Don't Give Your Credit Away
You asked whether the government should be involved in supporting the creative and learning process \["Design Challenges Help Stimulate Creativity," Feb. 21, p. 50\]. Well, history has shown that, if the government limits itself to its legitimate function, namely defending the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property, people will learn and create. As evidence, I point to the creation of America. The Industrial Revolution created wealth on a scale never before seen. When it comes to the government doing good onto me, I remember Samuel P. Langley failing to do with tax money what the Wright brothers did on their own nickel. For the rest of my argument, I cite an interview conducted by Investor's Business Daily with T. J. Rodgers from Cypress.
Rodgers recently helped to organize a Declaration of Independence from corporate welfare that more than 50 Silicon Valley chief financial officers signed. Worried, Rodgers feels that many people in Silicon Valley don't understand its founding philosophy and economic principles, and they rush headlong to embrace things that undermine basic values.
"The high-tech industry's newly formed lobbying group, TechNet, is destructive. It stands against capitalism, which is what made Silicon Valley what it is," Rodgers says. "TechNet is going in the wrong direction and doing the wrong thing for the semiconductor industry." Rodgers adds, "The basic assumption of TechNet is that we cooperate with the government, establish relationships, and get our share of the money. So, it's pork-barrel politics. We, Silicon Valley, are about free minds and free markets. "
Rodgers continues, "Washington is an absorber of wealth. If we go whining to the government, pretty soon it owns enough of us that it starts mandating things that we need to do. Then, we have another government-controlled industry." Investor's Business Daily asked Rodgers how to prevent the destructive things that Washington can do to the high-tech sector. He replied, "I don't buy the argument that you ought to suck up to Washington and become a part of the process. That's a losing proposition. Think about men like Bill Gates, and anybody who created great companies. They didn't waste their time flying to Washington and sucking up to congressmen."
The interviewer also questioned whether or not encryption is an issue that Cypress is concerned with. "No. We don't sell encryption chips," Rodgers explained. "But encryption is about free speech, and the inability to encrypt something means that the government is violating your free speech. It wants to force you to allow it to eavesdrop. Also, from an economic point of view, it's colossally stupid. Encryption is available worldwide. This phobia that the Justice Department has with encryption only hurts American computer companies. And, it allows our foreign competitors to take markets we could have otherwise taken."
Regarding the government's role in creating the Internet, Rodgers simply feels that every now and then the government stumbles into doing something right. Still, he doesn't think that it should continue to fund technology in case that happens again. Rather he notes that, "If you take the track record of the government, all the stupid programs it has done, and add them up, the investment return is negative. It's terrible."
Mr. Rogers does not want to suck up to congressmen. Neither do I. And I wish that editorial writers of my trade magazines would do likewise. I think your involvement as a judge in a design contest is great and you should not give any credit for your accomplishments to the regulatory extortonists in Washington.
EE Custom ASIC Design
Engineers Struggle With Managers
As an EE since '67, I have some thoughts and experiences to share about the corporate engineering environment \["Engineers Vs. Bean Counters: The Struggle Continues," March 6, p. 164\]. First, let me remark about management. I once worked on a project that had one assembler, three technicians, five engineers, and 13 managers.
I worked for 11 years at a company. During that time, I made about 200 pages of copies for myself. One day the company decided to control the copiers. To make a copy, you had to log it into a notebook. You had to borrow the key from the secretary, if she was even at her desk, make the copy, and then return the key. The result was almost a $1000/month savings in paper and toner for a company worth $300,000,000. The time loss was not measured. Still, the company hired a new manager from a different industry. He redesigned a critical part without understanding the requirements. The result was about $50,000,000 for recall and rework. Yet, he was promoted.
At another company, an EE named Dave went home after working 48 consecutive hours. His manager called and ordered him back immediately. Dave refused and was fired. Once, our chief operating officer announced a new product's first shipment would be in six months. An expert project manager objected. He thought it would take more than one year. He was fired on the spot, though it turned out he was right.
Now, let's get to the issue of the engineer shortage. There are more people with lower levels of knowledge. Organizing the work to use everyone at his or her top level and sometimes even higher, with the help of some advice or supervision, is the key to maximum engineering productivity. If you're a manager, know the job to be done. Know your people and match them.
Nicholas J. Bucska
PC Peripherals Inc.