Life Rule 2

“Easy is difficult.”

Subtitled the tale of two diesels. The principals:

Woods & Copland    1942 Cat

The machines pictured are two I had personal experience with. So what do a couple of pieces of heavy equipment have to do with the rule? In this case starting the beasts . The old Cat had a multiple stage means of starting. The primary motor was a diesel, but  to start it you first had to deal with a gas ‘pony’ motor. A rough outline; crank the pony motor, let it warm up, use hand clutch to have pony motor spin diesel, spin diesel for awhile, diesel coughs to life, let diesel warm up, do work.  For a more detailed account see ( and read the part ‘Starting an Old Cat’. Compare this to starting the Woods & Copland tractor; turn key . From the end user view point starting the tractor is easy compared to turning over the Cat. To make it easy though was difficult. The reason the Cat had the pony motor was that the electrical starter motor/battery combination’s of the day were not strong enough to spin the diesel motor. Over the years much work was done on this to get to the system that was on the tractor. Even so this particular tractor had a wrinkle. The earlier models from Woods and Copland used air starters to spin the 320 HP motor because 12V starters where not powerful/reliable enough. To make an electrical start system work this model actually had a 24V starter. The wrinkle was that the rest of the electrical system was 12V. How did this work you ask? Enter a electronic switch over module. The tractor had two 12V batteries. When you turned the key to the start position it switched the batteries into a series connection effectively creating a 24V battery. It also isolated the rest of the electrical system from the 24V. When you let the key return from the start position it put the batteries back into a parallel connection and reconnected the non-starter electrical system. Why do all this? 24V components are a lot more expensive then 12V ones and harder to find. This method was a compromise between power when you needed it and economy elsewhere.  Getting back to the rule. There is easy and there is easy. Many times what is presented as easy it really a veneer over a difficult process, think usability studies. Most I have seen are about hiding the complexity from the end user. Said end user hopefully comes away saying ‘that was easy’. What should not be lost sight of though is that the underlying process is still difficult.  Hence tech support.