CORRISPONDKNC i: “fnLetter from Chicago: Feeling About Machinesnby Stephen MacaulaynLet any one who is acquainted withnwhat multitudes of people get theirndaily bread in this city by their labour,nwhether artificers or mere workmenn—I say, let any man consider whatnmust be the miserable condition ofnthis town if, on a sudden, they shouldnall be turned out of employment,nthat labour should cease, and wagesnfor work be no more.n—Daniel DefoenA Journal of the Plague Year{n2l)nChicago is known by various monikers,nsuch as the Windy City, the SecondnCity, and others not fit to print. One ofnthe more famous titles is the City thatnWorks. Every two years since 1972—itnwas every five years before that—the NationalnMachine Tool Builders’ Associationnholds an exhibition in Chicago. The InternationalnMachine Tool Show (IMTS) isninevitably a smashing success, the largestnindustrial trade exhibition in this part ofnthe world (Hanover, for example, dwarfsnit), which draws thousands of exhibitors,nattendees, and observers from aroundndie world. In 1982, the City diat Worksnsounds like a misnomer and the prospectnof a machine-tool show seems superfluousn, as most of the industrialized citiesnin the nation are full of the unemployed,nand orders in the domestic machine-toolnindustry were down in September 51%nfrom 1981, which wasn’t a particularlyngood year. Economic news—typicallynbad, not good—has become a wastingnstaple on page one of newspapers: recession,ninflation, cost of living, and the likenare words that peal like death knells.nThings are presented as being bleak,ndrear, and dismal; it brings to mindnDefoe’s examination of the 1665 GreatnPlague that ravaged London. Hyperbole?nPerhaps, but certainly not innthe light of headline writers and eco-nMr. Macaulay is a frequent contributor tonthese pages.n44inChronicles of Cnltttrennomic prognosticators.nIMTS 82 was held from September 8nto 17 in McCormick Place East, McCormicknPlace West, and the O’Hare ExpositionnCenter. Suffice it to say that anpre-downsizing automobile show couldnbe comfortably held in any one of thenhalls, and the first-named could simultaneouslynhouse a convention of pre-nOPEC gas station owners. During IMTSnthe mammoth halls were filled withnmachines that cut or shape metal and anwide variety of equipment and servicesnancillary to them. When a hall is nearlynempty but the machines cycling, thennoise of giant presses, milling machines,nlathes, punches, and the rest is such thatnit is almost a physical presence. Whennthe machine operators are joined bynsalesmen, show-goers, journalists,nguards, and maintenance people, thensense one experiences is not unlike whatnit must be to move through a room full ofnJell-O: resisting yet yielding. Thenmachines—even for one who doesn’tnunderstand what they are doing—arenfascinating; they would have broughtnMarinetti and his band of Futurists tonecstasy. The crowd was composed ofneager people: some anxious to take in thennew technology; others keen on having anlegitimate excuse to be out of the factoriesnand in the city, an especial treat fornthose out of town and on an expense account—thenbars and expensive restaurantsnwere packed every night, and evennrooms costing upwards of $ 114 per nightnwere booked.nThis was my third consecutive visit tonIMTS. While I had expected it to be ansmaller, more low-key event than thosenof ’78 and ’80, I was surprised to findnmyself wrong. Chicago w^zj working—atnleast providing services, especially thendeath-defying hacks (one asked me if I’dnever been to New York City and so benable to verify the rumor that he hadnheard, that the cabbies there are “morenrugged”)—and a machine-tool exhibitionndid serve a valuable service innnnshowing industrialists what they requirento, once again, pull themselves up byntheir proverbial bootstraps. Attendancenfigures provided by the NMTB A showednthat crowds, though not always as numerousnas in preceding years, were stillncrowds. The equipment was there innforce. This year it was more obvious thannever, not because more of it had robotnarms and other such automated appendages,nbut because so much of it wasnpainted with colors taken from the palettesnof pop artists—bright blues,noranges, and even purple.nBut something y^/^ wrong to me;nsomething was missing; statisticsncouldn’t prove otherwise. In time Infound the difference. As anyone who hasnattended an auto show knows, carnmakers inevitably have very slinkynwomen draped on or about their displays.nMen, I suppose, are meant to benarrested first by the alluring fleshy form,nthen by the metallic lines. It is—or was—nno different for builders of industrialnequipment. Most of the attendees atnIMTS were men, and a large number ofnthose visiting from out of the area hadnleft their wives and girl friends behind. Ansleek Corvette has more sex appeal thanna horizontal boring mill—no matternwhat color it’s painted. At the earliernshows I observed that some displaynowners were cognizant of that perception,nand so they staffed their displaysnwith what were, presumably, ex-autonshow models; others went further andnfeatured what had to be waitresses fromnkinky (though decidedly heterosexual)ncocktail bars. I don’t know that the girlsnsold any machines, but they unquestionablyndrew swarms to even the most unexcitingnsponsors. There was somethingncrudely Freudian about a nicely shapednpersonhood in a slit skirt pushing industrialnlubricants. This year, however, thengirls were gone, replaced by ranks ofnmore businesslike females. A resultnof ERA, perhaps? I doubt it. Rather,n