Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob:
Re: Paul Leonard and his comments on trekking in the Sept. 15 "Bob's Mailbox." INSPIRATION is something that's desperately needed in today's electronics industry. And getting away from the computer, the desk, and drawing board and thinking about the great outdoors allows the brain to create, as opposed to reworking old ideas. And let's be honest—how many new ideas happen today? Most are squashed-up combinations of existing ideas. Where are today's Colpitts, Hartleys, Edisons, Morses, Bells, and Marconis?

Contemplate the ratio of the circumference of your head first to the circumference of the Earth, then to that of the solar system, and you may be able to cope with the ratio of head to galaxy, but at that point the brain says, "Hey, man, this is beyond conventional thought!" At this point, the brain may go into overdrive and creativity may occur. Or it gives up and looks for something it can comprehend. In the great outdoors, there really is nothing that can be consciously comprehended. How does a pinhead-size seed grow into a tree? I could at this point believe in God, but I prefer to accept that mankind's lack of comprehension requires a God to explain the unexplainable. After all, who believes in the Rain God today? OK, OK, so the great outdoor rain can be comprehended, but where were the two H2 and the O2 before the big bang, and where did they come from in the first place?

One of my best inspirations came in a forest north of the Arctic Circle as I enjoyed the midnight twilight. It was a blast of creativity that I guess was layered down under ages of routine miniaturization of existing circuits and repackaging of old ideas. And no, it is not for publication—if it works it will make enough money for me to go to Nepal and return to Finland (I hope ).

At the end of August, I sat on a cliff-top in West Wales looking over the ocean at a distant flash of a lighthouse on some isolated rock. And I wondered: was it transistorized timer operating a power semiconductor or lenses in a rotating metal frame floating on mercury round a constantly lit lamp? I'll never know for sure, but it made me think about old and new methods. Came up with several reasons why the floating on mercury was the better method.

(Yeah, but not far north of the arctic circle!!! Nor on Lake Superior, where it gets below −40°C—rigging a heater for the mercury might be too much work!—RAP)

And to Mike McGinn, who also commented on trekking in the same issue. Mike, about your list of "I can'ts." I hope that you write it in pencil and keep an eraser next to it. A girl I know has a terrible time with cardiac illness. Her list of "I can'ts" is written in pencil, except for the the top item which is "I can't give up until this list is empty" and written in ink.

On occasion, she manages to rub out a "I can't" and rewrite it in ink on the "I did" list. Against all odds she has made it to the age when portable, intelligent heart defibrillators are available, giving her more freedom of movement. One day, hopefully, a transplant may cure her. Until then, her eraser will be busy, but the list will grow. She told me that each "I can't" was read as "I can't yet." And if any reader doesn't carry an organ-donor card, why not?
via e-mail

(Note to Mike: Fortunately, you ARE able to go hiking. You just can't go far from civilization where WHEELS and cheap electric power make your dialysis feasible.—RAP)

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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