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bdcst
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Platinum
Re: Much of what is built today will barely last a lifetime ...
bdcst   5/4/2012 11:08:08 AM
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Hi Rob.

Straying just a bit off the course I have to comment about TV's outlasting consumers' interest.  It remains to be seen if LCD back lit flat panel monitors will ever achieve the life expectancy of CRT TV's. 

Back in the late 1940's my parents were early adopters of televison in their home.  Their Magnavox TV saw the factory authorized repairman several times a year to keep that sucker working!  There were lots of silly engineering mistakes in that early set design.  One that comes to mind involved the main power supply subchassis.  It consisted of a pair of 5U4 rectifier tubes.  The subchassis was mounted on the inside wall of the cabinet such that those tubes were horizontal.  Well, they were designed to be operated base down, not base to one side.  Thus, the filament ribbons (cathodes) would eventually sag sufficiently to short out!

Once the vacuum tube count was greatly reduced, TV's became more reliable requiring fewer repairs during their expected service life.  With the advent of modern solid state designs TV's became carefree devices that would last as long as their CRT's. 

Early CRT's had metal to glass seals around their faces as the body of the tube was a metal cone!  But, it was typically the electron gun that  would wear out as the cathode emission would drop off.  CRT boosters were quite popular.  They were devices installed in series with the CRT socket to boost the filament voltage to squeeze a few more months life out of a tube.

Back when all computer monitors were CRT's I almost never replaced them due to failure.  Flat screen LCD's have been quite the opposite, typically going dark due to failed backlights and/or failed switch mode power supplies to drive them.

Though MTBF has diminished for modern TV's, the pace of available new features has accelerated.  So, you are right that for consumers today their interest will most likely wane faster than the failure rate of their TV's compared to yesteryear.

Larry S.
User Rank
Iron
Re: The 'Quality' Myth
Larry S.   5/4/2012 11:00:58 AM
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"Quality Junk"?  Good design will yield a quality product at the targeted price point!  To suggest that the production of "junk" that meets "specifications" is acceptable is nothing more than an inferior, lazy design shortcut.

JoeWojcicki
User Rank
Iron
Re: Lessons of failure
JoeWojcicki   5/4/2012 10:46:34 AM
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It is CRAZY when "legal representatives" overrule engineering opinions, especially in Regulatory Commissions' decissions.   It seems the permits were given  before explosions, e.g. BP Gulf and paying small fees approved by inspectors instead of serious safety corrections - WV cosl mine, etc. in last years.

GlennA
User Rank
Gold
The 'Quality' Myth
GlennA   5/4/2012 9:24:40 AM
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Larry S.;  Quality means different things.  In manufacturing 'quality' is conformance to specifications.  A process can be Six Sigma and still produce junk, but it is 'quality junk' if it conforms to specifications.

And there is always the demand to always make things 'less expensive'.  The trick is to stop making things 'less expensive' before the point of making them 'cheap'.

And a tangent:  Despair.com has a take on building the pyramids = when you have an unlimited supply of expendable labor, there's nothing you can't do.  Still, there are ancient structures that rival modern buildings.

Mydesign
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Lessons of failure
Mydesign   5/4/2012 5:41:16 AM
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1 saves
"The most successful employees were also the employees who made the most mistakes"

Rob, exactly correct. Most of the innovations are happened by accidently, similar to Einstein discovered force of gravity. If employees are not making any mistakes means, the productivity and innovation are less associated with him. He is just doing whatever he knows , that's all.

Mydesign
User Rank
Platinum
Technology and civilization
Mydesign   5/4/2012 5:33:41 AM
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1 saves
Henry, civilization and engineering are closely co-related and related in a bilateral way. Technology can bring up the living standards of citizens and this in turn can uplift the civilization. Most of the technologies we are using now a day's are either digitalized or extended versions of the older ones.

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
ENGINEERING AND CIVILIZATION
bobjengr   5/3/2012 7:54:34 PM
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Excellent point—engineering and civilization DO go hand-in-hand.   Several years ago, my company sent me to Egypt to call on a distributor concerning issues with atmospheric gas burners softening (another word for melting) during extended periods of firing.  Propane gas was used as the fuel.  If you recall, propane gas has a heating value of approximately 2500 Btu/Ft³ so the orifices must be sized accordingly or you will definitely have problems.   While there, I had an opportunity to visit the pyramids.  Pictures, in no way, do them justice.  They are massive—massive.  I would love to know the mechanisms used to hoist those stones upward and into place.   I have always thought that for such an undertaking, there would be some form of documentation as to how this was accomplished.   In our day, time is "of the essence".  It is definitely hard to believe the "ancient" engineers worried that much about time.  They seemed to be more in tune with achieving quality.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Lessons of failure
Charles Murray   5/3/2012 7:27:32 PM
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Rob, I believe some engineering schools are starting to take note of this fact, as well. Most notably, it's being incoporated in the curriculums at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Much of what is built today will barely last a lifetime ...
Rob Spiegel   5/3/2012 4:05:16 PM
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Good points, Larry. When it comes to TVs, though, I think they last well beyond the period consumers want to own them. Consumers give up well-made, perfectly well-running TVs in order to gain new features.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Lessons of failure
Rob Spiegel   5/3/2012 3:57:20 PM
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Good point about failure, Chuck. I remember a few decades ago IBM -- then considered a master of business organization -- did a study and found that the most successful employees were also the empolyees who made the most mistakes. The conclusion of the study was that employees should be encouraged to take more risk.

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