The Grey Chronicles

2009.January.18

Swiss Knife Mentality


With the popularity of Swiss Army Knives, most software designer adopted this mentality of having all the tools— necessary or not—lumped into one contraption or suite.

Victorinox's SwissChamp

Victorinox's SwissChamp

Victorinox’s Swiss Army Knives elegantly developed by Charles Elsener in 1891 became popular throughout the world because of its high quality, versatility and excellence in design. Victorinox manufactures only some 10 different Pocket Knives with one or two blades, but more than 300 different Pocket Tools or Multi Tools. The Original Swiss Army Knife, Large consists of the following: (1) large blade, (3) corkscrew, (4) can opener with (5) small screwdriver, (6) cap lifter, (7) screwdriver, (8) wire stripper, (13) scissors, (14) multi-purpose hook, (10) stainless key ring, (11) tweezers, (12) toothpick, (19) nailfile, (30) ballpoint pen, and (31) stainless steel pin. The standard SwissChamp boasts of at least 22 features, the XLT with 50 and XAVT with 80 features, while the SwissTool Spirit has 40 features. Aside from the components already mentioned above, the SwissChamp shown right contains (2) small blade; (9) punch reamer; (10) key ring; (15) wood saw; (16) fish scaler with (17) hook disgorger, (18) ruler (cm+inches); (19) nailfile with (20) metal file, (21) nail cleaner, (22) metal saw; (23) 2.5 mm. screwdriver; (24) chisel and scraper; (25) pliers with (26) wire cutters and (27) wire crimping tool; (28) Phillips screwdriver; (29) magnifying glass; (32) mini-screwdriver; and (33) sewing eye. Other specialized models could include an orange peeler, cigar cutter, letter opener, magnifying glass, LED, window breaker, seatbelt cutter, digital clock, chisel, spirit level, shapening stone, rustless safety pin, comb, fish scaler, nylon string, or sewing eye (Victorinox, 2008).

Examples of the Swiss Knife-mentality applied to software are: office productivity suites for example: Microsoft Office Basic Suite which could consist of Word for word processing; Excel for spreadsheets; PowerPoint for presentation; Outlook for email, calendar and address book, and tasks management; and Access for database management. Similarly, Sun’s OpenOffice is the leading open-source office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. Likewise, while initially addressing only the most malicious, antivirus companies have recently released their own suites to tackle almost all types of malware: virus, spyware, trojans and the like. Some AV suites have also included a spam filters, firewalls, anti-spyware and parental control ported to the application. A security software suite is often cheaper than buying individual programs. Also, digital imaging also came up with a suite to browse, edit, convert format or scan images and pictures, or make them into screensaver, slideshow, PDF, HTML album, or Contact Sheet; or share photos, music and video files online (ACD Systems, 2004).

Nowadays, single applications or utilities doing their respective jobs are rare. Most of these applications are now only available at Internet Archive or in some outdated software collection web sites. The original WinAmp played audio files, meanwhile the present 5.0 versions integrates Video, Internet Radio, eMusic; mix tracks and can rip/burn audio CDs and integrates Album Art (NullSoft, 2008).

Probably when the DotCom bubble burst in 2000, some of the small software companies were gobbled up by the remaining enterprises and the small software applications were fused with the latter’s to form the suites. The good thing with small applications was the fact that there were fewer bugs to conquer. With suites, the bigger the application footprint, the greater are the propensity for bugs: thus, patches, fixes, versions and the like are frequently issued.

Maybe it’s continuous quality improvement or the quest for perfection. Recently even household appliances and personal gadgets are applying the same Swiss Knife-mentality. I just saw a refrigerator with a LCD television, plus an ice maker, a water dispenser, a FM tuner, a recipe browser connected to the Internet. New models of HD television also incorporates a DVD/CD player, FM/AM/SW radio and web interconnectivity. Cellphones at present also acts as a radio, camera, beeper, alarm clock, calendar, MP3 player, GPS receiver, wallet, Internet modem or audio recorder.

Maybe somewhere in the world, there exist a solar house with all the modern amenities built-in plus a gorgeous wife, a handsome son and a beautiful daughter as added bonus? Aha! People are really accumulator of things!


Notes & Sources:

Victorinox (2008). Victorinox’s Product Catalog, 11 April 2008. 59pp. back to text

ACD Systems (2004). ACDSee 7 (Build 102), 2004. back to text

NullSoft, Inc. (2008). WinAmp v5.531 (x86), 2008. back to text

Disclaimer : The posts on this site are my own and doesn’t necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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