Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob:
I finally got around to reading the Feb. 18 issue of Electronic Design. As always, I read your column entirely. The tirade of several readers (and you) on the extremes of audiophiles brings two comments to mind.

First, is it possible that youngsters (never trust anyone under 30!) have better ears than we more mature folks? (Of course, most younger audiophiles have better ears. No problem. I have no doubt that they can hear many things better than I. But I can still prove they can't hear any difference! /rap) You bet it is, unless they've destroyed them by loud music. I recall teaching electronics to a group of teachers when I was in grad school. The other teacher suggested that for the lab experiment on amplifiers, they merely twist the dial of the audio generator to 20 kHz, and measure there. I walked into a room that was quite literally painful. Unfortunately, my ability to feel that type of pain now is long gone.

Second, perhaps this is analogous to the cyclists' extreme of spending $100 to shave 10 more grams off the weight of the bike. (Oh, rabid technophiles love to do that, even if the difference is hard to measure. But I'm still at the area of $100 per pound. I could easily cut a pound off the weight noted below for no more than $100. But I refuse to consider it, because on a long trek, it's impossible to prove that the lighter component will not fail. /rap) While I ride several Ti bikes, it's not the weight, but rather the ride and corrosion resistance which dictates that. A good steel frame is essentially just as light.

(In the old days, the experts said Ti "did not feel right." I guess they learned how to make them feel "right." My frame on my Specialized Rockhopper A1FS is aluminum, but I agree that it's not appreciably lighter than a good steel frame of comparable strength, durability, and price. Let's not talk about carbon fiber! Hey, I know how good a 22-lb bike feels compared to 27 lbs, 18 lbs, and 12 lbs, compared to the others. Mine weighs 27.6 lbs and that's just right for me because I want the most durable, reliable bike I can get under $500—and I got a good one. /rap) Besides, I've noted that a few less beers shaves considerably more weight off the bike for much less money!
David W. Knoble
via e-mail

Yes, but you get more fun per dollar with beer! Or, in our case, rum and lemonade after our day's ride.—RAP

Dear Mr. Pease:
I really like your articles. Most of the time, I agree with the way you see things. But the "What's All This Drilling Stuff, Anyhow?" (Electronic Design, March 4, p. 81) article I just read has an error in it. I don't know about American drills, but European drills always turn to the "right" (CW). (Yeah, as seen by the guy drilling, and that's another way of saying that the workpiece sees the drill turning CCW as it approaches! /rap) This means the machine is turning left (CCW) compared to the drill itself.

If the drill stalls, the machine handle is pushed toward your right hand, and eventually pulled out of your left hand. This is the opposite of what you stated in the last paragraph. (You're right. I admit that my argument seems backwards. I must have been thinking of some crazy viewpoint. But we at least agree that things aren't symmetrical. Despite the way I said it backwards, the guy agreed that he had better luck shutting off with his left hand. /rap) I think this is a good reason to use it with your right hand. Maybe it's a good idea to start building drills for left-handed people!
André Van den Wyngaert
via e-mail

Some electric drills are reversible, and there are left-handed drill shafts. But I don't need any.—RAP

Dear Bob:
I have three comments, about your column on drills and drilling:

  1. When you need to drill a hole for a nail, use one of the nails. They're always the right size. Since there are no flutes, the holes wind up a little undersize—just what you want. (I'm not sure if the holes are as small as I want. Maybe I should chuck a nail in there and sandpaper it down a bit. /rap)
  2. The reason drill motors "lock on" and wind up your arm is because of that stupid and dangerous locking button on the side. It sits right under your hand. When the drill binds, your hand naturally pushes it into the lock position, so the drill keeps going even after you let go. I don't have lockup problems because I figured that out and cut the blasted things off.
  3. Concerning flimsy drills: I have a 1/4-in. Black & Decker that I paid $5.50 for in 1964. I bought the cheapest thing that I could find to do a quick contract job for a local radio station. I figured that when it wore out, I'd get a good one. Despite running it so hard that smoke has come out, and it has literally gotten too hot to hold on to several times, it's still fine. Bearings are good, original grease, original brushes, original switch, and no plastic gears.

Isaac Wingfield
via e-mail

A good Black & Decker is not a flimsy, cheap drill. It may be inexpensive, but it has excellent quality and durability. Thank heavens I still have one! I wish that everybody could buy one!—RAP

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected]—or:

Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

Note: Bob is off trekking this month. This time he's riding his mountain bike over the high pass Thorong La at 17,771 ft north of Annapurna. To find out how the trek went, just send him a request titled "minireport."

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