The problem with reinvented wheels



I rant about this tendency all the time, but inventing the wheel again isn't bad as such. After all, the wheel had to be reinvented a few times over the past two centuries or so. For trains. For cars. For moon buggies. So why all the discontent when people do the same thing in IT?

The first (and least) problem is needless reinvention. By all means, do it if you have to. Not because you don't like what color the wheel is painted.

But mostly, invention is only the first step. From there to making it usable by anyone you have more work to do. Lots and lots of boring work. My favorite example: the turbojet engine. First invented in 1930, they took two more decades (or four, depending on how you count) to become commonplace. What took so long? Countless engineers the world over worked their asses off to turn the invention into a product, that could be safely used by millions on a daily basis.

That's the problem with invention, see. The world's first wheels were probably wonky too. Who knows how long it took wheelwrights to figure out how to make them smooth and balanced, never mind reliably so.

And inventors don't like putting in all that work. That's what killed most of Clive Sinclair's brilliant inventions, too. Even his wildly successful home computers were infamously wonky. Some of the bugs were never fixed.

If airplanes worked that way, they'd be falling out of the sky all the time. You know, like they used to a century and change ago. We couldn't rely on them.

Luckily, we have engineers around. I mean trained engineers, as opposed to code monkeys who slap the "e" word on their business cards cause it sounds cool.


Tags: technology, critique