Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

Compared to the internet, real life can be a drag
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The Independent Online

The internet. You can't beat it. The Independent ran a feature about the rush hour into Bombay. In the vivid description of three-to-a-shirt commuters hanging off the train doors, the writer mentioned a computer programmer who lived in a shanty town outside the city. Of course! That's what my project needs. A highly-skilled, highly-motivated, broadband-connected programmer prepared to work for $8 an hour.

I Google India "electronics voice chip programmers". I get 504,000 results. Five hundred thousand and four opportunities! The first one offers a revolutionary new chip that runs at ten times the speed of anything on the market. Exactly what I want. Brilliant. I click through the links to the company in one of the world's far-flung cities, to their product, to their website, to their distributors... I end up with a representative in "the village of Bramley, near Basingstoke" and their site says, "we are a representative, not a distributor" and they don't have an e-mail address.

How quickly one gets discouraged. Having been put off once, I realise there are five hundred thousand and three calls I'm not going to make. Compared to the internet, the real world is very disappointing.

Not that I'm disparaging the internet. I wouldn't be where I am today without it. Last December I Googled "clock manufacturers China" and got a million results. Over a million, in fact. You wouldn't think the world need a million clocks let alone a million clock manufacturers.

You type in what you're looking for. You click the boxes of four or five dozen companies and go to bed. The next morning your inbox is full of replies. You've got a market place jabbering on your desktop. And what deals they offer: quotes so low they make you laugh. Here's a big, fat alarm clock with bells to wake the dead and it's 65p. It's eight inches high!

This excitement was deftly quelled by my project manager. He thinks of himself as the real world. He laid out what had to be done. "You need a bill of materials. Costed components, each one numbered in production sequence. Where's the split line going? Are you having pad printing? Will it be painted? That means undercoating, top coating, finishing, baking. The printed circuit boards need to be prepared, coated, squeegeed, assembled, cooked, sealed, tested. Who's doing the certifying? The radiation tests? The susceptibility tests? The drop tests? The vibrational tests? The biggest test problem is booking the time they booked up six months in advance...

I'm sorry, I don't have time for this. People try to hold you back, you know. You can always get another project manager. On the internet.