Electronic Design

What's All This Checklist Stuff, Anyhow?

As you probably know, I like to go hiking and backpacking. I began hiking back in the '50s, and I started leading winter mountaineering trips in 1956 when I was 15 years old. Heaven only knows how I could lead a trip up 5798-foot Mount Adams in New Hampshire in March weather and keep us out of trouble.

But the weather wasn't too bad, and the other guys were reasonably intelligent, so we didn't do very much that was STUPID. We did not forget to bring too much equipment that we really needed...brandy, batteries for the flashlight and radio, toilet paper, matches, socks...

In 1961, I graduated from school, got married, and bought a car, and I was then able to go on LOTS of camping and backpacking trips. I soon found out that it was easy to get all the way out in the boonies and discover that I had neglected to bring any extra socks, or a scouring pad for cleaning the dirty pots, or the meat and cheese that I had put very carefully in the refrigerator. So I got really mad and made up a checklist of things NOT to forget. The key phrase at the top of my list is, "Circumstances will determine which items are optional; experience will dictate which items are essential."

I got our group's secretary, a very nice woman named Jeanne Finnert, to type this on vellum in her spare time. And I made many copies over the years on Philbrick's Diazo copier. Later I made Xeroxed copies of the Diazo copies. (Did I ever make a Thermofax copy of a Xerox copy of a Diazo copy? Probably not...)

If you have ever gone on a long hike and realized you forgot something, you knew you needed a checklist. Did you ever make up a checklist? Comments invited.

Anyhow, if you want a copy of my best backpacking checklist (I retyped it last year to include NEATLY several of the items that were added over the years), just send me an SASE. Or, if you have an old checklist you use, swap it to me for mine, no SASE required (but be sure to include your return address).

Example: I recently added a pillowcase and ear plugs to my list. If dogs are barking all night, you have a chance of getting to sleep.

And if you stow all your spare clothes in a plastic bag, you can sort of use that to cushion your head. But when it crinkles badly, you'll wish you had a pillowcase...

Now, after being in the industry a few years, I got dragged on various business trips. I soon discovered I needed a checklist of equipment to bring on a business trip. I drafted that in 1966, and updated it in 1986 and 1991. If you send me an SASE, I'll also throw that one in. I think it's a valuable kind of list. I mean, do you remember to bring CARBON PAPER on a business trip? When on a trip, it's easy to start writing a memo at midnight, to be mailed at dawn, and you decide you want to make a photocopy, but then you realize that there is no time or place to make a photocopy. The old low tech carbon paper can save you a lot of grief.

Do you check tires on your rented car? Do you bring scotch tape and masking tape and WIDE tape or duct tape?

That last one is good for all kinds of repairs, for example, covering up the locks on your suitcase in case the key is not available. I bet that I have at least eight other things on MY checklist for business travel that you don't have on YOURS.

One day I was making a copy of this checklist, and I passed around a few copies. One of the engineers grouched, "This checklist is a lot of garbage." Ten minutes later, he was observed striding briskly toward our Travel Office, muttering "Doggone, I nearly forgot to pick up my traveler's checks for my trip." (He was leaving the next morning.) So much for the concept that we do not need checklists.

Several people observed that I had omitted several important items from my list. Myself, I always carry a Swiss-Army knife with screwdrivers and bottle openers included. I never thought to put the knife on my list because I'm never without it. But, to be correct, it should be on the list.

My travel agent, Anne Raphael, who also hikes and camps a lot, had several suggestions and additions for my list, which I'm adding—tiny First Aid Kit, Dental Floss with a large needle, calculator, list of addresses and phone numbers of friends, etc. I'm not sure why they eluded me so long, but they're on there now.

Recently we began a movement to document, here at NSC, what elements of a design should be listed to be covered or mentioned or discussed at a Design Review meeting. No, I cannot send you a copy of that, because it is Company Confidential. And, NO, you do not need any checklist, so long as you can convince yourself to your own satisfaction that every new product has come out slip-ups MERELY due to somebody forgetting something. If your company can say that, it's either a very smart company or a very new one.

Anyhow, you have my PERMISSION and my ENCOURAGEMENT to make up your own checklists. And make sure enough photocopies are floating around, so that any engineer or technician or planner can suggest, "Oops, let's widen out out that list, because we just got hurt by an item we forget to include on it."

All for now./ Comments invited! RAP/Robert A. Pease/Engineer

Address: Mail Stop C2500A, National Semiconductor, P.O. Box 58090, Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

P.S. This month I will compile my 23rd Annual Dead-Car List. To get one, send me an SASE./rap

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