Tools and Machines
Pre-reading: What types of machines do you use every day, at home, at school or at work?
From Early Times
From the Stone Age various tools proving human inventiveness have been found. During this period man discovered that flint was particularly suitable for the production of tools.
As time passed, more advanced tools were invented and gradually other materials than flint were used. Man learned how to extract and treat iron. He discovered how steel was produced from iron, and he developed different qualities of steel to satisfy different needs. Today, plastics have, to a great extent, taken over the dominant role of metals.
Invention of Machines
Our ancestors at first had to rely on their own muscles. 5-10,000 years ago they learned how to tame wild animals and use their power. Later the wheel was invented. It was used in vehicles and in mills and bucket wheels.
Humans have always tried to make life easier for themselves. Machines have constantly been made to improve our standard of living. The word machine comes from the Greek word mechos, which means "to help make things easy." Gears, valves and cylinders are some examples of mechanical devices that were used by the ancient Greeks and the Romans. New inventions or adaptions of older simpler machines have brought us a long way from the first primitive ones. However, the basic principles are still followed, even in modern spaceships, helicopters, submarines and robots.
Over the years machines have minimized human labour, and the number of workers has been reduced. In most types of industries the production process has been automated. CNC (computer numerical control) systems enable the operator to follow the machining process from the computer screen. If necessary, adjustments can be made in the computer programme that directs the machining. Mechanical work demands less and less physical strength, thanks to automated machines, robots and other programmable machines. The development of automation affects us all. Today we are surrounded by automatic machines, making human labour more and more superfluous. We have come a long way from the simple flint tools of the Stone Age to the labour-saving machines we see around us today.
Choose one word from the following list to complete the sentences.
flint, automated, automation, machine, mechanical, plastic, operator, muscles
- Tools from the Stone Age were often made of ___________.
- One of the main materials used today is ___________.
- Before our ancestors had machines they used their own ___________.
- The Greek word mechos is linked to the word __________.
- The ancient Greeks and Romans used ____________ devices such as gears, valves and cylinders.
- ____________ means that less human labour is needed.
- Less physical strength is needed because of ____________ machines.
- An ___________ can control a production process from a computer.
- How would you define a “tool” and a “machine”?
- What machines or tools have you used today? Make a list and share with your neighbour. Could you have managed without any of them?
- Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of automation.