Reduce the Technology
Since the whole problem is really a matter of determining the difference between what we think we need and what we really need, the first step is to reduce the technology. You will remember from your arithmetic lessons that they tried to teach you to reduce a fraction to its lowest common denominator and to reduce an equation to simple terms. This is much like what must be done to the problem at hand, and it is in itself a delightful exercise. I would urge at this point that you refer to a comprehensive dictionary where you will find that the word "reduce" has at least a dozen distinct definitions and uses. Each of them applies in some way to these matters, so you will be sure to gain from a brief study of them.
Ironically, the reduction of a technology requires a rather full knowledge of it, but you must not let that become an obstacle. Your mind is surely as capable as most, and some have done wonders with even less mental ability. Acquiring the knowledge you need is more of a process of sifting through information than it is learning, so you'll have little trouble unless you try to acquire encyclopedia-like knowledge before you do any work. In this case, it is the excess of useless information that is the real obstacle, so confine your initial study to what is truly basic and fundamental. I'll offer a case in point from my own experience to illustrate the process.
The problem, clearly and simply stated, was to produce metal castings for machinery construction projects in my own shop. A quick look through the library card file turned up a volume entitled "Fundamentals of Metal Casting". Egad! Just what I needed! But, alas, as I took it from the shelf l saw that it was about 650 pages of the finest print I'd ever seen that seemed to have little to say about fundamental principles. Not to be so easily turned aside, I opened it up anyway.
What I needed was there, as it almost always is in any good manual, and most of it was in the first few pages. Of course I needed more information later, but that 650 pages could be reduced to simple terms: a wooden pattern of the desired casting is rammed in moist clay-bonded sand in a two part flask. The flask is opened to withdraw the pattern and then reclosed to pour in the molten metal The result is a duplicate in metal of the wooden pattern.
All else that was written in the book was elaboration of this simple statement. You see how simple it can be when you reduce to the simplest terms possible. This is the result of concentration, and for this you need only your brains, which is the most exotic piece of equipment you will ever own.
By ignoring those excuses that the brain tosses up in order to get out of doing the job, you can quickly sift through the nonsense and focus your thoughts on the first positive idea that comes up.
No matter how high grade your pet idea may be, you should sketch it out in detail, test your reasoning and even make a model of wood or a mock up of poster card. Follow the thought through, and see where it leads. Begin to concentrate on any positive methods that are within your means, and reject all obstacles. You will soon discover a way to use what is at hand or easily obtained to produce some representation of your idea - even if it is only a non-working model in miniature.
This is the beginning upon which you build your entire project. It may take a day, a week, a month or many years, but you will be working at what you want to do without regard for capital, expense, education, equipment or any other fancied obstacle. Later, when you have succeeded, you might look back and wonder at those dangers that might have stopped you, but you were busy at work while others were talking about how tough and costly it would be.
To return to our example, even the most economical equipment to be had at the time would have cost about $500.00. This is a significant obstacle anyone can sink his negative teeth into. At the ratio of 50 cents to $50.00, can you really hope to do the work for just $5.00? Well, I built a foundry in my backyard using scrap wood for the patterns and flasks, a ring of bricks, for a furnace with charcoal for fuel and hair drier for a blower, and a one quart iron sauce pan for a melting pot. This was reduced technology on a reduced budget, and I don't think I blew the whole $5.00. From this simple first step an entire foundry and machine shop have been produced, and it has become a constantly expanding activity.
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