October 12, 2022
One of the few things I miss about my old commute is all the great content I heard on public radio. Ten hours a week of news, in depth features, and cultural topics cannot help but make you better informed. Now I only listen while puttering in my home workshop. Recently there was a wonderful TED Talk on the history of the World Wide Web. Long before there was Google there was GOPHER, a search engine developed at the University of Minnesota. We might all be GOPHERING instead of Web Surfing had not the university announced it would control the code and charge by the click. Even thirty years ago, people were opposed to paying for content. Within days GOPHER traffic plummeted and history was changed. Our magazine puts lots and lots of free content on the web. When I started my consulting firm in 2008, my internet-savvy children insisted I put all of my written “stuff” on the company website for free download. They were right then and still right today. So, what does all this have to do with gears? When I entered this trade in the 1970s, AGMA committees were strongly supported by the large industrial gear makers. Yes, they had some commercial interests in negotiating the standards, but overall they were open to disclosing test results and in cooperating on joint projects. We no longer have these big companies to subsidize gear research. The development work that is still going on is considered proprietary and “why would Macys tell Gimbels?” Government funding seems to be limited to military applications, also subject to limited access. When technical committees consider revisions to existing methodologies they need information, not commercials. Under present conditions this means relying primarily on our international partners. Frequently, the proposals submitted do not ring true with members’ experience and those members are not in a position to offer a detailed rebuttal. Contrast this with what happens on the Internet. A “claim” or “advance” is announced and thousands of people examine it. This army of “worker bees” can make or break the initial proposal. It is a much smaller pool of potential examiners for mechanical technology of course. There are only a small number of test laboratories in the world that are equipped to study gears. But there are plenty of knowledgeable people designing, building, and fixing gears all over the world. Can’t we find a way to harness all of that activity to better our standards?