Archive for March, 2014

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.