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Monday, July 1, 2013

Craft, Above All

Visiting labs I keep on coming across 25 year old HVS Image VP112s still working perfectly and typically now outlasting their original owners and PIs, although now it is nearly impossible to find a personal computer that will link to the old RS232 interface far more run the old MS-DOS 3.1 software.

Thinking about the old VP112s reminds me of Walter Isaacson's comments on Steve Jobs's design philosophy. Under Jobs, Apple became famous for a level of craft that seemed almost gratuitous: For example, on the "Sunflower" Macintosh of a few years ago, there was an exquisitely fine, laser-etched Apple logo. As an owner, you might see that logo only once a year, when moving the computer. But it mattered, because that single time made an impression. 

If you remember the old VP110s, VP112s and VP118s you'll remember that HVS Image followed the seminal phrase coined by architect Louis Sullivan's - that "form ever follows function. This is the law." So there are no engraved Sunflowers but if you ever look inside and HVS Image VP - as I looked inside some of the earliest HVS Image trackers in the 1970s and architecture which was not just clean and orderly but was organised to perfection - every wire every, circuit board, every component in its place. PIs may not have see the deep beauty of the VP112 (although they appreciated the elegant simplicity of the interface), but many a technician did and any that where around at that time would not be surprised to see them working now without a glitch. 

Just like Steve Jobs this level of craft was one of the first design lessons that I ever got, and like Jobs this was learned at the hands of my father. 

My childhood home was lined with robot components (early machine vision system, robot arms as well as autonomous vehicles) and physics texts rather than fences and cabinets, but still - the lesson was learned and the philosophy continues in HVS Products.

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