Electronic Design

What's All This "Little Guy" Stuff, Anyhow?

I’ve heard some people say, “Yeah, Pease is often very attentive to the Little Guy, to very small customers. He’ll even send a couple samples to a guy who may never even spend any money.” When they say this, they’re condemning how I waste time on non-customers. I won’t deny it. Sometimes I do.

But I think it’s only fair if I get my chance to tell the other side of the story. It’s very true that sometimes, I’ll send out a sample to a guy who sorta admits he isn’t a big customer. But if he builds something and it works, he may say really good things about the circuit. We’ve seen that happen.

He may write a good story in a magazine. He may be a hobbyist who will soon decide to design in some of my parts in his day job—in a real military or industrial application. He may be a good customer in disguise. I think that’s good for business.

I’m willing to make the gamble, the investment. Even if he doesn’t buy something soon, we have probably made a friend, and I think making friends is even more valuable than making short-term profits.

Learning From The Little Guy

Sometimes a guy asks enough dumb questions that I decide to spend 10 or 40 minutes telling him how to do a task. Sometimes, this too is a big waste of time. But sometimes this is a good educational experience for me. I’m almost never as wise as after I crystallize my thoughts well enough to teach a customer.

Some of my columns are based on a simple customer question. So are some of my application notes and even some of my products. Answering a customer’s questions may lead to some really valuable results.

One guy asked me about using a wheatstone bridge with high impedances. Figuring out how to do it was a good challenge. When I was in school, we had wheatstone bridges to measure 10k, but not 10M or 100M or 1000M. Guarding and shielding is a major factor. Put it inside a big cake pan. Put tin foil over the top.

If some friend hadn’t asked me, “Is it true that only fuzzy logic can do this?” I never would have dug into the problem of the truck speed controller in November 2000 (see "What's All This Fuzzy Logic Stuff, Anyhow? (Part IV)" and "What's All This Fuzzy Logic Stuff, Anyhow? (Part V)"). I designed and started building a PID controller for an imaginary truck, which led me to see that most of the fuzzy bragging is baloney because fuzzy systems (almost always) excel only when compared to an artificially crippled conventional system.

I soon learned that the claimed advantages of fuzzy logic are bogus. I wrote letters to all the supposedly expert fuzzy-logic guys explaining why. They never wrote back—not even to mention the superiority of voltage regulators optimized by Mr. Taguchi.

Sometimes I send out samples and an apps circuit asking the guy to let me know how it works. Often I get no response at all, but at least the guy goes away happy. Other times I get a small avalanche of amazing data, which again can be very educational. Or, it may be confrontational! Sometimes the guy says, “Your ideas didn’t work worth crap. The circuit didn’t work like you said. Now what?!”

Then I may have to rethink my problem. Or I may have to build it myself. I know a guy who designed an engine control system for the F-86. It was alleged to not work right. He had the courage of his convictions. He built it again, and it worked just fine. Sometimes you have to be ready to build a circuit or system to prove that it really does work.

Safe Driving

My book on safe driving, How To Drive Into Accidents—And How Not To, came out 10.5 years ago. I have already gotten a few letters from pleased parents: “My son just got his 10-year Safe-Driving Award from his company, and I think it is because I bought him (and made him read) your excellent book. Thank you!” The book is still in print at $21.95. For more information, inquire by e-mail.

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