When I was a kid, there was a fucking ton of this stuff, and it’s all well and good, but it isn’t a sign of anything so much as that particular thing being in that Wil E Coyote moment after he has run off the edge of the cliff and before gravity takes hold.
In real life of course the two factors are not air and gravity, but production and demand.
Lots of these surplus things being re purposed, or lots of production set up to do A being shunted over to do B, is not a sign of health, it’s a sign of that Wil E moment.
On Ebay UK at the moment I can buy a cheap crap Chinese 40 watt laser tube and PSU brand new for 170 quid, these are the shit things put in all the blue K40 series lasers that also litter fleabay at the moment, and if you try to get 30 watts out of them you’ll be lucky to see 100 hours out of them…. even so……
You could get 10 watts out of one for a long time, so you’re looking at £17 per watt, and 10 watts in a 6 mm diameter beam is about a third of a watt per square millimetre, and noonday desert sun is about a kilowatt per square metre, which works out at a milliwatt per square millimetre, so the shit laser unfocused is 300x the power of the noonday desert sun over the small area of the unfocused beam.
You could do a lot of experimentation with that, or a lot of mischief.
But 1 watt laser diodes, nope, they are banned for sale by fleabay and amazon, as drones will soon be if they are not already….
At 100 yards, this totally invisible beam would not have diverged too much, I do know of a case of someone with a 100 watt tube set to half power igniting wood 100 metres away… but this isn’t about building your own death ray.
It’s about the “opportunity” to do so because of the temporary and transient phenomenon of oversupply.
While these opportunities are handy if, as in the above example, you always wanted to build your own death ray, but always for a 500 buck budget and not a 5,000 buck budget, this doesn’t mean they are good things overall, as by definition, nobody with a brain is going to make more at that price point, no matter how crap they are, and that means when the glut is over, there will be less production capacity than before.
Sure, it may be the crap producers that go to the wall, but production quality is one area where drip down technologies and push up competition actually works, what screwed this pooch wasn’t technology or competition, it was building for markets that did not appear when the products rolled off the end of the production line.
Baltic dry index anyone?
There is a similar thing going on in my town, while some office and retail spaces have effectively been empty for years, there are sites where new office and retail spaces are being built, when you are a property developer, or laser tube maker, when all you have is a hammer…
The differences between the small chinese laser tube factories making crap tubes and property developers and baltic shipping capacity is the small chinese factory will undercut the neighbouring factory, whereas the property developer would rather see empty units rather than have the rest of the portfolio “marked to market” as that is game over for them.
This is of course the essential difference between a small scale collapse and a large scale collapse, the large scale collapse happens because the small scale ones were not allowed to.
So, getting back to why being able to build my death ray gun for 500 bucks instead of 5,000 is not necessarily a good thing, it is a lot better thing than the alternative, which is not being able to build my death ray gun for 5,000 because first I have to build a factory for 500,000 bucks to make the tubes than no one else makes any more.
Of course, in the Chinese death ray gun thing, part of the reason it is now feasible to make such a thing for 500 bucks is not just the parts costs have plummeted, so has shipping, vis the Baltic dry.
So there are at least two separate “bad things” combining to make my temporary opportunity to make a death ray gun for 500 bucks possible.
Can you smell the coffee brewing yet?
If you want to live in a world where you can make long term plans or goals, owning a house, raising a child, starting a business you hope to grow, then these Wil E times, while representing “opportunity” for some, represent “opportunity cost” for many.
“Opportunity cost” is the concept that nothing in life is free, so simply having an opportunity comes with a cost, whether you take that opportunity or not.
One of the costs of these opportunities is that long term plans and goals are a bit wishful thinking at best, because long term plans require stability, and such Wil E opportunities are themselves indicators of instability.
As an amateur student of English industrial history, I see it replete with these times, when water wheel power shifted to steam power, when aircraft / wartime production shifted to general engineering and agricultural, in effect offering a surplus of low quality cheap laser tubes.
Lister being born may have been great news if you were living in the Gloucestershire valleys and wanted work, or lived in a farm in the outback of Australia and wanted a generator, but it sucked donkey cock if you were living in Cornwall running a small engineering works that up until then was good enough for the local demand.
It also sucked if you were in Cornwall and the local boys went out of business, and you had to order a Lister from far away Gloucestershire…. big bucks for a Lister… so lots of Cornish-men became “cousin jacks” and emigrated to find work, but at least there was work, and at least Lister was quality.
What do we have today?
Fuck all, engineering and manufacturing wise. What there is is some small businesses, and by small I mean anything from sole traders to small, less than 12 staff, and they are struggling, I know because they are both my customers and my suppliers, and the economic environment is being poisoned by those who are too big to allow mark to market, too big to fail, too big to admit mistakes and change direction, and now instead of Army Surplus “they” will plough that shit right into the ground rather than allowing anyone to make a 500 buck death ray.
95% of modern western economic “management” is based solely on such tricks, the gaming equivalent of the “infinite ammo” cheat, and as any gamer knows, that alone doesn’t just level the playing field, it makes what were impossible odds no more challenging that good fun and shits and grins all round.