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Eric, i think maybe you are right, universal might not be the right word
to apply to a particular object but it does seem to fit a top of the
domain ( a class of objects ).
In the street light example, the class of traffic control devices (
whether green on the top or bottom is embedded in the functionality of the
system that controls auto traffic on streets. The system provides the
unitity both to designer and user and all who are part of the traffic).
The details of the design that implement a particular functionality
internally (of a specific part by a particular manufacturer) are of no
consequence to the utility of the standards involved in the integrated
The unversaity is in utility to the system, the uniqueness might be better
described as in the system part that supports a piece of the system
utility. In most systems that are dependent on standards, the standards
are applied to force the part designers to make their part integrate with
the utility of the system.
As in an aircraft landing system, from pilot to designer all know the
meaning of outmarker, middle marker, and decision height indicators, RVR,
etc. These essentials to utility are standards: the chart designers, the
pilots, the part designers, and the regulators all know such meanings and
can reliability interpret functionality no matter the patented
proprietary details that one designer incorporated into a particular part
which complies with the system standard.
Implementations might range from ancient electronics to modern laser
systems, but they produce signals that are part of the functioning system
of universals that make each part of the system function the same: from
pilot, aircraft designer, instrument designer, parts designers, ATC and so
on. Whether they were designed or built, in 1888 or yesterday afternoon
is of no consequence, and who built the part is of no conseqnence, no one
has a patent or proprietary interest in the functions of the system that
are necessary to its operation or use, only they might have such
proprietary interest a particular part which produces
a function that fits into the standardized system.
So where the open source is necessary is in the utility functions of the
system taken as a whole. Whee room for independent genius might be found,
is in the design and implementation of parts that fit into the
system. but anyone ought to be able to design parts that fit into that
system. Without that flexibility their is in fact no universality
to the system, there is merely one implementation of a possible system.
The utility that keep the air traffic control system operational is open
system. Anyone can design a part that somehow fits, but noone can design
function which only that one part can implement.
The ATC color scheme is the same. Nearly everyone, even those unfamiliar
with the language in a foreign country can understand the meaning and
apply it (utility function). In the case of landing when no electronic
communications can be established. if one sees a green steady light on the
landing space, one can safely land, but if one sees instead red lights,
one knows it is unsafe to land. Who made the device which created the
signal is not material to the utility of the system.
Interoperability is an essential necessity to the functioning system.
Every part that is to used in the ATC system must fit into the plane,
or must operate in a standard way on the ground, it must give standard
signals, and it must integrate completely in all radians of the sphere of
its operation and inter system integration with all other parts in
the system. The way it does these things can be very, very unique.
So all inputs, outputs, and plugins must comply with the standard
functions that provide the universality of operation that keeps
ATC a functioning system.
In summary then, the interoperability (that is the connections between
parts and the transport of data over those connections is what must be
made the standard), how those connections and implementations of transport
are designed or function is of no consequence to the utility which the
standard is designed to implement. But patents or copyrights cannot be
used in such a system where they might interfere with the universal
utility. Anyone can design to the utilty. (in the case of ATC it is take
off, landing, and air traffic separation which are the functions that
standards apply to).
On Wed, 5 May 2004, Eric van der Vlist wrote:
> On Tue, 2004-05-04 at 17:48, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
> > One point that might differentiate standard from specification.
> > A standard is like a street light. Everyone uses it, recognizes it,
> > and is made better off by it as opposed to other alternatives.
> > Or the electric wall socket and its matching plug, or clothes in the form
> > of shirt and pants and shoes, or doors in standard sizes and or windows in
> > standard sizes.
> > Standard implies universal distribution, universal acceptance, universal
> > adoption.
> Hmmm.... universal seems like a big word here, especially if you look at
> your previous examples: your electric socket and mine are most probably
> different and they bring different voltages and frequencies. So do
> cloth, door and windows sizes.
> Note that it doesn't prevent me from bringing my laptop from Paris to
> the states nor to buy clothes and use doors and windows in the US or UK.
> All these are standards. They are in no way universal but this has
> little impact on the overall interoperability.