Kind Word for Low Tech

A RETIRED car dealer from Surfside, S.C., has invented "The Great Mouth," a trash bag that will actually stay open while being stuffed - can you believe it?

Editorial pages generally deal with big-ticket items of scientific breakthrough - supercolliders, space stations. But among inventions, as elsewhere, little things count, like a trash bag that leaves both hands free to fill it.

For more than a decade, the standard grumble has been, "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we...?" That may be the right question, but all too often, the response has been high-tech. To achieve the perfect shave, for instance, an electric shaver has been invented that self-adjusts to 576 cutting patterns.

One complex invention inevitably inspires a second invention to contain it. Thus microwave ovens have produced microwave-leakage testers, which will no doubt lead to another gadget to test if the testers are working.

Mainstream inventions - refrigerators, television sets, automobile engines - operate more reliably than ever. When did you last have to repair a radio?

On the other hand, has anyone calculated the cost of repairing devices like electric windows and power antennas on automobiles, those complicated extras that are always the first things to break down? And how about the time consumed in maintaining all the delicate little push-button apparatuses that are intended to save time? If in the name of simplicity one chooses to travel by bicycle, what does it say about progress that one must face the complexity of some 24 gears?

In the world of over-ingenious invention, as in the corporate world, there is a plausible argument for attending with a little low-tech cleverness to the modest needs of daily life.

If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we invent a spot remover that really works or suction-cup attachments that really hold? For all the flea-and-tick fighters, including ultrasound bombardment, is there a simple, safe remedy your dog or cat can count on?

As the saying goes, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to invent a "Great Mouth" trash bag; just a reusable cardboard insert does the trick. However, in the Brave New World where intelligent people have trouble programming a VCR, the old rule is not yet obsolete: Build a better low-tech invention and a lot of grateful people will beat a path to your door.

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