Your back-page Breaktime piece (11/1/99) on the remarkable ArcadyTM Hair Compliance Machine for Men was quite accurate, insofar as it went. However, you neglected to mention one of the more critical engineering prototypes that Dzershinsky produced while in the throes of refining his motion control algorithms.
Specifically, he developed the Early Autonomous Rover (EAR) before producing the Autonomous Nocturnal Roving Eyebrow Trimming Machine. The EAR was designed, obviously, to trim those unsightly black ear hairs commonly developed in endless quantity by many older members of the human species. The EAR too was intended to work autonomously while the vic.. ah, customer slept, and in prototype form was controlled by a remote Heuristic Ear Actuating Device (HEAD) module through a low-powered RF link.
The EAR utilized what Dzershinsky came to call his Next Order Sensory Engine (NOSE) technology, designed to sense the precise boundary between hair and flesh, and apply critical damping in the cutting actuator's feedback control loop.
Unfortunately, Dzershinsky had grown up in Siberia where flying insects are fairly rare, and thus failed to take into account the unconscious bug-swatting reflex developed by many persons living in warmer parts of the world. Consequently, when the EAR was released on its first evening field trial in the Florida bedroom of a hirsute, retired mechanic from Maine, the EAR was summarily swatted off the pillow and across the room. The unsuspecting volunteer remained both untrimmed and unawakened.
In a disastrous turn of events for Dzershinsky, the mechanic's somewhat large and argumentative wife, not well known for either humor or tolerance, had just returned on a late flight the previous evening from visiting her mother in Maine. She had draped her expensive mohair coat over the beach chair in the bedroom, the same chair where the EAR then alighted.
As the EAR was a prototype, not all of its overmotion safety shutdowns existed as more than stubs in the control program, and, to be fair, were mostly commented out anyway so the field trial could proceed on schedule. Further, the NOSE calibration routines were still somewhat buggy, and the NOSE module thus proved unable to distinguish the mohair and fabric interface reliably. It also had some difficulty dealing with the mildly frayed webbing of the chair, but for the most part the EAR proved a credit to its programming and the robustness of its clipper assembly, not to mention power supply.
In the morning, when the mechanic's wife discovered that her prize coat had been turned into what charitably could be termed a "lacy nothing," she picked it up in disbelief and sat down abruptly in the chair in near shock, almost but not quite speechless, incoherent in her anger.
The beach chair's canvas webbing, somewhat weakened by the overnight ministrations of the EAR, then gave way unceremoniously, abruptly leaving the wife's arms, legs, and part of her nightgown draped over the cold metalwork edge of the seat, and a large, otherwise-bare portion of her anatomy parked on the damp and cold tile floor.
Dzershinsky thus received a not-so-polite call from the no-longer-sleepy mechanic a few moments later, informing him that he could take his EAR and NOSE and HEAD and stuff them...well, you get the idea, as did Dzershinsky, and the EAR concept was shelved. Dzershinsky did manage to salvage the NOSE technology, however, and it later played a large part in the technical (but not commercial) success of the Autonomous Nocturnal Roving Eyebrow Trimming Machine.†
Duncan Crawford works for the Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University in the Business and Information Systems Department. Having just completed an assignment as Y2K test coordinator/project leader, he's almost ready to retire to Florida and become a full-time humor columnist.
Dzershinsky's Early Autonomous Rover (EAR) is powered by a 220V, 5-hp compound motor. Connected long shunt, it operates at full-load with 85% efficiency. The shunt field resistance is 100 ohms, the series field resistance is 0.35 ohms, and the armature resistance is 0.64 ohms. A 3-point starting box is used so that this motor may be safely started under full-load conditions. System specs require that the armature current shall not exceed 175% of its full-load value. The total external resistance in ohms that will be required for the EAR's starter is most nearly:
Adapted from Fundamentals of Engineering Examination, copyright 1986, Prentice Hall Press, reprinted with permission of the publisher.