I recall seeing all kinds of hideously overdesigned hardware back in the 80's. Usually this was found in military projects where the contractor was billing outright for development time, but even in commercial work you used to see all manner of bizarre "exploits" used to avoid the dreaded "select in test" designation on a part simply because some particular parameter wasn't typically specified on the data sheet, and the mandate was "commercial spec only". It's almost comical going through these older designs trying to puzzle through which parameter they were trying to avoid having to specify!
For a wonderful example of overdesign to no good end, see the John Addis contribution about oscilloscope vertical amplifiers in the Jim Williams compendium Analog Circuit Design, Art, Science, and Personalities (ISBN 0750691662). He describes a design review at Tektronix where some younger engineers presented a circuit of astonishing complexity, at that point only simulated. The IC was going to require 1200 transistors. One section of the circuit is reproduced. After a bit of consideration, some of the seasoned staff reduced that section to three transistors and a current source (pp. 120-122). And there was virtually no degradation in performance --- except for a 33% loss in current gain, in fact noise would be reduced, and linearity and bandwidth increased!
John told me that he wasn't sure if the suggestions were actually followed.
An improvement would be to use compressed CO2 or even better an inert gas such as N2 to improve the extinguishing capabilities. Added party fun to use He for the effect upon the party attendees' vocal chords.
Sometimes it's hard to stop, our friends at the old HP sometimes had trouble putting on the brakes. I recall one horrendously expensive 3D graphics terminal from them, where they even designed a special screwdriver, that snapped into a special holder clip, just for tweaking the convergence adjustments.
"Claim 1 of this patent is further obfuscated by the patent lawyers into an almost unintelligible bunch of babble"
That sentence is true of about 90% of all the patent applications I've read, and ususally it's a lot worse than this example. I've seen "ground engaging rotary propelling device" written instead of "wheel". I suspect that if a patent lawyer were asked to write a sentence in plain English, would would discover that this is a task he is incapable of achieving.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
Brought to you by