Engineering Your Life

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Andrew Burroughs, engineer, and location head at the Chicago office of IDEO, a design and engineering firm, and author of Everyday Engineering: How Engineers See (Chronicle Books, 2007), on what you should know about the inner workings of your phone and other engineering feats.

Everyday Engineering is available for purchase at


Andrew Burroughs

Comments [12]

chestine from NY

Another thing about managing resources - we don't realize that a good many showers in the world come with tiny hot water tanks that have to be heated (you have to wait) before you use them.

Oct. 02 2007 04:41 PM
chestine from NY

1.ELEVATORS in subway stations are BUILT to break down! Same for escalators! I was on crutches most of teh summer and so i got to know what handicapped people have to live with all the time. Subway access is severely limited if you have trouble walking.
2. A UN friend tells me that in some of the nice hotels in Mongolia, they use composting toilets. (My brother, who has worked in Ulan Bator, tells me it smells like it!) But we are smart enough to make things work, we just need to support the efforts and that failure is not the fault of engineering!

Oct. 02 2007 04:39 PM
George Showman from Red Hook, Brooklyn

There's a major omission in this discussion: a lot of our environmental problems are the result of technology like plumbing and electrical power becoming 'commodities' or 'utilities' that are out of sight and out of mind.

If we SAW and UNDERSTOOD how many resources pumped into our houses every day, would we be as wasteful?

Oct. 02 2007 11:01 AM
amy from manhattan

I think a lot of the reason engineering isn't communicated well is that engineers mostly write for each other, in terms that they understand but non-engineers don't. It's hard to get out of the mindset that "I know what it means, so everyone else can too." They forget that they had to study to learn it, & their readers may not have.

This applies to a lot of other technical areas, too.

Oct. 02 2007 11:01 AM
Gene from NYC

What about the sporadic failures of technology that really _should_ be working? For example, some elevators. The elevator was invented around 1904, and some are still running just fine, yet behold the BRAND NEW elevator at the W. 4th St. IND line statioin which is only required to make 2 stops. It is almost never in working order (they were working on it last night), and even when working it is abysmally, impossibly SLOW.

Handicapped people are of course up in arms about this situation.

Why all this trouble with a proven, long-established technology?

Oct. 02 2007 10:55 AM
Heidi from new york

Tim Hunkin made an excellent t.v. series called The Secret Life of Machines

They are wonderful & quirky, and examine the vacuum cleaner, the elevator, phone, etc etc.

Highly recommended.

Oct. 02 2007 10:54 AM
Che Ramone from Upper Saddle River, NJ

What about the CD / DVD, maybe a little knowledge on this will help me keeping my Movies from skipping. :-)

Oct. 02 2007 10:52 AM
Mike from NYC

I'm still waiting for someone to improve on the umbrella

Oct. 02 2007 10:52 AM
justin from Manhattan

The biggest invention that is not even seen most of the time is the Electric motor. It is used in so many everyday things, yet 99% of the public has no knowledge of what makes the Electric motor work nor how important it is.

Oct. 02 2007 10:52 AM
amanda from harlem

i was thinking the other day that if i only used technology i understood i would be relegated to my bicycle and a campfire!

Oct. 02 2007 10:51 AM
christina from monmouth county

Grocery coupons carry printed expiration dates. But as I know, because I use them successfully in the self-check out line, they are not coded to be rejected by the scanner. I also can use them for a discount on any item in the product family. Don't tell anyone, ha ha.

Oct. 02 2007 10:49 AM
F Sussman from Upper East Side

What about an invention to remove a lightbulb from the socket after the bulb has broken?


Oct. 02 2007 10:49 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.