I don’t think Telsa is going to achieve the “T” word.  (Trillion.)

That’s because Telsa and Elon Musk started discussing plans to create a better vacuum tube… not the transistor.

What do I mean?

Vacuum tubes used to run all electronics.  The were huge and burning hot and really unreliable.  Which, as you might imagine, limited the uses of electronic devices.  (Wanna stick something big and burning hot in your ear?  Didn’t think so.)

Then came along the transistor… from Bell Labs (which was really responsible for the entire tech revolution that I’m pretty sure no 20-something has heard of today) and from a few guys, including Bill Shockley, that won a Nobel Prize for their work.

The transistor — the forerunner of the integrated circuit and microprocessor — ushered in EVERYTHING electronic we see today.  It replaced big and hot and unreliable with tiny and low power and utterly reliable… exactly the direction we needed to go to eventually be able to, say, have a computer in our contact lenses or occipital lobes one day.

This wasn’t immediately apparently to everyone at the time, however.  You still had a lot of companies that had quite a lot of knowledge, experience, and investment in vacuum tubes trying to “create a better vacuum tube.”

Which was simply a doomed strategy.

From what I gather about GigaFactory… and from talking to a few smart people in the battery industry… Telsa isn’t creating the battery equivalent of the transistor… rather, just trying to create a more cost-effective lithium-ion (read that “old” technology) battery.  A better vacuum tube.

Extreme bummer.

Sadly, when you start investing billions of dollars into something like a GigaFactory, it’s almost impossible to change agenda mid-course.  Still, I’m hoping Musk The Engineer has something more up-his-sleeve… or is able to create something-out-of-nothing on-the-fly… or any number of other trite phrases… because, to use one last tired but curiously ironic analogy…

…the world doesn’t need a better buggy whip, either.

I love Tesla. The car. The company. What they’re trying to do.  Everything.

And as you can see from my last post, even the idea that someone will invent much, much better energy storage (battery).

Why can’t that be Tesla?

Maybe it will be.  But I think they’re off to a rough start.

They announced their giant “GigaFactory” yesterday.  From Forbes:

      Tesla Motors is looking at building a lithium-ion battery factory that will likely be the biggest in the world, said CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday.

     “This will be a giant facility. We are talking about something that is comparable to all of the lithium-ion battery production in the world — in one factory,” Musk said during a conference call with analysts to discuss the third-quarter earnings. “It’s big.”

Here are the two problems I see:

I was hoping for something more revolutionary, not evolutionary.  I love economy of scales and all, but this really does seem like Elon is taking a brute-force method.

And, there already is an environmental problem with lithium-ion batteries… yet, not a single news source mentioned — even once — that we may be doubling the problem with this announcement.

I don’t want to get all tree-hugger on anyone, I just think someone in the media could have at least asked that question… since it is a problem now… and now appears it’s only going to get worse.

As I said, in the quest to find the energy storage, we have to do it in such a way that we don’t end up killing ourselves in the process.

With apologies to The Graduate, I just figured out what’s the even BIGGER deal about Tesla.

Yes, we all know they make beautiful, amazing cars.  Truly.

But something some very smart people have said for a while:  The next huge thing in the world won’t be electric cars or wearable computers or faster ways to eat burritos (sorry, Chipotle)… it will be figuring out how to store energy.

That’s right:  Batteries.

While the world has an endless supply of sun, we don’t have a mechanism to store all that free energy.  Because batteries are woefully inefficient.

And dirty, their disposal is incredibly toxic to the environment.

Whoever figures out how to store the free energy of the sun — and, as important, not kill us in the process — may actually be the world’s first trillionaire.

Wow, I said it.  I used the “T” word for the very first time.

That’s the opportunity Tesla and Elon Musk has in front of them!

There are very few people that you can point to and say with certainty that that person changed your life.

I can. Fred Hargadon — Dean Fred — was the admissions head that let me into Stanford.

Almost all that I hold sacred… from my very closest friends… to my wife (introduced to me by one of those very closest friends)… to the technology opportunities afforded to me in Silicon Valley…

… all can be traced back to that man…

… who for some reason said yes to me instead of no.

Dean Fred has passed. Words fail me now in expressing just how grateful I am to him. Thank you, Dean Fred. My heart is heavy but, as always, warmed by fond memories and eternally appreciation of you.

– Royal Farros, B.S. Industrial Engineering 1981, M.S. Industrial Engineering 1983.

Obama has, or soon will, sign into law a raise in the minimum wage for federal workers.

Apparently, no one told the President that this is ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY… because the average federal employee salary of $78,467 is already FAR MORE than the average U.S. per capita income of $42,693.  (“I’m the boss, need the info!”, right?)

(This isn’t the first time he’s pulled this irresponsible maneuverhere’s my post when he did something like this back in 2010.)

The White House issued this statement:

     “It will also improve the value that taxpayers are getting from the federal government’s investment. Studies show that boosting low wages will reduce turnover and absenteeism, while also boosting morale and improving the incentives for workers, leading to higher productivity overall.”

Really?  On what planet do those economics work?  Lucky us, we’re all going to pay these employees more to continue working less.

Completely and utterly unproductive spending.  The worst kind.

Rarely can I say, “I’m not old enough” these days… but I’m not old enough to have seen Shirley Temple movies when they were new… but I certainly saw reruns my entire youth… what kid didn’t… she could light up an entire room with just a smile… who didn’t love to sing along with, “On the Good Ship Lollipop”?!

Sadly Shirley Temple passed this morning.

She’s one of the very, very few childhood megastars (she was #1 at the box office from 1935-1938, beating out other superstars like Clark Gable and Bing Crosby) that actually lived a normal, scandal-free life… going on to be politically active… but claiming her greatest roles in life were being a wife, mother, and grandmother.

But how big was she really?  During the depression years, President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”  That’s how big.

I have a regret… I knew she lived in this area… I think maybe just a few streets over… and I always thought it would be wonderful to just knock on her door and say hello.  I imagined she would look like one of those TV moms, busied, but with a warm, welcoming smile.

I wish I had done that.  Thank you, Shirley Temple, for the great memories.

I’ve always thought Steve Young was the best role model in sports.  Not just a top performer on the field, but I’ve heard story after story where he was incredibly patient and gracious off the field, too.  A guy you truly want to root for.

I believe Andrew Luck and Toby Gerhart are those types of people, too.

And now, after watching and hearing some of the post Superbowl stories about Peyton Manning — after getting destroyed in  Superbowl 48 and in a position where 99.999% of us would have been completely justified showing a little emotion — Peyton teaches us what it’s like to be a true gentleman in victory and defeat.

Now that’s grace under fire.  A role model for sports… and way, way beyond.