Hans Bonfigt
Saturday June 8th, 2019

(Deutsch) Once again, with feeling ?

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

A positive example: Hype Cycle following Gartner Inc.

I have now spent fifty years doing digitalization. Among other things, I witnessed many hypes.

In this article, I will write about the hypes I remember. Mind you, this is not a scientific work. It is more something to bring a smile to your lips.
Let me report.

First: what exactly is a hype?

It is quite easy:
There is a trigger. It can be a technological advance, a single event or a mass hysteria…

Then the gold-rush will begin. And, more often than not, there will be a bitter ending… 
It often ends with:
A waste of effort.

Here are a few indices for hypes:

  • The number of newly founded enterprises on hype.
  • The amount of investment capital in the hype environment.
  • The number of presentations given by politicians, analysts and other wise-guys on the topic (mostly they do not understand anything about it).
  • And others (all you have to do is think a little, then you will come up with enough).

Currently, everybody is talking digitalization. It is a mega hype that consists of many sub-hypes.

Hypes around Digitalization

In the 1970ies, I worked at Siemens in “industrial informatics” (that is how I called it). It was really engineering stuff. We programmed in the classical way. For instance operating systems, modules for remote data processing and computer networks, databases and transaction monitors.

All this is not very exciting. And it is also rather hype-free. Simultaneously, hypes like small computers that could play games, were invented. That was decidedly more exciting.

AI

The first hype I experienced consciously from the outset was the AI hype. Everyone who considered himself modern did a bit of Artificial Intelligence. For me, in the industrial computer science, the topic was out of reach.

In those days, the magic word was expert systems. It was particularly popular in such sectors as medicine. The workshops on AI were full of digital dreamers.

On top of the expert system, there were also nice exotics – some friends of mine, for instance, worked on a system that was supposed to hear from the noise of a chopper if all was fine inside. Well, if I am correct, I have to write that is what they tried – the project never became reality. So this is another one of those hype fates.

Those were the days when two programming languages divided the AI community into two: For the one group, Lisp was the only true AI language, for the other group, Prolog.

As far as Prolog was concerned, I soon saw that the hardware was not yet good enough for the costly back-tracking. Regardless, much was done with Prolog, especially in Japan. As far as I know, the projects were mostly academic – and not much was actually achieved. There was also a hobby version. It was called turbo Prolog (in analogy to Turbo-Pascal). At the time, one of the InterFace enterprises was the InterFace Computer GmbH. They probably had the world’s best Prolog. And the development of IF Prolog actually ruined the enterprise. To this day, I know nothing about Lisp.

There was no definition that indicated how artificial intelligence differs from normal intelligence or from algorithmically determined software. As you all know, there is another AI hype today. And whenever I ask one of the speakers how he would define artificial intelligence, I seldom get a good answer. Later in this article, I will give you my personal definition – but I am not sure that this is any better than what I usually hear from the experts.

In my life, I knew many hypes. Big ones and small ones. There were so many of them that I definitely cannot remember them all. Here are some of them (those that I remember):

Very early, there were the hybrid calculators. The synergy between analogous and digital concepts was supposed to open up new dimensions. This hype ended before it even seriously started. Then I remember the Ontologies. They were sponsored like no other informatics topic. Risc processors were supposed to make servers faster. Object-oriented programming was a hype and it had a few smaller children, such as object-oriented databases. Some of it disappeared, some became the generally accepted standard.

There was a time when everything was about what colour your office was. To be sure, today this is all self-evident, but my HIT/CLOU customers from the finance sector were really enthusiastic about the colour “RED” (for the red numbers on their balance sheets …).

The wish to have colour also promoted the client-server hype. It was based on colourful Windows PCs and, as I see it, it was to a huge extent due to people wanting to play Solitaire on their computers. The “organizer“ was hype until the smart phone replaced it as a combination of organizer and mobile phone. And on all these devices, you can also play solitaire.

Then there was the hype of rich clients (basically, today every smart phone is a rich client).

At the same time, the internet came. And later the WWW2. So we had two hypes simultaneously. The difference lay in the fact that some people had discovered that the internet was not only made up of consumers. This had been the case from the outset, because without someone offering something, there is nothing to read.

For twenty years, I have now regularly served on the jury board of BayStartUp (that is the enterprise that organizes the Business-Plan-Competition in Bavaria – and it now also has other things on offer for people who want to found an enterprise). So there I see what hypes are currently en vogue. Here are some of them:

There were times when most of the young entrepreneurs wanted business models around APPs in order to later develop PORTALS.

Two years were mostly about 3D printers. In between, we also had the 3D spectacles and the accompanying infra structure. … 
(Incidentally, 3D printers are a good example for how a patent can encumber the development of something and how, as soon as the patent has run out, the technology will prevail). 
As to 3D spectacles: there was one under the Christmas Tree three years ago at our home. At the time, I found the possible content rather weak – and it probably did not improve with time.

There was also a time when block-chain was totally fashionable. It might even take a top position as far as hypes are concerned – especially if you also consider the speculation money that was thrown into it.

One of the less noticed hypes is probably currently the use of sensors. After all, they will see to it that we will soon no longer talk about a human-machine interface, but about a world-machine communication instead. The humans will then only be part of the world (hopefully not a too disruptive part).

Many fellow hypers already warn against the dictatorship of machines. However, it will probably not be more damaging than the man-dominated governments.

Today, it is quite clear:
The current hype is again AI. In combination with big data. This is how we are warned against an atrocious world – and how we paralyse digitalization with data protection. This deprives us of many social chances. And we forget that AI and big data are only technological progress. Which always changed society. Mostly, life became easier.

To be sure, it was always important to tread carefully where technological progress was concerned. Humanity has not always succeeded in this.

This is why I also like Bertrand Russell:
» Every increase in technology will also bring an increase in wisdom, provided it does not decrease human happiness. «
I like to mention the motorized individual traffic. It destroys the planet and causes 1.3 million fatalities every year and several times that number in injured persons. They probably lacked wisdom when they invented it.

But then, who could have known this a hundred years ago? I believe technological progress will always cause change. And where there is change, there is always risk. However, if you consider the risk, you should not forget about the chances. Especially since mostly you only see the true disadvantages a posteriori. This is why I believe you should be cautious (wise) but not fearful (stupid) when it comes to hypes.

To me, the entire hype about data protection and data security looks like a good example of a very special kind of swarm stupidity – I adopt this term from Gunter Dueck.

From Philosophy to Technology.

The hardware that is used for digitalization still works with the same principles as in the 1970ies. The enormous progress we perceive as far as calculators, connections and storage (the holy trinity of IT) are concerned is a consequence of  Moore’s Laws  (Moore’sches Gesetz of 1965). This explosion in pattern recognition is a fantastic basis for many applications.

The principles his kind of AI follows are fairly old. Turing described it many decades ago – I think in the 1940ies.

It caused huge progress in the recognition of speech, which, basically, is nothing other than the interpretation and application of patterns. This is the central requirement for the new kind of software that is self-learning when it comes to translating languages and steering a car. Basically, it simply was not possible in old times by what we then had in terms of hardware.

For instance, Deepminds Alphazero-AI managed to beat the best Asian GO player, and after a short time it also managed to hammer Goldfish (the best chess game) . Mind you, the Chinese now woke up as far as GO is concerned. They now invest money and manpower in unbelievable quantities to promote AI. And they will soon take over the Americans with their old Watson and perhaps also Googles Deepmind.

? And just like the Chinese, the Bavarians now also woke up … and they want to show the Chinese what they can do – which is something to make the experts in digitalization smile. To be sure, the videos show a lot of space science. Eventually done by robots. For both, you need IT and AI. And that is not something you get for a few million euros. You will need to invest billions.

Of course, in Bavaria, they not only gave a nice performance. They also backed it with activity. So they installed a  ministry for digitalization and made a young lady named Judith Gerlach the State Minister for Digital Affairs in Bavaria on November, 12th, 2018.

Mrs. Judith Gerlach was born on November, 3rd, 1985 in Würzburg. She is married and Roman-Catholic and the mother of two children.

She is young, since she turned 33 years at the end of 2018. And it is certainly to her credit that she has two children. After all, I, too, learned a lot about digitalization from my children.

Her CV shows that she is a highly qualified lawyer. This makes me a little thoughtful, because it sounds more like data protection than like high technology. I wonder if she knows what exactly an operating system is. But perhaps her counsellors know all about it?
On the page you find if you follow the link above, the State Minister wrote:


“I see extremely good chances for Bavaria. We already put ourselves to the top of the queue in many sectors of digital development and we will continue to focus all our power in order to develop new technologies and use them in a socially responsible way. To this end, the new Ministry of Digitalization serves as motor, coordinator and think tank.“

Judith Gerlach, MdL 
State Minister


If she knew her business, she would never have written such a sentence. Or else, she would have asked someone to proofread it before publication, for instance someone sitting in the Bavarian ZD.B, which is also a foundation of the Free State and where people actually know something about it.

But then, being competent in the legal sector, she always has a good excuse. How is she supposed to know where Bavaria (or Germany and Europe) are digitally situated if compared to the world standard?

Perhaps it is a new (old) hype that we now use legal experts for the social design of our technological advancement (digitalization is nothing else)? That guarantees at least that the AGBs (and data security) will be perfect.

You will find information about the international position of Europe if you take a look at the Economic Partnership Agreement EU-Japan ( EPA, or JEFTA ) that was recently signed.
A single sentence states that Japan will lower the custom duty rates for European farming products and in return Germany will lower those for high tech products from Japan.

The trend seems clear: Bavaria and Europe are on their way to becoming farming countries. Maybe along with being a tourism country. We are certainly nowhere near the top when it comes to high tech exports. This is not only true for international trade agreements, but also for the technological reality.

Just look at the problems we have with 5G and Huawei. I remember my first Siemens job. Communication was a hype. And at the time, nobody could do anything without Siemens in communication technology. Today, however, nothing can be done without (red) Chinese technology. Nobody will pay anything today for yesterday’s joy.

The aforementioned sentence by the State Minister sounds like mockery:
We (Bavaria) are already at the top of digital developments in many areas.
The opposite is true.

To me, it is a surprise that the powerful VDA (Verband der Automobilindustrie e.V., Behrenstraße 35, 10117 Berlin) did not sabotage the EPA/JEFTA agreement. After all, the Toyotas might now well enjoy a price drop of 10 %. Mind you, I do not think the Japanese will be stupid enough to let the German Idiota drivers benefit from what they saved in duties (excuse the primitive pun).

Is it possible that the VDA currently has other things to worry about, because by now our holy cow Motorized Individualized Traffic has become a sector where others are miles ahead in technology?

The trade agreement is very beneficial for Germany as the world’s number three meat exporter. Especially with respect to pork, we are far ahead of everyone else – and this will soon also have the label “animal welfare” authorized by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). Maybe this will cause a new pork hype.
I think it is all rather surreal?

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
So now I still owe you my definition of AI: 
As I see it, an Alg-SW becomes an AI software 
if it realizes its functional added value through learning and practice. In other words, it must collect and analyse many patterns that can then be correlated and evaluated with results in order to build up a huge amount of knowledge from experience. 
This is probably a little like the human brain works.

P.S.1
Here is my first Jubilee Article  after 50 years of IT.

Hans Bonfigt
Monday January 7th, 2019

(Deutsch) Crisis ? What Crisis ?

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Roland Dürre
Saturday December 23rd, 2017

DIGITAL – AGILE – OPEN – LEAN (Presentation)

On October, 26th, 2017 I gave a presentation at the Augsburg “Hotel am Alten Park” in the Frölichstr. 17 for the Bayerische Akademie für Verwaltungs-Management GmbH / Bayerische Verwaltungsschule (BVS) at 2 p.m. – it was the final presentation of the event MQ4.

I spoke about –

DIGITAL – AGILE – OPEN – LEAN 

– where I wanted to and was supposed to answer the following questions:

What is agility – yesterday, today, tomorrow? 
What do organizations need in order to react to change in the correct way (and with due speed)? 
What concepts, methods, tools and competence is the idea based on?

The presentation was recorded on film, please see below. My memories of the presentation are not exclusively positive ones. For me, the day was not an easy day:

Motto of the institution (according to the Website): 
Health, education, care, friendliness towards guests and spirituality are the main agenda.

The event took place at the hotel am alten park, which is part of a huge building complex that belongs to the  evangelischen diakonissenanstalt augsburg (diako).

In this “deacon-house”, as we used to call the hospital in our childhood, my father had died on a grey late autumn night in 2008. At the time, I had heard about him being admitted into the hospital in the late afternoon and immediately driven to the hospital in Augsburg by car.

My father was poorly, but according to the doctors, his condition was not life-threatening. Consequently, I drove back home at night – on a dark autumnal motorway with snow storm – to Riemerling. And when I arrived at home, I heard that my father had died.

Now, roughly nine years later, I was again standing in front of this building – and had to enter. This is how my presentation visit to Augsburg became a sad trip into my past. I remembered that I had been robbed of my totally intact tonsils in exactly this “Deakon House” in 1960 because I had suffered from several colds in the winter of 1959/1960. I remembered that, at the time, I fought against the operation, but naturally I lost and still suffer from the consequences (see my IF-Blog article). And I remembered much more that I had experienced in this town. Before my presentation, I had a wild emotional bob-rally through all the years of my childhood in Augsburg between 1955 and 1969.

As I watched this video, all my memories were refreshed. In my own perception, my presentation was occasionally a little lacking in concentration. Considering my personal experiences, I can forgive myself for this and will publish the presentation regardless, because it looks rather authentic to me.

However, my less than perfect emotional situation was not the only reason for the perhaps missing clear line. On the way to Augsburg, I had also considerably restructured my well-prepared presentation. The reason for this was that I had spent intense study time with Bitcoin and Blockchain during the preceding week, which had led me to some insight that had been totally new to me before.

I had not understood (and still cannot understand) why they demand and want to realize things on the internet that are rigorously withheld in real life.

Why can you participate in profound activities, conduct transactions and even own money on the internet while you are well camouflaged behind identities? Mind you, you can do all this totally anonymously! On the other hand, this is exactly what they deny you more and more in real life.

Or are there good reasons after all? Reasons that justify that it is still possible on the internet? For me, that is a very central question!

Bitcoin is a good example how, due to wrong requirements and poor execution, the wonderful idea of “democratic” money was perverted and became a criminal betting and fraud system. “Well meant but poorly executed” – as I see it, this is how you can describe the phenomenon.

Now I am eight weeks on into blockchain and bitcoin and thus can better explain my reservations and ask my questions with more precision than eight weeks ago.

I also wanted to point out in my presentation that we are again in times of a grandiose digital change. It is no longer about human-machine, but about machine-world.

Let me describe it: I have been programming since 1969. Initially it was basically about algorithms and technologies such as compilers, operating systems, batch runs, transactions, data transfer and databases, along with a few applications.

Then almost everything was about the interface between humans and applications (human-machine). That brought us from the punch card to the tablet and from typing to voice and gesture recognition. There was a virtual explosion in the number of applications.

Today, it is all about autonomous systems that often no longer need an interface with humans. Instead, they focus directly on the “environment”. That also explains why sensor technology explodes, making things possible that were held to be impossible until now.

All those things together were a little much for one short presentation. Consequently, I am quite happy that the presentation actually was more or less a success. Because “not feeling too well and free from the manuscript” is twice as hard for an orator. There were a few moments when I noticed how I did not really concentrate. If you watch the video, I would kindly ask your forgiveness.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

or:
If production nd development chains become too complex, they might easily break (down).

I got the ideas for this article during a short discussion about whether or not our developed society might – technologically – regress into the pre-electrical era. The person I discussed it with thinks such a thing is not possible. This firm believe made me thoughtful.

A small brother and a very small brother of the flat package I describe. The telephone shows how small the individual parts are 🙂

In the early 1970ies, I studied mathematics and computer science at Munich Technical University. I was also a student working for Siemens. After all, they had great computers and students could really make good money, considering the times.

My working place was in the “Koppstrasse” camp buildings. Our tests were conducted in the Feurich-Building – which was in the Siemens AG central building at Hofmann-Straße. Life in the camp was great, it was truly an F&E atmosphere, just like you would wish to find it today with a good start-up.

I already described my first project in the IF-Blog. It was about calculating the biggest possible Mersenne prime numbers. The task was one for people who liked working by themselves.
Then I became more and more part of the team and almost intoxicated by the challenges of our task. Together with other colleagues, I developed the PALOG-A- and PALOG-B systems.

PALOG is short for “PrüfAutomat für LOGik”. A PALOG-A device was supposed to test the function of “maxi flat modules” that were built serially. These modules had various functionalities in big computers. The functionality and correctness of the underlying logic had already been tested.

All we had to do was check if the serial production was error-free and if the manufactured components rendered the desired results reliably. I will explain the extended function of PALOG-B later in this text.

A maxi flat module is a huge board; it is rather broad and thick, but not very high. The boards you see on the picture are from a later time and were a lot smaller.

On one side, a maxi flat module had 128 pegs that had to be pressed into the rear wall of the big computer. The computer fed the board with digital patterns following the number of pegs, then the board returned a result and further processed it.
(I might be wrong and the number of pegs was only 64, but I seem to clearly remember 128.)

On the surface, the board was full of electronic modules that had a few larger or many smaller feet. These feet were pressed into the pre-arranged holes of the board. The entire construction was then brazed and soldered from underneath. In case of serial production, it was done by a dipping solder bath.

Sometimes, the building modules on the board we used had been developed and produced by Siemens. Some of them had to be bought. I particularly remember chips by Motorola that sometimes cost up to 1,000 DM.

If some of what I said here is not correct, please forgive me. I never specialized in hardware, instead always developing software.

The placement and soldering processes were far from trivial. Consequently, it was absolutely possible – and it happened quite frequently – that these maxi flat board modules rendered no or erroneous post-manufacturing results. Sometimes the individual parts delivered along with the products were also faulty.

But how can you find out about this? How can you test such a maxi flat board module?

Our method was quite simple. We sent bit patterns into the objects to be evaluated and then checked if the answer was the right (expected) one. Naturally, for reasons of efficiency, you cannot conduct such a test for all kinds of input patterns. It was the task of our software to generate relevant patterns that made it possible to prove with as few test steps as possible that the logic of the maxi flat board module worked correctly.

Back to the younger and smaller brothers of the maxi flat board module.

To this end, it was mounted in the PALOG-A machine and sent over the 128 pegs according to their functionality. The answers were compared with the desired results. If the actual test patterns were identical to the desired ones for all test patterns, then it was validated that the maxi flat board module worked without a glitch.

Seeking and finding the relevant test patterns was not at all easy and we developed it from the functionality following a rather “mathematical” procedure. The programming was a “cross” procedure on BS1000 and soon also on BS2000.

The actual patterns, along with the correct answers, were generated on process computers of the 300 series. Incidentally, they had a 6-bit assembler with two accumulators beautifully named PROSA. The “three-hundred-computers” were reputed to be incredibly fast.

The 306 was the top model. But even this Siemens machine that, at the time, was considered the fastest ever, easily took a week or more for calculating the necessary patterns.

In those days, the computer rarely ran for an entire week without breaking down. Mostly, it would break down within such a long time period at least once. Consequently, the software had challenges besides the algorithmic one, such as the reloading of the program in case of a system breakdown. At the time, this was not at all a matter of course.

Well, so far so good. At least, PALOG-A allowed a reliable validation about whether or not a maxi flat board module was free of errors. But quite frequently, we had poor product quality. What to do with that? The very fact that the construction elements were so expensive was a discouragement against destroying or dismantling them. Not much would have been won by this, anyway. Consequently, it was desired that all of them can be repaired.

If you wish to repair an error in a complicated flat board module, you will first have to find out where exactly on the board it is. In our case, you cannot simply solve the problem by logical thinking or code reading as in a program. Neither did we have a debugger. After all, the question is which individual part of the module is faulty, which soldering does not work, or similar problems …

This is where our system PALOG-B came in. Whenever a PALOG-A maxi flat board module was discovered to be faulty, it was transferred to the PALOG-B system. As soon as it arrived there, it was subjected a (so-called) PFAD procedure, i.e., it was processed with totally different test patterns. The returned data made it possible to circle the error on the board. This is how we managed to correct all possible mistakes by multiple circling. Afterwards, the board was again tested with PALOG-A – and if it worked, we celebrated.

I am sure you can easily imagine why the procedure was called PFAD. It is German for PATH and all the different input patterns had to run through the various paths. And as soon as you determined which of the many possible paths does not function, you are a lot closer to finding the bug.

I tried to describe the procedure as simple and comprehensible as possible. In reality, it was a lot more complicated and based on know-how that had been developed and handed down over many years.

Our software was only a small part of the design and construction software necessary for the efficient development and production of IT systems. At Siemens AG, they continued to work in huge steps. A few years later, the Siemens AG had an extensive work bench consisting of many software systems for the development of their chips. It was probably far superior to all the competition.

Unfortunately, I forgot the abbreviation, but I do remember that the application allegedly was the world’s most complicated software solution and contained the most lines of code of all the known programming systems.

And then the downward spiral for the data processing area started and all the know-how disappeared.

But then who cares about the “delights of yesterday”?
Let gone-byes be gone-byes!

I can easily imagine that the know-how and toll chain you need to develop and produce an Intel processor or an IBM Power today are by far more of a challenge than the rather limited flat board modules.

And it is quite possible that, today, not only a high tech processor, but also a “simple” electric motor or power generator simply cannot be produced without a similarly complex machinery. And what happens if – for whatever reasons – such a machinery breaks down?

This is where the circle closes and I return to where this article started. The total immersion of these tool and production chains in all technologies and sectors – chemistry, energy, farming, mechanics, pharmacy, physics,… – I can easily imagine that our system might collapse and we will have to start at ZERO. And that may not be easy.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I wrote the technological issues totally without checking back in any documents, only relying on my memory. Unfortunately, Wikipedia is not really much help with such exciting computer science topics. I find it a pity that, especially when it comes to the very technology that made Wikipedia possible, there is mostly no sufficient description of said technology to be found on its pages.

So please accept my apologies if I occasionally did not remember the correct abbreviations or made similar mistakes. There was nowhere I could look up anything that could have helped my memory. So much the more would I be grateful for any corrections and notes on the technology I described.

About stand-by-jobs, facilitation and driverless underground trains. And about Uli.

I short time ago, I was introduced to Ulrich Sendler. Uli is an “Independent technology analyst” and musician. He writes books (that are even translated into Chinese, where they are best-sellers), gives presentations (judging by what I saw of him, I assume his presentations are rather competent and entertaining) and he also works as a counsellor and moderator. When we met, he told me that he will soon be speaking in Gütersloh on the keynote topic: “Automated Society”. You order a service via internet and the delivery or service will be carried out automatically.

For me, “automated society” and “self-service society” are also “buzz words” often used when people characterize our “new digitalized society” in our “post-fact everyday life”.

These expressions immediately triggered a few association and ideas:

Technology is there to make life and work easier for humans. There is a nice and nowadays often used buzz word for this:
Facilitation!
In Wikipedia, you find the definition: 
Facilitation is any activity that makes tasks for others easy, or tasks that are assisted.

In everyday life, this is responsible for the fact that work humans used to do is now easier because of technological advances. We might even end up having to do nothing at all.

Just think of Lufthansa pilots. Currently, they are often written about in the press because of their passionate attitude towards strikes. Your average poor pilot will only be allowed to actually become active for ten minutes of a long-distance flight, for instance to the Caribbean: when initiating and realizing the start and landing phases. He spends the rest of the time watching the plane fly. The poor pilot is not allowed to relieve his boredom by playing computer games. Presumably, alcohol is just as forbidden as visiting ladies – like stewardesses – in the cockpit. All that remains is boredom.

Wecker1In my vocabulary, these jobs are “stand-by-jobs”. Since I used to be a programmer, this would be like having to watch the computer programming itself and then being allowed five minutes to evaluate if the resulting program is what it should be. To me, such a job description sounds rather cruel. It is quite possible that such a stand-by job will cause depressions.

Two decades ago, there was a phase of about two weeks after I had switched to a new employer during which there was nothing to do for me. I sat in my office from morning to evening, was terribly bored and tried with all my might to do something meaningful. And the digits of the clock seemed to really, really creep.

Never again in my work-life was I as unhappy as then.

Münchner U-Bahnhof Dietlindenstraße (U6) - Urheber: FloSch - Eigenes Werk unter CC BY 2.5 (2005)

Munich Underground station Dietlindenstraße (U6) – by FloSch, under CC BY 2.5 published in Wikipedia (2005)

One of the systems the Stadtwerke München (SWM) supervise is the Munich Underground Network. The SWM are intelligent employers. They know that humans do not appreciate “stand-by-work”. Underground train drivers, too, have become “stand-by-workers”.

But the Stadtwerke want happy underground train drivers who are motivated to do their jobs. A short time ago, I learned that all underground train drivers have to exit at every station to control how full the train is. And after this has been done successfully, they have to signal that the train can continue. That is an important task.

This activity was introduced to make the platforms safer. Above all, however, it is a measure that serves the driver, because in this way his job gets more responsible and diverse, and he even gets a little exercise. That is good both for the body and the soul.

Except that in Nuremberg, the underground trains have been moving without a driver for many years now. And those in Lyon have been doing so for decades. And in both cases, the model seems to work quite fine, actually even better than with a driver.
May my readers come to their own conclusions.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
Yesterday, I used the MVG Bus number 210 from Neuperlach Station to Ottobrunn, Jahnstrasse. The driver sat in his dark cabin and was rather isolated. All contact between vehicle and passengers was automated: the display and announcement of stops. The driver is reduced to being the one behind the wheel. He will stop the bus whenever he can see someone at the bus stop or if someone has pressed the button inside the bus. On this evening, I was lucky, because the driver drove very sensibly. He never accelerated too abruptly or stomped on the breaks with too much force. I found that rather agreeable. But there are also some drivers who really let their hair down. That is when you think a self-driven bus might have its advantages. Technologically speaking, I am sure it is already possible.

Hans Bonfigt
Friday October 7th, 2016

DAMIT ICH MICH BESSER FRESSEN KANN

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

I told a nice story in my Entrepreneur’s Diary #41 (Unternehmertagebuch #41). I had heard the story from a US professor. It answered the question why the British Empire under Queen Victoria thrived so uniquely, regardless of communication at the time being all but easy and, above all, taking a very long time.

Today, I want to answer another question in a similar way – again metaphorically with an example:

Airbus A400M, Schattenrisse, created by Hilbertz, Quelle siehe P.S.

Airbus A400M, Shadow Images, created by Hilbertz, source see P.S.1

How is it possible that Airbus is so successful with developing products such as the A 380 while at the same time the M400 seems to be a disaster?

A380

As often, we can read all the important information about the A380 in Wikipedia. I am truly impressed to read the extraordinary achievements of the Airbus. They developed a new and totally extraordinarily big plane in high precision. They moved to new dimensions, also using totally new materials.

I would consider the difficulties that arose during the project as very normal and absolutely below the average for this size of project, especially if you consider the delays the competition Boeing had to accept with their “dreamliner“.

A400M

You will also find all you need to know about A400M in Wikipedia. And over the last few years, bad and very negative news about this project have reached us. The worst accident was probably the crash of an A400M with the production number MSN023 during its first test flight in Spain on May, 9th, 2015. To the outsider, the project A300m looks totally “out of time und budget“. It seems to be a true “big project catastrophe”, and getting worse.

Here is the question:

How is it possible that, in the same enterprise, an airplane has been so successfully developed? And at the same time, the development of another is such an extreme failure?

I assume that the development of the two planes were two different projects with different humans working on said projects. Consequently, the answer is quite simple:

It is because of the humans working in the projects.

Here are potential reasons:

  • The A380 was a civil project and was
  • communicated as a positive vision and a huge challenge for Airbus.
  • It represented innovation and a revolution in the flying industry and became
  • the metaphor for the future of Airbus.
  • The A400M was a military plane and
  • at least the outsiders perceived it as “just another military aircraft“.
  • Which certainly was true for the short-sighted view based on conservative technology.

And now here is my question:

Which project would you have volunteered for?

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

P.S.1
I took the picture from Wikipedia. Created by Hilbertz with imaging software in April 2014, published under CC BY-SA3.0.

Hans Bonfigt
Monday December 28th, 2015

(Deutsch) Ganz agil vorbei am Ziel

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

craftsmanshipIn 2013,we at InterFace AG had a beautiful “Technological IF Forum”. It was about “Software Craftsmanship”. We had great guests and competent speakers. The discussions were about questions such as: So how do you become a champion? How to get the necessary experience? How can you get motivated towards perfection? How to best achieve optimality and quality in a team?

One comment in this workshop, in particular, remains unforgotten: at the time, Bernhard Findeiss related (perhaps he also meant it a little provocatively) that a good “craftsman” who wants to become a real champion in his field will have to invest up to 20 hours  for his continuing education. And that usually this will not be possible during working hours. Instead, a significant part of your leisure time will have to be sacrificed for it.

Initially, I was surprised to hear the number. I had to think of how many people strictly divide their time between leisure and work. And I remembered quite a few discussions I had with my colleagues. For instance about how much of the time you spend on your continuing education program can be considered official work time. Consequently, I did a lot of thinking on the topic during the last two years. On the one hand, you certainly need twenty hours each week for practicing and learning if you strive towards championship.

I totally agree. On the other hand, you still need plenty of time in order to work towards success. And then, you also want enough time for your family and private affairs. And I think it can be done. Many of my friends – experts, managers and entrepreneurs, both male and female – live and love their jobs. They are true “champions” and basically spend all their time tackling topics they consider important. And still they are good spouses and mothers/fathers.

I am now a “retiree”. And still, I learn and practice twenty hours each week. Except, I doubt if I am a champion. But I will continue practicing …

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For video recordings of the IF Forum, click here: Craftsmanship.

P.S.1
For all articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!