Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Silicon Forest

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Time Races On

Nuts & Bolts
When I lived on the farm 50 years ago, I spent some time repairing broken machinery. Nuts and bolts became my friends and I soon discovered that just a few common sizes (1/4", 5/16", 3/8" and 1/2") covered 90% of what I needed. Most nuts and bolts were coarse thread, but every once in a while I'd come across a fine thread, or a 7/16" fastener. They came in different lengths, but most applications weren't too picky about the length. You could often use a longer one where a shorter one had been. I had a set of jars to hold the various sizes. I was prepared for any kind of mechanical breakdown.


Automatic Screw Machine
1871 Waltham Watch Company

Then along came metric, and then somebody gave the Chinese a screw machine and my carefully organized set of nuts and bolts quickly became irrelevant. Having a small set of fasteners that will cover 90% of your requirements is a good thing. When that set only covers only obsolete machinery that no one uses any more, it's kind of pointless.

This seems to have been a recurring theme throughout my life. Just about the time I have mastered a a machine and have all the tools I need to deal with it, the machine has become obsolete and my carefully organized set of tools and parts have become useless. This trend became even more pronounced when I started working on computers.

People like stability, safety and security. They like being sure that they will have something to eat and a comfortable place to sleep. They also have an appetite for new things. For some people, news reports satisfy that urge. For others it might be new stuff like clothes or cars or toys. For others, it's entertainment in the form of movies, music or sports.

Labor Unions focus on stability, safety and security. They want the same job, doing the same thing every day. Businesses like that too. When you have a smoothly running, profitable operation, everyone is happy. Problem is that nothing lasts forever and these days if something lasts ten years it's something of a miracle.

The Great Gatsby and his Duesenberg
When I was a kid back in the 1950's, a millionaire was something exceptional. A billion dollars was unimaginable. A few years ago I watched Flags of Our Fathers and towards the end of the film they are talking about fund raising and how they needed some billions of dollars to finish the war. Then I found out that the phrase 'a million here, a million there and pretty soon you're talking about real money' wasn't about millions, it was actually about billions and it wasn't from the 1960's, it was from before WW2.


How Big is a Trillion Dollars?

You don't hear much about millionaires anymore, billionaires are the hot topic. Every once in a while a news report will mention a trillion dollars, usually in context of whole US economy. Then I come across this report where there is 15 trillion dollars sitting in funds that are paying negative interest rates. Normal people invest money in things that have some kind of positive return. You give your broker $100 and in a year, if all goes well, you get $105 back. With these negative return investments, you are essentially paying them to hold your money for you. It's cheaper than buying a vault and hiring a security force to guard it for you, but that's about the best you can say for it.

There is an unimaginable amount of money out there looking for something to do. That might be why there are so many start-up companies being formed. People are looking for places to invest their money, so almost anyone with any kind of half baked scheme is able to get funding. Many of these will fail, but some of them will succeed, and a few of them might be a spectacular successes.

The fact that interest rates are so low indicates that not enough people are coming up with schemes to make money, or they aren't talking to the right people. Or maybe people are only looking for simple schemes that don't require funding. Complex schemes require working with people, after all, is a difficult job. Some people are good at it, but like most talents just because you are good at one thing does not necessarily entail that you are good at anything else.


2 comments:

AndrewP said...

I am missing many of the 10,12,14 mm sockets, shallow, deep, 1/4" & 3/8" drive....and same size open end and box wrenches. New complete sets are available for about same price as individuals of those sizes, but I don't want more 9,11,13mm.... and good luck finding 8,10,12 at flea market and garage sales.
Beats me where they went.. hidden outasite in frame, engine mounts....left on bumpers, or in the dirt.

Chuck Pergiel said...

There is probably a market for replacement sockets, but it would take some doing to make a business out of it. Likewise tiny drill bits. I have half a dozen sets of twist drills, but I'm lucky if I have a single 1/16" bit.