Thursday, July 05, 2012

Why The UK Has No Lunar Programme

See, when the U.S. went to the to Moon, we could ground our electrical equipment and everything was tickety-boo. But the Brits? ...Let me put it as nicely as I can: on this planet, British electronic gear has to be Earthed.


Keads said...

HA! I had a UK Cigarette machine (Molings MK 9)on testing back in the day. The standard model in use was a German Hauni PROTOS. The Brit thing was, well, a Brit thing. Promised 2K cigs a minute more than the 8K the Germans were spitting out all day.

Wiring diagrams were backwards too.

It failed. Much like Italian cars, if it ran, oh boy it ran. If it stopped, well, you were in for a world of grief!

Stranger said...

One of my favorite British "Earthing" stories is a somewhat - earthy - dog story, told me by a telcotech from Weston Super Mare.

Granny's dog would always bark a few seconds before the telephone rang. The telcotech finally realized the dog was tethered to the telephone's earthing rod with a metal chain.

The rod was poorly earthed and generally floating well above earth potential. Every time someone called granny the dog earthed the telephone return through his paws.

Since that was a high resistance earth, the telephone did not ring.

And the dog had learned to micturate on the earthing rod in order to improve the earth, and stop the thing from shocking him.

The bark was one of relief, once the ringer voltage no longer tickled his toes.

And I don't really think I would care for 220V three phase for everything.


Anonymous said...

Do we really want to get into an American vs English discussion?

We do??? Oh, Ok.

So just what is it with all the cross-dressing American males (especially cowboys apparently). Why? Well you all seem to be proud of wearing suspenders in public!?!

Braces (UK) = Suspenders (US)
Suspenders (UK) = Garters (UK)

As to vehicles, just what is a station wagon? You drive a wagon, from a station?

Whilst I'm certain some British tech, especially from the 70's, is about as bad as it's possible to get, the US doesn't (outside the US) have that good a reputation in this either. There's still a hushed shock when a motoring journalist finds an American car that can actually go round corners.

We could discus how Americans apparently can't figure out that autumn is a season, instead having to use leaves falling off trees as a reminder. Not to mention other simplifications (eg. licence (noun) (UK) = licence (US)
license (verb) (UK) = licence (US)
after all, speaking is a bit of a strain when you have to remember to breath too.

We could mention the whole 'failure of UK space mission due to an American technicians inability to consider that measurements written in metric can't simply be transposed into imperial', or the agreement to share all rocket technology between us (see, space whinging too), which we dutifully did only to have you change your mind after receiving our research data (I won't bring up the similarities between TSR2 and a certain other aeroplane either).

We could do all of those things, but, since I'm English, I'm much too polite to do that ;-p

Roberta X said...

You drive a car? From an estate? ;)

It's a driver's license in the U.S. but in the UK, it's a "spanner."

Roberta X said...

(Also, I just just too taken with the notion of the BIS Lunar Expedition having to drop trou to get their radios to work. They'd do so gamely enough, and leave journal entries, too: "Day 17, Mare Crisium Camp: Today, it was Colonel H----'s turn, or should I say Sir R-------'s, in anticipation of the honor we're told awaits him? Stood there for hours in the chilly air of the radio hut, smiling and chatting calmly as though nothing was the matter. I don't know how he does it; I was on the verge of tears after twenty minutes and only yesterday, young J----- collapsed in screaming hysterics when it came his turn. The Colonel took him aside for a few moments. I don't know what was said, but he returned with a steely look in his eyes, determined to do his utmost for Queen and Country...")

Anonymous said...

Hey, (un)Able, thou dost protest overmuch. How do you engineer stuff for TWO world wars, and not use lock washers on autos til 1957? You whine like a Frog......

Anonymous said...

"with a steely look in his eyes, determined to do his utmost for Queen and Country"

Hah! What twaddle, I can guarantee that, since our Lunarnauts will have been chosen from the 'correct class', ie. public school boys to a man (that's 'private schools' to you egalitarian colonials), they would have been queuing up for the experience.

I remember young Fortescue-Smythe at Eton (regularly turned up to Tiffin in a frock, but a dashed marvel with a croquet mallet nevertheless), who would have handed over a sizeable number of guineas for the pleasure! And compared to 'a chat with nanny about ones appearance' electrically exciting ones particulars holds no fears for the rest of us either (I still feel a little queasy at the sight of a crochet needle).

"You drive a car? From an estate?"

Well of course, where else? Well to be honest, ones staff drives the estate car. They're so useful for transporting the hamper from Fortnum and Masons, the hounds (or in Fortescue-Smythes case his varied selection of frocks).

As to vehicles, whilst I admit that when having to undertake a long journey (off ones drive) the experience of minor repairs (rebuilding the gearbox, rewiring the entire vehicle, etc.) by the roadside is not uncommon (see, hamper for impromptu picnic supplies). At least one can do so in style, unlike you colonials who still labour under the misapprehension that acres of chrome, huge tailfins, vinyl interiors and cupholders are the height of good taste (I would have included your penchant for making everything excessively large, plastic accoutrement's, strange names and colour schemes but decided that discussing Hollywood A-listers is for another day).


Anonymous said...

Ah Anon

I'm no engineer (but did a degree in it in the Jurassic and can still hum the tune) and as far as I'm aware for joints that require preload (tension loaded joints, joints with vibration, etc.), then split (lock) washers are useless. For other non-load joints then they may provide a little preload. There's no justification for a lock washer since the cost to design, purchase, store, and assemble them is way more than specifying an appropriate preload with a standard screw.

As to why? When you have to perform a regular 3 mile service it's just one more bit to lose (hide in the parts bin after a rebuild)

Oh and its 'methinks thou doth protest too much' (see, I knew there was some benefit to a classical education other than my urge for the odd cold shower and fear of crochet needles) and comparing us with those Gallic beret wearers is fighting talk here (pistols at dawn?).


Anonymous said...

Also..unknown to most people is the fact that we are losing electrons everyday at a faster and faster rate and in some locations more than others. So,if your flashlite or your refrigerator doesn't work,it could be electron loss. I suggest buying an electron detector. I think these can be found in ghost hunting websites. We are DOOMED I tell you DOOMED....

Tam said...


"...comparing us with those Gallic beret wearers is fighting talk here (pistols at dawn?)."

Despite any differences, I think we can all agree that the wogs begin at Calais. ;)

Roberta X said...

Don't you mean "...the spanners begin at Calais?"

BobG said...

Back in a former occupation I used to work with motors and generators, many of them from other countries. Two types of motors I used to dread: Swedish and British.
Swedish motors were ridiculously over-engineered, and made more complex than needed.
British motors were engineered and built like something a guy who dropped out of the third grade would design, and built like someone who had no understanding of machinery would do. They were always a PITA to work with. I can only imagine what they would do with a spaceship.

Roberta X said...

H'mmm, interesting. I enjoyed my MGB, which I found generally straightforward in design and easy to work on -- though you did have to own a file.

UK-made electronics and components, I have no complaints about, from Jackson Brothers tuning drives and variable capacitors to the monstrously overbuilt Snell & Wilcox format converter or the big EEV/GEC/Marconi UHF amplifiers. They don't do things the same way as engineers in the 'States or on the Continent might; but it gets the job done.

Anonymous said...


Actually I think the spanners begin about a mile down the road.


"They don't do things the same way as engineers in the 'States or on the Continent might; but it gets the job done."

The whole 'not invented/made here' thing is common everywhere but just appears more prevalent (to us foreigners) in the US. Probably as you have a large, and patriotic, enough market to support your own 'personal preferences'.

At the risk of sounding like at he complete recidivist geek I am, have a look at the numbers, and quality, of guitar amp producers here too.

Your MGB? You do shatter my illusions, I thought you were more the E-type of person, or at least an MGA. And BobG's comment has me reminiscing about owning a Volvo C303 (what some say the Hummer was should have been), now I can see you in a TGB 1111 gunbus or a Sugga ;-p

Roberta X said...

An E-type would be a delight; an MGA even more so -- but the reason I became and MGB driver was, I couldn't afford a motorscooter.

A long time ago, when I was just starting at the TV station, my Chevy Cavalier (wretched thing, bought new, only new car I have ever owned) suffered a near-fatal engine problem: warped head, thanks in part to, and I quote, "mysterious gunk in the oilways." Anyway, it was going to be in the shop for over a month and I needed wheels. I'd always wanted a Vespa (etc.), so I hit the classifieds (I said it was a long time ago!).

I had $400 to spend. There were no motorscooters (or even motorcycles) listed for less than $800! But there was one (1) interesting car for $300, a '74 'B...with a missing linkage pin for the clutch. I showed up with cash and a "universal" clevis pin, and got it home; next day, I took it to a local guy who specalized, and he put in the right pin and rebuilt the clutch hydraulics. I picked up a book on the way home and from then on, only called on the expert for engine adjustments. The little car had terminal body rust and needed a new top, but it was so easy to work on that I kept on driving it even after the Chevy was repaired. Rebuilt the fuel pump electricals, changed out a U-joint, replaced one of the U-bolts that hold the read axle to the cart springs, rebuilt the front brakes and replaced the master cylinder, etc. It just ran and ran.

After a couple of years, it was hit (not my fault) -- still drivable but a lot of Bondo was knocked off and I sold it to a co-worker who was restoring a '73.

A couple years after that, I found another one -- even a '74! I drove it for four years; my ex hated it and after we moved in together, I garaged it and started driving his Suzuki Samuri. I still own that MG but it hasn't run in years.

Anonymous said...

So, let me get this straight..

You consistently display perceptive understanding, wit (even that un-American sarcasm stuff) and, that rarest of commodities, common sense.

You shoot.

You work, and lead, in a male dominated engineering area.

... and you, now I learn, consider rebuilding an MGB as 'easy' and even 'fun'?


Will you marry me <3 ;-p

Roberta X said...

Oh, I like you too well for that! My housekeeping is simply dire, I struggle to get anywhere on time and I am unbelievably grumpy when I first wake up.

...But I'm still extremely flattered.

(Engineering-wise, the MGB is user-friendly compared to most cars, at least it is for me. The engine/carburettors can drive me batty because it calls for both polished skills and some Secret Knowledge, but the rest of the car is sensible and easy to work on. It is not low-maintenance, which is where modern owners get into trouble.)

Anonymous said...

Oh don't be too flattered, I propose regularly to all and sundry (although mostly to ladies, you'll be glad to hear. Someone's got to be either daft, desperate, drunk, deranged [or all four] enough to agree one day, I live in hope).

In particular the elderly lady at the local newsagents who always calls me 'Young man', and who I once overheard on my leaving the shop as saying 'that boy has nice manners'.

It's been so long since I've legitimately been called either a boy or young I had to get down on one knee (I can still manage that, it's the getting up afterwards that's a struggle, sometimes involving colleagues, a hoist, and once the fire-brigade). She's not more than seventy and has neither Alzheimers or vision problems - who'd have thunk it.

Housework? Of what is this you speak? Oh and since I am constitutionally early everywhere we'd compromise and get everywhere just on time.

Ah yes SU carbs - the memories of twins on my 998 Cooper S Mini (autocross competitor until pranged rather severely), I gave up in the end and swapped them for twin 40 Webers, much easier! A friend uses a MGB V8 as a hillclimb car, and he's still competitive against all those modern plastic cars too.

They're particularly fashionable here nowadays too. I've noticed a trend recently. The kids are all listening to music, and playing, all the old tunes I remember from my youth (like AC/DC). The cars, as I've said. It's disconcerting to walk up to some teenagers, be able to show them really how to play 'Shot Down In Flames' (which they're just learning but I've been playing for 'mumble' years) - hell, I've never been fashionable before! All I need is for flares, platform soles, eye wateringly painful paisley print shirts and kipper ties to come back in fashion and I'll be sorted.

Ken said...

I figured it was because they couldn't figure out how to make the flight computer leak oil....