October 12, 2022
It is the solemn duty of those of us in the curmudgeon class to lament the disappearance of things. Some of you whippersnappers might crack wise that this is because we cannot remember where we put them and you are not as wrong as you usually are. Some of us, however, retain enough perspective to admit that many of the changes we see are long overdue. When I first entered the gear industry, it took a staff of forty people up to five years to design and test a new product line. Today you could complete that assignment with a tenth of the staff and a fifth of the time. And there would be wonderful 3-D renderings to put in the advertisement. The only women in that group of forty were in secretarial assignments. Many of them were just as bright as the junior male participants but societal norms prevented them from getting the training needed to move beyond typing and filing. And we had lots of reports to write and files to keep organized. So many trees were sacrificed to make dozens of copies of those reports and the documentation behind them. Not to mention the pallets of computer entry cards that had to be shuffled to produce the numbers behind the designs. I miss the people and the interaction of those days but not the busy work. We got early desktop computers that read their programs via a strip of magnetic material. It was a big step forward when they introduced a twelve inch strip to supersede the former eight inch limit. We were in awe when the upgrade allowed the use of lower case letters! Today’s development engineers get to skip the boring stuff and concentrate on improving the design. The marketplace rewards excellence and excellence depends on exploring the limits of the gear art. Just don’t lose track of the fundamentals of good product design in the process.