel, still remembered my fascination with the trip and wrote the script for the play. I even tried to avoid formal mistakes and took care of my punctuation – which were things that, in those days, I generally could not have cared less about. I even took special pains with my handwriting. I strongly suspect that those became the only pages in my exercise books that were not poorly scrawled.
Since that day, I know the meaning of the word “motivated”.
I had to wait a day or two, then came the decision. And – lo and behold – I came in first and won the gear-wheel. And I was the happiest person alive. I remained the happiest person on the way home. However, when I arrived at home, the only comment my mother had when she saw my good grade on the essay was “there you see: if you make an effort, you really can write a good essay”. The gear-wheel was not at all appreciated. On the contrary. The comment was: “What a peculiarity are you bringing home this time?”
Well, my teacher had probably met with the same indifference a few days earlier when he brought it home. But that was not really much of a consolation for me.
The gear-wheel got a special place in my room. It smelled nicely of machine oil.
I still remember how, perhaps ten years later, my mother forced me to throw it out. It was a really nice gear-wheel.
(Translated by EG)