Ever think about where the naming of wares as hard and soft must have come from?
I was sitting in an engineering meeting last week and the subject turned from DirectStream's new operating system release, to the upcoming BHK amp and preamp. We switched mental gears quickly and when the subject of upgrades came along I just naturally assumed the BHK Signature series would have an upgrade path through an SD card, like that of DirectStream and our other software centric products. I was quickly corrected by our engineering director.
The amount of software in the upcoming BHK products is so trivial it is meaningless. Both the amp and preamp need enough smarts to turn on and off in response to a front panel button push. The amp is the simpler of the two: in addition to on/off it needs to adjust bias from low to high and turn the vacuum tube on or off. The preamp is a bit more involved: volume and balance up and down, input selection, numeric readouts, respond to the remote control. There will be no need to update anything on these mostly hardware pieces.
Years ago when software was creeping into our traditional hardware designs we predicted someday the lines between hard and soft based products would blur to the point of near indistinguishability. Yet products like turntables, amps, preamps, and speakers that are hardware centric seem not to melded together, but rather separated nicely.
All our products are based on hardware; metal boxes with bits inside that make them function. What separates them into categories of hard and soft are how they can be changed: one with words, the other with parts. Soft centric wares are malleable enough to change major performance and operating parameters with the addition or subtraction of a group of words and symbols. Hard centric wares are malleable only through the exchange of physical bits inside.
I know these distinctions are somewhat obvious but it occurs to me as we move into the future of our craft, that the great divide between soft and hard wares we predicted seem to be increasing rather than blurring together.
Let me go and clean off my crystal ball again.