The Invention of Battlezone – IEEE Spectrum

King Camp Gillette lowered the worth of the razors, and the demand for razor blades elevated. The historical past of IT accommodates quite a few examples of this phenomenon, too.

I contend, furthermore, that there are nonetheless different regularities within the area of computing that may be formulated in a style much like that of Moore’s and Metcalfe’s relationships. I wish to suggest 4 such legal guidelines.

Legislation 1. Xmas’s Legislation of Complementarity

I named this regulation after George Udny Xmas (1912), who was the statistician who proposed the seminal equation for explaining the connection between two attributes. I formulate this regulation as follows:

If two attributes or merchandise are enhances, the worth/demand of one of many enhances can be inversely associated to the worth of the opposite complement.

In different phrases, if the worth of 1 complement is lowered, the demand for the opposite will enhance. There are a couple of historic examples of this regulation. One of many well-known ones is the advertising of razor blades. The legendary King Camp Gillette gained market domination by making use of this rule. He lowered the worth of the razors, and the demand for razor blades elevated. The historical past of IT accommodates quite a few examples of this phenomenon, too.

The case of Atari 2600 is one notable instance. Atari video video games consisted of the console system {hardware} and the read-only reminiscence cartridges that contained a sport’s software program. When the product was launched, Atari Inc. marketed three merchandise, particularly the Atari Video Pc System (VCS) {hardware} and the 2 video games that it had created, the arcade shooter sport Jet Fighter and Tank, a heavy-artillery fight title involving, not surprisingly, tanks.

Crucially, Atari engineers determined that they’d use a microchip for the VCS as an alternative of a customized chip. In addition they made positive that any programmer hoping to create a brand new sport for the VCS would be capable to entry and use all of the inside workings of the system’s {hardware}. And that was precisely what occurred. In different phrases, the designers lowered the obstacles and the fee mandatory for different gamers to develop VCS sport cartridges. Greater than 200 such video games have since been developed for the VCS—serving to to spawn the sprawling US $170 billion international online game trade at this time.

The same regulation of complementarity exists with laptop printers. The extra inexpensive the worth of a printer is stored, the upper the demand for that printer’s ink cartridges. Managing complementary elements effectively was additionally essential to Apple’s profitable the MP3 participant wars of the early 2000s, with its now-iconic iPod.

From a strategic viewpoint, expertise companies in the end must know which complementary ingredient of their product to promote at a low worth—and which counterpoint to promote at a better worth. And, because the economist Bharat Anand factors out in his celebrated 2016 ebook The Content material Lure, proprietary enhances are usually extra worthwhile than nonproprietary ones.

Legislation 2. Hoff’s Legislation of Scalability

This regulation is called after Marcian Edward (Ted) Hoff Jr.—the engineer who satisfied the CEO of Intel to use the regulation of scalability to the design and growth of processors. Definitely, the phenomenon of scalability was well-known within the vehicle trade earlier than it made a major influence on the computing trade. Henry Ford was a notable instance of the applying of this scalability regulation. Henry Ford’s firm was maybe the primary firm to use this regulation on a grand scale. Ford produced the Mannequin T, which was the primary mass-produced automotive. On the core of Henry Ford’s achievement was the design of an vehicle that was made for mass manufacturing. Ford’s engineers broke down the meeting technique of the Mannequin T into 84 discrete steps. The corporate standardized all of the duties and assigned every employee to do only one activity, thus standardizing the work every employee carried out as effectively. Ford additional constructed machines that might stamp out elements mechanically. Along with Ford’s modern growth of the primary transferring meeting line, this manufacturing system minimize the time to construct a automotive from 12 hours to about 1.5 hours. The Mannequin T might be the paradigmatic instance of how standardization permits designing processes for scalability.

Till the early Sixties, every IBM system had its personal distinct working system, processor, peripherals, and software software program. After the acquisition of a brand new IBM laptop, prospects needed to rewrite all their present code.

Intel additionally mastered the regulation of scalability early in its historical past. In 1969, Busicom, a Japanese firm, approached Intel about constructing customized chips to be used in its programmable computer systems. Gordon Moore was not fascinated by a customized chip as a result of he knew that it will not be scalable. It was the search to create a scalable product that led Intel’s Ted Hoff to partition the chip right into a general-purpose logic processor chip and a separate read-only reminiscence (ROM) chip that saved an software program. As Albert Yu exhibits in his historical past of Intel, Creating the Digital Future, the fledgling semiconductor firm’s general-purpose processor, the 4004, was scalable and just about bequeathed the world the {hardware} structure of the fashionable laptop. And it was Hoff who redesigned the 4004 to scale. Hoff’s Legislation of Scalability may thus be described as follows:

The potential for scalability of a expertise product is inversely proportional to its diploma of customization and immediately proportional to its diploma of standardization.

In sum, the regulation predicts {that a} expertise element or course of that has a excessive diploma of customization and/or a decrease diploma of standardization can be a poor candidate for scaling.

Legislation 3. Evans’s Legislation of Modularity

This regulation derives its title from Bob Overton Evans. He was the engineer who within the early Sixties persuaded IBM’s chairman, Thomas J. Watson Jr., to discontinue IBM’s expertise design strategy, which had produced a hodgepodge of incompatible computer systems. Evans advocated that IBM ought to as an alternative embark on the event of a household of modular computer systems that might share peripheries, directions, and customary interfaces. IBM’s first product household below this new design rubric was known as System/360.

Previous to this period, IBM and different mainframe laptop producers produced methods that have been distinctive. Every system had its personal distinct working system, processor, peripherals, and software software program. After the acquisition of a brand new IBM laptop, prospects needed to rewrite all their present code. Evans satisfied CEO Watson {that a} line of computer systems must be designed to share lots of the identical directions and interfaces.

If a paper is copied 4 instances, one can now share the useful resource with 5 folks. However digitize the doc and the value-creation alternatives are multiplicative somewhat than additive.

This new strategy of modular design meant that IBM’s engineers developed a standard structure (the specification of which features and modules can be a part of the system), frequent interfaces (an outline of how the modules will work together, match collectively, join, and talk), and customary requirements (a definition of shared guidelines and strategies that might be used to realize frequent features and duties). This daring transfer on Large Blue’s half created a brand new household of computer systems that revolutionized the pc trade. Prospects may now shield their investments as a result of the directions, software program, and peripheries have been reusable and suitable inside every laptop household.

Evans’s Legislation could possibly be formulated as follows:

The inflexibilities, incompatibilities, and rigidities of complicated and/or monolithically structured applied sciences could possibly be simplified by the modularization of the expertise buildings (and processes).

This regulation predicts that the applying of modularization will cut back incompatibilities and complexities.

One additional instance of Evans’s Legislation could be seen within the software program growth trade, because it has shifted from the “waterfall” to the agile software program growth methodology. The previous is a linear and sequential mannequin stipulating that every challenge section can start solely the earlier section has ended. (The title comes from the truth that water flows in just one path down a waterfall.) In contrast, the agile growth strategy applies the regulation of modularization to software program design and the software program growth course of. Agile software program developments are usually extra versatile, extra responsive, and quicker.

In different phrases, modularization of software program initiatives and the event course of makes such endeavors extra environment friendly. As outlined in a useful 2016 Harvard Enterprise Overview article, the preconditions for an agile methodology are as follows: The issue to be solved is complicated; the options are initially unknown, with product necessities evolving; the work could be modularized; and shut collaboration with finish customers is possible.

Legislation 4. The Legislation of Digitiplication

The idea of digitiplication is derived from two ideas: digitalization and multiplication. The regulation stems from my very own examine and observations of what occurs when a useful resource is digitized or a course of is digitalized.

The regulation of digitiplication stipulates that each time a useful resource or course of is digitalized, its potential worth grows in a multiplicative method.

For instance, if a paper is copied 4 instances, one can now share the useful resource with 5 folks. However digitize the doc and the value-creation alternatives are multiplicative somewhat than additive.

Take into account the instance of a retail retailer. The shop’s gross sales reps, tasked with promoting bodily merchandise to particular person folks, are in a position to service just one buyer at a time. Nonetheless, if the identical retail atmosphere is positioned on-line, many shoppers can view the shop’s services and products. Digital textual content can even simply be remodeled into an audio format, offering a unique sort of worth to prospects. Search performance inside the retailer’s stock after all provides one other layer of worth to the shopper. The shop’s managers can even monitor what number of prospects are viewing the shop’s web site’s pages and for the way lengthy. All of those enhancements to the shopper’s (and retailer’s) expertise present completely different sorts of worth. As could be seen by these examples, the digitalization of a useful resource, asset, or course of creates multiplicative somewhat than additive worth.

As an extra instance, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos first started digitizing information about books as a approach to facilitate extra and higher ebook gross sales on-line. Bezos shortly remodeled Amazon right into a digitiplication engine by turning into a data-centric e-commerce firm. The corporate now advantages from the multiplicative results of digitalized processes and digitized info. Amazon’s search, choice, and buy features additionally permit the corporate to report and produce information that may be leveraged to foretell what the shopper needs to purchase—and thus choose which merchandise it ought to present to prospects. The digitization of buyer suggestions, vendor scores, and vendor suggestions creates its personal dimension of multiplicative worth.


These 4 legal guidelines could be helpful for engineers and designers to pose questions as they start to develop a product. For instance: Do buyer necessities lend themselves to a product design that could possibly be scaled (or mass-produced)? Would possibly the purposeful necessities they’re working with be glad by the event of a modular product design? Might Xmas’s Legislation of Complementarity present cues towards mass manufacturing or modular design alternate options? Might product enhances be developed in-house or outsourced? Software program engineers may also be led towards productive questions on how information could possibly be digitized, or how particular processes could possibly be digitalized to leverage the regulation of digitiplication.

The fields of IT and electrical engineering and laptop science (EECS) have turn out to be crucial disciplines of the digital age. To go alongside essentially the most succinct and related formulations of amassed data up to now to the following era, it is incumbent on teachers and thought leaders in these important technical fields to translate classes realized into extra formalized units of theorems and legal guidelines. Such formulations would, I hope, allow present and future generations of IT and EECS professionals to develop essentially the most helpful, related, impactful, and certainly typically even disruptive applied sciences. I hope that the proposed 4 legal guidelines on this article may assist to set off a bigger dialogue concerning the want for and relevance of latest legal guidelines for our disciplines.

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