Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob: My first car was a 1955 secondhand Cadillac DeVille convertible; tube radio, automatic station seeker, service every 1000 miles, total life 100,000 miles (Swiss miles, up the mountains), end of life due to multiple mechanical failures. (My first car was a 1962 VW Beetle; oil change every 5000 miles, total

life of 169,000 miles, end of life as it was throwing a rod, but not until after I parked it at the junkyard's door. What a hardworking car. /rap) My latest car was a 1993 Olds Silhouette, all digital; service every 10,000 miles, total life 250,000 miles, end of life due to multiple electronic failures. (My latest car is a 1970 VW Beetle; change the oil every 5000 miles. Total life, since I bought it four years ago, is 110,000 miles—so far. It's a hardworking car and running very well with its 33-year-old technology. /rap)

Where is the big step ahead in technology? (That's a good question. /rap) I started in electronics, with analog computers (PACE) in fact, and I drifted into mechanical engineering. I'm a happy guy. I also want to say that I like your Mailbox. Keep on with it!

Urs Meyer (via e-mail)
Pease: You seem to have been sucked into the GMC theory. What are you driving now? I seem to have been sucked into the 1970 VW theory. I'm going home in 10 minutes, at 68 mph. That's fast enough for me. I'm a happier guy. Thanks for the comments!

Dear Bob: I have just finished reading Edwin Hubble, Mariner of the Nebula, by Gale Christianson (1995). Woven in the life story of the great astronomer are references to a colleague of his, Francis G. Pease. In the book, Francis Pease was not only a very good astronomer, he was also shown to be an outstanding engineer, designing various astronomy instruments, figuring out how to make the 200-in. mirror for Palomar, etc. A most fascinating fellow! Are you related to Francis Pease? There seems to be a certain level of engineering talent going along with the Pease name. Just thought I would ask.

Tom Clarke (via e-mail)
Pease: There are probably 4888 OTHER Peases unrelated to this project. I am in the same state. Best regards.

Hi Bob: It's always a pleasure to read your columns, wherever I can find them. I am an analog guy who lived in Europe until 1997, and that's where National did something that was very appreciated among engineers: biodegradable boxes and packaging. And they were even made from post-consumer recycling pulp. (I am not sure if I have ever seen those. When we get cardboard boxes, I just reuse and/or recycle them. /rap)

The National rep told us that engineers took those home, and with the addition of some H2O and seeds, they grew alfalfa and kitchen herbs on them. So I did that as well, and it worked! (Neat as hell! /rap) After the "harvest," you just took the whole mess and brought it to the composting bin. What happened to those ideas?

Joerg Schulze-Clewing (via e-mail)
Pease: Good question. I'll ask around. Perhaps some of our readers want to comment on this.

Dear Bob: When I was a sophomore EE student at Pitt in 1969, I took an analog computer lab. We had three small EAI analog computers with several patchboards each. I remember we set up the pots by connecting each pot to a bridge after it was connected and balancing it against a precision multiturn master pot. This was done in a "pot setting" mode that, in retrospect, grounded the inputs of all the amplifiers. (I've never done THAT! /rap)

I also remember that scaling calculations had to be done for both variable scaling and time scaling. In addition, I was in the minority of students that would prepare for the lab ahead of time and had a schematic and scaling chart prepared. So my lab group usually finished our projects quickly and got out of the lab early.

Joe Birsa (via e-mail)
Pease: It's quite important, even today, to plan ahead! Thanks for the comments!

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