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Fast Lane

Celebrating 110 Years Of Connectivity

“I read trade magazines,” Howard Hughes tells Kate HepburnÂ’s family during a dinner party scene in the new movie, The Aviator, indicating his strong preference for this particular information stream. It occurs to me he probably read AI. A ringing endorsement, I call it. (Please donÂ’t send me e-mail telling me thatÂ’s what drove him crazy! My wife already threw that dart.)

But it’s true and interesting to me that during the WWII production years, aviation was as important to AI as other vehicle and weaponry systems from the Arsenal of Democracy. The Boeing Stratoliner, which Hughes helped design and finance, the Lockheed Constellation, as well as the “Spruce Goose” all appeared on the pages of AI.

Simon Ramo and Dean Woolridge went to work for Hughes in 1948 working on radar detection and navigation systems for aircraft and later pooled their interests with Thompson Products to form none other than TRW.

And while TRW Automotive today is a very different, restructured corporate entity, it does produce automotive adaptive cruise control systems that are based on radar. I find the connectivity simply amazing and one of the paths of connectivity lies in our editorial pages over the years. Simon Ramo was also involved with early numerical controls for machine tools that led to the PLC (programmable logic controller) operation of Bunker Ramo, soon purchased by Allen-Bradley, and eventually acquired by Rockwell International.

Since 1895, Automotive Industries has been providing connectivity in a continual stream of vital information on people, product and process. Those are the building blocks that bring the industry all together. Automotive Industries is always adapting to the needs of its readers and that is probably why it has survived wars, depressions and the continual and rampant restructuring of the industry it serves.

There was a choice to be made with this issue. We could dwell on the past 110 years, but we chose to concentrate on the last 10 and what we consider to be the most important people, product and process developments to take place since 1995, not 1895. Why recapture what was already so well captured for our 100th Annniversary Issue? The industry challenge right now is to develop a new business model that produces a profit and attracts more investment. Stripping away layers of vertical integration on the one hand and the agglomeration of supplier resources among fewer companies on the other, have not produced many improved balance sheets. Yet there are always new players with attractive new technologies and products.

Also to the good, the industry is producing some tremendous vehicles, providing the consumer the greatest range of choice in history. And quality has improved over the entire range of manufacturers. Vehicles last longer, perform better, protect passengers more completely.

Looking out from the vantage of our 110 years of providing connectivity, one has to have the leap of faith that says there will be those who solve the riddles, surmount the challenges.

And I bet many of those problems will be solved by people I care about most, “people who read trade magazines,” people like you! So keep connecting with AI as we reinvent the wheels. Join us for the latest spin.

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