The International System of Units (SI) [72 page pdf Brochure] is maintained by the Bureau International des Poids et Measures at it’s headquarters in Sevres near Paris, France. The Metric System as it is often known has a long history; supposedly invented in 1670 by Gabriel Mouton, a French clergyman, It was adopted by France in 1795 and by the United States in 1866. The system gained international status with the signing of The Convention of the Meter in Paris on 20th May 1875. The U.S. was one of the original seventeen signatory nations and is the only industrialized nation that still does not use the system.
This is the first of an occasional series of reviews I intend to write to illustrate some important general traits of ontologies. In each review I will dissect an ontology and examine why it succeeded or failed. In this essay I mention concepts that are defined in my previous essay. Judging the likely success of an ontology. This first review covers an ontology called the Common Basic Specification (CBS) that was designed in the late 1980s to bring much needed standardization and rationalization to the fragmented information management processes of the British National Health Service (NHS). It persisted in various forms until the late 1990′s when it was finally abandoned. This is my explanation of why it failed.
A corollary of the statement “Time is Money” is that things that cause time to be consumed are money as well – distance is related to time through velocity and information is related to time in the same way through bandwidth. Velocity is a crucial factor in determining the cost of exchanging physical goods and bandwidth is similarly crucial in determining in the cost of exchanging information. In both cases speed costs. The changing relationships between time, distance, information, and money are at the heart of today’s globalization trends.
The cost of a 3-minute transatlantic phone call is an interesting metric since it fixes distance and the amount of information. The graph above comes from a presentation on Globalization by the World Bank. It clearly shows that the cost of a 3-minute call between New York and London has been decaying exponentially over 6 decades. In fact this metric has a half-life of about a decade.
I saw a Blackpool tram on the Embarcadero in San Francisco today. The destination on the side said “Tower“. At first I was dumb-struck and then I thought “That’s a bloody long way on a tram!”
I particularly liked the description of San Francisco’s Blackpool tram on the Market Street Railway website Every time I read it I hear Fred Dibnah‘s accent.
In England, “trolleys” are shopping carts. This is a “tram” and a special one at that….”
The tram drivers on the newly extended F-line that runs the length of Market Street and then along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf seem to like this tram. At lunchtime they park a few trams outside the newly renovated ferry building at the end of Market Street and all sit in the Blackpool tram to chat and eat. It really is quite a site. It’s even illuminated! For those who don’t know the Blackpool illuminations are a national institution in the UK and date back to the days when electric street lights were such a novelty that people would travel miles to see them.
Anyway all this got me thinking about trams and more particularly their rise, fall and recent resurrection as a serious form of public transportation.
Recently, I have been traveling to Washington D.C. via Washington Dulles International Airport and have begun to appreciate the fine architecture of the airport. Built between 1958 and 1966 by the engineering firm of Amman and Whitney the terminal building, control tower, and service buildings were designed by Architect Eero Saarinen who claimed it was “the best thing I have ever done.”