Quote Originally Posted by gmwillys View Post
Unobtainium is a perfect term around here. I see it used constantly.
I’ve just got to tell this story:

In the early 1970’s I was working on a proposal for some aircraft radio system on which Magnavox (the company name that year) was teaming with another company as a bidder. We were writing proposal sections under impossible deadlines and trying to write “here is how we are going to do it” stories quicker than the real engineers could finish analyses of what was possible.

I was writing a transmitter section and every analysis we had done indicated that the transistors were going to be way too hot to meet the reliability guidelines we had been assigned. It was about two o’clock in the morning and in weak moment I made the statement that we would meet the derating spec by using high temperature silicon-unobtainium alloy final devices in the transmitter. (I honestly don’t know if I had ever heard the term before, I may be a co-inventor…). I knew full well that one of the staff reviewers would catch that remark and I would have to rewrite it the next day – but it was getting to be Oh-light-thirty and I was out of ideas.

By the next day another panic hit and I never revisited the unobtainium section. The proposal draft was sent off to the integration team at the prime contractor (it may have been Sylvania) and folks started to pull things together. Someone found the phrase about 1:00 AM in another all nighter session. As I found out later, the prime contractor threw a fit – but as more people read the section it got funnier and funnier and people ended up in a case of the sillies.

It actually led to folks taking a look at what were patently unrealistic reliability specifications and modifying several sections to reflect reality. I got the Golden Pencil Award for that proposal – a badly gnawed #2 Yellow Pencil with No Eraser glued to a scrap of plywood with a marking pen inscription.

I would probably get fired for that today. People take things ‘way too seriously. As I once told the boss of the month “Don’t take yourself so seriously, sir. Nobody else does.”