At FIS World Cup in Lake Louise, we got a chance to use the new TAG Heuer 970 and 980 displays in the heat of battle for the first time. The reviews were mixed.

Good:

(1) Like almost everything TAG Heuer makes, the displays are gorgeous. (2) The LEDS are extremely bright, highly visible even in full sunlight. (3) The programming API is dirt-simple, any idiot with a copy of Visual BASIC will have no problem writing the code necessary to address the displays in a few minutes. (4) The 980 is, size-wise, basically 4 x 970 bolted together. The 4 individual panels are very easy to carry up on a chairlift under your arm, and then they assemble into a nice large display up on the hill.

Bad:

(1) Neither the 970 nor the 980 has any sort of power or data indicator light to show you it's working. Diagnosing problems is like playing Double Jeopardy out on the hill in -31C. “Ummmmmmmm...I'll take RS-485 Diagnostics for $900, Alex”

(2) Both 970 and 980 have a hideously large and EXTREMELY clumsily designed external power box, which looks like it was built a Soviet tractor parts factory in 1975.

(3) Both 970 and 980 have Power Connectors From Hell. TAG Heuer must have gotten a deal on a truckload of surplus power connectors from an East German Trabant factory; if you lose or break one of these connectors or power cables, you are 100% S.O.L. The power connector on the 980 is particularly idiotic, as even if the connector breaks in the middle of the largest Fry's warehouse on the planet, you will be unable to locate proper parts to make a replacement.

(4) The 4 panels of the 980 are daisy-chained via DB9s, a very easily sourced part. Unfortunately, the DB9s are 90 degrees flush against the back of the display, making them virtually impossible to secure with cold fingers or while wearing gloves.

My guess is that nobody on the TAG Heuer design team has ever even BEEN TO a ski event, let alone been tasked with setting up and maintaining one of these displays during a winter event.

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