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Why iPhones are just like German tanks

VileReynard
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Posts: 10,592
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Registered: 01-09-2007

Why iPhones are just like German tanks

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But you might have wondered how the process of simply asking people for their phone's serial number, IMEI number and date of purchase would allow someone to make such a specific calculation of the number sold (which, according to the spreadsheet, was 9,190,680).

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    By 1941-42, the allies knew that US and even British tanks had been technically superior to German Panzer tanks in combat, but they were worried about the capabilities of the new marks IV and V. More troubling, they had really very little idea of how many tanks the enemy was capable of producing in a year. Without this information, they were unsure whether any invasion of the continent on the western front could succeed.
They could try spying on factories, or count tanks in the field. This was easier. Even better: get the serial numbers from the tanks, and estimate from this how many were being built.
    The basic idea was that the highest serial number among the captured tanks could be used to calculate the overall total. The German tanks were numbered as follows: 1, 2, 3 ... N, where N was the desired total number of tanks produced. Imagine that they had captured five tanks, with serial numbers 20, 31, 43, 78 and 92. They now had a sample of five, with a maximum serial number of 92. Call the sample size S and the maximum serial number M. After some experimentation with other series, the statisticians reckoned that a good estimator of the number of tanks would probably be provided by the simple equation (M-1)(S+1)/S. In the example given, this translates to (92-1)(5+1)/5, which is equal to 109.2. Therefore the estimate of tanks produced at that time would be 109
The maths wonks reckoned the Germans were making 246 (precisely) tanks per month between June 1940 and September 1942.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2008/oct/08/iphone.apple et al.

2 REPLIES
Community Veteran
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: Why iPhones are just like German tanks

"Interesting................................. Verrrry  Interesting !"
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The maths wonks reckoned the Germans were making 246 (precisely) tanks per month between June 1940 and September 1942.

but did they ever "prove" the maths ? Roll eyes
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,699
Registered: 30-07-2007

Re: Why iPhones are just like German tanks

jim:quote
The article goes on to say
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German production records captured after the war showed that there were actually 245 made per month. Score one to the maths wonks. (They then lost it all by betting on credit default swaps, but that's another story.)