Ranting about needless software upgrades got me thinking about why we love “new” things. Aren’t there some things we should leave well enough alone?
Curmudgeon-hood comes easy with age; our fondness for the “good old days” seems to grow with each passing year. You naturally prefer the music of your youth. For thousands of years pundits have lamented to degradation of culture brought about by “kids these days.”
Putting culture aside for the moment and talking specifically about the gear trade, there are “improvements” made in our standards that make me wonder.
One glaring example is the quality grading system. We used to have quality numbers that increased as tolerances tightened. This made sense to me in that as capability improved over time, you could always add another level to the charts. Our European friends took the opposite tack, as they often do, so under pressure we reversed course. And a few years later we changed the system again. Did sensors or test equipment suddenly improve or are we just changing things to have something to do?
Similarly, we have pressure to revise other standards when there really is not any new “science” to incorporate into the methodology. Way back in 1979 there was talk of finite element analysis revolutionizing the way we rated gears. Beautiful, multicolored “3-D” pictures of gears are all over the place, yet we have no consensus on an FEA-rating method and no “affordable” platform agreed upon by which to pursue it. We have revised the rating standard many times since 1980 without much new data to support it.
Changing things without a scientifically backed consensus just doesn’t seem wise to me. Whenever one of these “improvements” was brought up, Don McVittie, a dearly missed gear industry legend, had some advice that was great then and remains great today — “In God we trust; everyone else must bring data.”