Please, if anything it was a misunderstanding, not callous or malicious. I
have no animous towards you, and I am actually a very nice guy. I hope you
realize I will happily back up any statement you make which I agree with,
and will gladly change my position when I am shown to be wrong.
What you said was: "They just _gave_ their work to the inspectors, ignoring
their own property rights, in order to have a chance at the prize". I think
you can see how I could easily misunderstand this statement. I hope we can
move beyond this.
But the Wright Brothers didn't have anything much to do with
lighter-than-air aviation, which was created by the Montgolfier brothers in
France in the 1700s and used by both sides during the Civil War.
Hmmm. I seem to recall reading that aerial observation balloons were first
tried in the Spanish-American war, in Cuba. 1898, I think, which puts its
first US military use some 30 years after the Civil War.
How many lost American lives were prevented because we used armed Predator
drones and the unarmed ones for surveilance.
Damn those RC plane builders!
Of course with out the research into miniturization that the government
funds.... we probably wouldn't have ipod nano's and GB memory sticks
Damn the government for plagueing us with disposable commercial electronic
gizmos that are obsolete the day we buy them!
Nope, the Military wants these weapons for two primary reasons, both
1. Save American lives because pilots cost money, and Americans
rightfully get really upset when the cream of their youth are wasted.
2. Limit the killing of Civillians because of the negative political
effects at home and abroad.
Of course every single military officers I have ever met from Lt to
General really does hurt deeply when they lose men, and every bomber
pilot worries about civillians they kill for the rest of their lives.
The pilots also worry about the soldiers they kill, though no one I
have met worries about the leaders of the enemy they have killed.
Almost all the Military objectives could have been carried out cheaper
with unguided bombs, WMDs. Note the USA used lots of WMDs in the first
Iraq war. The fuel air bombs are just as explosive as medium nukes,
and larger than many tactical ones. They just aren't as messy and
don't cause as much lingering death. I promise you that reasons one
and two are the primary reason for most of the new weapons. The
exception would be the larger bunker busters, but those again are
designed to get extremely high value, fortified targets.
If the USA had done the second Iraq war, with wider ranging targets
with WW II type dumb bombs 100,000's to millions more Iraqis would have
died and the major cities would have looked like the Japanessee cities
did at the end of WW II.
But why all the high tech engineering.....I thought that all you needed to
avoid deer were those little whistles you bolt on to your car...
Why have an overcomplicated high tech solution when a low tech solution is
The Wright Brothers didn't end up with a big airline company, but they
did pretty well for a while. Much better than before the airplane.
They were world heros, lived richly, and failed to become leaders of
industry due to a serious of bad technical and business decisions.
I worked with DAPRA, and other defense agencies and they almost always
handle patent rights as follows.
If the Military pays for the research, they own the patents, which were
always made freely available to the public. This makes sense, since
tax dollars paid for the effort, the people should own the patents. I
would think only US companies using US manufacturings should get free
use of the patents, but maybe other countries do the same thing.
If a university or company develops something to sell to the military
on dime, they own the patent.
The only question comes on projects with multiple sources of funding,
and then the company's or university's contract writers are at fault if
they don't protect their own patent rights.
No evil conspiracies, just everyone trying to get the best for their
share holders, tax payers or whoever owns universities.
I have it on good authority that your St. Christopher's medal works about as
well. The Dashboard Jesus, though, seems different. That works a charm on
all manner of ills.
The point is that they don't work, and can't be made to work, the same as it
is inherently more dangerous to step into the bathtub for your morning
shower than it is to stay sedentary in bed.
The one I had in mind had US military involvement, circa 1861 through 1865.
Just as some around here speak colloquial of it as "the Lake", non-locals
are more comfortable with the name Lake Michigan. Likewise other areas have
"the Bay", "the Boy's Home".... Around here, "the Civil War" refers to the
US Civil War.
Other Civil Wars the US was involved in? Pick any ten in the past fifty
Don't think the government has much to do with it. The transistor was
invented at Bell Labs as part of their ongoing basic research. The idea of
putting several of them on the same piece of silicon was first tried out at
Texas Instruments, I forget to what purpose. The first microprocessor was
developed for a calculator manufacturer. Since then the major developments
have all been due to commercial competition. The government did try to get
a hand in it at one point with Sematech but my understanding is that the
impact of that has been minimal.
Yes, I meant heavier than air, I thought heavier than air, I wanted to
make the distinction to allow from not-heavier than air which had prior
history and existence, and I slipped and _wrote_ lighter than air. I see
I made a number of other typos in that post.
I was pretty impassioned at that point. I knew the Wrights had been
treated badly. I had just found out how badly. I just didn't know how
very applicable their plight was, their loss of legal rights, to what I
was saying was the likely results of DARPA GC, until I read that
paragraph about the government setting aside their patent rights.
Perhaps the difference between me and others here, is in my 3+ years as
an officer in the navy, in my year and a half at Comptek Research as an
engineer, in my 3+ years at Rockwell International as a scientist (with
much less exposure to the military), in my 5 year ordeal with my own
company, selling tank fire simulators to the Army (which bankrupt the
prime, and took me years to finally get paid for what the Army went
ahead and used immediately anyway).
BTW, I think one of those big companies eventually got the contract to
maintain the boxes I built. I went down and gave a presentation to about
a dozen engineers who tried to pick apart my design, unsuccessfully I
might add. I'm sure they were paid more to maintain that equipment, than
I was to design and build it. And remember, I still wasn't even fully
paid for several more years.
In my many discussions with my 75 yo co-worker, Bill Stewart, who worked
for E-systems among others, I don't recall every hearing a story about a
contract with the military that went smoothly, with no law suites, and
no chicanery, with no privileged information getting passed around where
it shouldn't have been, with no competitors ripping off ideas. Not one
example. None. Maybe the stories where things went right just aren't
worth telling. But his experiences parallel my experiences.
Let me tell you about just one of Bill's stories. Did you know we had
the equivalent of the Preditor and Global Hawk in the early '60s? The
company Bill worked for, on their own dollar, came up with an RC plane
made on a Switzer glider (iirc). They demonstrated it for the military.
It was a working system. Tremendous range and duration. Since they were
the only ones that had it, the military said they couldn't buy it from
them as a single source. They forced them to turn over plans to their
competitors so they could have a competition to see who could build the
best one. (Remember, the military didn't fund this project, it was a
private development.) After the competition, they awarded the contract
to the competitor, and the competitor muffed it. Millions later it was
cancelled. Tthe Army pilots didn't like to shown up by a pilotless
vehicle, so they fought it. The company who made it, never got a dime.
So I have some, but still limited, exposure to such matters compared to
most government contractors, and this is only my experience.
I passed it along before, and now after, our little robot community
answered the call to avarice and fame. I want us to have our eyes wide
I haven't said much about it before, but half a dozen of our products
(of those we know about) went into the race in multiple teams. We know
because some took weeks of support with us chasing phantom problems,
some of which seemed native to the platform they were installed in, an
environment beyond what the design was envisioned for. Yet we overcame
them. While this improved our products, and we appreciate that, the
support also had a real dollar cost us, far exceeding our total sales
dollars, let alone anything like profits.
Many of these competitiors asked us to donate our products, to sponsor
their teams. I felt I had to remain impartial since several teams were
using our products, and of course I felt I would not give away things to
a cause I saw as bogus from the outset.
I was offered half the prize to be come the lead programmer on one of
the teams for the second race by one of the vehicles that showed great
promise in the first race. I seriously considered it. But eventually I
turned it down on principle.
So to this extend, I am not a disinterested party. I have (minorly) less
money in my pocket today, because DARPA came up with a get rich scheme.
Not only am I actually (marginally) poorer, the contest also distracted
my customers from their intended useful tasks, and left them all
jubilant at the great competition, but flat broke. Without cash flow
from their efforts, they weren't customers any more were they?
Think about opportunity loss. It's like we lost several years of our
intellectual "children" sacrificed on the alter of non-profit. If all
these racers were designing new products, and if they'd bought a few
boards from me (or any other supplier in our industry for that matter)
wouldn't some of them be coming back for some small volume sales by now?
Yes, usually, volume sales follow prototype sales. Do I expect a flood
of sales now for the new fleet of DARPA inspired autonomous vehicles
about to come streaming out of American factories? No. There's been
talk, but I'm not holding my breath.
Likewise, I think our entire industry felt the effects. If you see robot
suppliers cutting back, or folding, think what DARPA might have had to
do with it. Will Servo Magazine survive? Well... I won't speak for them,
but where are the nifty articles from DARPA research? Where are the
inspiring projects from DARPA research? Or were all our guys out
building dessert dust buggies instead of writing? And just how is cash
flow at T&L Publications? Sorry to say, I haven't done them justice,
although I don't owe them anything right now. But I stopped advertizing
a year ago, and just now placed a couple test ads. Gather many others
are in same boat.
So how do we recoup our investments? No one in our industry made a
profit here (maybe Sick lasers). Even the guys who won $2 million, lost
$8 million doing so. No profit there. How as an industry do we rebuild
in the aftermath of Hurricane Darpa??? I, for one, have no desire to be
turning into a full time government supplier again. Experience is what
you get, when you don't get what you want. I'm experienced. Is that what
you competitors see for your future?
If history repeats, anyone who wants (meaning the existing contractors
who already took a billion dollars to produce almost nothing) can copy
all that was done out of the required white papers (and again sell that
for more billions of dollars, because the cost isn't about what is made,
but what it costs to get the business).
If that violates a patent, since this is a time of war, that little
detail can just be set aside, just as history teaches us. They have the
connections to get the lucrative government contracts, and the vast
staff to handle all the make-work paperwork the government saddles them
with, and know how to grease the buyers with the right kind of.. what...
answers? assurances? golf outings? (maybe "kickbacks"? or however it
works, I was never sure, but it didn't seem to be low bid).
Nope, I made a decision a long time ago to stay away from supplying the
military as my primary business, for the sake of keeping my soul and
sanity, in for none other. I also shun get rich quick schemes, whether
it is a letter from Nigeria, any sort of Ponzi scheme, or an invite to a
contest by DARPA. I look on both with the same kind of suspicion. None
deserve my time and life's blood. I'm saddened to see it was taken out
of our industry and by the way it was done.No, overall, I don't think
DARPA GC was a good thing.
There you go Chris. Good detective work.
"On a very serious note, the teams are also concerned that DARPA granted
itself a peek at their intellectual property via the technical paper
without offering a fair shot at competing in the race. DARPA has first
access rights to all of the technology."
Now go and see if you can find where leaked DARPA GPS coordinates data
was leaked on a website to some of the teams months before the contest,
and they have chartered special mappings of the course terrain, while
the others only got it once they were at the contest.
Does that sound like equal protection under the law? or does a long
train of abuses, pursing invariably the same object, evince a design?