A long time ago a company made desktop surface profiling machines and sold its machines for thousands of British pounds.
One reason is that the manufacturer added many pounds.
I once visited a U.K. distributor and got to look inside the latest model which had the benefit of integrated circuits in the controls and a new whiz-bang digital display. Inside the equipment case I could see all the circuit board assembly on the right-hand side and a featureless block of metal – mild steel I think – on the left-hand side, but apparently not connected to anything.
So I asked what purpose the block served. I was told it was to fill space and make the unit heavier.
Although it may have had the virtue of making the profilometer more stable, it didn't hurt the perception of value, I was told, that it made the unit weighty.
"When people are spending a lot of money on a piece of equipment they want to be able to feel they have got something substantial for their money." I paraphrase but that was the gist of what I was told.
The wonder of IC technology would have allowed the OEM to make the unit half the size and half the weight of the previous generation, but if they had done that they would have been under pressure from customers to halve the price. Better to keep the size as before and throw in a lump of metal and keep the price up I was told.
Of course that never happened inside oscilloscopes or logic analyzers!
I recall a time when software documentation was transitioning to CD or online help (online as in on the computer, not yet the Internet). For quite a while to software boxes stayed large as though they were filled with goodies, yet only had a CD or two, quick start guides, warranty information and lots of empty space. I suspected a similar reasoning, although with physical size rather than weight.
The perception that value should be ascribed to weight is deeply rooted in human kind...and possibly has something to do with the weight of gold and the use of that metal as symbol of wealth and a medium of high-value exchange.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.