The Technology Trigger
Percy stumbled into the kitchen at Peddle and Pant Cycles. He was furious. He’d been working on the green initiative for months and the latest prototypes had been no more successful than the first. He needed a caffeine fix.
As he wrestled with the Calzoncini Espresso machine, Henry from Sales sauntered in “ahh, coffee” he said.
“Damn thing” said Percy “its ‘start clean cycle’ light keeps flashing, but when I do that it produces error 47 which, according to the manual, means ‘the machine is too furred up to start the clean cycle’. Pants!”.
“I thought you guys in R&D would be up to handling a coffee machine” chortled Henry “So how are things going? We’re desperate for something new.”
“Well,” began Percy “I have been working on this idea…”
“Go on Perce, tell me about it, you guys with brains the size of planets have got to do something to help save the company”.
“It’s not really ready for demo yet, but I think I’ve found a way to use recycled waste to supplement the pedalling power of the cyclist”.
“Wow, like you wouldn’t need to peddle going uphill?”
“Not exactly, it’s all about the calorific value of the waste in relation to the mass of the cyclist, what we call the Fat Coefficient, which has to be …”.
“Yeh, whatever, Perce”, said Henry sliding out of the kitchen thinking that a pint would be better than virtual coffee and techno babble.
The Wheel and Whatsit was pretty full, even for December lunchtime, but Henry managed to squeeze into a seat with his pint.
“Cold one” said the overweight gent opposite wedged between the wall and the table, “bet you’d not want to be going out this evening, would you?”
“I suppose not” said Henry as he downed half of his Winter Warmer and started to relax. He couldn’t get what Percy had said out of his mind, even though he’d not really understood it. His mind was starting to brainstorm ideas of what he might be able to offer some of his more stubborn customers.
“No, you’d prefer sitting by the fire, I’m sure” sniffed the gent, wiping his beard on his red jacket. “You’d not want to be chasing all over the place, delivering stuff.”
“Err, no” replied Henry. He was dreaming about how easy it was going to be to sell bicycles to people if they didn’t actually have to pedal them.
“Thing is,” the gent persevered, “I’m in a bit of a spot of bother, I’ve got a big job on tomorrow night and Rudolph’s got Swine Flu. Poor bugger, his nose is lit up like a traffic light”
“What I need, more than anything else” the gent tried again “is alternative transport. I’d pay almost anything for something that would get me out of this hole”.
The sniff of paying customer focused Henry’s mind, “Really? Do you think a bicycle would work? Of course, you wouldn’t have to pedal it”.
“A bicycle you don’t have to pedal? How would that work then?”
“Well” replied Henry, getting into his stride “it’s all to do with the Fat Coefficient and some very clever waste recycling”
“Did you say fat?” the gent looked faintly miffed.
“Coefficient, oh yes. The more the better”
Trough of disillusionment
“What do you mean, an ‘early adopter’” gasped Percy. “I said it was an idea. Not a technology. Not a prototype. Not a product. Just an idea”.
“Yeh, yeh, I know, but you guys are so smart, I’m sure you’ll figure something out. It’s a really high profile customer, fantastic PR opportunity and absolutely money no object. I can charge anything for it”.
“Look the whole thing about Percy’s Perpetual Peddler, the PP,” Percy elaborated with some pride “is that it would assist the peddling, not replace it. And it would need plenty of the waste product to keep it going”
Henry got the old gent on his mobile “Hi Santa, just to let you know that the Hype Cycle is going to be A OK for tonight’s run, just need to iron out a couple of details with you”
Percy was going puce and starting to foam at the mouth “don’t forget the waste product” he hissed between clenched teeth.
“Sure, sure” Henry continued “Got that, 2.5 billion deliveries, yep, 48 hours, yep”
“But that’s 3.4 nanoseconds per delivery” yelled Percy
“Yep, sure. The scientists have done the calculations and see no insurmountable problems” carried on Henry cheerily. “Just want to make you aware that the Hype Cycle relies on recycling some waste products. Oh sure … what waste product? Just let me check”
“PP” said Percy “it needs plenty of it too”
“Ok Santa, the Hype Cycle is just going to be taking a little piss, that’s all. Shouldn’t be a problem if you stop for the odd refreshment at the Wheel and Whatsit. We’ll deliver it this afternoon”
Slope of enlightenment
“Oh no,” groaned Henry as he entered Percy’s laboratory and saw the Hype Cycle for the first time “It’s more like Mrs Armitage’s bicycle than a futuristic solution to Santa’s delivery problem. Surely we can make it look better? How about some fins and go-faster stripes?”
Percy fumed with indignation.
“Well, let’s give it a try then, Perce” said Henry climbing into the saddle.
“Ok, I’ve put a litre of PP in the tank, just peddle away.” Instructed Percy.
Henry pushed on the pedals and the Hype Cycle started to inch forward. Suddenly something kicked in and he was catapulted forward at immense speed, for about 2 metres. Then there was a loud sucking, gurgling noise and it juddered to a halt. No matter how hard he pushed on the pedals he couldn’t make it move any further.
“You see,” said Percy “the tank is empty already. It takes rather a lot of waste product, but it’s got fantastic potential don’t you think?”
“Perce, this Hype Cycle is completely useless.” stammered Henry “What are we going to do about Santa?”
“Well Henry, if you’d listened to me in the first place…”
“Listening to you in the first place is what got us into this mess; I’m going to have to call Santa. You need to figure out what you’re going to do with this pile of junk”
Plateau of productivity
That evening Percy and Henry were in the Wheel and Whatsit.
“So what did Santa say?” asked Percy “I bet he was pretty pissed off.”
“Well no,” replied Henry “turns out that Rudolph did not have Swine Flu, just a bit of sniffle, and he’ll be ok for tonight’s run. Have you figured out what to do with your pile of junk?”
“Well,” perked up Percy “this afternoon I discovered that when I run the Hype Cycle it emits a strange gas. I’d not noticed it before because it is much, much lighter than air; so it was all collecting on the ceiling”.
“Well, this stuff is so much lighter than air that I think we can fill the frames of our too heavy bikes with it and make them much lighter. In fact, just before we came out I managed to work out that our carbon fibre bikes should have a negative surface pressure index if we fill the tyres as well”.
“What? You mean the bike would weigh nothing?” Henry was immediately thinking of how much fun they would have with the comparison charts in ‘Which Wheelies’ if they could demonstrate a negative weight.
“Not exactly,” continued Percy, looking concerned at the faraway look in Henry’s eyes, “and we’ll have to figure out what to do about the fact that it is highly explosive…”
[Actually, it is Gartner’s Hype Cycle, but why let a detail like that get in the way of a good story?]