Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Mr. Pease:
My husband, Ed Gill, (a.k.a. "Ed the Good" and "Saint Ed") gave me a copy of your June 10 article, "What's All This Hollering Stuff, Anyhow?" Mr. Gill informed me that it reminded him of me. I want to make it perfectly clear that I rarely, if ever, have cause to holler at Mr. Gill. This could be because I have seen him yell at other people — sort of like the effect your Mr. Swanson had on his co-workers.

However, I must admit I have raised my voice on occasion to others who do give me just cause. I don't see anything wrong with this, because I feel that if a person can't understand something the first (or second, or possibly THIRD) time they were told, then you need to turn up the volume and turn up the heat on the words chosen.

Just recently, I was loudly explaining something to a co-worker, which won me a trip to my supervisor's office to listen to her for a while. All my sound-bitten brain could come up with was, "I yell because I care," which, by the way, I saw on a T-shirt. I will give a copy of your article to my supervisor.

One other comment before I close — your Mr. Swanson may have been acting more from self-preservation than chivalry in opting not to holler at the "fairer" sex. Believe me, at times, there are not less fairer people on this planet when the hollering starts.
Blue Care Network
Southfield, Mich.

Maggie, I'm glad you care enough to holler the very best! — RAP

Dear Bob:
I enjoyed the letter from G. Roland Bradbury regarding a power circuit in a very old house that needed to "warm up" before it delivered full power. He traced it to a corroded junction between some copper bus-bars, and guessed that copper oxide or copper sulfide was acting as a semiconductor, conducting when hot, but not when cold.

While his explanation seems plausible, it struck me that there may be another one. As the bus-bars are heated by the voltage drop across the corrosion, the copper expands. Perhaps this expansion, and the resulting tightening or shifting of the joint, was what caused the improved connection.

Talk of corrosion reminded of a time, shortly after I had received my BSEE from MIT, when I fixed a malfunctioning turn signal on my father's car. I spent about an hour on it, grumbling all along about the trouble I was having diagnosing a circuit that was not much more complex than a flashlight. After all, I was now officially an Electrical Engineer! I found it amazingly difficult and time-consuming to make continuity measurements from one side of the firewall to the other. But what mainly caused my diagnosis to take so long was my assumption that the car's bumper, a heavy steel chrome-plated assembly, was surely electrically connected to the car's frame, seeing as it was held in place by four one-inch diameter bolts. I forgot what a good insulator iron oxide is! Eventually, I figured out that the problem was in the ground return, and solved it by attaching a wire from the bumper to the frame. The next day, my father mentioned to his mechanic that he was not dropping the car off to have the turn signal fixed because "my son fixed it." To this, the mechanic replied, "Lost the ground, huh?"
Kronos Inc.
Waltham, Mass.

Yeah, troubleshooting simple things that could not possibly go WRONX is a challenge for young engineers. Fortunately, silicon dioxide is a much better insulator than iron oxide. — RAP

All for now. / Comments invited! RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer Address:
Mail Stop D2597A
National Semiconductor
P.O. Box 58090
Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

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