Father of the PLC

It’s been 40 years since the first programmable logic controller (PLC) was conceived during a hangover. These virtual relays in a box let programming take place on or off the factory floor.

On Jan. 1, 1968, Dick Morley was supposed to be working on a proposal for another project but he decided not to. Instead, he sat down and wrote the entire programmable controller. His knew what he wanted from the controller: Processing with no interrupts; direct mapping into memory; no software handling of repetitious chores; slow (Morley later realized this was a mistake); a rugged design; and language (ladder logic came later).

Morley and his team (Tom Bisevain, George Schwenk, and Jonas Landau) at Bedford and Associates in Massachusetts designed the modular controller using no interrupts. Because it was the company’s 84th project, it was designated the 084. Morley found financial backers for the device. On Oct. 24, 1968, the team formed a new company called Modicon (MOdular DIgital CONtroller). Modicon and Bedford worked together on the device which came to be known as the Modicon 084 programmable controller (the word logic was added in the 80s after personal computers hit the scene).

The American automotive industry helped trigger the need for such a device. Prior to the PLC, control, sequencing, and safetyinterlock logic for manufacturing machinery were done with relays, timers, and dedicated closed-loop controllers. Today, the Modicon line is distributed by Schneider Electric.

Props For Going Green

The Connecticut Department of Environment Protection awarded Spirol International Corp., Danielson, Conn., the Green Circle Award for its Environmental Management System. Spirol recylecs 100% of its metalcutting lubricants, resulting in a 22.67% decrease in waste-oil disposal and the company installed high-efficiency lighting with motion detectors in office areas, reducing electricity consumption by 7.78%. Way to go!

Small Car = Increased Insurance Bill?

A study by Insure.com Inc. indicates that switching to a smaller car to save on gas can actually increase your car insurance bill.

2009 Model
Average national premium
Honda Civic
$1,670
Toyota Prius
$1,382
Toyota Camry
$1,302
Toyota Sienna
$1,266
Honda CR-V
$1,258
Ford F-Series
$1,194

Autodata Corp. reports that from June 2007 to June 2008 sales of light trucks dropped 28.4 %. Even top-sellers like the FSeries pickups have taken a 40.5% sales hit, according to Ford. On the other hand, sales of the Toyota Corolla and Camry, and Honda Civic and Accord are on the rise. Honda says the Civic hit a new sales record in June this year, up 23.1% from last year.

Consumers can benefit from substantial fuel savings by switching to smaller cars. For example, switching to a Civic (25- mpg city/36-mpg highway) from a F-150 FWD pickup (13-mpg city/17-mpg highway) will save close to $2,000 in gas annually. (Fuel cost of $2,091 for the Civic and $4,042 for the F-150 based on 45% highway driving and 55% city driving at 15,000 miles/year and at $4.04/gallon.)

Now, once you switch to that smaller car, does it equate to lower insurance rates? No. Going to a Civic or Toyota Prius will likely raise your rates. Insure.com compared rates of four of the largest insurers across the U.S. for the 2009 Prius and Civic against top-selling larger cars: The Toyota Camry, Honda CR-V, the Toyota Sienna, and the Ford F-150. The result: The Prius and Civic are the most expensive to insure.

Okay, what gives? The simple fact is small cars are not as safe as their larger counterparts and tend to get into more accidents, leading to more broken metal and broken bones as well. That, in turn, leads to higher repair costs and more litigation expenses.

“There’s a myth that a smaller car is more nimble and helps you avoid crashes, but smaller cars tend to have more collision losses,” says Russ Rader, spokesperson for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). “Part of the reason is the driver. Smaller cars tend to be less expensive and driven by younger, higher-risk drivers. And they think they can zip around in traffic.”

Insurance companies rate policies for these vehicles accordingly. So when you buy that small car, you’re paying for other drivers’ mistakes.

Insure.com offers 12 pointers on how to lower your car insurance bill (www.insure.com/articles/carinsurance/policy-save.html) and has the latest Car Crash Safety Ratings (www.insure.com/articles/interactivetools/carcrash/carcrash).