Popular Science (May 1934)


Scientific American ( Date  unknown)

Machine For Visualizing Economic Conditions

To one who is neither an engineer nor an economist, the relation of the depression to thermodynamics is not exactly as clear as hell. But to Dr. H.C. Dickinson of the Bureau of Standards, who is both an engineer and a student of economics, there is little difference, so far as methods of analysis are concerned, between finding out what is wrong with the business world and with a system which is intended to convert the heat of fuel into mechanical work. Reduce the economic model to a working model and you will see at once just why and when it is morking efficiently and inefficiently.

When he wasn't testing automotive engines at the Bureau of Standards, Dr Dickinson was devising such a machine at home. He calls it an "Economonstrator" and talks about it now and then before engineering societies. It is well to add that he has no desire to become a member of the Brain Trust or to induce the country to adopt some view of money or business peculiarly his own. Engineer that he is, his one concern is to show how the forces, now working with one another and how against one another may be visualized, so that anyone of intelligence can see for himself how our economic system works.

Five Economic Factors

Dickinson considers (1) products of labor which are distributed for consumption, (2) property for use, such as personal property owned outright, (3) capital goods entended to increase production and wealth, (4) debts on which interest must be paid, and (5) natural resources. The accompanying diagram, which is simpler than it looks, shows clearly how the economonstrator juggles these five to visualize any economic situation.

Money having a fixed value in terms of a fixed standard is Dickinson's mesure of value for all salable products. he makes it flow, symbolically, in the form of dyed water through a system of pipes and reservoirs, all neatly balanced like a see-saw. Keep the see-saw in equilibrium and all is well. Let it tilt to one side and you have over-prosperity  and the reason why...

... below that paid for old loans. You also see these old loans (bonds) selling above par.

Instead of being discouraged, the economonstrator shows the thrifty man actually spurred on. He makes an immediate apparent profit because his bonds sell above par. Out of this flows the conclusion that a tendency to oversave leads to a speculation  with profits -- a condition revealed when the level in Tank 3 rises rapidly. Dickinson thinks that classical economists have generally overlooked this vital fact.

Take our present situation. Tank 4 is full, meaning that excessive debt has accumulated. Take 1 (payrolls) must be pumped full as rapidly as possible or Tank 4 (debts) must be emptied. The Administration finds that both procedures are necessary -- the extreme case. So we see the government putting more men at work and increasing ...


The Economonstrator

1934 Press Photo Dr. Dickinson, With His New Invention, The Economonstrator




Montana Butte Standard (Butte, Montana), Saturday, May 12, 1934,  Page 11

The Economonstrator

It is called the "economonstrator," and when a switch is turned it will stage a "sample depression" for you. A blue liquid, representing' national resources, flows ...

Journal of the Washington Academy of Science, Volume v. 24, p. 1934 (1911)

Popular Science (May 1934)
Machine Explains Business

To demonsrate the forces that bring about prosperity or depression, Dr H  Dickinson, engineer connected with the US Bureau of Standards, has devised a curious machine that he calls an "Economonstrator". With its aid, he declares, the entire economocs of a nation's rise and fall can be explained graphically. Two tiny electric pumps circulate colored liquid through glass tubes, representing channels through which commodities change hands and connecting sources of supply and consumption. When the flow is interrupted by closing valves at various significant points, the pivoted platform tilts, and the shifting liquid shows just how the whole economic system is thrown out of balance. This is done by measuring reservoirs that represent economic activities.

The Economonstrator

The economonstrator, invented by. Dr. B. C. Dickinson of the bureau. of standards, visualizes economic conditions to the extent of showing.

Technical News Bulletin, Issue 205


Technical News Bulletin, Issues 177-250

F. G. Brickwedde
Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences
Vol. 24, No. 8 (August 15, 1934), pp. 360-367

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