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Yes, but my understanding is
a) it uses [planetary gears](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8fAHTeDGiQ)* and manual transmissions don’t. I still don’t full understand planetary gears. They aren’t that complicated but really getting your head around them seems difficult to do unless you had one to play with.
*I’ve never been able to find part 1 of that video, if anyone has, please post it.
b) the hydraulic control system is a weird maze that hydraulic fluid weaves it’s way through, switching planetary gear inputs/outputs as it goes. Again, I get what it is doing but don’t really understand how it is doing it or why it does it that way rather than just using a computer (other than tradition).
(Forgot about the torque converter… more magic!)
[CVT’s](http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=MhFK5gfAGpM#t=76s) on the other hand are (or can be**) simple and elegant. One side is high gear, one side is low gear. The chain slides between the two sides as speed increases and torque decreases.
\*\* There are several types mentioned [here](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuously_variable_transmission)