Songs About John Henry

Christopher Bradley

Christopher Bradley

Christopher is a lawyer from NEPA, aka, Pennsultucky, He is an avid baseball fan, audiophile, and dog owner. He spends the majority of his free time with his wife and daughters, reading, listening to music, watching baseball (except the Yankees) and writing. If you wish to send him a positive missive, any errata concerning albums, or requests regarding albums: saturdayspins32 at gmail dot com

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Kristin Devine
    Ignored
    says:

    Cool piece. Looking forward to giving these a listen.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Cain
    Ignored
    says:

    There was a limited period of time when the man-vs-machine mythos could generate folk stories and songs. Before long, it was simply understood that once an appropriate machine could be devised, it would displace human labor. Or more often, enhance it. The steam-powered drill had to have a human operator, and the steam-powered saw in Walt Disney’s Paul Bunyan rip-off of the John Henry story was run by the salesman. We don’t have folk songs telling the sad story of someone with minimal skills and a word processor displacing the highly skilled typists that preceded them. Although I will admit that when I was much younger and had had too much to drink, I toyed with the idea.

    When I went to work at Bell Labs in 1978, the Labs had a skilled typing pool to convert engineers’ scrawled handwriting into polished technical memoranda. UNIX — and in particular, its typesetting tools — were just coming out of the research division. Over the course of two years, the typing pool first converted to troff, and was then disbanded and engineers were forced to learn to type. Not a big deal for the younger lot — I had already been in trouble for doing my writing at home on a typewriter and giving that to the typing pool. I cringed watching some of the older staff labor over a keyboard. The Labs threw away millions of engineer-hours because they declined to offer touch-typing courses.Report

    • Avatar Susara Blommetjie in reply to Michael Cain
      Ignored
      says:

      A collegue of mine did her master’s degree in chemistry sometime in the 80s. The work envolved some programming which was of course quite new in the chemistry lab at the time.
      Their professor insisted that the research students write their code by hand, to have the professional typists type it up. He would not allow the students to do the typing themselves, as it was beneath their education level to spend time typing.

      As an aside, mr Cain – working at Bell Labs in 1978… wow. Now *that’s* living the myth.Report

  3. Avatar Susara Blommetjie
    Ignored
    says:

    Inbetween all the doom and gloom this was just such a refreshing, enriching read.! Not that it’s particularly uplifting, mind you. Anycase, I plan on settling in tonight to listen without distraction.
    PS – as a South African I was indeed unaware of the story of John Henry.Report

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