Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Just Wondering

As I was driving, I began to contemplate, of all things, stoplights.  I first began to wonder about when they were invented and how red , yellow and green came to mean stop, yield and go? Red I sorta get, since stop signs are red too but why pick on red?  Why not blue stop signs? And then once the colors were chosen -someone had to choose - how was that communicated to everyone else?  At some point there had to be enough drivers to warrant stop signs which was then followed by stoplights. But the question remains, how was this explained to the general public: newspaper, word of mouth, flyers, public address? How was this information given to every driver?

I also realized that when the first cars rolled out, there was no driver license required.  Anyone could drive a car.  Age didn't matter. Did horses and carriage require stop signs?  If not, then it was all relatively new and it also means that folks driving a team of horses and a delivery wagons understood the idea of right-of-way and the "you go; I go" principal (if you've ever been in a large parking structure at an event, you know that a lot of folks don't get this idea).

Then there was the whole idea of directing traffic.  Once at major city intersections, there was a cop who directed traffic. He was the stoplight at the intersection.  So maybe when the light made its first appearance before we lost this most beneficial of traffic directors, the officer would point to the light to demonstrate its use.

This contemplation, of course, brought me to the realization of how we know how to use many things.  I never had instruction on how to use a smart phone, but I understand how to use them.  Imagine if you fell into a coma for a number of years.  If it were in the 70's you would marvel at the invention of such things as word processors, calculators, and even hacky-sack, pong and the flair pen.  In the 80's you would miss the arrival of the home computer, video games, Doppler radar, CDs, Windows and the space shuttle.  In the 90's CD's became common place and the internet became the monster information highway, although it actually was invented in the 80's.  Walkmans went the way of the dodo,and digital became the new way to carry information.  Through it all, we learned how to do most of these things with little to no training.  Just as someone coming out of a long coma might be amazed by these gadgets but still they would probably learn to use them.

This brings me back to my original thought: how is it we understand traffic lights?  Is it intuitive and we just get it, or did we need instruction?  Curiouser and curiouser...