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Trapped on Technology’s Trailing Edge

by Kurt Bollacker on April 15th, 02008

There’s a very good article in this month’s IEEE Spectrum about the engineering challenges of replacement parts for devices intended to survive much longer than industrial cycles of obsolescence. The economics of making sure parts are available in a timely and cost effective fashion and task of designing management processes that survive long enough are discussed in depth. From the article:

Obsolescence also isn’t limited to hardware. Obsolete software can be just as problematic, and frequently the two go hand in hand. For example, an obsolescence analysis of a GPS radio for a U.S. Army helicopter found that a hardware change that required revising even a single line of code would result in a $2.5 million expense before the helicopter could be deemed safe for flight.

My favorite example device is the B52 bomber. First produced in 1946, it’s not expected to be phased out till 2017. I guess this is equivalent to 10,000 “internet years”.



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