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June 23, 2008

Tablet PC: We could use a hammer....

"We could use a hammer..." That's the tag line of MobileDemand's latest video in their Tablet PC Torture Chamber Series where a man uses a Tablet PC to hammer a bunch of large nails into a board. The video is the latest in a series of increasingly sophisticated and outrageous demonstrations of just how tough their Tablet PC is.

Usually, rugged equipment is dropped or exposed to water to show that it can survive the kind of punishment encountered in the field. MobileDemand's earlier videos pretty much followed that tradition. xTablets were dropped, exposed to showers, rolled down a hill and so on. But soon the videos showed drops more extreme than anything that would likely happen in the real world. And instead of being exposed to a showerhead, the computer was strapped to the top of a car and run through a car wash five times, with the computer running and its display on camera during the whole ordeal.

And now the "We could use a hammer..." video. It's very smart. No one would actually use a computer as a hammer (though, come to think of it, I've used a variety of objects as hammers when none was handy), but the image of using that sophisticated piece of electronic equipment as a hammer certainly drives the point home, no pun intended.

Using the xTablet Tablet PC computer as a hammer really means to illustrate a point: shock and vibration do happen in the field. If you use a machine in a truck or as a data capture device you do not intend to damage it, but sooner or later it will fall. And constant vibration is affecting the computer. Eventually things can happen. Electrical parts may touch and short-circuit. Fasteners may come loose. Structural pieces may crack. Seals may deform and begin leaking. Electrical contacts may become unreliable. The display panel may become get out of alignment. Fasteners and ties may get loose. Wiring may chafe. Materials may fatigue and then break. Parts may deform or crack. And so on. At best, sealing may be compromised, electrical noise may be introduced, and individual parts are headed for failure. At worst, the computer fails.

This is why manufacturers usually provide test data, usually how a product performed when using the procedures described in MIL-STD-810F. Those procedures try to replicate conditions actually encountered in the field during transportation and operation. That makes sense, but the testing is quite involved and not very easy to interpret. Witness the following caution regrading acceleration testing found in MIL-STD-810F 514.5:

Care must be taken to examine field measured response probability density information for non-Gaussian behavior. In particular, determine the relationship between the measured field response data and the laboratory replicated data relative to three sigma peak height limiting that may be introduced in the laboratory test.

That's a mouthful, and the results are even more difficult to read. General integrity test conducted may then yield results such as, say, a power spectral density of 0.04G²/Hz, 20 to 1000Hz, descending 6dB/oct to 2000Hz. MobileDemand, like all the other serious rugged equipment vendors and manufacturers, has its gear tested in accordance with the MIL-STD-810F (and other) procedures, but what has more impact, some tech specs comprehensible only to engineers or a video of a man using the that rugged Tablet PC as a hammer and it still works?

"We could use a hammer..."

Brilliant.

To see the "We could use a hammer..." video, click this Blip.tv link.

Posted by conradb212 at June 23, 2008 03:46 PM

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