• A trip down memory lane

    I have been getting up to go to work at SBFI for the past 18 1/2 years. I have just started my retirement so I want to take a quick trip down memory lane about my time in manufacturing and especially my time at SBFI.

    I left school in 1970 with a few minor qualifications; there were not many subjects I liked, and many I disliked, Latin was probably the worst. Having just stepped into my retirement, and after (almost) 50 years working in manufacturing industry, one Latin phrase now springs to mind, “tempus fugit”, time fly’s! I’ve been asked about the changes I’ve seen in that time, and at a glance I thought not much is different, however delving deeper the changes have been huge!

    On leaving school I started an apprenticeship in Hove with US machine tool manufacturer Kearney & Trecker. Numeric Control (NC) had been developed in the late 1950’s, however electronics changed much slower back then, and even in 1970 it was state of art technology. Machine movement was produced using (very leaky) hydraulic servo motors and the smallest speck of contamination caused havoc.

    When the first CNC Controllers were introduced around 1975 I was amazed that they had so much memory….8K came as standard, with sales options to upgrade to 16, 32, 64 with 128K being the maximum. For large aerospace machines cutting aircraft wing skins or similar parts with cycle times lasting many hours, 128K was not enough memory. An external “bubble memory” could be purchased, which was a type of magnetic integrated circuit that used out of phase waveforms to create magnetic domains nicknamed “bubbles”. The downside of these devices was the cost, which in the late 1970’s was around the same as a new Porsche sports car; they were superseded by RAM memory!

    In the early 1990’s I changed jobs and started work in the electronics industry in Brighton, manufacturing data acquisition cards for pc’s. Although standalone pc’s had been used in the workplace since the mid 1980’s, their common use in the office started in the late 1980 with the IBM pc. Steeped in electronics, the pc was an integral part of the Company, a buzz went around the office every time Intel released a new processor; this increased to a crescendo when chip clock speeds started to exceed 100MHz in the mid 1990’s.

    With pc’s now controlling CNC machines, and chip clock speeds measured in GHz, what of change at SBFI? . Our Aspect desk range is very intricate and has greater functionality than it’s predecessors; in fact they make the universal desk of the mid 1990’s now looks like a dinosaur. One of the most significant changes is the switch to sit/stand desks, and this probably has the greatest advantage for the users. The other huge change, not surprisingly, relates to the speed of change in the electronics industry. Firstly the move away from Cathode Ray Tube monitors sitting on the rear of the desk, and ensuring compatibility of the SBFI Axiom and Arc arm products, with fast changing flat screen technology.

    What of change outside of work? As I started work we were about to join the European Union, and as I finish work we are about to leave! My weekly wage back in 1970 was £4 14s 6d; luckily a pint of beer (not that I was old enough to drink) was only about 3s (15p)! To arrange a pub night out with mates, I had to walk half a mile to the nearest phone box. Today a pint is more than what my whole weekly wage was, and it’s possible to pay by phone, without even going up to the bar!

    Considering change, I like the quote by Lenin at the height of the Russian Revolution, (no I wasn’t around then) “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,”

    I’ve loved my time at SBFI, my job has been brilliant, challenging and very stimulating, and I’m going to miss that! SBFI hasn’t been around for 42 years by chance, it’s due to the dedication and hard work of the people!

    By Peter Groves – Former QA Manager at SBFI Group