21st November 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

If it works well … (Donnie McDonald)

When I was a child my grandfather, an engineer, made for me a remarkable machine. There was a central mechanism, surrounded by a system of cogwheels and gears that assisted in driving and controlling the whole device. I used to gaze at it and marvel at its elegant symmetry.

One day I decided to take it apart. When I attempted reassembly the results were disastrous. I was left with a central conglomeration of components that ground to a halt whenever I tried to set the thing in motion. It was heartbreaking. The device could never be made to work properly again.

Thus I learned how thoroughly foolish and inadvisable it is to dismantle a model that has demonstrated excellence in its operation.

Donnie McDonald
Boddam Schoolhouse.


  1. Peg Young

    As the saying goes,”If it ain’t broke,why fix it?”

  2. donnie mcdonald

    Yes, but will this parable be heeded by those who matter? Let’s hope so.

  3. Point well made… and nicely written!

  4. Chris Ash

    Many things that have demonstrated excellence at one time have nevertheless gone on to be improved upon, modernised and made better. The long bow was excellent. The SA80 is better. Its replacement will be better still. The Series I Land Rover was excellent. The Series III was better. The Defender is better still. The principle applies equally to all things – no just technology. Everything can be improved upon and nothing is ever ‘perfect’. Nothing stands still and there’s no point burying one’s head in the sand, and hoping it will.
    While I generally agree that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, we must still be open to progress, change and improvement in all things. There’s little point adopting a luddite-like attitude to development and progress and watching our competitors leave us in their dust.

  5. John Tulloch

    I fully agree Chris, with the caveat that we need to be sure what is being proposed actually represents progress.

    The examples you quote are hardware for which it is easier to discern whether a new model is better than the last whereas, in the case of systems involving human behaviour, unexpected outcomes abound.

    It’s true progress isn’t limited to technology and Spanish football is an example where a new way of doing things produced a higher level of excellence than I recall seeing previously however I suspect they opened football schools, rather than close them.

  6. donnie mcdonald

    if the burst ball can be re-inflated there may yet be a chance.

    but the bean counters are calling the shots.

  7. Chris Ash

    Absolultely, Mr McDonald – these damn bean-counters and their crazy ideas of fiscal restraint. Why won’t they just spend, spend, spend and then – when the money runs out – just borrow a bit more and raise taxes. Then start all over again.


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