Even on a cruise boat on the upper reaches of the Amazon River
By Chuck Newcombe
I recently returned from a long anticipated vacation trip to South America. It was my first trip to that continent. I spent two weeks in Peru, where I visited Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the Andes, followed by several days on the headwaters of the Amazon River.
Why am I writing about it here?
Well, as it happened, I had two encounters with Fluke test tool users during my Peruvian travels. Both occurred on a cruise boat touring the upper reaches of the river that ultimately discharges into the Atlantic Ocean on the east coast of Brazil. My fellow travelers and I were exploring the rain forests, spotting flora and fauna during the South American spring before the river reached flood stage.
The first happened as we were beginning the second day of our four-day exploration, when I sat down with a European couple for breakfast. We exchanged pleasantries, and I soon learned that my companions were from the Netherlands. When I asked what town they lived in, I got the usual, "Well, you've probably never heard about it. It's a town in the south called Tilburg.
I smiled and said, "Well, as it happens, I, and two engineers from our company sat down to dinner with the mayor of Tilburg and his wife, along with several local dignitaries in 1975, as we celebrated the opening of our first facility in Europe. We established a bonded warehouse, a small manufacturing facility, and our continental sales and service headquarters there."
The next question was, of course, "What's your company's name?"
I explained that in 1975 it was the John Fluke Manufacturing Company but now it's known today as the Fluke Corporation.
It was during that week that I learned from our Finnish sales representative that Fluke products were the official electrical standards for his country. I also learned that one of the functions of our Tilburg plant was to adjust the voltage references in Fluke differential voltmeters and calibrators, destined for Germany, by nearly 10 parts per million, to better agree with the German standard value for the volt. It seems there was a disagreement between German and U.S. standards laboratories at the time as to the value of that basic unit.
It was his turn to smile then. He said, "We use your products in our manufacturing plant every day. They are very good." Then he continued, "But Fluke offices are now located in Eindhoven, aren't they?"
I confirmed that this was the case, and our conversation drifted to more timely subjects, like what we would be doing that morning as we took skiffs into the rain forest.
I've since reflected on my first Fluke visit to Europe in November 1967 and my introduction to two continents - Europe and Asia.
The first week, we traveled to the Netherlands, Denmark, and England, where we presented sales seminars for Fluke calibration products
After our last seminar in London, the three of us spent the next 28 hours getting to Tokyo, Japan via Paris, Frankfurt, and Anchorage. The trading company that represented Fluke in Japan had us present two day-long seminars in Tokyo, another two in Osaka, and one final one in Fukuoka, before we returned to America.
In Japan I learned that an appreciated feature of Fluke calibrators was the ability to set the power supplies and meters to operate on either 50 Hz or 60 Hz power. It seems the eastern part of the country, including Tokyo, operates on 50 Hz power, while the western part, including Osaka and Fukuoka, operate on 60 Hz power.
I've since learned that the first electrical generation system for Tokyo was purchased from AEG, a German company, in 1895, while the first system for Osaka was bought from General Electric in the U.S. the following year. Since Europe operates on 50 Hz power and North America uses 60 Hz power, these first generators set the precedent for Japan's current split system.
Power can only be exchanged between the two systems using frequency converters or high voltage dc transmission systems.
But I digress.
Back to the cruise boat on the Amazon and my second Fluke encounter.
The cruise boat that was my home for four days can carry 32 passengers, and there are nearly that many support people aboard. That includes the captain and his crew, the kitchen and room service personnel, our guides and skiff operators, and a Peruvian guy nicknamed "MacGyver."
MacGyver, as you may or may not know, was a TV series from the late 1980s whose hero, Angus MacGuyver, was a secret agent troubleshooter who used his technical knowledge and an ability to innovate on the spot, to solve problems for his agency.
Our Peruvian MacGuyver is the guy who kept the engines, power generators, and other critical equipment on the boat in operation without ready access to equipment suppliers.
You guessed it - he is familiar with Fluke digital multimeters.