Tech Stacks and the Art of Classic Car Maintenance

What to consider when evaluating technology

One fine Helsinki winter's afternoon, while slugging away at a client project, reminiscing melancholy about the good old times (Curiosity Mars rover landing was seven years ago!) and waiting for a build to complete, I came across a suspicious listing of a car for sale on one of Finland's most popular car-listing websites (who happen to be a client of ours!).

It was a "Swedish tank" — a Saab 900 with barely just over 80K kilometers on it and not a speck of rust (which for that particular model is the biggest killer: the funky door design, with the bottom of it wrapping neatly under the body, giving an appearance of a perfectly flat inner door making it feel very thin and light is a perfect moisture trap). There was only one problem: the car was in Lapland, with me sitting comfortably at a sea-view window in our office 800 rural country kilometers away, I thought I saved my wallet a beating.

Alas, it was too late, the need, nay a craving to possess this fine example of automotive design and engineering has set hard and fast. It was time to go to Lapland!

Armed with my laptop, an overnight sleeper train ticket and the knowledge of our philosophy of "getting stuff done" no matter when, how or where (it's the results that matter!), I've set off to Rovaniemi.

Eleven hours later, I was greeted at the train station by the proud owners of the vehicle in question. What a beauty! All doubts dispelled and transaction completed, me and the now previous owners were enjoying a Finnish pastry with some terrible gas station coffee, discussing the ins, outs and various quirks of my new possession. For one it took longer than I'd like to admit to remember how a manual choke on a carbureted engine works and the optimal ways of using it.

Another eleven hours, a speeding ticket, an extremely dubious shortcut or two (thanks Google!) and countless more cups of terrible gas station coffee later, still feeling the ground vibrating beneath my feet and ears pounding, but safe and sound, I was home. Miraculously, unfathomably having burned just one full tank of gasoline, averaging a little over 6 liters per 100 kilometers for the trip, which is admirable even by today's standards.

My wife thought I was mad, so did Tommi and Lasse, but it was Lasse, a passionate electric car enthusiast and a proud owner of one (manufactured by a certain company named after a notorious scientist who advocated alternating current), who could not wipe the grin off his face while furiously working his way through Saab's five short gears, enjoying the leisurly climb from 0 to 100. It was Tommi who could not help but notice the sublime beauty of 50 year old tech parked next to the automotive bleeding edge. And it is my wife who, while still thinking I'm crazy, happily joins me in "the new car" for an occasional spin down to some place time forgot.

Now where was I going with this... Tech stacks! Of course. Here's the thing: when evaluating the needs of a project try not to be seduced by the latest and greatest "it thing". There is no chasing tomorrow. Today's bleeding edge is tomorrow's dusty textbooks. Progress marches on with ruthless indifference and often little logic.

Floor the pedal on that Model-S! Give that latest JS library a shot. Experiment with a brand new language that promises to be the last one you'll ever learn. We wouldn't be in this field if not for the love of technology. It's just that sometimes, an old Saab 900 is just what the doctor ordered.

As I was crossing the arctic circle enjoying the winter sunrise, the thermometer outside read 5°C, above zero. Maybe that alternating current guy was onto something...

Greg Fedorov

Lead Consultant, Partner.

Every solution is a carefully enough described problem.