Monthly Aphorism: On Production Quotes

  • We can ship that many, but you must give us time to build the factory.

Once Upon A Time, back in the IBM Video Disk project, a friend (herein known as LLT) built a demodulator for the video data streaming off the disk. This being the development phase of the project, cost was not much of an object, so he used a quartet of high-speed TRW TDC1003J digital multiplier-accumulators running in pipelined parallel to handle the data rate.

While a 175 ns MAC isn’t a big deal these days, it was a state of the art TTL chip back then: a finned-heatsink 64-pin DIP package that cost approximately a bazillion dollars. The board was maybe two feet on a side in classic Wire-Wrap style.

We called them Multifryers: each chip drew 750 mA at 5 V. That board had many cooling fans.

Then, One Fateful Day, came a request to quantify just exactly how much it would cost to build a production version of the player. LLT pointed out that the demodulator board itself would cost more than a really spiffy car, but to no avail: he had to come up with a cost estimate for a fairly large production volume of the as-built hardware.

So LLT calls up TRW and asks for a quote on thus-and-so-many parts, with delivery to-be-determined. There’s a long silence, after which they tell him they’ll have to get back to him on that.

Time passes.

Eventually he gets the quote. He had to tell them to not start building the factory right away, because the project was most likely doomed. Much relief was expressed…