American Inventions – Automatic Transmission

Amazing innovations tend to become commonplace over time in America. Americans and our ESL students alike may not even understand the magnitude of the invention we’ll learn about today. Hancock International College doesn’t have any chemistry classes, so forgive the scientific jargon, but we can’t ignore the impact of what is now a household word… the creation of Nylon., “GM’s original Hydra-Matic transmission was one of the most important innovations in the history of the automobile. It wasn’t the first automatic transmission, but it was the first one that really worked and its resounding commercial success paved the way for every subsequent auto-shifter…

In essence, the hydraulic controls now functioned as an analog computer that could be programmed to shift autonomously between all available forward gears at different combinations of engine speed and throttle setting. The throttle valve gave the driver some ability to either hasten or delay gear changes, but not to override them. Therefore, you couldn’t hold a lower gear past redline, deliberately lug the engine in high gear under load, or force a downshift that would over-rev the engine…

The final major element — a fluid coupling that could replace the Automatic Safety Transmission’s plate clutch — was outlined in the patent filed in February 1937… While Thompson’s patent was essentially an extrapolation of the group’s previous semiautomatic transmissions, Kelley’s was a substantially new design with some significant variations…

GM christened the new transmission Hydra-Matic. Although Oldsmobile would have exclusive use of it for the first year — a corporate policy acknowledging the considerable resources the division had poured into the transmission’s development — GM had big plans for the automatic. A new Detroit Transmission Division, headed by Victor A. Olsen, was established specifically to manufacture Hydra-Matic. William Carnegie, who had been with Thompson’s group since 1933, was appointed chief engineer of the new division, which got its own assembly facilities in a former Fisher Body plant in eastern Detroit.”

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Idiom of the Day

Shift Gears

Meaning: To quickly or abruptly change what one is doing or discussing.

Example: With that out of the way, let’s shift gears and discuss our strategy for the third quarter.