Date: Fri, 6 Oct 1995 00:31:38 -0700


Subject: Re: icebox and upstate

On Tue, 3 Oct 1995 02:24, "Donald M. Lance" writes:

I suspect that [combinations of ice houses and electric power

plants] were common throughout the country, and that cutting

blocks of ice out of ponds and rivers was pretty well gone by the

1920s. DMLance

I can't claim personal experience, but I'll second the esteemed

Prof. Lance on this one, anyway. Let us turn to our hymnals

(What? You don't have a copy? Get thee to a library, and take

unto thyself ``The Social Shaping of Technology'', Donald MacKenzie

and Judy Wajcman, wherein appears Ruth Schwartz Cowan's ``How the

refrigerator got its hum'' -- a rollicking good read).

[Preparatory to telling us how refrigeration came to the home,

Cowan briefly discusses its precursor, commercial refrigeration:]

As a result of [extensive research and invention],

manufactured ice became available throughout the

southeastern United States by 1890 and throughout the

northeast (where natural ice was more readily

available through much of the year) by 1910. ...

Before the nineteenth century had turned into the

twentieth, meat packers were using mechanical

refrigeration in the handling and processing of meat,

cold-storage warehouses had begun to appear in cities,

icemen were carrying manufactured ice through the

streets, and refrigerated transport (which utilized

manufactured ice in railroad cars and refrigerating

machines on ocean-going vessels) was becoming

increasingly common and less expensive. (p. 204)

It's all I can to do keep from typing in the next paragraph, which

discusses how large commercial refrigerators were ("a substantial

number of them weighed from one hundred to two hundred tons") and

how an entire industry developed just to keep them in line ("As

automatic controls were primitive, the machine was tended day and

night by skilled operators"). Comparing the turn-of-the-century

behemoths with their modern domestic descendants, I'm reminded of

the "electronic brains", tended by white-coated lab technicians in

the Holy of Holies, the Machine Room, and their smaller, fleeter

descendants (the things I look after all day at work :-)

ObLx: I may be biased, but I think computing has generated a

fairly rich jargon/slang/technical vocabulary. (I'm not lumping

those categories together -- computing is rich in all three.)

But where were the refrig-hackers, breaking into ice houses? The

over-worked transportation analogies? (The Chilled Canal? The

Eisbahn?) At first, the sexiness of computers and the prosaic

character of refrigeration seems a given. But when you consider

how both started in remote, industrial research-y arenas, and

developed into ubiquitous features of daily life, the question

does not seem as far-fetched. So, why *didn't* refrigeration

catch the popular linguistic fancy?


David Harnick-Shapiro Internet: david[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Information and Computer Science UUCP: ...!{ucbvax,zardoz}!ucivax!david

University of California, Irvine