Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob:
I have always wondered whether it was us or the British who were the contrarians. Now I know. (No, sometimes it's US—sometimes THEM. /rap) You didn't mention the other examples of contrariness:

  1. I used to use a piece of test equipment that was made in Great Britain. The first thing I noticed was that all of the toggle switches were contrary—ON = down, OFF = up. At least the pots still turned CW for maximum voltage, as I recall. (I think the Germans initiated the right way: A knife switch can fall DOWN, and thus be fail-safe. Can't fall UP. /rap)
  2. The British monochrome TV system used contrary modulation—sync pulses at minimum power. Also, the sound carrier was AM.
  3. I have heard that the driveshaft in British rear-wheel drive cars turns CCW, while in American cars it turns CW. Is there some technical reason related to the side of the road, or is this just another opportunity to be contrary? (I'm no expert on this. I don't know. /rap)

It's interesting that in the PAL - SECAM debate, the British ended up on our side (in the sense that PAL is similar to NTSC), while it was only the French & Russians who chose to be contrary (from our perspective).
KEN LUNDGREN
via e-mail

Flash! Go to http://www.travel-library.com at "transportation" for info on LH/RH driving! Thanks for sending me the URL, Richard G.—RAP

Dear Bob:
Re: driving on the "wrong" side. In 1961 the U.S. Navy sent me to Iceland, where they drive on the left side. The base was on an airport that was shared with the Icelandic civil airlines, so we drove to the left there, also. Before joining the Navy, I had never lived anywhere but California, and before going to Iceland, my other duty stations were NAS Kingsville, Texas (hot & dry), and NAS Memphis, Tenn., in the summer (hot and damp). I had never driven on ice, never driven in a snow storm, and never dreamed of driving on the "wrong" side. I was simultaneously introduced to all three in a left-hand drive, stick-shift, '49 Chevy sedan—one of life's cheaper thrills! (Triple surprise! /rap)

I quickly graduated to Navy vehicles, which were U.S. configured, too. I have vivid memories of arriving at the chow hall with a van-load of sailors, travelling slowly sideways across the parking lot—kind of tacking into the wind, actually—and trying to look all ways at once. The Swedish changeover that you mentioned was quite recent at that time, and the source of a lot of horror stories. We were glad that the Icelandics hadn't followed suit; they were bad enough drivers doing it the only way they knew how.

Keep on bashing the stereo cable hype. Anybody that loves zip cord for speakers is a man after my own heart!
DAVE COOLIDGE
via e-mail

I cheerfully accept zip cord as adequate. But using 32-conductor cable and paralleling every other conductor just warms the cockles of my heart, as its Z is so low—even if I can't hear any difference versus lamp cord.—RAP

Note: If you are a good hiker, you'll be amused to know how tricky it is to climb Fujiyama—hike up to 12,390 feet—at night. Send me an e-mail or card and I will send you my latest Hiking Trip Report. If you don't like to hike, you could send me a nasty note to tell me how glad you are that I didn't make this into a full COLUMN.

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

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