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A Skelding Summary

Lifts or elevators are superb places for getting to know strangers - particularly when all ten of you dive into the same space at the same time. It's that or paranoia - along the lines 'I hope they can't tell I had a curry last night' or 'I hope nobody thinks it was me'

Original lifts were designed by the Romans and used ropes and pulleys that could be powered by water, beasts or men. It took a couple of thousand years before, in the eighteenth century, lifts were harnessed to steam engines. (Wonder what would the Romans have been like under steam?) Early lifts primarily transported heavy loads in factories and docks. The poor reliability of the ropes made accidents commonplace and passenger lifts were viewed as being
alarmingly hazardous. Then Elisha Otis demonstrated a safety lift (essentially a moving clamp on guide rails) in New York in 1853. By 1857, steam driven passenger lifts were in production.

Electrically powered lifts date from 1889 allowing quicker movement and also the application of push button and lever controls by 1894. By 1915 "automatic levelling" allowed people to press for a certain floor in the sure knowledge that the lift would stop where intended. This was good news for the public - but created a lot of ex-lift operators.

Common features in modern lifts are mirrors and usually excruciating lighting and to add to the paranoia are probably equipped with video to make sure that the passenges operate properly as well as the lift. Indeed many now tend to be made of glass so you can see out vertigo and all; or let's face it, they can inspect you as you move.  There's a strong argument for getting 'free' exercise on the stairs or escalators.

In smarter stores and hotels lift operators still hold on in there to make sure the customers feel special.


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By Laurence Skelding

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