WorldWide Drilling Resource®

To Really Mess Things Up Takes a Computer by Britt Storkson Owner, P2FlowLLC It has been said that to err is human, and to really mess things up takes a computer. There’s a lot of truth to that. It’s not that computers are inherently bad or flawed. It’s because they do so many things so quickly, even minor errors can get amplified into major problems. My wife has been a veterinary technician and worked as a dog groomer for years. She says there are very few bad dogs, but lots of bad owners. The same could be said for computers. Even using the very best components (dogs), bad programming or appli- cation of the technology (bad dog owners) can result in a really miserable product. We just bought a house with a “smart” thermostat which is so overdesigned and poorly executed I’m about ready to throw it out and put in a 100-year-old-technology mechanical thermostat instead. At least with the mechanical thermostat you know what you’re getting. One of the consequences with going smart is the smart developers often get caught up in making the product smart while forgetting what the product is really there to do, which is turning the device on or off at the proper time to maintain the desired temperature range. Using the thermostat as an example: A thermostat is supposed to measure the temperature and (for heating) turn on the furnace when the temperature drops below a preset point and turn off when the temperature rises above a preset point. For cooling, the thermostat operates the same way except it turns the air conditioner on and off for cooling instead of the furnace. In both cases, time delays are incorporated into the design to eliminate rapid on-off cycling and provide stable, controlled operation. These time delays can be implemented mechanically or electronically. Mechanical time delays are not very accurate or consistent, but they are adequate for most HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) applications. Electronic time delays can be very precise, but most of the time that level of precision isn’t needed for HVAC applications. Likewise, a “deadband” is used when the heater or air conditioner output turns on or off, then the temperature has to move two or three degrees for there to be any change in the output. This also provides stable operation because it takes time for a heating or cooling source to physically change the temperature of the entire area. Right now, both approaches (mechanical or electric) cost about the same. In fact, microprocessor-based electronic controls can be considerably less expensive than mechanical controls if all of the “bells and whistles” are eliminated. The current industry trend, however, is to pile on the bells and whistles solely to make the product more expensive, not to make it simpler or more reliable. Think about all of those bells and whistles for a minute. The typical television remote has something on the order of 50+ buttons on it, but how many buttons do you normally use? Most people typically use only two or three of the buttons ~ the on- off button, sound volume control button, and maybe the mute button. That’s it. That’s all the average person needs to use 99% of the time. With the products we make (computer pressure controls for water pumping), we deal with the complexity conundrum by putting only the adjustments the customer/user absolutely needs to know within his or her view. Other more technical adjust- ments are out of sight, but can easily be accessed if needed. Most of the time, the basic adjustments are all that are needed, but in the unlikely event other adjustments are necessary, they can call us and we can walk them through the adjustments over the phone. While on the phone, we can also help the customer diagnose other pump problems not related to our control unit and perhaps sell additional equipment. Either way, it’s a win-win with the customer coming away fully satisfied and a min- imum amount of time required to solve the problem. On a much larger scale, what if it were possible to replace the entire computer controls system operating the typical aircraft in-flight? To do this, the pilot would switch the airplane over to manual operation, unplug the old/problem controls, plug in the new and previously tested controls, then switch the airplane back to automatic operation. Spare parts could be stored in the plane for this very purpose. This is indeed possible, but it isn’t done that way right now. In fact, just about everything with a computer could be designed and built for simple replacement - but if that were the case, we wouldn’t need the installer. Which, in large part, is why it isn’t done. So computer malfunctions can really mess things up, but poor programming and/or computer applications can be a much bigger problem because the problems are intrinsic and one cannot simply change an adjustment and get it to work better . . . or just to work. Period. Britt Britt Storkson may be contacted via e-mail to 15 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® OCTOBER 2020 302-684-3197 FAX: 302-384-0643 142 Broadkill Rd. • Milton, DE 19968 email: Manufacturers of Slotted & Perforated Pipe ranging from ½” to 24” diameter Atlantic Screen & Mfg., Inc. • Well Rehab. Products • Manholes • Bentonite • Filter Sock • Inline Chemical Mixers • Sampling Bailers • Clear PVC Pipe • Locking Caps