Following on from our recent dissertations on the latest breed of programmable transmitters, there seems to be some problem associated with the provision of instructions for their operation.
Since many of these are of Japanese origin, it is understandable that the first batch available may not have comprehensive English instructions - which take time and effort to produce. This situation is further aggravated by those who are eagerly awaiting their new toy and willing to accept it in any state.
However, one may be tempted to wonder at the legal and ethical implications of the situation. Just how long should the situation be allowed to continue and do all those who have already bought a set automatically get a set of the instructions when - and sometimes if - they are available? In some cases it takes a great deal of persistence to obtain a set - possibly after parting with money. The type of equipment that we are talking about here already has a very high price tag.
One is tempted to wonder what might happen if a modeller was involved in a serious accident as a result of incorrect use of an R/C outfit, which he did not properly understand due to not having any instructions. In most cases, of course, this is a situation which would be difficult to prove. However, if it was a well known fact that instructions were not available for that particular outfit, someone could make a good living out of trying to show whether the importer or the modeller were to blame. Which is worse? Not to supply something or not to insist on it being supplied.
The ramifications of this are endless. Is it ethical to supply equipment to someone who wouldn't understand it fully even if it did have comprehensive instructions? Even more difficult when the person concerned would never admit that he didn't understand it anyway.
This situation does not apply solely to R/C equipment, of course. The first batch - or batches - of a recently introduced helicopter kit was sold without English instructions, which could perhaps have introduced a hazardous situation - particularly in the hands of a raw beginner. To be fair here, the pictorial Japanese instructions were excellent and quite sufficient for most people. To be even fairer, the box lid proudly proclaims the fact that the kit includes a pitch gauge - which no-one has yet found!
The day when English instructions of Japanese origin were a standing joke have long since gone and most companies (though not all) produce excellent instructions - eventually. Perhaps the blame really lies with the importers, who need to start moving new equipment as soon as possible.
I gather that forthcoming Common Market rules make it mandatory to sell all equipment with full instructions in several languages. Once again, in the interests of fairness, it must be pointed out that there are some manufacturers who will never have problems with this ruling. Any experienced modeller can tell you who they are.
To those of you who have been paying attention - and reading other magazines - the reason why 99% of full size aircraft have washout incorporated into the wings is to avoid the manufacturers being sued by the relatives of the first heavy handed clod who tip stalls one into the ground.
Incidentally, the odd 1% are the real aerobatic aeroplanes.
We have dwelt before on the fact that many of the computer magazines tend to contain very witty sub-headings to their articles. Recent examples are 'Thesis your life' and (this one I particularly like) 'Misprit - an apolgy'.
By a rather curious coincidence, at least two of these magazines have semi-humorous columns which can be found on the page inside the back cover!
The longest running of these is entitled 'The least significant bit', which will appeal to those of you who are into computers. A very new column is actually called 'Abandon edit', but the first appearance of it carried the sub-title 'the wag in the tail' (now why didn't you think of that one, Alec?).
One of these columns recently introduced me to the term 'ritfim'. This is more properly spelled RTFM, which is an acronym for 'Read the ******* manual'. Which is almost where we came in.
I wonder if they get abusive phone calls and letters in extra large print?
A man entered a model shop and enquired if they had any three bladed pusher props of around 9x6 size. On being assured that such things were difficult, if not impossible, to find, he left to pursue his quest in the surrounding area.
Some hours later he returned, brandishing a propeller of the required size victoriously. After congratulating the chap, the shop owner enquired just what model the item was required for. Apparently it was to be used on an own design, rubber powered, egg lifting machine!
Now, granted that the fellow may not have been aware that such a prop would be totally unsuitable for a rubber model due to it not having anywhere near enough pitch, why go to all that trouble to obtain a pusher type when he could have simply wound the motor in the opposite direction?
Have you ever noticed that all of the very early aircraft designs which were not successful look as if they should have been? Let's put that another way. Why do all of the really successful early aircraft look about as aerodynamically efficient as a budgies cage?
Taking things a little further; the X-29 really does not look like most peoples idea of a successful aircraft either, yet it has an extraordinary number of features in common with the Wright flyer. This is really rather odd, since one has an abundance of both drag and surface area (the Wright flyer - in case you are wondering), while the other has precious little of either.
In 1847/8 Henson and Stringfellow produced some remarkably modern looking designs which never flew, while Swiss inventor Steiger in 1891 produced a design for a beautiful streamlined twin with elliptical surfaces. Louis Bleriot's No. VII of 1907 looks like a perfect indoor scale model, yet was unsuccessful. His well known successful design of 1909 is nowhere near as modern looking, although it might be considered an exception to our rule.
The thing which bothers me is just how all those designers who got it wrong managed to know just what an aeroplane should look like.
"... my general approach is that you shouldn't generalise."
MP Harriet Harman on 'Any questions'.
Now I know what 'un-speak' means!