Part story and part practical so your choice if you want to read this!
The evenings and nights were quiet and pleasant after the long hot summer days as the two of us sat on the grass alongside of the Swedish gliding team's caravan at the 1973 world gliding competitions at Waikerie in the state of South Australia.
Pentii, the Swedish Team Manager told me a little of his life story.
He was a Finn by birth but when Stalin's USSR invaded the independent Finland in the Winter War of November 1939, Pentii's parents took their small son to the border right up at the top of the Gulf of Bothnia and passed him over to their Swedish cousins to bring him up as a Swedish citizen.
[ Long after I found out that Pentii was also a Colonel in the Swedish army reserve and he was also the head of the entire very large Volvo European truck operations and maintenance division. ]
With extraordinary courage and skill the small Finnish nation of just a couple of million people defeated and destroyed Stalin's massive soviet invasion force.
The Germans then tried to use the reluctant Finns to open another front against the Russians and to envelope and over run Leningrad.
The Finns refused and Germans failed to overrun Leningrad.
The result was the longest at 872 days and most deadly siege in history with over 4.5 million [ known ] dead in the siege and battles surrounding Leningrad.
Finland signed a firm peace treaty with Stalin in late 1944 but the cost of preventing Russian domination was very high.
Finland lost over 10% of her territory and over 30% of her industrial capacity as the Russians took over Vipurii, the main Finnish industrial centre.
As Pentii told me on those warm summer nights long ago, a part of the reparations the Finns had to pay to the Russians was to build and provide the hundreds of thousands of rail cars to rebuild the rolling stock on the decrepit and nearly totally destroyed and worn out Russian rail system and they had to do it in about 5 years.
Now this was from a country with only a couple of million population and no steel or heavy manufacturing industry, their major industrial complex now in Russian hands and an economy crippled by a long disastrous and costly war.
Failure meant a Russian invasion and communist rule over all of the Finnish people.
So why am I quoting this bit of history?
Well the Finns won in the end!
As Pentii proudly told me, on the last day in the last hour the last rail wagon rolled onto the Russian rail network and Stalin stood his invasion armies down.
His excuse for the invasion of Finland was gone and the Americans had atomic armed B36 Super Fortress bombers patrolling along the Russian borders.
Not a good time to start another war.
And then the Russians found out just what sort of bargain they had got.
Nothing on those rail wagons was Russian standard.
The wheel bearings, bearing housings and axles were odd sizes,
The doors were non standard.
The door pivots were an odd size and configuration and so it went on right through all those hundreds of thousands of Finnish built rail wagons and the only place the Russians could get spares from, were the Finns!
The Russians paid and paid and paid for those rail wagon spares over the many years following and the Finns made a nice tidy profit that paid for those rail wagons and the rebuilding of their industrial base.
The Russians learnt from this and when Mao Tse Tung had to have some tens of thousands of trucks after the communist victory in China the Russians supplied their fraternal chinese brothers with the trucks at a good price per truck.
Then the Chinese found that every bolt, nut and screw in those trucks was a left hand thread!
And who was the only supplier of expensive left handed spares, the Russians of course!
So what has all this to do with Push Button Combines?
Take a look around you and probably nearly every single item you can see, feel, hear, touch, eat, drink and use will have a set of standards or a number of sets of standards that carefully details how those items are made, the materials and quality standards that must be met to sell those items and so on.
Standards, the criteria that any and everything we use in our modern society must or should meet are fundamental to our society continuing to operate.
Without formal standards that create the interchangeability of bolts and nuts and steel and wood and paint and trust that we place in something that meets a standard and the knowledge that we can trust a building, a bridge or an airliner or food because it is made or built to a standard using materials that are made to meet a standard and financed using money and financial instruments that must meet strict standards then without all those myriad of standards influencing and controlling every aspects of our everyday lives, our modern civilisation collapses.
Samuel Colt was about the first industrialist to standardise using standard, interchangeable parts on his revolvers so the parts could be made in batches and were then all interchangeable.
So the production of Colt revolvers jumped dramatically and the costs were reduced.
The British when their great rail expansion began, very quickly learn't that unless you could run your trains on other's lines and vice versa, then you were out of business very quickly so the British standard gauge of 4ft 8 1/2 inches was agreed on and the British and British colonial rail systems were then built and expanded at a phenomenal rate.
The problems that are created when something does not meet a standard are illustrated by the Russian / Finnish and Chinese experiences only in this rare case the Finns pulled a very fast one to their great advantage by not sticking to the Russian standards for their rail system as did the Russians later with the trucks supplied to the Chinese.
Combines and tractors have innumerable standards to meet such as PTO sizes, tyres, bearings, shafts, steel qualities, non toxic paint standards, sheet steel quality standards, electrical wiring and voltage and switch standards, belts, pulleys, chains, sprockets, uni joints, splines and so on.
They all have specifications and standards that must be met usually by law and that is society's protection from bad, dangerous and shoddy products and workmanship and the guarantee of intechangeability of so many items we use in our modern society.
Consumer electronics and electronics of all types, telecommunications, radio, TV, computer boards and racks, IC's pins , capacitors, transistors, plugs, wiring and etc and etc all have standards and tight specifications that must be met for our electronics to operate but standards which in some electronic sectors are constantly and rapidly changing as the electronics industry constantly continues to evolve.
There are numerous and evolving standards for data communication and transfer in the electronics / computer industry and one of the basic Ag data transmission standards is the german based ISOBUS system.
More info here on the Ag oriented International Standards Organisation's ; ISOBUS ; http://www.isobus.com/isobus_E/
And for a listing of the ISOBUS goals
ISOBUS standardizes hardware (plugs and cables) and software (the kind of data exchange) under system aspects.
ISOBUS generates universal tractors and terminals.
ISOBUS allows machinery and implements to be used, combined, and coordinated beyond the level of individual manufacturers such that optimal function is guaranteed.
ISOBUS automates machinery- and implement settings for different operations and thus combines the tractor, the mounted implements, and the terminal into a system with the qualities of a self-propelled machine.
ISOBUS extends the possibilities of precision farming through 'more intelligent' functions and GPS data integration.
ISOBUS standardizes order processing by agricultural service providers.
ISOBUS simplifies and standardizes operator prompting on the terminal for all jobs.
ISOBUS ergonomically combines the operation of all mounted implements.
ISOBUS also supports the control of the lighting systems and allows an additional plug to be dispensed with.
ISOBUS makes double information collection and -storage unnecessary.
Thanks to ISOBUS, farmers must support only one system in production.
Thanks to ISOBUS, implement manufacturers are compatible with all tractors.
You will notice that this is a data transfer standards system only and not a computer hardware system standard so we are still stuck with a whole variety of ever changing computer boards, and hardware and software configurations and programming languages both within manufacturer's product ranges and across manufacturers.
The situation we have with the current electronics in combines and tractors is not that different from the situation the Russians found themselves in with their only supplier being the Finns and the required article was not a "standard" product and there were no other options for the Russians to acquire alternative replacements.
We can only get those short production run boards from the one supplier, the combine or tractor manufacturer who consequently can set his own price if the farmer / operator wants to keep his nice high capacity combine operating or as we say in Australia, they "have us by the short and curlies" and that is something nobody gets particularly enamoured with.
As I have posted previously, we need a large capacity mother board or boards with a very large redundant capacity, ie; lots of spare computing and data storage capacity that is hardened against vibration and shock and well protected from dirt, moisture, extraneous electrical pulses and spikes and that is completely standardised so that it can be purchased from a number of sources and uses a standardised down load capability using a DVD or BluRay fully encrypted disc or a card or cube from the manufacturer to down load the necessary combine operating program onto the standardised board if it blows up or causes trouble and has to be replaced by purchasing another replacement board at the local machinery agency for no more than a couple of hundred dollars.
And that is no more than the expectation that the PTO will be a certain size and turn the right way or the machine will use a common type of fuel or the tyres can be brought down at the local tyre joint.
It only needs the manufacturers to get their heads out of the sand, get together and come up with a standard that gives all these necessary criteria for such a universal electronic computer control system to be implemented across all combine and tractor manufacturers.
Without such a universal system, so many of the new electronically controlled combines and tractors will be just so much junk in another decade or two and that has the capabilities of bankrupting some manufacturers as the farmers stop buying their products just because nobody can afford to pay for such a short life span due to electronic failures that lead to no available replacement boards or just too expensive replacements to justify keeping the machine operating.
But then, manufacturers have never been particularly smart at forecasting just what the farming community will do next mostly because they think they always know from their "surveys" a lot more than the farmer.
In some circles it's called hubris or arrogance and it has broken a lot of big companies