WTF #14: Thinking Ahead

WTF #14: Thinking Ahead

One of the odd things I’ve come across walking the sidewalks of Shanghai are these peculiar ribbed designs on virtually every sidewalk I’ve come across. Here are a few examples courtesy of yours truly:

These are sidewalks for the blind. Ribbed designs indicate a straight path while round bumps indicate a turn or intersection. It’s quite the sight as they’re not only put down outdoors, but also inside subway stations as well leading all the way to the subway doors.

Shanghai is a fairly new city. It’s an odd statement seeing how Shanghai used to a stronghold of foreign presence after the Opium Wars in the 19th century. Still, much of Shanghai has been torn down and put up anew in the last decade. In trying to turn Shanghai into a modern and model Chinese city, someone (or some government body) had the foresight to think about putting these things down as new roads are being built. This got me thinking about thinking ahead. I’m sure it’s not cheap to put down these blind sidewalks, but surely, it’s cheaper to do it upfront then to retrofit down the road.

This type of thinking ahead is what I’m trying to get my young team of engineers to try to do more often. Think ahead about how you plan to test your designs because how you plan to test your design will influence your design. Think ahead about how you plan to physically floorplan your circuits, because your floorplan will influence your design. Think ahead about how the larger system behaviour may affect your circuit, because how the system behaves will influence your design.

Lord knows we’ve been caught with our pants down more than once by not adding enough visibility into our designs, making probing critical signals very hard to do. And when your pants are down, probing hard to reach places is not something I look forward to.

If you have stories about how a little more up front thinking would have saved you a world of pain in your design, I’d love to hear about it.

On a side note, government spending public money to help the needy (blind people in this case), how socialist of them. I wonder who they got their inspiration from. Perhaps this t-shirt will gives us a clue.

What The Flux is a semi-regular weekendish feature on that follows the follies and jollies of an engineer in industry, yours truly.


Well, sorry to dissapoint, but these kind of blind sidewalks are the norm in many European cities (in e.g. Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Germany, Austria, etc.), so I guess that’s likely where the Chinese inspiration comes from.

I was being sarcastic, of course, seeing how I’ve never seen these sidewalks in North America and how Obama’s opponents like to portray him as socialist/communist/Kenyan/etc. (the design of the t-shirt usually has Chairman Mao underneath the hat and the handwriting underneath is Mao’s own calligraphy). I certainly don’t doubt what you say, but I haven’t seen these sidewalks in various cities that I’ve visited in France, Italy, or Switzerland. Perhaps these countries like to torture the blind as an after-dinner hobby.

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