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 Why so many engineers in the U.S.? (slightly O.T.) 
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Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:03 am
Posts: 285
Location: California
Relating to computer history and where the next processors will come from:

Someone asked me recently why the U.S. has so many engineers and scientists compared to most (definitely not all) other countries. I didn't immediately have a very good answer, but I suspect it has to do partly with being a major power in WWII and the Cold War, plus President Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the moon and bring him back safely before the end of the 60's. Obviously there's more to it than that, since the phone industry got started here long before that, the phonograph, the light bulb, telegraph, radio, TV, and so on.

I myself grew up in another country, and although there were electronics shops there (mostly for TV repair, plus a few hobby shops), it was nothing like the paradise I felt like I came back to in the States at age 14 where there were chain stores everywhere, like Radio Shack, Lafayette, Heathkit, etc., plus many stores that were not part of the chains, including surplus (much of it being from military and aerospace), and mail-order electronics stores galore, advertised in the electronics magazines (which we also didn't have where I was growing up). It was absolutely wonderful for this developing electronics nut! Even today, we find on the forums that electronics parts for hobbyists in many other countries are prohibitively expensive, partly due to customs or shipping costs.

But just how it all came about is something I'm not totally sure of, and would entertain discussion. I expect the higher standard of living was involved, since progress happens more easily when someone with an idea can more easily afford, or get the capital, to start making it, and the public can more easily afford to buy the product, providing a market for it. Education was no doubt involved, although now that has gone downhill, as we've discussed recently in another topic.

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Wed Oct 12, 2016 1:50 am WWW

Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
Posts: 1647
(I'm not really happy with this topic on this board, as it strays into politics and we already have too few on-topic conversations here. Anything which seeks to compare nations or nationalities is just not good territory to go into. And also, it's a somewhat presumptive question. See for example http://www.citylab.com/tech/2011/10/wor ... ology/224/ - a much better approach perhaps would be to ask how we - anyone - can encourage more engineers in our respective countries, or encourage engineering businesses, or encourage investment in engineering.)

Quote:
By combining all three of these measures, we end up with an overall Global Technology Index, a broad assessment of the technological and innovative capabilities of the world’s leading nations. The United States ranks third. Finland takes the top spot, followed by Japan. Israel’s fourth place finish may come as a surprise to some. But as Dan Senor and Saul Singer argue in Start-up Nation, Israel has relentlessly pursued an economic development strategy based on launching innovative firms. Israel has the highest concentration of engineers in the world—135 per 10,000 people, compared to 85 per 10,000 people in the United States. Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Korea, Germany, and Singapore round out the top ten.


Wed Oct 12, 2016 9:26 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:43 am
Posts: 186
BigEd wrote:
we already have too few on-topic conversations here
Hmm, it seems to me we have too few conversations of any kind -- there's simply not much activity, period. :( If allowing excursions OT can remedy that then maybe it's not a bad thing.

But I confess Garth's post didn't whet my appetite for any ensuing discussion. I would be interested to hear qualified experts -- economists and sociologists -- comment on the subject, but our membership's expertise lies in other areas.

cheers,
Jeff

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Wed Oct 12, 2016 3:35 pm WWW

Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:33 am
Posts: 165
BigEd wrote:
(I'm not really happy with this topic on this board, as it strays into politics and we already have too few on-topic conversations here. Anything which seeks to compare nations or nationalities is just not good territory to go into. And also, it's a somewhat presumptive question. See for example


I think it has to do with the fact that on this list, Russia and the USA is on the top of the list:

http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/coun ... uates.html

Both the US and Russia are or have been World Powers and they have some of the biggest militaries to support. They also are part of the space program and some of these countries are part of a Triad defense capability. In the future, I believe we will see India with the most Engineers or China and educationally, we are here to compete and our teachers tell us to compete and if we don't then we're just not thinking about our future. If we don't compare ourselves to others then we won't have a reason to tell our kids to learn and to be better and they will be unemployed. Comparing ourselves against others is a strategy of education to give kids and parents a reason to want to learn. We have to compete for jobs in this global job market.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_triad

Other factors include opportunities for immigrants, education and employment. If your country has a defense industry or research industry then they are going to employ engineers. If your country builds weapons then you have a budget already for engineers.

It is also the fact that you can't really build things in the United States so their universities believe that you can't compete with someone in a third world country making half a dollar or half a pound a day. They believe that you can make money through selling information and that is where engineers come in.

So the topic is not about who is better or who to compare against whom. I would like to hear everybody's world view because that is how we learn about each other. This is about our technical capabilities and not about nationalism.


Thu Oct 13, 2016 2:41 pm

Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2013 10:11 am
Posts: 114
Location: Norway/Japan
I'm not sure if this topic belongs here. But, anyway: It's of course possible to create a list with numbers and present a sequence of countries where the number of engineers vs. non-engineers can be listed. But that doesn't have to mean much. In my subjective experience, having worked internationally as an engineer all my adult life, there's no noticeable difference between the majority of countries I have worked in. That includes most of western Europe, Canada, USA, and Japan. There are other countries I've worked in where the ratio is obviously lower, but 'why so many engineers in the U.S.?' is, in my subjective experience a 'Huh?' question. It makes very little sense to separate out one country like that. There are engineers, lots of them, in many, many countries.


Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:23 pm

Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:03 am
Posts: 285
Location: California
Quote:
there's no noticeable difference between the majority of countries I have worked in. That includes most of western Europe, Canada, USA, and Japan.


True, but that's probably rather recent, which would invalidate the observation of the person who asked me. The U.S. has apparently lost its position as the leader, a position which I don't doubt it held for a long time. Most of the world's top microprocessors originated in the U.S.. I worked at TEAC in '82-83, the Japanese semi-professional and low-end professional studio tape-recorder manufacturer. It was not the best in tape recorders, but there was a lot of talk about Japan being amazing in engineering (although while some of our models worked very well, others had severe bugs).

At the same time though, there was the observation that Japan did not come up with much of anything new, only take other countries' ideas and refine them or make them more economical to manufacture or more reliable, whether it was memory, bicycle components, or cars. The Japanese were very self-disciplined and driven; but there was also the observation in the electronic industry trade magazines that the Oriental cultures were so respectful of authority and education that they could not point out deficiencies in a superior's design or idea.

OTOH, in the U.S., breaking out from the IBM white shirts, ties, and garters, you had people like Jack Tramiel with a 4th-grade education producing the world's highest-selling computer, the Commodore 64, with notables like Bill Herd who dropped out after 10th grade and was one of the chip designers who played a big part in Commodore computers' design, Jeri Ellsworth, Steve Jobs, and other extremely successful people in the home-computer revolution.

Chuck, your first link there seems to be quite telling. A mystery I'm still contemplating, which I have not been able to take the time to investigate, regarding the number of engineering graduates versus creativity, is why some environments may be more conducive to creativity than others. I've had engineers working under me, including one with an MSEE degree, who could throw around the equations and Greek letters better than I, but who couldn't make the connection to what was happening in their circuit on the workbench, or be creative in designing circuits. I like to say that most education happens outside the academic environment.

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Thu Oct 13, 2016 6:40 pm WWW

Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:41 am
Posts: 68
To me this is a bit of a obvious question. Most of the 20th century Europe was a big mess. The countries which were not a mess would be too small to support a big demand for new technology.
It has also to do a lot with the mentality of specific countries, most of tech in the U.S. came from engineer entrepreneurs and not big institutes and the U.S. is the best country for a entrepreneur to be in and not to mention that U.S. citizens buying power is much greater than most countries which allow for funding of whatever needs to be done. On top of all that said, you have the U.S. military constantly generating demand for hi-tech things.
Also, don't forget that engineers from smaller countries often just move to some better country, so a country like mine is often left abandoned. That was especially visible when I was at the university and the good professors would get offers from somewhere fancy and they would just leave.
To be honest, me and my friends are also considering options on moving out so that we can have a better opportunity for developing a career in engineering.
In the end this just transforms in the question why is the U.S. such a fancy place.

As for the topic being off-topic, I would suggest starting a off-topic board in which such topics could be located in.


Thu Oct 13, 2016 7:21 pm

Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:03 am
Posts: 285
Location: California
Dajgoro wrote:
Also, don't forget that engineers from smaller countries often just move to some better country, so a country like mine is often left abandoned. That was especially visible when I was at the university and the good professors would get offers from somewhere fancy and they would just leave.
To be honest, me and my friends are also considering options on moving out so that we can have a better opportunity for developing a career in engineering.

True. I hadn't thought about that; but regardless of which countries are graduating the most engineers, as I look back at places I've worked, I do see that a significant number of the engineers were educated in other countries and then came to the States.

Quote:
As for the topic being off-topic, I would suggest starting a off-topic board in which such topics could be located in.

The "General Discussions" section of the forum seemed to be the closest we have at the moment, for factors that affect microprocessor and microcontroller technology but not specifically about hardware, software, programmable logic, nostalgia, etc.. If you decide to start the other forum section, the subtitle on the front page should probably clarify the difference between "General Discussions" and "Off-topic."

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Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:42 pm WWW

Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 6:54 pm
Posts: 1647
I'd strongly advocate against making any changes to the board structure without due care and consideration. There's no urgent need for a change.

I do believe it's been very helpful to use the OT: prefix for off topic subject lines. It makes it easy for the regulars to ignore, if they like, and it makes it easy for visitors and new members to ignore, if they like, and it makes it easy for all of us, and especially the poster, to see how many OT threads there are, and who tends to start them, which hopefully acts as a disincentive.


Fri Oct 14, 2016 7:16 am

Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:33 am
Posts: 165
Garth wrote:
Chuck, your first link there seems to be quite telling. A mystery I'm still contemplating, which I have not been able to take the time to investigate, regarding the number of engineering graduates versus creativity, is why some environments may be more conducive to creativity than others. I've had engineers working under me, including one with an MSEE degree, who could throw around the equations and Greek letters better than I, but who couldn't make the connection to what was happening in their circuit on the workbench, or be creative in designing circuits. I like to say that most education happens outside the academic environment.


There may also be momentum as the USA may have been more industrial (in the early years of the Industrial Revolution) earlier than others in some areas. I think the Germans had a head start because they were beating everyone during the start of WWII but didn't we get a number of their scientists?

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-hist ... technology

A number of Soviets defected but they all weren't scientists.

I would have to really study this but I'm not sure where to look because I don't know if anyone kept records on industrial levels of different countries by year. I think we would have to study this.





America has been a nation of immigrants and when one person immigrates, other people in their communities seem to follow until America closed some of the doors.

While this topic is really not about nationalism, I think it is important to teach our kids and schools to compete.

Another thing I was thinking about today is the board of Apple. No one that created the Apple II is on the board. Instead it is full of great minds from large companies that have access to large investments and technology. For many years the iPod was keeping Apple alive. So Apple wasn't beating other companies on technology. I think it has to do with who follows the money (investments) and players involved. In other words, you have leaders from Boeing, Walt Disney, Northrop Grumman Corporation, and Genentech. I would say they are serious players. A lot of people thought Steve Jobs and Woz were still on the board but why aren't the original creators on the board? I think it all has to do with investments. Engineers follow the money.

See who is on the Apple board:

http://investor.apple.com/corporate-governance.cfm

I do know that IBM and several of their competitors like AMD (not sure) had government contracts

http://www.independent.org/publications ... asp?id=141


Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:50 am
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