My sister sent me an email reminding me of a passion that I share with my family for obsolete technology. I visited the website and was blown away by what was available on the website–and by some memories:
ROUGH AND TUMBLE ENGINEERS HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION is a unique museum in that we don’t clean the dust off our artifacts – because we’re often out kicking up the dust WITH them. During our show days almost everything on the grounds is run! And during our annual Threshermen’s Reunion EVERYTHING on the grounds that will move under it’s own power can be seen in our daily Parade of Power, a ninety minute parade of antique and obsolete machinery and automobiles.
Talk about steampunk. In a corner of Lancaster County, PA, there’s an organization devoted to keeping antique machinery operating–not Commodore 64s, not Ataris, but steam engine tractors. They have several events a year that can only be described as mindblowing and headsplitting (steam engines aren’t quiet). My great-grandfather, Arthur S. Young, was instrumental in getting the association going. His idea was to keep the old machinery that he loved going and expose the wider public to it so that they could experience the sights, sounds, and smells of these well-built, well-loved machines.
Along the way, though, something funny happened. As the shows went on, the appeal broadened. People started coming for other reasons than the steam engines: I remember seeing people’s crafts, meeting family, watching kids ride model steam trains, eating fried dough made on an antique machine, and generally having a great time. The steam engines were fantastic, and the Rough and Tumble guys had built a community of people who were really passionate about that technology and about keeping it working. And then there was a second community around the first one who weren’t passionate about the steam technology per se, but who enjoyed the heck out of the party and made their own contributions to it in completely different ways.
The Moral, in Geek-Speak
Rough and Tumble is a platform. It’s a hardware platform–serious hardware. Steam engines are the key platform technology. It took people loving the key technology, plus people who dug the platform and could add to it in creative ways, to make the platform a party–a community that lots of people could engage with and which made them all happier.
And me? I’m part of the family that started this party. I just happen to live on the software side.
PS — Steampunk is a term used to describe science fiction written in the historical past. It takes the attitude of cyberpunk and puts it in a world where the gears are big and the engines are loud. I was introduced to steampunk by The Difference Engine by William Gibson (who coined the term cyberspace) and Bruce Sterling.
PPS — I’ll be updating my great-grandfather’s genealogical record shortly to include some of this information, and pointers to the Rough and Tumble page.
Also: I used a new method to post a story and it screwed up navigation via the calendar. To get to the stories for 7/25 and 7/26, you may want to use these links:
Thursday: “A Steampunk Party”