Every year more off the shelf solutions are available, but are we really any closer to building perfect solutions from pre-built parts?
We can find out by looking ahead. Waaay ahead, like 25th century kind of ahead. Luckily we have access to this era via the popular 1980s television space drama, Buck Rogers.
We will focus our study on the two robot stars of the series, Twiki and Dr. Theopolis. They exist in a rather bizarre symbiotic relationship. One is a complete idiot, yet is capable of movement and sight. The other is highly intelligent, yet sadly, a blind quadriplegic. Other characters of note in the series are a group of humanoids with feathers for hair, who fly giant robot birdships that have real working talons, perfect for swooping in on enemies and tearing their ships to bits. Sometimes, a laser just doesn’t cut it.
Dr. Theopolis is a technical marvel. One of the most intelligent human beings to ever exist, his brain was captured into a computer at the time of his death. One can only imagine what the specs for this project looked like. The end result had a couple of significant oversights however.
The most tragic omission is that whoever wrote the spec neglected to check on the ambulatory requirements for the good Doctor. We have here a robot with no means of locomotion. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at that unveiling!
"Behold," exclaims the Team Lead, "Dr.Theopolis!"
"Hello," blinks the brain of Dr.Theopolis, "it’s so great to be here."
"Excuse me," says a wizened captain, "but how exactly are we supposed to get him around the ship?"
An awkward silence ensues, followed by a frustrated outburst.
"Dammit," says the Business Analyst who wrote the functional specification, "no one said it needed legs. I asked them a hundred times if it needed legs and they all just stared at me. They kept asking whether he could have cool blinky lights. That’s what they asked for and that’s what they got."
Note in this future there is no concept of a WAN, or teleportation, so there is no way for the good doctor to simply insert himself into various chambers of this ship. They do however have advanced cryogenic capabilities as evidenced by their impressive defrosting of Buck Rogers. One has to wonder though, why they didn’t simply freeze Dr. Theopolis and restore him once they had cured what was ailing him. The Team Lead for the Dr. T restoration project was summarily fed to the birdman’s giant robot bird ship.
Anyway, back to the problem at hand. Dr. Theopolis has no arms, limbs, rollers, levitation devices, no nothing (except of course for his boss blinkers). Undoubtedly several meetings were held to determine what exactly should be done. At one of these meetings, a clever project manager bravely revisited a previous failure.
"Wait a sec," says the brave project manager, "remember that project from five years ago where we built the robot with arms and legs, but unfortunately no brains and gave him a voice like Fat Albert? Maybe we can put a guitar strap on Dr. T and Fat Albert can carry him around!"
The engineers object, this is a tragically unhip implementation. They were hoping no one would ever bring Twiki out of the broom closet where he'd been exiled. The Business Analysts are also upset, as they think their end users will be snickering behind their backs for years. Praise goes to whatever Project Manager simply pushed this project through, and got it done.
Is it perfect? Not at all.
Does it get the job done without incurring further dev cost? Yes! The only additional work required was to attach two buttons to either side of Dr Theopolis, which the hawk guy gladly did with the giant talons of his space ship.