Car model letter code redundancy infuriates me.

XV359 to help distinguish it from the 36^5 = 60,466,176 other variations on this same model of plane? No, I don't know what kind of plane this is. Stay on target!Here's one of the few things I learned in math that stuck with me after high school. Say you're looking at a combination lock or a password or something. If you want to know how many combinations are possible for one string of numbers, you take the number of possible symbols (call it X), and raise it to the power of how many spaces or digits you have (call that N). X^N = total possible combinations. So if each space in the password or combination only uses numerals 0 through 9, and it's a four digit combination lock, the number of possible combinations is 10 (different symbols in each space) to the 4th power (4 is the number of spaces or digits total). 10^4 = 10000.

When you're just dealing with numerals, it's fairly easy to see because you can imagine all the possible numbers that could fit in those spaces. It almost looks like 9999 would be the maximum, but you can fit one more in there with 0000.

It gets more complicated when you throw in letters. 9A5B. Assuming the person setting this code or combination or password used numbers 0 through 9 and letters A through Z, then there are 10+26 possible symbols in each space. 36^4 = 1,679,616 different possible combinations.

I think Mr. Sullins was showing us how to calculate the odds or chances or probability of winning the lotto. (No, I can't remember the difference between "odds" and "chances" and "probability," nor do I care to look it up. Don't bother explaining, I'll forget within minutes.) It gets more complicated in that case, because each number can only be used once. So if there are six spaces to be filled by numbers, the value for each space is between 1 and 42, and each value can be used only once, then the number of possible combinations is 42 x 41 x 40 x 39 x 38 x 37 = 3,776,965,920. (Is that right? Position of each number changes things. I don't understand how that affects it, sorry. Feel free to correct me in the comments.)

For your standard combination lock at school, you see numbers from 0 to 39, usually three numbers to be entered, and each number can only be used once. That's 40 x 39 x 38 = 59,280 possible combinations. (If low numbers have to come before high numbers, that affects the equation in some way I don't understand.)

So how does this relate to car model letter codes? In what way are they redundant and why does it infuriate me?

Chances are your car has some model letter code after it. Ford Taurus SHO. Toyota Camry XLE. Chevrolet Metro LSi.

For each model with its own name like "Taurus", they produce a few minor variations, sometimes 2-door versus 4-door, sedan, sporty version with a spoiler, different trim, whatever. They use letters to distinguish these minor variations. I suppose it would be boring to name them "Taurus A", "Taurus B", et cetera. (The closest modern example I can think of is Scion xA, Scion xB, Scion xC, but those are totally different models, not different trims or minor variations on the same model.)

If you take the model name and add one letter, that gives you 26 possible codes you could use, Taurus A through Taurus Z. No one makes or markets that many unique variations, but if 26 wasn't enough, they could add numbers and still communicate 36 possible variant models with only one extra character.

Instead, they use two and three extra spaces for their letter codes. Camry XLR, Taurus SHO. Using only alpha characters, they could use three spaces to identify 26^3 = 17,576 different variant models. Even if they didn't want any letters to repeat, they could identify 26 x 25 x 24 = 15,600 different variant models.

There's no need to use extra characters. Save keystrokes! Increase efficiency! by identifying these with one extra character, not three.

Okay, I know there's some kind of marketing psychology voodoo attached to this, putting an X to make it sound xTREME! or other strange associations that people have with letters like S, L, T, whatever. It's the 21st Century equivalent of naming your product The Burgermeister 2000, or Action News Doppler (infinity minus one).

It still pisses me off. Not as much as the redundancy of or Everybody capable of accessing the internet knows that .com means it's online. Why put "online" in your URL? Why not instead of Why not Or Or 1-800-REDUNDANCY-PHONE because your customers are too stupid to know it's a phone number after hearing 1-800 at the start. Any phone number that spells out PHONE in it. I frickin hate that.

There, that's all. Just wanted to rant about it.

Don't get me started on Compaq Presario CQ5300Y. . .


  • At 12:16 PM , Blogger anarchist said...

    Websites with 'website', 'net', 'online' etc in their name are one of my pet hates as well.

    Also, in Australia some websites will use (for example) .com instead of , but put 'australia' in the front - so "".


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