[unrev-II] [Fwd: The Corporate Mind and Standards]

From: Eric Armstrong (eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com)
Date: Mon Mar 13 2000 - 14:34:41 PST

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    From: Eric Armstrong <eric.armstrong@eng.sun.com>

    WAY too good not to share....

    -------- Original Message --------
    From Sandy Klausner:

    The Corporate Mind and Standards

    Here is a look into the corporate mind that is very interesting,
    educational, historical, completely true, and hysterical all at the same

    The US standard railroad gauge (width between the two rails) is 4 feet,
    8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used?

    Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads
    were built by English expatriates.

    Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines
    were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and
    that's the gauge they used.

    Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the
    tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons
    which used that wheel spacing.

    Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well,
    if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on
    some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the
    spacing of the wheel ruts.

    So who built those old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in
    Europe (and England) were built by Imperial Rome for their legions. The
    roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war
    chariots first formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match
    for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made
    for (or by) Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel
    spacing. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches
    derives from the original specification for an Imperial Roman war
    chariot. Specifications and bureaucracies live forever.

    So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's
    ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial
    Roman war chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back
    ends of two war horses. Thus, we have the answer to the original

    Now the twist to the story ...

    There's an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and
    horses' behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad,
    there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel
    tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by
    Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs
    might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be
    shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line
    from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs
    had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the
    railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses'
    behinds. So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's
    most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand
    years ago by the width of a Horse's Ass!

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