The Great Belts

This is not a computer story but an anecdote of the end of steam power in factories. When I was less than 10 year old, perhaps in 1941, my father took me to a small old shoe factory. He explained to me that it had been originally built to be operated by steam power but now there was a large electric motor where the engine had been. Power distribution in the factory consisted of long shafts about 20 feet up from the floor turning wide wheels of diameters from one foot to about three feet. Belts on these wheels came down to operate various machines. They each had a half twist and the wheel below turned in the opposite direction as the shaft above.

Already the era of small electric motors had made this plant obsolete, but it seemed to be working smoothly the day I visited.