HOLD YOUR HONK, LEARNING THE HISTORY OF THE HORN
Whether a car or a motorbike, one of the ubiquitous features of a motor vehicle is the horn. In Indonesia, this must-have feature is regulated by the traffic and road transportation law, Law 22 of 2009, and in by Government Regulation No. 55 of 2012 on Motor Vehicles.
While all of us are familiar with the horn, we may have never thought of its origin.
According to various sources, the horn goes way back in history, even as far back as the 1800s. And while today we often associate horn-honking with anger or frustration, it was exactly the opposite in the past. Originally, the horn was a way for road users to communicate.
Matt Anderson, a curator at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, said that, “You’re expected to honk your horn if you were coming up on pedestrians to let them know you were bounding down the street. You’d be thought to be rude if you weren’t using your horn, which is the exact opposite of where we are today.”
In the beginning of the 1900s, there were three different horns available. There was the air horn with some sort of a bulb to squeeze, and then there was the exhaust horn, and the electric horn.
The electric horn, then enabled by the new technology of that time, was pioneered by Miller Reese Hutchison who was a relative of Thomas Edison and a Chief Engineer for Thomas Edison’s laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. Hutchison patented the mechanism of his invention in 1908.
The horn, or as Indonesians called it, klakson, borrowed its name from klaxon, coined by Franklyn Hallet Lovell Jr. from a Greek word klazō, meaning ‘shriek’. Klaxon has become a global trademark for horns and the first car to have it was the Ford Model T.
In the past, the horn sounded differently. In fact, instead of the familiar “din-din”, the horn sounded like it was saying ahooga. It was not until the 1930s that the sound changed following the birth of the electric horn, which had simpler mechanism and sounded friendlier to the ears.
Over the years, the horns have developed into newer models that use less power and less electromagnetic interference. They are also produced with better materials that make them able to withstand corrosion, more durable, and have better quality.
The horn is so important that article 48 of the Indonesian traffic law 22/2009 requires a functioning horn as an indication of a vehicle’s roadworthiness. Moreover, article 285, paragraph 1 of the same law sets out the punishment for roadworthiness violation, namely no later than one month of imprisonment or fine of no more than IDR 250,000.
Aside from motor vehicles, horns are also used in vessels and public structures, e.g. office buildings and schools, as an alarm.