The Parable of 500 Parts

A Berglas,
June 2010.

For his 18th birthday, the king took the prince to town to buy him his first watch, just as the king's father had done many years before.  They went to the High street, and came to a shop that displayed an ornate silver watch which boasted 100 moving parts.  100!  The prince was very impressed, but the king said that no, that was not suitable, and they moved on.

They soon came to a bigger shop that displayed an even more ornate gold watch which boasted 500 moving parts.  It had no less than seven different dials and nine buttons on the side.  The prince was even more impressed, but the king said no, that was not suitable either.

As they moved on, the prince wondered what amazing technology lay ahead.  They turned off the main street, and went down some narrow alleys before they came to a small shop.  In the window, was a plain brass watch which boasted only 7 moving parts.  A working watch with just 7 moving parts.  

The king recognized the old watchmaker as the one that had sold his father the watch that the king still carried with him.  It had but one dial, and it did but one thing, it told the time.  The king purchased the watch and presented it to the prince, who pretended to be grateful.

Of course, as soon as the king was gone, the prince went back to the small shop, returned the watch, and demanded the king's money back.  He then went to the High  street and bought the gold watch on his father's credit, along with a three week training course to understand all its marvellous features.  And every few weeks thereafter he would send the watch back to the shop for tuning and repairs.  And if the prince should want to know the time he would look out the window and say "it's still quite early" or "it's looking fairly late" because he could never remember which dial on the watch to read should it ever be working correctly.

Over the years the gold watch smith produced new and ever more complex designs.  They boasted 1,000, 2,000, and finally 5,000 moving parts.  The latter was a stunning piece of technology, although it was too large to fit in one's pocket and not even the watch smith could remember how to wind it up.  The prince dutifully purchased each one as it was produced, proud to be the owner of the latest technology.

By and by the old king died, and the prince tossed his old brass watch, still ticking, to a passing beggar.

The moral of the tale is, of course, that the gold watch smith lived a rich and comfortable life paid for by those that could, whereas the brass watch smith eked out a cold, hard living making occasional sales to the few that understood.

USB Watch      

(Inspired by software I have had to deal with.)