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Terry Mackenzie-hoy

Terry Mackenzie-hoy

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

Bitcoins – a quick way to lose it all

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     13th October 2017 We all know that there IS a thing called a bitcoin. All over the show, there are stories about bitcoin investors who are now millionaires. What is the truth? A little story: Tim and I were working at a mining camp in the Congo. The mining camp was dry; no alcohol permitted. We followed the rules... 

Sparklepop and the Magic Dragon

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     6th October 2017 Sometimes I get involved in advertising film shoots. The first advertising film shoot that I attended was in the 1980s. It was held in a large open concrete yard owned by Eskom. The storyline was: a pretty woman is  walking along a sidewalk, next to a tree-lined road. We cut to a man who is... 

Fade to black

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     29th September 2017 About 20 years ago, I wrote the following: "What do you see? You see the ruins of a building. It has burnt down. There are pathetic little burnt bundles of bits strewn around everywhere. And the coroner  (the coroner! ) is there. He's investigating what could have possibly caused this... 

An ill wind

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     22nd September 2017 One commentator said this: "The renewable energy purchase programme, launched in 2011, has been celebrated as a spectacular success directing private capital into public infrastructure and a model for attempts to lure private investment into other projects." I am sure this is how wind farm... 

Fate is against us

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     15th September 2017 Recently, somebody was  discussing minibus taxis and how badly they drive. It was mentioned that, in fact, they drive very well: they pass through the narrowest of gaps between cars, they glide down pavements. They can reverse at high speed through rush hour traffic. They can embark and disembark... 

Pluck the strings and weep

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     8th September 2017 On May 8, 2016, supporters of the green movement reached a moment of nirvana – the state of perfect peace, highest happiness and liberation from the repeating cycle of birth, life and death. Not since the end of Margaret Thatcher had their dreams been so realised. The huge event was this: on a... 

Tell me a funny story

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     1st September 2017 So, since the 20-year rule (the period that has to elapse before I can tell embarrassing engineering stories where my clients who were involved) has lapsed in some cases, here is one of the stories.   I was working for FW.  Empersa Nacional de Hidrocarbonetos de Moçambique (ENH) had decided that... 

The unintended effect of excessive safety measures

By: Terry Mackenzie-hoy     25th August 2017 Sometimes certain things just come to a logical plateau. The best way of doing them or the best process for achieving a result has been found. I have this belief that the process of safety education was once at a pinnacle and is now going downhill. I am not sure why this is the case, but I think... 

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... 

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