Posts Tagged ‘metric system’

My Mac is a detail-enabler – ouch!

June 24, 2009

I am a detail-oriented engineer and business owner. Aside from the fact that I can spell better in Russian than in English, I religiously dot every “i” and cross every “t” and try to make everything I do “letter-perfect”. The computer makes this attention to detail all encompassing: perfect Word docs, perfect Excel spreadsheets, perfect Powerpoint presentations, perfect drawings, etc.

With enough time, the computer can help me make every document I create “perfect” – if I am not careful, I may focus too much on the “details” and miss an important piece of the “big picture”. If only my software limited my ability to deliver detail, I might deliver better “substance”. But alas, my software can let me do marvelous, little, intricate things…


I caught myself going “deep” into detail mode with a drawing today. Ever mindful that my computer display has a resolution of 100 pixels per inch (actually 101…), and my drawing was for a webpage on my website, I found myself working to a precision of 0.1 mm – about 2.5-times the resolution of the displayed image… What was I thinking?

Well, I am an engineer. And my drawing was “eye candy”. And I am “precisely” sure that I spent several “precision” hours that no one but me would ever appreciate.  My drawing was “precisely perfect”! Thanks to my Mac software – and some hard work…

The Metric system before I die, please?

June 12, 2009

When I was working in the Middle East and would walk outside on my way to work, I would see a big thermometer hanging on our perimeter wall. When it read 35 deg at 7:30 AM, I knew that we would be pushing 50 at close of business – man, it was already hot, and it was going to be HOT-HOT-HOT! I had that figured out in, like, one day. No sweat (being funny). 100KM was an hour’s drive down the highway – that’s easy to figure… One liter of water weighs 1 Kg, and I weigh 100 Kg – that’s easy too… My little finger is 1 CM thick. Yes, I like this metric system! I’m “metric”…

Upon my return to the US, my employer Rockwell International was just then officially adopting the Metric system in its manufacturing operations. To my chagrin, the first Metric manufacturing drawings I ever saw absurdly showed what used to be 0.75 inch +/- 0.02 inch to now be be 19.050 mm +/- 0.5 mm – well, rules of precision didn’t quite translate across like they should, I guess, but more to the point, I wondered why that dimension wasn’t 20.0 mm +/- 0.5 mm – that would really have been metric. At that point in time almost 25 years ago, adoption of the Metric system in the US was really just a charade – an appeasement mostly by Government contractors that lacked any meaningful commitment. Today in manufacturing, that corner has been fully turned though,and it happened gradually over 25 years – probably because the US stopped manufacturing a lot of things, and Asian manufacturers produced Metric designs and products…

Societally, though, I am afraid that we have taken a few steps away from the Metric system in that time – “rats” I say. Ask the nurse at your doctor’s office what is your normal temperature in deg c, and they may wonder where you come from – They probably have no idea how to answer (the answer is 37.0 deg C, and 40 deg C is “burnin’ up). Banks get phone calls from well meaning folk to say that their thermometer on their sign is wrong when it rolls over to deg C. In the grocery store, a lady asked me once how many 2-liter Pepsi’s were in a quart (I wondered why not how many in a gallon), but why would you want to know? And if I had answered 1.9 2-liter bottles in a gallon,, would she even have comprehended?

Maybe if we try very hard to educate and excite school aged children about the metric system, we will adopt it before I die!

DTV – next the Metric system

June 12, 2009

Change is hard – yes, everyone say that one more time in unison with me:

“Change is hard.”

OK, perhaps I am being just a little bit facetious, but the US is painfully slow to change on some things. Finally, though, we have a significant transition under our belts – a change from analogue TV to digital TV. Whew!

In 1977 or so – maybe it was 1978, I installed and commissioned some of the first digital microwave systems that conveyed two DS3 signals or 1344 56Kb/s digital telephone calls (in 64 Kb/s data frames) simultaneously. The impact on the rural communities that “hopped” onto these DS3’s to digital telephone switches in the nearest large city was accommodation of modern push button DTMF dial phones in lieu of rotary dial phones, and the ability to place long distance calls directly without requiring an operator to “place” the call for you. This was a great advance for these small communities, and it put the entire country uniformly in the modern age of digital telephony. Looking back, that was exciting for me, and I was helping to make it happen – to push the high tech envelop in telephony to the very “edges of civilization” in the US.

Today, the entire country uniformly enters the modern age of digital television. No more fuzzy pictures or interference bars from overhead airplanes or from reflections off of large buildings – just a picture-perfect picture – if you are lucky to have enough signal to detect and decode… I wonder just how many television sets will actually receive their signals over the air? My suspicion is a small number – maybe less than 5 percent. Unless you are one of those few, you will probably wonder what all the hubbub was about… But change is hard, and the very words “change to digital TV” is a hard sell even if you receive your video service from Comcast or DirecTV or AT&T (Uverse) or Verizon (FIOS) or a number of other players in this industry – for you so served, well, nothing really happened today – but the change was still hard…

What’s the next big change? I am hoping for the Metric System. With the digital TV transition behind us now, maybe we can tackle the Metric system again, and make it stick to us all! Give me an M, an M, an MKS – give me a C, a C, a CGS!