Electronic Design

What's All This Book Stuff, Anyhow?

Before getting into the books, it's time to catch up with a bit of floobydust. I should mention that when I wired up the horn-chopper to my horn, I just threw in a couple yards of light hook-up wires (22 gauge) that were sitting around the house. After a while, the horn was not sounding very loud. I bought a new one, but it sounded poor too. I did some checking and found that there was a lot of I * R drop in those thin wires. I actually began to think, hey! The horn was really trying to draw 10 A before it would start to make any sound. Thin wires would hardly let it get started. So I replaced the wires with heavy wire and it works a lot better.

I still haven't found any reasonably priced, 1/4-in. electric drills for sale anywhere—not even in England or India. Maybe my buddy Noah can spot one in China? Surely, they would not be in on the conspiracy to deprive us all of light, inexpensive, high-speed drills....

When I gave the problem of how many cylinders can touch each other in my "April-Fool Stuff" column (Electronic Design, April 6, 1998, p. 144), I had a pretty good solution with seven cylinders. Mr. X had a good solution with EIGHT. Then Ben Grezlik showed me a solution with 10. He found a valid solution because I never stated that the cylinders were all the same length or diameter. So he threw in a couple skinny ones. Elegant! I think it was Mr. Grezlik who also pointed out that if you cut a solid donut with three cuts, you can get 13 pieces. But if you cut a toroidal SHELL, you can get 14 pieces. Sure enough, he's right again!

Steve Scrupski pointed out a web site where one can buy a videotape about guys who know how to provide "alternate energy." You can take a look if you want to at http://shop.pbs.org/mAfp4AAvu5/products/A3459/. It refers to several men whose "new and unique views on energy... are changing the way we think and live." One guy "has taken the lead in developing...inventions that produce power from the heat in the air." Another creates "electrical systems that produce more power than they consume." An alternate phrase for that is "over-unity magnetic machines," or antigravity. Not to mention "scalar-potential electromagnetics." If you want to spend $119.95 to see a bunch of HOAXERS peddling their perpetual-motion machines, be my guest. Meanwhile, I'm ashamed of PBS for promoting this.

Now, down to the main topic—books. I did a good job of recommending the book on Analog Design by Dennis Feucht. It was such a good job that he sold out of them and the book is now out of print. Sorry. Likewise, the 1991 book by Ian Sinclair about Passive Components (Butterworth-Heinemann) was quite good, but it too soon went out of print. I'll say nothing about MY old books except that you can access them at my web pages. You'll see at the end.

Here's a good LITTLE book: Controller Tuning and Control Loop Performance by David St. Clair. I still think my column on this, "What's all this PID Stuff, Anyhow?" (Electronic Design Analog Supplement, June 26, 1995, p. 57) is the best primer. But this book goes beyond that and talks of practical applications with conventional "PID" controllers. It's about 88 pages. Send $12 to Straight-Line Control, 3 Bridle Brook La., Newark, DE 19711-2003.

If I could recommend a good book on fuzzy logic (FL), I would. But I haven't found one. I will cite another case where FL may be appropriate: optimizing the operation of a big generator. We might assume that an electric generator is a fairly linear critter. But when you push it up near its maximum ratings, it starts getting nonlinear. Since there are a LOT of big generators, and each one generates its product at a rate of thousands of dollars every day, the effort may be justifiable if FL can make even a small improvement. An auto-tune PID controller, however, might also do. The jury is still out.

Here's another big, practical book: Designing with Motion Handbook. Featuring good, practical examples, this one's more for people with large, high-tech, serious servo or motion-control problems. It's by Chuck Raskin at Tech 80, 658 Mendelssohn Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55427. At around 400 pages, it costs about $50.

An even bigger, deeper book by Isaac Horowitz is for serious and analytical feedback-control work. Most of it goes over my head. There are lots of root-locus theory, matrices, and convoluted charts in its 489 pages. I'd say Quantitative Feedback Theory is for experts only. It'll cost you $40 for ISBN 0-9635760-1-1; QFT Publications, 4470 Grinnell Ave., Boulder, CO 80303.

Making Printed Circuit Boards is a good basic text on how to design and make your own boards. It covers both old-fashioned paste-up and modern computer-generated procedures. And it recommends the proper disposal of any chemicals. About 327 pages, it costs $22.95. Contact Tab Books (McGraw-Hill) for ISBN 0-8306-3951-9. Oh yeah, the author is Jan Axelson.

Richard Jaeger wrote a very good book on Microelectronic Circuit Design. About $99 and 1120 pages, it's listed under ISBN 0-07-032482-4. It covers analog AND digital circuits. But it does not say much about layout, which—as I said in "What's All this Common-Centroid Stuff, Anyhow?"—is fairly important (Electronic Design, Oct. 1, 1996, p. 91). I think Prof. Jaeger is working on some notes on that topic.

A great READ is The Invention That Changed The World by Robert Buderi. It tells how a small group of radar pioneers won the Second World War and launched a technical revolution. Lots of anecdotes and insights on the inventors of radar back in the 1930s and '40s. It's 575 pages, about $16, and available through Touchstone (Simon & Schuster); ISBN 0-684-83529-0. It took me all the way from Delhi to LAX to read it.

Set in the same time frame is Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century. I really want to read this story about an EE who swayed the world. Bush ran the R&D operations in the U.S. during World War II. Also, he founded Raytheon. It got a good review in IEEE Spectrum, and I'm going to buy it (ISBN 06848-28219; $32.50).

One guy suggested I read The Ropes to Know and the Ropes to Skip by R. Richard Ritti. I read this all the way from LAX to Bangkok. If you want to know all about office politics in a traditional old company, you might get your librarian to buy this. But for a modern company, much of the old office politics are different from the stuff Ritti outlines. Reading this the week my book was being printed, I was very favorably impressed that this book had zero PRINTING errors. You see, it was printed by Malloy Lithographing, Ann Arbor, Mich.—the same printers I contracted with—and they printed my book with zero printing errors, too!

If you're ever interested in writing a book—even if you are not planning to self-publish—you'll want to read The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter. It's $19.95 and about 460 pages from Para Publishing, Santa Barbara, Calif.; ISBN 1-56860-047-X. I learned just about everything necessary to write my own books and then promote them. Even if you have a good publisher, you'll want to understand how many things that person has to do to promote your book well. If you have a bad publisher, this book will indicate what you have to do.

I got Dumbth by Steve Allen. He's written a thoughtful and serious and humorous and sad book on how thinking is good for you—"101 ways to reason better and improve your mind." It's 445 pages and about $20 from Prometheus Books; ISBN 1-57392-237-4.

If you grew up in the 1940s, as I did, you'll be impressed by Raised On Radio by Gerald Nachman. It's about $28.50 and 536 pages from Pantheon/Random House; ISBN 0-375-40287-X. Not quite an encyclopedia, this is a very affectionate review of the glory days of radio. He won't let you forget that the pictures are better on radio. People younger than 45 or 50 probably would have little interest in this.

In my older column on "Tech Reading" (Electronic Design, March 7, 1994, p. 85), I recommended Geoff Harries' book ChronDisp I—The Gun From the Past. It's about $4.00 on a floppy. Now it's printed on PAPER—imagine that! It costs about 20 Deutschmarks for ISBN 3-933523-30-3; AAL Paperbacks, Diesenhofener str., 79C, D81539, Munich, Germany. I hope he enjoys enough success with it that he can bring out ChronDisp III; I think that will make a GREAT movie. Though he's selling the book in Germany, it IS in English.

Come to think of it, there are three new books out on troubleshooting. My old book used to be the clear-cut best, but now it has to share the spotlight with the French, Dutch, and German translations of my original. Any engineers who are most fluent in those languages, should check the web sites at: http://www.elektor.presse.fr/bf10903.htm ("Un coup ca marche, un coup ca marche pas"); http://www.elektuur.nl/bn10889.htm ("Voorkomen is beter"); http://www.elektor.de/bd60595.htm ("Troubleshooting in Analogschaltungen"). The minor drawback is that you have to pay in Francs (249 FF), Guilders (Hfl 74), or Deutschmarks (DM 69,00 or sFr 62,50). But if you live in one of those countries, that should not be a problem. Or, ask your local bookstore to order for you.

I almost forgot a new version of my book, CD included, put out by Interactive Image Technologies. The CD includes all of the circuits in my troubleshooting book. It's good for students. If you like Interactive's "Electronic Workbench," go to http://www.interactiv.com. If you already have my book, you can buy the CD for about $10. Let's not forget John Trudel's Engines of Prosperity. See the book at his site: http://www.trudelgroup.com.

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

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

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