Analog Tools in a Digital World
August 27, 2021
As the world becomes increasingly digital, we may be tempted to ask if there is still a place for analog systems and tools in our daily work routines. There are many areas where the question comes into play, but for now let’s focus on measuring and layout.
Many of our favorite hand tools have remained pretty much the same over the years. Improvements have been made to certain tools while some are exactly as they were when we began using them long ago. It is nearly impossible to improve on established tools for many tasks; screwdrivers, mallets, and pry-bars work just fine. But when it comes to measuring, recording dimensions, and doing layout, digital tools may offer an advantage.
1. Tape measures
Take the standard tape-measure, for example. This is a tool that many of us use every day. My friend Bill Daubmann from MY Shower Door swears by folding rulers for doing shower door measurements. While analog measuring devices are tried and true, the digital variations of these tools are surprisingly affordable and quite reliable. One doesn’t need to know how to “read” a tape measure in order to find exact dimensions. There are always trade-offs between different kinds of tools, so I recommend trying different types to see what works best for you.
Levels have also gone high-tech in recent times. Many in the shower door industry are getting away from using spirit levels all-together. Laser levels are a bit more accurate than the traditional counterparts. There are digital levels available that look and function much like the old familiar bubble levels. These give a digital reading of how far out of level (or plumb) the surface is. I’ve seen these but have never actually used one myself.
3. Sketches and note-taking
Making sketches and taking notes is probably the area where digital technology has been most widely adopted. I think most of us keep a pad and pencil handy “just in case,” but are primarily using our iPads, laptops, or phones to record and store information on the job site. The ability to cut-and-paste measurements rather than transcribing them prevents mistakes and improves accuracy. There are also apps available that allow users to do all their calculations, deductions, hardware selection―even create detailed drawings. There are a few products on the market for these purposes, and I have been using software applications myself for many years.
I like my tape measure. I still use spirit levels for shower enclosure measurements. I do love gadgets, though, and have one of just about everything digital. I use lasers more for layout than I do for measurements, but in certain situations they are helpful for finding dimensions as well. Have you found a digital tool that you like? I would be interested in hearing about it. There’s always room for one more tool!