Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Mr. Pease:
You inserted a comment into the letter by Dan Conine (Electronic Design, Aug. 21, 2000, p. 136) that demands an informed response. In your insertion, you stated "I might like some of those better than military technicians who are mostly only trained to follow cook-book troubleshooting procedures. Are they educated in theory? I doubt there are many who are." (As you point out below: MY DOUBTS were not well-founded. I'm delighted that you have proven me wrong./rap)

I attended the Air Force's Microwave Radio Maintenance school at Keesler AFB, Miss., from May to December, 1983. The first five months of that training consisted of device and circuit theory. We covered everything from discrete devices to transceivers, from ac theory to digital truth tables. Interwoven with all this theory was a continual emphasis on troubleshooting. Frequently the question was asked: "What would happen to this circuit if this component opened/shorted/broke into oscillation?" This practice of having us continually thinking in terms of "what would happen??" continued into our specialty training. (That sounds pretty good—a good combination of theory, practice, and Troubleshooting. /rap)

There we encountered practical troubleshooting. Our instructors kept a stock of bad components available that were used to "break" the equipment. We were then told what the equipment was or wasn't doing, and were told to fix it. No cook-book there. You were expected to find and fix the problem within minutes, while having an instructor watch over your shoulder. It was quite nerve-racking, but taught us to think quickly and efficiently to find problems. (Darned few schools will teach you THAT. But are the USAF programs STILL done that way? Do you know? Many other good educational programs have changed a lot./rap

A great many of us who graduated from these schools have various careers in the electronics industry. The training that I received enabled me to obtain both an Amateur Radio license, and an FCC General Radiotelephone License, with virtually no studying. In fact, most of the people who took the FCC test with me were military members. I'm employed as an electronic troubleshooter at a broadcast facility, and am quite successful despite having had no broadcast training. The broad depth of knowledge that I obtained in the military allows me to work in virtually any electronic specialty.

With most colleges not even offering courses in analog electronics, RF, or antenna theory, military school graduates are the best source of highly knowledgeable and experienced technicians available. By the time an employer sees a military person, they're getting someone who has had both an in-depth theoretical education and years of hands-on field experience.

Perhaps you could revisit this issue. I think you'd see your perception of military technicians is false.
Bill Lazure, CET
Broadcast Engineer
WSTM TV, Syracuse, N.Y.
via e-mail

Thanks for writing. A few other guys tweaked me on this, but your explanation is about the best. I'm just curious, though, why didn't I run into some of these guys? Maybe here is Silicon Valley, there aren't so many of them.—RAP

Floobydust Extras
There wasn't room in my last "Floobydust Stuff, Part 9" (Electronic Design, Dec. 4, 2000, p. 141) to fit in all of the items that I had prepared, so here are the leftovers:

How bit?? How big is a "drop" of water? You can try to look it up in an encyclopedia, or an almanac, or a dictionary—or in a handbook of physics. But these books don't usually tell you the size of a "drop." The other day, I needed to know, and I asked around. I go no answers, so I took some data. I counted 100 drops of water from a faucet to fill up a Tablespoon (1/2 ounce or 14 grams). Thus, such a drop is about 0.14 grams. Then I counted 100 drops from a small medicine dropper to just make 1/4 ounce or 7 grams. That's 0.07 to 0.14 grams per drop, or about a factor of 2 difference. That sounds pretty VAGUE. But hey, a facto r of 1.26 in a linear dimension of a "drop" gives a factor of 2 in volume. So we know the size of a "drop" within a fairly reasonable span—about ±12% in a linear dimension—and we know that not all "drops" are the same size. And now you can write into your dictionary that one "drop" can have a diameter of 0.6 cm, ±12%, and a mass in the range of 0.07 to 0.14 grams.

Timers: Our Coffee Gal was starting to get reprimands and warnings because the coffeepot would sometimes be left on all weekend. On a Saturday afternoon, security would smell the stink of scorched coffee and leave her nasty notes about generating fire hazards. (A fire in 5 grams of coffee dregs in a pyrex coffeepot could hardly cause any real fire—even though it would sure make a stink.) I wanted to find a timer—not just a 24-hour timer, but a seven-day, 24-hour timer—so the coffeepot would stay OFF on Saturdays and Sundays.

Fry's didn't have one. Radio Shack didn't either. But Home Depot did. Problem solved. Of course we had to wire it up, as it didn't come prewired to plugs and sockets.

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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