Farm Progress

Throwback Tech: What seemed state-of-the-art in 1978 pales by comparison today.

November 8, 2018

3 Min Read
MODERN FEATURES: You may take several capabilities of modern combines for granted until you recall features of combines as recently as the late ’70s and ’80s that seemed modern at the time.Agco

When my dad bought a Gleaner K2 combine at auction in 1983, it was his first self-propelled combine. Compared to pictures of the first-ever Gleaner combine, which was technically a combine mounted on a Fordson tractor, it was quite advanced. Compared to the Gleaner S98 introduced in late 2015, the K2 is antique.

The Gleaner K2 was introduced in 1978. Economical and hard-working, it foreshadowed what was to come — but only if you used your imagination.

According to a Farm Industry News article, all the Agco engineers who worked on the Gleaner S98 cab grew up using Gleaner combines. If any of them operated the K2, what it didn’t have might have inspired what the S98 possesses. Here are five features our combine didn’t have that today’s combines do have, using the S98 as reference:

1. Extra visibility. The deep-curved front windshield of the S98 features 66 square feet of glass. The Vision Cab on the S Series is 15% larger than previous cabs, with a spot for an optional mini-fridge. The instructor’s seat folds down to double as laptop storage. Speaking as the first farmer sitting in a K2 cab in 1978, what in the world is a laptop?

2. Power-swivel ladder. The ladder on the S98 moves out of the way under power during unloading so the operator can see the truck or cart. The ladder is purposely not as steep as in previous models for safety reasons. The ladder on the K2 was — well, a ladder!

3. Yield mapping. The S98 came with the Tryton display terminal, featuring four screen views to monitor performance. You could choose either the FieldStar Live or Ag Leader Live yield-mapping systems. For the K2 … what’s a yield monitor?

4. Faster head response. A proportional valve added to the hydraulic system on the S Series combines allows the grain head to raise and lower faster. For the K2, I just hoped the head went up or down when I moved the lever!

5. “Fly by wire.” All cables and linkage were eliminated for the hydrostatic-drive propel system on the S Series. The machine can be automatically programmed to increase speed on a hill. Not so much with the K2; it had good power, but it was all manual.

FORMERLY STATE-OF-THE-ART: These features were state-of-the-art when the Gleaner K2 debuted in 1978. Allis-Chalmers designed literature to tout the benefits of the new K2 combine.

Big jump from 1st Gleaner
Here are five features the K2 had as touted in promotional brochures. It was a giant leap forward from the Fordson-mounted Gleaner.

1. Turbocharged diesel option. You could order the K2 with an optional 200-horsepower, turbocharged Allis-Chalmers diesel engine. Ours came with the standard gas engine. The original Gleaner definitely came before turbochargers.

2. Variable-speed ground drive. A simplified traction-drive control with integral hydraulic cylinder delivered reliability. The variable speed drove a three-speed transmission.

3. Tattletale Monitor II. K2 Corn Plus models came with a system to monitor key functions. I couldn’t figure out why ours didn’t have it until I read the fine print. It was an option on regular K2 models. The need to read fine print hasn’t changed!

4. Finger-tip control of transverse fan. The knob to control the upgraded transverse fan was on the right console. It earned a picture in brochures because in 1978, not all competitors offered in-cab fan adjustment.

5. Automatic concave door. Gleaner invented rock traps. If a rock entered the cylinder and concave area, the trap ejected it and then a light flashed to let you know it was open.

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