Thursday, February 18, 2010

Proof of Reverse Evolution

I just read in V-Twin News (not to be confused with the similarly named purveyor of questionable quality parts) that Harley Davidson is in process of introducing a new parts numbering system. The quite understandable problem is that they were running out of available digits in the old system.

Let's back up for just a moment. Harley's first (to the best of my knowledge) parts numbering system was quite simple. My 1926-1939 Harley parts catalog starts with part number 2-24 and ends with 7424-32. The two digits at the end indicated the year of introduction of the part. Simple yet effective, however as time went one, no doubt available digits became scarce.

The next parts numbering system is the one that we all know and love, and is the one that was in use well before I was turning wrenches for a living. This system uses, for most major parts, five digits and then a dash followed by the year of introduction of that part, just as the earlier system did. For example, in the earlier system, a tappet roller for 45" Twins was 208-29. In the later numbering system, the same part was 18535-29. From what I understand all of the current part numbers will remain valid, and only new parts coming on line will receive the latest part numbering system.

So, "what is your point and what in the world does it have to do with your title?" you are no doubt wondering. Well, just this; It seems that the more we know, the dumber we get. I once heard that the normal human brain can comfortably keep four numbers in it's short short term memory. I prove that to myself every time I have to write account numbers on checks as I pay bills. Try it for yourself. Look at your credit card. Broken down into four sets of four digits, it is simple to copy onto a piece of paper. Now put those 16 digits down on paper without any spaces or dashes. Copy them now. Not so easy is it? Better yet, now double check your work!

Now, I suppose no one employed by Harley Davidson had ever heard of such a thing (or at least none of those in charge of coming up with the new numbering system). But did anyone even consider asking a parts counter man what he thought? Here is a sample part number as given in the V-Twin News article: 34500008. That's right, eight digits with no spaces. And the introduction year? Well, that info will be available, but no longer contained in the part number itself. If you are still having trouble counting the zeros in that sample, here's a hint. Count the number of other digits, and subtract from eight.

I am sure there won't be any mis-ordered parts due to this system! (sarcasm) Obviously the person who came up with it never had to look in a parts book and then walk back to a shelf to find the part. and there's nothing like waiting for a special order part for a week, so that you can finish a job, only to find you copied one number wrong and bought a $900 crank assembly instead of the $1 gasket that you needed.

There is no doubt that the human race is gaining more knowledge all of the time. We are in the "Information Age" as it is called, but information is not the same thing as intelligence, and it certainly is not the same thing as common sense. The new Harley parts numbering system? Just a silly little inconsequential example of not looking before you leap, or else a prime example of how you can't teach an old dog new tricks ......whichever way you prefer to look at it.

1 comment:

Electra Glide In Blue said...

Nothing like re-inventing the wheel and making it square. Solid proof of reverse evolution.