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Terry Mackenzie-hoy

Terry Mackenzie-hoy

Mackenzie-Hoy is a consulting acoustics and electrical engineer – machoy@iafrica.com

Electrical Power Generation 101

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     18th August 2017 A few things we should possibly all know if we wish to talk about energy. The national grid is not a energy storage dam. What goes into the grid comes out of the grid very shortly, almost instantaneously. Thus, the amount of power generated matches the amount of power used, apart of losses due to... 

The costs of safety

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     11th August 2017 A well known South African electrical cable manufacturer will not hold it against me when I say that, at one time, about 25 years ago, the manufacturer ran the most unsafe cable making operation that I had seen. To the accompaniment of whistles and shouts, a group of men dragged wires, PVC... 

Electrical surgery

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     4th August 2017 It has long been clear to me that it is about time that State-owned power utility Eskom was sliced up and sold. You have to understand that I am a great supporter of Eskom; I worked for the utility and I greatly admire some of its systems, in particular, the distribution maintenance systems.... 

The limits of communication

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     28th July 2017 Communications on the planet began when the world was at a stage where messages from one tribe of people to another did not involve the messenger being executed on arrival. The top speed of communication was the speed of a galloping horse or, in rough terrain, the speed of a running person.... 

Hold my hand, you silly girl

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     21st July 2017 On the November 26, 2011, I wrote: "After a recent tour, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba has said the December 2013 deadline for the Medupi power station, in Lephalale, Limpopo, to start delivering power still stands. 'I have no intention of allowing any delays to the target of December... 

Inventions and developments and war

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     14th July 2017 We all know that Charles H Duell, the commissioner of the US patent office in 1899. His most famous attributed utterance is that "everything that can be invented has been invented". In point of fact, he said nothing of the kind. The myth of him saying this is very unfortunate because it suggests... 

A good disaster

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     7th July 2017 Do they still have, one wonders, the good old engineering Friday afternoon braai? For the sake of moral, it used to be that, at the end of every month, on a site, they would have a braai, usually starting at 15:00. The beers would be floating in a water-and-ice mixture in a galvanised bath (know... 

A long, relaxed look at wind farms

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     30th June 2017 About two years ago, I was travelling on a train from London to York. On the way I passed the Drax power station. Drax was built to fire coal but at the time it was burning imported wood chips, which, by some logic of a green fanatic, was better for the planet than burning coal. The fact that... 

Disaster on different continents

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     23rd June 2017 It is storms and rain in Cape Town. I have been in countries where natural disasters have occurred and have been reported on the television (okay, clever clogs, they have been reported on radio, newspaper, the Internet and by word-of-mouth at the local pub but, in this column . . . television). 

Oh, for the good old days of no email

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     16th June 2017 At the time of the first free elections, in 1994, I shared an office with Alan Campbell. His nickname is Camel, since many people spell his surname without a 'p'. Camel is eccentric, and so am I. On the door to our office, we had the Latin quote: AP Campbell & T Mackenzie Hoy: Caput archimagirus... 

Water, water everywhere . . .

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     9th June 2017 A year ago, we had electricity load-shedding and now, in the Western Cape, we may have water-shedding. There is a very very serious water shortage in the Western Cape. There is a website that gives updates on the steady decline of the dam levels. At the time of writing, the dams were 19.7 % full,... 

The Golden Flywheel

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     2nd June 2017 I was talking with a Zimbabwean recently about his country and he said, "Very bad." And then he added: "Your turn next", referring to South Africa. Some think that, back in the days of apartheid, "things were better". So I thought I would write about how things were, in fact, back in the days of... 

Life imitating art at power utility Eskom

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     26th May 2017 There is a most wonderful musical, A Little Night Music, which is based on a film by Ingmar Bergen, Smiles of a Summer Night. Probably the very best known song from A Little Night Music is Send in the Clowns. The last lines of the song are: "And where are the clowns? / Quick, send in the clowns /... 

From incandescent light bulbs to laser lights

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     19th May 2017 The incandescent light bulb, rated at about 60 W, is one we all know and which endeared for about 130 years. Along the way had been invented various other types of light: gas-discharge lamps (such as streetlights) fluorescent lamps, metal halide lamps, and so on. But, for a very long time, basic... 

More about electric cars

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     12th May 2017 In a previous instalment of this column, I wrote about Mercedes-Benz going to produce an electric car. By this I mean the automaker is going to produce a car for sale to the to the public that will be 100% electrical in drive – it will not be a hybrid car with a generator that switches on when... 

Electric cars

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     5th May 2017 Michael Douglas, the actor starred in the 1987 film, Wall Street, played Gordon Gecko, who decreed that "greed is good". In the sequel to the film, Gekko, in 2000, is released from prison after serving eight years for insider trading and securities fraud. He is handed his possessions, which were... 

Winging it

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     28th April 2017 Not too long ago, I asked a young engineer to build an item of equipment. It was not very complicated; when the temperature rose above a certain level, a relay should close, which would energise a socket outlet to power a cooling device. At the same time, if the temperature fell below a certain... 

Once again, we have a nonengineer as Energy Minister

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     21st April 2017 In the film The Remains of the Day, Anthony Hopkins is a butler in a large country house. It is before World War II. The upper-class guests are all discussing the state of the world and of Germany. Somebody suggests that the opinion of the people should be taken into account. The common people. A... 

Statute of limitations

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     14th April 2017 In South Africa, for some crimes, the right to institute criminal proceedings lapses 20 years from the time the offence was committed. And so I am going to tell you about some of the things I did 20 years ago. They are not crimes, let me add – just things I did. I worked with a guy called B. He... 

Reflections on the IRP2016

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     7th April 2017 You probably do not know, but there has been much discussion concerning the Integrated Resource Plan of 2016 (IRP 2016). I am sure you have heard people discussing it at cocktail parties and children giving their views to one another in the playground during big break. In fact, just the other... 

Wind farms cause drought

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     31st March 2017 I quote from an obituary (of Nancy Wertheimer, which refers to her partner, Ed Leeper – both were American): "In 1979, Wertheimer and Leeper reported that children living near high-current electrical wiring had a higher than expected rate of leukaemia. At the time, the association was seen as a... 

Analogue versus digital

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     24th March 2017 Older speedometers are analogue. Clocks with hands are analogue. In fact, anything that indicates a quantity using a needle is analogue. By this we mean that the value of the quantity is indicated in some proportion to the quantity itself. The simplest example is a balance beam, which has a fixed... 

Engineers and TV

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     17th March 2017 Some of my relationships have failed as a result of my interaction with TV. There we are, she and I, hands entwined, hers around a bar of chocolate and mine around a glass of whiskey . . . and something on TV will be such rubbish that I will have to use a phrase like "Gosh! Never !" or... 

African cooking show

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     10th March 2017 The other day I realised that I had eaten food in many African countries outside South Africa and had never passed on my experiences. So, here, in no particular order, beginning with Swaziland, are my experiences. Somewhere, I know that in Swaziland there is a restaurant that serves fine food. I... 

Slave labour

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     3rd March 2017 Thomas Brassey and William Mackenzie built the greater part of the Paris and Rouen Railway. They were British. Their firm got the job because the French contractors were too expensive. Between 1841 and 1844, they built about 700 km of railway line in France. Very little of the work was done with... 

Climate change a 100% robust hoodwink 

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     24th February 2017   I had to explain to somebody that the United States in 1945 dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan. The first bomb was a uranium atom bomb. The second bomb was a plutonium bomb. Following the detonation of these devices USA, Britain, France, Russia developed programs to test bombs of increasing... 

World domination through the Internet

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     17th February 2017 About 43 years ago, my friend Charles and I decided to see if we could make the letter 'E' appear on an oscilloscope screen. I could easily explain to you how we did it by varying the Z intensity of the oscilloscope, the time base, the 'Y' deflection . . . But would you really care? 

Mali gold

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     10th February 2017 There has to be somebody out there who watches Gold Rush on TV. A short summary is as follows: three different crews are mining for alluvial gold in Alaska. In the programme, every tenth sentence contains the G word: "Hey, look! It's gold!" and "I'm sure we'll find gold!" You get the idea? Last... 

Our wonderful world

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     3rd February 2017 Wonderful World Civil engineers very often ask me about electrical engineering. However, since civil engineers are pretty good listeners, absorb the following and you will know more about electrical engineering. 

Our brave new world

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     27th January 2017 It is I think the stuff that dreams are made of: a system is invented whereby organisations, governments and individuals can seamlessly communicate with  one another without tediously writing and delivering letters and notices. It is with us now: email, SMS, Whatsapp, cellphones. Instant... 

We should spend time with our loved ones

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     20th January 2017 A week ago, my darling, my best friend, was driving back from her mother’s house. She must have felt a slight pain in her chest and so pulled over into the parking area near Kloof Neck, which has a beautiful view of Camps Bay. There she died. When they found her, she had a smile on her face. She... 

Wishing for drug busters of yesteryear

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     16th December 2016 I grew up in the 1970s. The hippy movement started in the late 1960s, so I was well poised to be a hippy. I wasn’t one. The hippy movement was based on “drugs and sex and rock ‘n’ roll”, but most of this passed South Africa by. It was the time of the National Party government. The National Party... 

Shaving the point finer and finer

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     9th December 2016 Cellphone users will have noticed that the interval between when you finish entering the number (oops – I nearly wrote 'dialling the number') and when the other phone rings is getting slightly longer. You enter the number, there is a three-second pause, you hear a sort of tone and then another... 

Musk and Gates geniuses? I think not

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     2nd December 2016 The other day JP and I were chewing the fat. I mentioned to JP that Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket had gone up on the launch pad with a fearful scene of destruction. I also said that Musk was saying that it was not an explosion as much as it was a “fast fire”. I said I was not too sure about this; I... 

Donald Trump’s win good for fossil fuels

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     25th November 2016 There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a climate change sceptic who does not believe that wind turbines are any good, thinks coal is great and wants to develop oil reserves. Unlike the Democrats, he does not think that the US can run on 'clean energy' by midcentury and it is his intention to... 

African science

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     18th November 2016 In Zambia, once a year, in early evening, you will be able to look at the moon and it forms a crescent,  with the planet Venus in the crescent – very similar to the Islamic moon and star symbol. I do not know if this is unique to Zambia or if it occurs every year or only some years, but I know it... 

Arguments for nuclear energy

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     11th November 2016 When I worked for State-owned power utility Eskom, I gave up trying to explain to people how power systems work. Right now I am hard practising my ignoring skills in the debate over whether or not we need nuclear power or whether or not wind power is good. But before I do this, before I drop the... 

Biometric identification is fine, but just don’t share private information

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     4th November 2016 A growing technology is that of biometric interfaces. 'Biometrics' is just a smart way of saying "recognising the identity of a person by their fingerprints, voice or the pattern of the iris of one of their eyes”. It seems that using biometrics to identify a person is convenient for all parties:... 

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