• An arrangement of gauges and controls in a motor vehicle.
  • A board of wood or leather in front of a carriage, to keep out mud.

As Paul  Dawson writes today:

The builders of the early motor vehicles borrowed their methods and their language from the horse-drawn vehicles they had long been familiar with. In the very early days of motoring, the unknown writer of a syndicated column in a US newspaper discussed this conservatism under the headline Evolution in Carriages: 

The motor carriage is already in evidence, and it, too, bears the earmarks of its horsy, though horseless, origin. One of the latest forms of these carriages bears all over indications of the existence of the horse that isn’t there. In front there is a high leather dashboard to protect the riders against the splashing from the hooves of the absent animal. 

Tyrone Daily Herald (Pennsylvania), 28 Oct. 1897. 

The sense of dash is the one that refers to the “violent throwing and breaking of water or other liquids upon or against anything”, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it.

The dashboard was a wooden board, or a leather apron like the one that the article mentions. It was placed at the front of a carriage, sleigh or other vehicle to catch the mud or water thrown up by the horses’ hooves and stop it from soaking the driver and his passengers. We would now call it a kind of mudguard. 

Early motor vehicles left the driver totally exposed to the weather, so the dashboard wasn’t totally useless. It did protect the legs of the driver against wind and rain. As vehicle designs evolved, a windscreen was put in place above the dashboard and the latter became a handy place to put the instruments. But it kept its name. 

With what I have successfully branded in my workplace the ‘Analytics Revolution’ – mashing together data and visualising via Microsoft Power BI – Management information dashboards have become much much more useful…

These days if you haven’t got Analytics feeding into your decisions (albeit not making them for you) you’re more likely than ever to get covered in mud.


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