This week is Thanksgiving (if you’re reading from the US), that time of year when we talk about the things in life that, big or small, we are grateful for. In the very futuristic sounding year of 2023, we are thankful for many things, but chief among them is the fact that carmakers like Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, Nissan, and Honda still make sports cars. That’s more than one would expect in a class that conventional wisdom says is dying, and it gives us hope that the next generation will still have fun with cars.
What car-related things are you thankful for?
The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What technology made modern cars less interesting?“.
We expected more recent technologies to elicit a lot of anger, but some readers went way back, as MikeRL411 and interstataphobia did to unleash their ire for the automatic transmission. The next oldest invention was probably Crown‘s 5-mph safety bumpers, mandated in 1974.
We’re not going by when these technologies were first invented, but when the became commonplace. The next era included contrivances such as speedie‘s cruise control, Chet Manley‘s power windows, TheJWT‘s turbos, and Franxou‘s safety regulations that allowed for the disappearance of pop-up headlights.
Moore’s Law has made microprocessors cheaper than ever and thus irresistible to engineers and designers alike. Jeremy A. understandably computational fluid dynamics
Not surprisingly, most comments were inflamed by technologies that became widespread in the last couple of decades. For Art it was the artifice of the drift button. Steve cannot abide the electronic throttle body, and Sammy B was incensed by the associated rev hang. Fred Langille was irked by the silence of EVs, while エーイダン expressed his righteous discontent at the ever-present crossover.
In the end, it was Alan‘s screed about the superiority of the original Playstation classic Final Fantasy VII as compared to its recent remaster that won the week. It reminded us of an interview we once read about the music composers of early Nintendo games explaining why those titles had such memorable tunes (It was the limitations of the beeps and boops available at the time that forced them into creating masterpieces):
They recently remade Final Fantasy 7. It’s been completely revamped with ostensibly improved graphics, sound, gameplay, reduced load times, etcetera. But I have less than zero interest in it, because it was the very limitations of the PlayStation’s primitive architecture that made the original great. Unspoiled by near-limitless processing power and memory, the artists and designers behind the original FF7 were forced to dig deep to do more with less, and created something magical and transcendent in the process.
The problem with modern cars is parallel in both concept and timeline; the dawn of cheap processing power supplanted the creative impetus of engineers with the promise of free power steering (EPAS), instant gearchanges (DCTs), and seamlessly linear (uninspiring) turbocharging.
Why spend precious resources and man hours carefully calibrating a rewarding ride and handling balance when countless suspension “modes” are available at the touch of a button? Why design an engine to make a pleasant sound when a barrage of pops and bangs are as simple as programming the injectors to dribble out a few more drops on the overrun? Because they feel and sound phony, like ten thousand lines of code, and not the passion and hard-won knowledge of an expert driver/engineer.
Software is not a satisfactory substitute for a touch of human spirit in our stories and machines.
The 8-32 Bit and Analog Car Eras were Zeitgeist defining, just as the games and transportation devices of the 21st century are of a desperate dystopia.
Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!