Electronic Design
Bob’s Mailbox: Advice To A Young Engineer, Julie Resistors, Key-Less Acceleration, And Hiking with Kids

Bob’s Mailbox: Advice To A Young Engineer, Julie Resistors, Key-Less Acceleration, And Hiking with Kids

Dear Bob,

I am Ronald. I am from India. I came to know about you while I was searching on Google for the history of op amps. I have read all your articles that are available at the following link: http://www.national.com/rap/Story/Index/0,1563,0,00.html. (Most of these are good ideas to study for analog applications. /rap) I have a bachelor’s degree in electronics and communication, and I am presently working at Mindtree Ltd. as a software application engineer. (Software applications are probably not very much at all like analog design. But since I’ve never written any software, I’m no expert. /rap)

I am looking for a job at National Semiconductor (NSC) as a digital/analog design engineer in the United States. (First of all, NSC is not doing much hiring. Lots of companies are not doing much hiring. You’ve probably noticed that. So have I. /rap) I have gone through the National Semiconductor job search site. All the positions there ask for experience.

(All design engineer jobs at any company demand experience—preferably lots of experience. This is not new. So, what kind of experience do you have designing or building anything? Have you built little applications circuits that work? That is where you have to get your feet wet. After you have built something, you have to make it work. Have you built lots of small circuits and systems, some analog, some digital-and-analog, some digital? /rap)

I don’t have experience in digital/analog design at a commercial setting, though I have an educational degree in it. I only have software experience. (If you have only software experience, you are very far from doing analog or digital circuit design. /rap)

Is there any way I can get a job as a digital/analog design engineer at NSC without any experience? (Absolutely not. /rap)

In the article “What's All This Mentoring Stuff, Anyhow?” you talked about mentoring (see http://electronicdesign.com/article/articles/what-s-all-this-mentoring-stuff-anyhow-6148.aspx). I am a quick learner and with proper guidance and mentoring I will be up to date with all the required skills to design innovative products and bring value to NSC.

Thanks and Regards,


Hi Ronald,

If you don’t have six to eight semesters of studying analog systems and circuits, you are nowhere near having “all the required skills.” If you build lots of little circuits and start to design your own circuits and systems for at least five years, you may be getting close. Do you know how to design using voltage regulators and op amps? These are very important.

After you have done the six to eight semesters, or equivalent, and have built lots of circuits that work, you would be close to having enough experience to apply for a job as a linear applications engineer in discrete circuits (not for an IC company). That’s what I did about 50 years ago.

After five years of such work, you may show your ability to design detailed circuits using ICs, transistors, resistors, and capacitors. That may take another five years. I did that from 1960 to 1966. I helped many engineers to solve their problems. I used transistors and linear ICs to make little modules with precise characteristics.

You also have to know a lot about measuring analog signals, ac and dc. You should study a lot about audio amplifiers, audio circuits, DVMs, and oscilloscopes. When you know every part inside of a scope or DVM and why it was put there, you’ll be in good shape. (I put in five more years doing that.)

Five more years of serious design work will get you to where you could apply for a job as an applications engineer at an IC company. That’s about what I did.

Five more years as an apps engineer, and then you can start designing (and revising and studying) existing ICs. Maybe by then you can start learning the techniques of designing ICs enough to be helpful as an assistant.

If anybody says he knows any shortcuts, he’s probably full of crap. If anybody says he knows of a school that can teach you how to do it with less time and higher confidence, he is very likely full of crap.

Oh, yeah, if you want to be a good circuits engineer, you have to learn as much as possible about how to analyze circuits without using Spice. But nobody learns that these days. Nobody teaches that.

I apologize for being slow to reply, but I answer easier questions quickly, and the harder ones take more time. Got the picture?

If you are reasonably good at software, then a comparable course of study may be a little easier for you. But what tasks have you gotten done with software? What systems have you designed with software? Did they work well?
My advice on software is substantially worthless, as I’ve never written any. So my path to be a software engineer would be almost as slow as your path to be an analog design engineer.

If you want to be an analog engineer, you must also have the right kind of aptitudes. If you don’t have them, you’d be wasting your time and spinning your wheels. Obviously, I have no idea where your aptitudes lie. Let me find some ideas on this soon.

I apologize for being so brutally honest, but anything less than reality would be doing you a disservice. You should go in the direction your experience and your aptitudes are taking you. See “What’s All This Aptitude Stuff, Anyhow?” at

Best wishes.



I enjoyed your story about the digital-to-analog converter (DAC) at Philbrick Researches in the 1960s and your mention of the high-stability wire-wound resistors (see “What’s All This DAC Stuff, Anyhow?” at http://electronicdesign.com/article/analog-and-mixed-signal/What-s-All-This-DAC-Stuff-Anyhow-.aspx.) I was wondering if the manufacturer was Julie Research. (We used Julie resistors to make 1 Ω, 10, 100, and 1k, about as big as a baby’s fist, for various precision projects. But in the DAC, Julie Research Laboratories (JRL) was not competitive. What we bought was 1/4 by 1/2 in. long. /rap)

Around 1964 or 1965 I worked for Julie Research, which made hand-wound-wire resistors made out of Evenohm (That is Evanohm, I believe. /rap) from Wilber Driver wire, potted in black epoxy cement, in their building on W 62 St. in Manhattan. (I’ve been there. /rap) Loebe (Loebe Julie of Julie Research Labs) mentioned he had worked at Philbrick before founding JRL. (I am indeed told he worked with George Philbrick, but I never knew what their business arrangements were. I’m sure I was 2 or 12 years old at that time. /rap)

If you are interested, I could recount my first real engineering job as a 19-year-old undergraduate at CCNY’s engineering school. (I’d be delighted to hear your story. My March 30 column will be about George. /rap)


Al Schwartz


Hello Al,

I do not have custody of one of those DACs, but I recall plainly the wire-wound resistors from RCL. RCL knew how to wind sets of resistors from one spool and how to wind them for Type HS. Not all the R makers did. Did you ever see Loebe winding up resistors for type HS?

Thanks for writing. Beast regrds.


Hi Bob,

I read your article “What’s All This Unintended Acceleration Stuff...” (see http://electronicdesign.com/article/analog-and-mixed-signal/What-s-All-This-Unintended-Acceleration-Stuff-Anyhow-.aspx). You missed a very important point: Today’s cars don’t have an ignition key; they have “key-less” systems instead. (Cars have keys. Crap computers have “paddles” and push-buttons and “Mother may I?” power systems. I’m not buying any of them. I hope you aren’t, either. Fornicate “today’s cars.” I know how to rip out the batteries from my computers. I don’t need permission to do that. /rap)

You have a “pad” that you put in a square hole in the dashboard, or in some cases, a pad you only need to have close to the car (remote sensing). (Fornicate that! Can I shut it off or can’t I? If I can’t, I won’t drive it. I won’t buy it. /rap) The pad gets locked in and then you push a start/stop button. This button is deactivated when you drive (I guess so you don’t accidentally stop the engine while driving).

(Toyota and Lexus say you don’t have to “stop the engine when you drive,” even if the gas pedal is stuck with the throttle open, or even if that causes me to go 125 mph... No. My wife has a good old Toyota, and it has a key. She knows how to turn it on and how to turn it off. I do, too. I know how to find them in the dark. /rap)

You take the pad out by pushing on it, but this is also deactivated while the engine is on. The only way to stop the engine while you are driving is to push and hold the start/stop button for more than two seconds (in most cars, but it is not stated anywhere in the car manual, at least I have not found it in my BMW manual).

(You have my permission to beat up the Bimmer guys and put the fear of God into them. Demand a good (emergency) solution!! Even they have to learn to take the customers seriously. Tell them you already have a $50 million lawsuit, with all of the names of their employees, typed out and ready to file if you don’t like their answers. /rap)

Sorry that the 911 dispatcher didn’t know that when four people were killed in the famous Toyota crash in California. (I’m very sad that the agency gave them a loaner car with no warning and with an oversized floor mat. But there are a lot more than four people who died. /rap)

I would like if you could write about this soon in your column, as I don't know how many people know about this. (I’ve covered this. See my follow-up to the column in “Bob’s Mailbox: Readers Respond To Unintended Acceleration” at http://electronicdesign.com/article/analog-and-mixed-signal/Readers-Respond-To-Unintended-Acceleration.aspx. /rap)


Hans Hammarquist
PS: The verdict is out and they found nothing wrong with the Toyota software controlling the throttle. How surprising! Did anyone with software experience really think they could find this “bug?” If you could find a bug in that short amount of time, Microsoft would not have to update its software every Tuesday.

(Maybe Toyota has better software than Microsoft. I tend to believe that. My documentation of criticizing and despising Microsoft has been posted (see http://electronicdesign.com/article/embedded/what_s_all_this_microsoft_stuff_anyhow.aspx). I had a lot of trouble when I got this MacBook, but it’s running pretty well these days, after months of struggling (see http://electronicdesign.com/article/pease-porridge/what_s_all_this_mac_complaint_stuff_anyhow_.aspx). /rap)

I still believe there is a bug that caused this accident and many (but not all) of the other accidents.


Dear Hans,

It used to be 1% of unintended acceleration that was caused by tangle-foot drivers. But most cars got better, so now it may be 90%. Several readers told me that in case of unintended acceleration, they thought shifting into neutral was better than turning off the key. Unfortunately, most cars with the engine screaming and the throttle stuck wide open can lose their power brakes, due to low manifold pressure, so turning off the key is usually still safer.  

Beast regrds.


I always feel nervous with my kids and grandkids on steep trails (See http://electronicdesign.com/article/analog-and-mixed-signal/What-s-All-This-Small-Hiker-Stuff-Anyhow-.aspx). A long time ago, a member of our church gave a talk about going to Niagara Falls with his grandson, who ran ahead of him. When he got to the end of the trail, a cliff over the falls, there was a big crowd gathered. His grandson had gone over the edge of the cliff, but had not fallen in the falls so he was able to be rescued. Ever since I heard that story 30+ years ago (and I am not sure now who told it!), I get nervous with children around cliffs!

Good article!


Hi M.,

Kids who have shown good judgment are likely to continue to do so. Kids who don’t know how to stop when they come to a fence need to be restrained somehow. Maybe a leash? I used a harness and leash on my kids when they were small. My parents used a harness and leash on me when I was small. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do to keep them from leaping out into dangerous places, like highways, where they are not good at understanding the danger.


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