Monday, May 23, 2016

1966 to 2016

Ford Falcon
Honda Fit

The Falcon was my first car, bought while I was in high school. No, I wasn't in high school in 66. This was the big three US auto maker's idea of a compact car. The father of a friend called it a toy car, too small to be on the road. Then again, he drove a Newport (3.1 m wheelbase, almost 6 m long) and didn't quite believe the Volkswagon beetle was a real thing.

dimension         Falcon      Fit
Wheelbase        2816        2530 (mm)
Overall Length  4681        4064 (mm)
Width                1859        1694 mm (not counting mirrors)
Weight              1163         1157 (kg)
falcon straight 6 170 in3 (2.78 L) Fit  4 DOHC 1.5 L
HP              105 @4400   130@6600
storage            348           470 or 1492 L (back seat up/down)

I had to install a radio, and later put in a CB radio. The front bench seats were so saggy I could barely see over the wheel, and my shorter friends couldn't. The gauges told me how fast I was going and how much gas I had, and if the oil pressure failed. I can't remember if there was a coolant temp warning. There were seat belts, lap only. Armstrong steering. It came with bias ply tires (google it), though radials were new and I put a set on. Pretty sure it was an automatic 3 speed transmission. I can no longer remember what the milage was like, but gas was cheap cheap cheap, and just as well. I once put most of a soccer team into it and drove what seemed like a long way for a game. The way back was longer and smellier.

The Fit is a smaller car, with a much smaller engine producing much more power, yet has more cargo space. Less leg room up front, though. Only room for 5 people, unless I'm allowed to put down the back seats and stack them like cordwood.

Then we get into all the other stuff that goes into a car now. For the bottom end of Honda's stable of cars, the Fit is quite well equipped. I'm still figuring out the infotainment system, but I've got it playing songs from my phone. It collects enough statistics to make the geekiest of data geeks happy. They don't even change the oil at set intervals anymore, the car is smart enough to know how it's usage has affected the oil, and will tell you when it needs to be changed. The backup camera has three settings, wide angle, narrow angle, and straight down so you can see the curb. I'm still getting used to where the front of the car is, and have wondered why they don't have a camera there, or some sort of warning about high curbs or concrete ties at the front of parking spaces.

I don't think airbags were beyond the dream stage in 66, but this has airbags everywhere, as part of a really good safety rating. I wouldn't hesitate for a second to choose being in the Fit over the Falcon for a bad collision.

Lets just say the Falcon was a bare bones deathtrap by today's standards.

Just as a cost comparison the Falcon cost about $2000 new in 66, which is about $15,000 now with inflation. The Fit is around $20,000.

This is what 50 years of progress will do. Smaller, lighter, more efficient, safer. At least the people that made the Falcon would be able to get into the Fit, and with a couple minutes of poking around would be able to drive it.

Now think of aviation progress. The Wright brothers first flew in 1903. In 1953 the USAF was flying the B-36, one of the largest planes ever made. The first heavier than air flight was 129 feet long, the B-36 was 162 feet long. The Wright brothers  would be able to recognize all the parts of it and understand the principles involved, but they'd never be able to get it off the ground. Now think about the pilots of the B-36 confronted by a 787.

Now think about what computer scientists of the late 50's and early 60's would make of an iPhone or iPad. In my school days I remember reading about computers of the future that would the size of a huge office building and would need Niagara Falls volumes of water to cool them. Then transistors came along. You've probably seen the photo of a 5 MB hard drive being loaded by forklift onto an airplane in 1956. It's the size of a couple big fridges.  A hard drive that small, should someone be so foolish as to make one, could be made so small you probably couldn't see it clearly.

Things keep changing. If you can adapt and surf the wave it's exhilarating. New stuff! Existing stuff made better. Better, cheaper, if only you can figure out what to do with the still functional old stuff. In any way you can measure, except possibly for ease of recycling, the Fit is a better car than the Falcon.

If you know the change is coming and can cope with the best of the changes, life can still be good, although there's likely to be some frustration. Some of what exists is probably good enough for this group. They might see the changes as change for the sake of change. They resent having to learn something new while they are in the middle of doing something else. Once they get used to the change they see the advantages.

Then there are those that won't or can't cope. The efforts involved in keeping up are much better spent enjoying something else. They probably have someone else around that can cope with the changes, or they withdraw from the world a little. Used to be you could put a coin in a parking meter. I don't think Calgary has a parking meter anymore. I use my phone to pay for parking, and there are little machines on every block where you put in your car's license number and a credit card. I'm not sure if they take cash anymore.

The Fit and my phone already talk to each other a little. If I get an adapter cable, and install some phone software, they can do much more. It's not beyond reason that a car will come along that requires a smart phone to be in the car, with the phone having an app that is our valid driver's license. That's while we still let humans drive. That might be getting rare a decade from now.

My granny once gave me a hard time about these books I'm writing, wondering when she'd get to read them. I told her if she had an email, she could be reading text a few hours after I got home, and get more as it was written. She said, no, she didn't do email. Nobody she wanted to talk to would use email. She wanted a book, and didn't quite get that the text in an email was the book. She wanted a book that she could hold in her hands.

At the time that was understandable, and now it's somewhat eccentric. I know there are still some people that don't have their own personal email. I've long since lost count of how many personal emails I have, as Apple evolves through software delivery. They all go to one place and thats where I look. Some people don't have cell phones, or have ones so primitive (by today's standards, not that of 1966) they essentially can't text. They are gradually losing touch with the world, though I admit some of the people with the advanced electronics are losing touch with the people physically around them.

I sometimes think that when you start giving up learning new things, or coping with new stuff, you begin to die. In Klingon, there are two related concepts:
Komerex - "the structure which grows."
Khesterex - "the structure which dies"

They apply it to their society, but I think there is an application to people as well. Get too set in your ways and you won't adapt to something new. In many cases, that might be ok, but you never know when it could be fatal. Don't adapt to new medical test results that warn of life threatening conditions and see where that gets you.

It applies to our society as well. Used to be there were two genders, men and women. Sexual relations between them were only permitted after marriage, and all others punished to some degree. Acceptance of gay rights as human rights have come a long way. Now we are recognizing that gender is a more complicated thing than we thought, and trans rights are becoming a thing, over the screeching of the various flavours of conservatives. There's some books by John Varley they should read, especially Steel Beach. That world is coming.

I'm a part-time cyborg, with enhanced hearing devices that talk to my phone. Lots of people are dependent on prosthetics that at least somewhat replace a limb or an organ. Most of the time we can't tell, until they go through airport security. That's only going to get more common as well. I wonder if in another 50 years, we are going to be looking back at unmodified humans, as the people of today look back at the 66 Ford Falcon and others of it's ilk.

Your thoughts? I'd love to read your comments.

Falcon and Fit Specs for car geeks, though I've probably disappointed them by not going into more detail.

It looked like this.  Mine was blue.

The Honda Fit is a sub-compact, or so they say.
1.5-litre, 16-valve, Direct Injection, DOHC, i-VTEC® 4-cylinder1.5-litre, 16-valve, Direct Injection, DOHC, i-VTEC® 4-cylinder
Horsepower @ rpm1Horsepower @ rpm1 130 @ 6600 130 @ 6600 130 @ 6600 130 @ 6600
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)1Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)1 114 @ 4600 114 @ 4600 114 @ 4600 114 @ 4600
Displacement (cc)Displacement (cc) 1498 1498 1498 1498
Emissions ratingEmissions rating Tier 2 Bin 5 Tier 2 Bin 5 Tier 2 Bin 5 Tier 2 Bin 5
Bore and stroke (mm)Bore and stroke (mm) 73 x 89.5 73 x 89.5 73 x 89.5 73 x 89.5
Compression ratioCompression ratio 11.5:1 11.5:1 11.5:1 11.5:1

Curb weight – MT/CVT (kg)Curb weight – MT/CVT (kg) 1131/NA 1143/1157 1170/1196 1177/1201
Fuel tank capacity (L)Fuel tank capacity (L) 40 40 40 40
Ground clearance – no-load/full-load (mm)Ground clearance – no-load/full-load (mm) 127/102 127/102 127/102 127/102
Headroom – front/rear (mm)Headroom – front/rear (mm) 1003/953 1003/953 964/954 964/954
Height (mm)Height (mm) 1524 1524 1524 1524
Hip room – front/rear (mm)Hip room – front/rear (mm) 1308/1145 1308/1145 1308/1145 1308/1145
Legroom – front/rear (mm)Legroom – front/rear (mm) 1052/997 1052/997 1052/997 1052/997
Length (mm)Length (mm) 4064 4064 4064 4064
Passenger volume (L)Passenger volume (L) 2710 2710 2656 2656
Shoulder room – front/rear (mm)Shoulder room – front/rear (mm) 1393/1336 1393/1336 1393/1336 1393/1336
Track – front/rear (mm)Track – front/rear (mm) 1481/1473 1481/1473 1476/1466 1476/1466
Turning radius – curb-to-curb (m)Turning radius – curb-to-curb (m) 5.3 5.3 5.3 5.3
Wheelbase (mm)Wheelbase (mm) 2530 2530 2530 2530
Width (mm)Width (mm) 1694 1694 1694 1694
Width – including door mirrors/mirrors folded (mm)Width – including door mirrors/mirrors folded (mm) 2040/1821 2040/1821 2040/1821 2040/1821


  1. I hope an unmodified human will never be compared to any old car. I'm grateful for every modification in my life, as it allows me to live, truly. An unmodified human should always be considered just as good; just that modifications are simply not required.

  2. My first experience with a Fit was traveling around the Cabot Trail in one with four CT Relay teammates five years ago. I couldn't believe how comfortable we were - even with all our food and gear. My next car will be a Fit, I think. The Falcon looks cooler though, I have to say.

    It is interesting to think about how much technology has advanced in our lifetimes but you're right that not everyone is keeping up. I spent a half hour on the weekend helping my dad learn to end a cell phone call - though, to be fair, that was partly due to poor design. He can't always make out the "end call" button on the screen in bright conditions and the power button (the other option for ending calls) is hard to find if you don't have great dexterity. Makes me wonder if it ever occurs to device designers that some users are older with various physical impairments.

    Luke's not very savvy either, so I tell him his next wife will have to be younger than me - though, come to think of it, I know lots of young people who don't manage technology well either. :-) I'm determined to keep up but it takes so much time I get discouraged sometimes. Case in point: we upgraded the memory on our iMac supposedly to enhance its performance but it's working more slowly now. I know I likely just need to do some cleanup but haven't had the energy to tackle it yet. After the marathon.

    Looking forward to seeing you in a few days, Keith!


Looking forward to reading your comment!