tim   .


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.   hunkin





'The Secret Life of Machines' was the title of  3 TV series about the history and workings of everyday machines, shown on C4 in Britain, and on the discovery channel everywhere else. 

THE CAR (mainly the bodyshell)






They are all now on Youtube. 
If you want to download them, here are some of the options: 

The complete films are now online as streaming video and downloads for mobile phones, hosted by The Exploratorium, San Fransisco

You can also download MPEG2 files of the whole films from 
This link only works at the beginning of each month until their bandwidth is used up.
Alternative download sites:

This site has all the films in high quality video formats more suited to today's gadgets  

The cartoon booklets I wrote to accompany the TV series are at

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We made carhenge for the car and engine programme. There are several permanent carhenges in the world, most famously one in the US desert. Ours only lasted two months, but it had a good site, and many people made pilgrimages to it from the main road a mile away. It is best seen in the opening shot of the car programme.

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The car house, made with Rex and Graham Murray who owns the local scrapyard, was just made for a photo to publicise the series – it didn’t actually appear in any of the films.
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Treating car worship as a religion, we filmed a procession carrying a car engine for the end of programme two.
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I wrote the second series in 199-91. Looking at the films again, they seem to have aged surprisingly well. Of course the machines themselves have changed so they all need an extra scene to bring them up to date. 

The car film was made before the current fashion for SUV four wheel drives. SUVs provide a bit more protection for the occupants in most collisions (because of their weight) but are more likely to roll over. They also use much more fuel and the high bonnets make them more lethal if they hit a pedestrian. Car electronics have become ever more complex, making cars more difficult for independent garages to repair, and the price of steel scrap has collapsed, so people now have to pay to dispose of their old cars and many just get abandoned by the side of the road. So in many respects, cars have got worse.

 Engines have continued their incremental improvement, particularly turbo diesels. Today diesels make very little more noise than petrol engines and are fitted to large numbers of cars. Battery and fuel cell powered electric cars have made some progress, but don’t really seem much closer to replacing the internal combustion engine.  

 Quartz watches haven’t changed much. Some of the early electronic designs have come back into fashion as ‘retro’ styling. Watches combined with phones and cameras have been tried, but don’t seem to have become popular. One element I might have added is the mystery of why the clock in a personal computer, with its sophisticated quartz timing circuitry, seems unable to keep accurate time!

The telephone film was made when mobiles were still large expensive devices, used by a tiny minority of people. No one at the time foresaw their phenomenal growth over the last ten years. The technology is amazingly sophisticated, with every call seemlessly swapping from one transmitter to the next as you move about. The social changes have been equally rapid. I still find amazing today to walk down a street, watching people chattering away without any embarrassment A few weeks ago I even saw a woman apparently arguing with herself – I assumed she had mental health problems until I realised she was shouting into a hands free phone.

Radio sets haven’t changed much, though I guess the recently introduced digital radio services could soon become popular. These transmit digital data and need a complete computer to decipher the signals, so digital radio sets are currently still expensive and coverage is patchy.  

I now rarely see video recorders in people's homes. DVD players are now cheaper than video recorders – their mechanics are certainly much simpler. There is still a question about the longevity of the disks, particularly the home writable formats like this DVD+R – I hope it won’t be unplayable in a few years!  


Tim Hunkin, Jan 2004







  Secret life of machines 1          Secret life of  the office
Secret life of machines 1          Secret life of  the office



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