A study by Pew’s Social & Demographic Trends Project reveals that when it comes to technology, Americans are changing their definition of necessity. The study asked 1,000 U.S. adults to name their necessities among such products as cars, clothes dryers, air conditioners, television sets, home computers, cell phones, microwaves and high-speed Internet, among others. The results: Clothes dryers, microwaves; air conditioners and televisions all dropped significantly in importance, while flat screen TVs, iPods, and high-speed Internet made very small gains. Microwaves dropped the most. Whereas 68% considered the microwave a necessity in 2006, only 47% labeled it necessary today. Similarly, clothes dryers dropped 17 percentage points and air conditioners fell by 16. Flat screen TVs meanwhile moved up by 3 percentage points and iPods moved up a single percentage point. So what’s the takeaway? It could be as simple as this: During a recession, less products are considered necessities. Pew says that this is the first year in a decade when Americans defined fewer products as necessary.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.