As I type this after a few hours of playing around with my iPhone 6—and that's the last you'll hear of it, who talks about their phones? Who cares?—I was thinking about the act of pushing a button.
A button doesn't exist in nature. It's a universally understood action that we've created in order to manipulate devices, from things like the pushbutton radio to the latest phone. Additionally, pressing something works just as well in a physical sense as it does in a virtual sense, and dominates our controls for electric devices.
Back to the radio. As far as "content" was concerned, back in the day you could be on TV, radio, or in the newspaper. In my mind, sometimes changing how we manipulate a device completely transforms it—like adding touchscreens to phones, in effect a system for virtual buttons—and is something that the Crosley Brothers, Powel and Lewis, understood.
Adding pushbuttons to a radio may seem quaint now, or even obvious, but by adding buttons on their low-cost and wildly popular radios, the Crosleys introduced the control surfaces that we still use today when enjoying and creating media.
Even better: they made cars, too.
One of my favourite Crosley models is essentially what we'd refer to as a side-by-side ATV today, the Farm-O-Road. When it was introduced in 1950, the United States had a large rural population, with farmers operating much more independently than they do now. With smaller farms and smaller crops, there was little need for the gigantic tractors and other farm equipment that farms now use.
Aimed at the rural market, the Farm-O-Road was a dual purpose machine equally at home working the land as it was popping into town for groceries, or bringing goods to market. At just 2,324 mm (7.6 ft) long, it rode on tiny 12-inch wheels—sometimes optioned with dual rear wheels!
These were used for traction off-road, but weren't the only tool a driver had at his disposal. Two gear ranges (with a total if six forward speeds); power take-off for a range of accessories like ploughs, rakes, and mowers; and the rear was easily configurable into either a truck or some extra jump seats.
A top speed of, at most, 80 km/h (50 mph) wouldn't get you into town very quickly, even though owners had the world's first mass production overhead cam engine at their disposal. It has 4-cylinders, it has 724cc (44ci), and it punches out 26.5 horsepower. Code name? COBRA.
It'd be the perfect companion to those minimalists who live in tiny houses these days, but Crosley was too far ahead of time to make it work—only about 600 were sold in total.
It reappeared as the even more rare Crofton Bug, of which about 200 were made.
Mark my words: if I someday end up with enough property, I'll be sure to add a Farm-O-Road to my stable. Yee-haw!
* Disclosure: I work for RM Auctions. #bcotd is an independent project. I will not write about a car before it has been auctioned. The photos are of the Farm-O-Road Prototype that sold earlier last year through RM Auctions for $32,775.