Monday, July 30, 2007

Why does technology get lost?

Increasingly, the clocks in my house are of the auto-synching atomic clock style. You know, they have an ant and pick up the signal from WWVB in Colorado, so are pretty much always right. They vary in quality, of course, but I can see a day when they all work anywhere in my house. But I have to wonder why this is so hard. Does anyone remember the school clocks that auto-synched? They were cool, I thought when I was in grade school because they were magic. Once a week (others apparently did it once per hour) at 3:50, they'd all grind and move up the the right time. The technology was cool as hell also. They synched over AC power. No separate data wire, just something called carrier current. This is cool stuff. Limited in that it can't go thru transformers, etc. but if you build it on purpose (instead of making a pirate radio station) this is fine. Yet, this whole technology seems to be gone. Most clocks are totally out of synch with the real time, and no one cares. Do you fix your stove or microwave when the power outage is over? I got a great deal on these industrial grade clocks from the Sprint campus. They were just battery models hung off the wall, and some facilities operations team decided that changing batteries and keeping the time right wasn't worth the effort. If only they'd been built with any thought as to the actual need for clocks in conference rooms. But requirements vs. specifications is a discussion for another day. It seems they are even selling school clocks that are radio synched thru the NIST system. What was wrong with the old-fashioned system? Not electronic enough? Where would BPL be without this? I have a somewhat similar complaint about speed bumps. Cannot find quite enough info to quote in a book, but all speed bumps built now are "wrong." See, they were designed long ago to be related to speed they wanted you to drive. Drive 25 and you don't feel a bump at all. Drive much faster, and you feel a big bump. Get it? "Speed" bump. But now, every one is just a slab of concrete or asphalt that hurts your teeth at any speed. Worse to me is that you can buy pre-molded plastic ones and just stake them into the parking garage. These are also just arbitrary bumps, with no speed-rated technology. So sad.

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