We.. The Engineers.. :-)

I came about to read about a wonderful engineer of 18th century.. a british engineer named Isamard Kingdom Brunnel who designed great western railways and other super blah blah things. In addition He used to smoke 40 cigars a day and died by a stroke. Too much for a genius. This blog has nothing to do with him or his’s. From his accounts its seems that in 18th centuries, engineers were seen as people who change the world. Things have changed a lot since then, as Jack Ganssale points out in his “The art of desiging embedded systems”. Engineers work hard till their ass starts sweating but think less (its where your underwear plays more important role that AC in your workplace. Hey this could be worth researching how the thermodynamics works at the interface of your butt and chair cushion).
A study by Tim DeMacro and Tim Lister showed that keeping other things equal, a programmer with 6 months or one year or 10 year of experience have same efficienty when it comes to writing codes. That is bit alarming! We design a lot of complex systems but have less understanding. Some company took benefits of this sheer dumbness (or indifference) of engineers. Debuggers are most obvious among them. They capitalize on this inefficient and easily avoided practices of engineers.
Gallager, in his speech at IIT B here, cracked jokes about this attitude too. microsoft word is getting bigger and bigger every day and gives more headache than ever before (thanks to TEX who saved the eyes of millions). He was insisting that we, engineers should keep things simple (if I get him right!). Even when the final outcome is complex, it can be build upon by these simple blocks which would be easy to manage, modify and debug.

Most interesting thing about engineers is, they are omnipresent. There is joke, “If you throw a stone in a street of bangalore, It will hit a dog or an software engineer.” They can be as young as 12 year to as old as a dead person could be. Other professions generally keeps armatures out (for better or worse i dont know), take doctors for instance. Is the meaning of word engineer cheapened over the time? In 18th century they were considered celebrities, “the architect of futures”. Are we only reduced to “B.Tech/B.E.” today only? There were times when politicians were considered in very high-esteem. During the Raj in India or take other worldwide struggle for Democracy. Now, as Democracy has become Damn-0-Crisis (the bad among the worst), there are politicians at every streets, just like engineers in every fields. Engineer, sound glamorous, Haan! Now politicians took away the meaning of trust, (Raju did the same with Satyam). Are we destroying our own profession. There are engineers who cant even implement Ohm law. Are We only reduced to doing some job? Say, writing codes, programmer! Any idiot can write codes, any one can play around with softwares to make something. What separates us from hackers and amateurs? This I may find out later. Anyway, There are very few words/concepts with are as misused/misunderstood as engineers; some of them could be, “freedom of speech”, “national interest”, “laws and rights”, “politics”, “democracy”, “its not our culture (drinking in NOT but beating girls IS)”, “son of the soil (new addition)”.. you are welcome to extend the list.

There are other examples too. Microsoft had to make patch for its Internet Explorer in dec 2008. IE is not someting very new, still they all screwed up. Take windows, you all are aware of this blue monster. If you are not, use Linux then you will know how monstrous it is. Same is with .doc Vs .tex.

Still, I can say, We Indians, might not be good with the research but we certainly are the best engineer in the world (please don’t include the BPO and call-centre). Perhaps, Its a bit hard statement. Wheather its embedded technologies developed by DRDO, nuclear technologies from DAE/BARC, not to mention ISRO achievements, they are all worldclass. Hopefully one day, even quality will be judged as “indian class”. It can be defined as performance*reliablity to cost ratio. Lets check it out after 20 years or so!! too much for today.. I have to finish “SOUTHPARK season 6”).


Char2 lab (EE Annex) feb 06, 2009

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Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

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