by John H. Lienhard
Today, a machine keeps a gentle land from being gobbled up — but only for a while. The University of Houston’s College of Engineering presents this series about the machines that make our civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity created them.
In 1951, a young woman took me to a fancy luau at the University of Oregon. It was peculiar culture shock for me. Half the college students from Hawaii studied in Oregon. My left-brain focus was ill-fitted to the easy-going rhythm of the event. I still had much to learn.
Ukeleles and steel guitars nattered on cheerfully in 8/8 time. Everyone wore shorts or muumuus. And the food! It was roast pork and pineapple — poi washed down with pineapple — pineapple juice and gin. I never saw so much pineapple.
Less than sixty years before, Queen Liliuokalani had ruled Hawaii. She was a poet and composer, but not much of a manager. Hawaiian and American members of the so-called Annexation Club managed to depose her and ask the United States to annex Hawaii.
Hawaii became a U.S. Territory in 1900. The mainland was a huge market for her pineapples and sugar. She became a market for our manufactured goods.
Now think about the armor-plated pineapple. A skilled operator, with coring and slicing machinery, could cut up 10 or 15 a minute. Pineapple canning was absolutely limited by the rate a human could core, peel, juice, and slice a pineapple. And then, all the juice near the skin was wasted. Continue reading