How much electronics do we need?


Posted On: Saturday - March 18th 2017 10:29AM MST
In Topics: 
  Cars  Curmudgeonry  Artificial Stupidity

The title sounds appropriate for a post written by a curmudgeon, hence that is one of the topic keys for this post. However, though not an "early adopter", I understand the value of electronics and computer technology, when they are implemented for solid reasons. When they aren't, it falls under the topic key computer tech stupidity Artificial Stupidity*. So, we will talk about both topics together.

The productivity gains from computer hardware (electronics) software (commonly somewhat-erroneously termed "technology") have been tremendous of course. At my current job, some of what we have been doing on paper in this industry for 75 years(!) is very tedious and is being replaced by software this very month. This change not only eliminates much tedious paperwork but also improves quality control of the changes to the paperwork. Everything can be checked daily now to make sure the (former) pages are up to date. We are also eliminating a tree a week or so, if that matters to you. (Yeah, there are plenty of pulp-wood trees around - this part doesn't concern me, but I just hate to see waste of any kind, just on principle.)

Let's look at how this computer tech. morphs into computer tech. stupidity, shall we? I have more examples for later, but this one is something related to cars, a slight interest of mine, and I've been wanting to write about this for some time. (I can stay off politics for a post here, which is good.) This friend has a fancy BMW, made in the Spartanburg, S. Carolina - yea! to that part. Yes, he does make a lot of money, but he's no stranger to working with his hands, which doesn't unfortunately go together normally with making a LOT of money but has to do with my point.

Because, you know, it is too much hard work to rotate these switches and move the lever up and down,



the windshield wipers on this vehicle turn on/off automatically based on rainfall, or any water, detected on the windshield. Yes, that's "cool". It's the new miniature and inexpensive sensors that play a big role in making many "apps" (meaning computer programs) possible. The available computing power and amazingly compact and large amount of cheap memory are part of this, but the sensors are also critical. This rainfall on the windshield example needs a sensor that may have been much too cumbersome and expensive to make the system possible in the past. However, think about many other "phone" "apps" (well, the quotes are for "phones" really meaning handheld computers and "apps" short for applications, meaning computer programs - I don't like this stupid terminology either!) The smart-phone screens' display staying right-side-up relies on a tee-tiny gravity sensor and the exercise programs that count your paces use accelerometers, which, once in these devices, can be used to make lots of cool ideas into reality. The possibilities are endless, because any kind of logic and data storage needed is almost assured to be doable with the massive calculation power and memory.

Let me go back to the "cool" wiper system. It failed. My friend brought the vehicle to our honest and extremely capable mechanic friend. Well, it's not the wiper motor. Oh, but the control system for the wipers has a freakin' "windshield wiper computer". There's a 100 bucks that might fix it, but you know electronic car parts can't be returned. It it's not the source of the problem that $100 is a complete waste unless this mechanic, with a small likelihood, runs into another BMW with this problem AND that computer as the culprit. Then, there are the sensors.

After quite a while with the car, the mechanic told him this may take a while with quite a bit of troubleshooting. This BMW owner drove for something like a year after that with non-working wipers and became an expert in the use of rain-X (which IS pretty cool stuff!)!

Yes, as I said, my friend makes a lot of money, and rightfully so, I might add. However, it doesn't mean he is too lazy to turn windshield wipers on and off when he drives in the rain.

Just because the auto-wiper system is "cool" and CAN BE made, does not mean you NEED TO MAKE IT! That's something the BMW management should have thought about when these computer geeks brought up this idea. It's like they WANT the cars to go in the shop regularly after 100,000 miles for $1000 repairs that would have been $100 fixes on a simple system. (Hey, .... wait a minute!)

We are a long way from KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid, but a short way from Peak Stupidity.

* NOTE: Topic key "Computer Tech Stupidity" has been changed to "Artificial Stupidity", 2/3/18 - Editor

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