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Friday, February 27, 2015

Part I, The Set Up: Classic joke ALL WRONG! Part II will blow your mind, I promise.

The elevator operator

Back story: In the olden days elevators were not 'do-it-yourself' transporters.* They required an elevator operator to make them go, usually someone pleasant who makes friends easily.

So, his passenger greets the operator and asks:

"How is your day going?"

"Oh, it has its ups and downs."

(Laugh track crescendos... then fades)

Now this was not an easy job... well, sort of it was. In the early days, it required training before earning an elevator operator license.

Elevator control panel
If you think modern elevators were a step into a bold new future (and they were), when some people saw their first escalator, they didn't know what to do and others couldn't figure how to safely step on and off. Many just stood and marveled at where all those steps that disappeared into the floor were going and where the new ones were coming from.

A few worried about being transported into an alternative universe (like I was... but that's another story). Some stores stationed an employee (escalator operator?) at the bottom offering instructions or a helping hand. Really.

But the old "ups and downs" joke won't work any more because German elevator manufacturer Thyssen-Krupp has something up its sleeve for the skyscraping record breaking heights of today's world. They are testing 'The Sideways Elevator."

In its test tower the company is replacing steel ropes with magnetic levitation used on high-speed trains. Without the need to stabilize a central cable, these elevators require half the building's prior elevator footprint and multiple cars can use a single looping shaft, vertically AND horizontally, at up to 11 miles-per-hour. Riders can be at their desired stop, dizzy or not, within 30 seconds.

Mile High
Powerful magnets suspend and propel the cars from floor to floor to any created stop point. Building operations can add or remove cars depending on demand and occupancy. Says the concept's director for vertical transportation, "The mile-high building is easily achievable. There is absolutely no limit to how far you can go."

There actually was one planned and on the drawing board, four times taller than today's giants. Frank Lloyd Wright talked about its fesibility in his 1956 book, A Testament. The design, intended to be built in Chicago, would have included 528 stories, with a gross area of 18,460,000 square feet. Wright stated that there would be parking for 15,000 cars and 150 helicopters. There's a lot here for King Kong to like.

So I thought this would be the ultimate in elevators. Boy, was I wrong! When you read Elevators, Part II, THE NEXT THING will blow your mind. I promise! Stay tuned.  

     * Historically, simple elevators really go back to about 300 B.C. predating the Julian-Roman calendar. They were crude 'lifts' powered by human, animal, water or wheel power and probably did not have floor by floor push button operation.
      In 1835, a belt-driven, counter-weighted, steam-powered device was created in England.
      In 1857, a steam powered 'moving room' for a 5-story building was developed by Elisha Otis, founder of the most known name in elevator-dom, Elisha Elevators. OK, Otis Elevators if you prefer.
     The first escalator was on the old steel pier at Coney Island in 1897. Then, of course, there is the moving sidewalk envisioned no doubt by the future-seeing Wright brothers for expansive airport use. 

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