I admit it, I went into engineering because I enjoy solving problems. When I look at something I think about the design techniques employed and the ways to use it in practice. I think about possible improvements, design trade-offs and always enjoy seeing new technology.
If you see me staring at the ceiling, I’m usually thinking about how the load stresses were calculated and wondering if that beam is really wood or metal. My wife has quit asking me what I’m thinking about because she’s afraid I’ll answer. The other day while waiting for a table at a local restaurant I noticed that with only a slight rearrangement of the tables they would have a better traffic flow for the servers and patrons could be seated faster. Excited by my observation, I started explaining it to my wife. She listened, nodded and told me our table was ready. It wasn’t that she didn’t see what I meant, she just did not see the beauty of making that small change and the impact it could have. It was like she simply did not care.
I like being an engineer but I’ve come to realize that my wife doesn’t always appreciate my attention to detail. Whenever my wife asks me a question, I want to carefully consider my possible answers. I always ask about the details around the question, what boundaries are being placed on my answer and any other pertinent data that could help me give a correct answer. Way too often she stares at me like I’m a 5 year old and asks me if I also want to know the climatic conditions in Mexico City. That always confuses me because until then I was very sure that Mexico City was not a factor in my answer.
When we added new DVR to our home video system, I spent some time looking at all the options and thinking about the best way to add it into the system. I decided on a hybrid method that would allow me to compare video signals without changing cables. I explained to my wife about the two different video paths and how the signals compared. I think it was while I talking about how the third option worked and that it would result in really poor video quality that she stopped me, told me in a very calm controlled voice to set it on the History channel and to never, never, again touch her system.
When I look at a remote control, I think about all the decisions that were made by the engineering team to come up with the arrangement of the buttons and assign the functions to each button. I can get lost in thinking about how they decided on the right balance of LED intensity and battery life. Did they assign all the often used codes to the shorter sequences? How did they decide how bright the LED needed to be to have good range? My wife will use the remote without even considering any of the marvels of the design. Her only comment is that they should never let an engineer design the layout and that it needs the batteries changed again. She’s right though, it goes through a lot of batteries. I’m beginning to think they need to recheck the algorithm they used to determine battery life.
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