Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob:
My old boss (John Myers) stopped by my cubicle a little while ago and dropped the Jan. 12 issue of Electronic Design, open to your column, on my desk. He said, "Gerry, you are in good company with your copper-clad breadboards," and then walked off.

Your column, as always, was good for a chuckle and a lot of whole-hearted agreement. Most of the YPEs (Young Punk Engineers) I have met recently have never had their hands dirty or changed the oil in their car, let alone prototyped.

The bread boards I used to make for John usually consisted of copper-clad stock with a twist. I use a Dremel tool with a mill ball and a straight edge to cut long, wide, bus bars into the copper-clad stock.

By the way, I have used your "What's All This..." title in several of the columns I have done for the Garland Amateur Radio Club. If you want to see them, they can be found at: web2.airmail.net/gerryc/newham.html.
Gerald Crenshaw
via e-mail

Gerry, you have some nice work on your site that can help new hams. Sections NHP-4, -3, and -9 seem quite thoughtful. You sure have your head screwed on right! Thanks.—RAP

Dear Bob:
I would like to take a moment to provide my insights (as an EE student) on the notion that there is a slight naivete about passive components. Sure, not every student is taught about differences, but common sense should prevail when looking at data sheets—the material is specified for a reason. Maybe that would give the EE a clue that, quite possibly, one could use other materials for the component.

Maybe not everyone uses data sheets, but that is why the experienced EE can be of great service to the new EE. With a little bit of assistance and encouragement, hopefully the new EE will become a great asset to the engineering community. So please remember to help the "new kid" and maybe you will feel a little bit better knowing that you are helping your future and someone else's.
Electronics Design Technician
Nonin Medical Inc.
Plymouth, Minn.

Mike, I agree that we have to be nice and helpful to young engineers. But you'll agree, it's not always easy to get the message across.—RAP

Dear Bob:
Re: Your Jan. 12 column

Seems that these "wonderful" computers have virtually eliminated any lab courses. I remember a chemist friend of mine saying (20 years ago) that soon one would be able to get a degree in chemistry without ever touching a test tube.

At the time, he was programming simulations of titration at the University of Illinois. They were experimenting with computer teaching using plasma displays in combination with rear-screen projection of microfiche.

When I was a few years out of college (circa 1958), I was interviewing new graduates for positions in our company. I had been working on a little logic board, and during an interview, absent-mindedly asked one of the interviewees to pass me a 10-k? resistor from the pile laying on the table behind him. I got a blank look in return. "You don't know the resistor color code?" I asked. "No," was the reply. By then, in my early career, I recognized standard 5% resistors without "translating" colors.

Most of my career has been spent at the other end of the frequency spectrum from RF. Presently, I deal with subaudio signals from vibration transducers in balancing machines (5 to 20 Hz, most commonly). We deal with very-low-level signals from vibration transducers, and have learned how to keep our analog circuits quiet. We also have minimized crosstalk in two signal channels in the presence of high frequencies from the computer that processes the signal after the analog preprocessing.

It's too bad that engineering has gotten so filled with complex theory that there is NO time for anything practical. Back in my college days, we had lab courses in such areas as Welding (gas and arc) and Machine Shop (constructed a nice little bench vice using milling machines, a shaper, and a lathe).

The Mechanical Engineering side course had a lab studying internal combustion engines, dynamometer studies, speed-torque curves, etc.

The Electrical Machinery lab studied motors of various types. Surely most of what I learned in that course is now bordering on the obsolete, but the principles still work. I know the difference in characteristics between series and shunt wound motors, understand capacitor start and run, and single-phase ac motors.

A more recent graduate than I can do a DSP algorithm off the top of his head that sends me to read textbooks and look for cookbook solutions, but he lacks some of the basic understanding of the physics of the real world.
Chief Applications Engineer
Hines Industries
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Practical knowledge is so important, because without it, a young engineer can waste a lot of time and get discouraged. It's not easy being a mentor, when the young engineers don't even know what they don't know...The kind of resistor they might have, for example.—RAP

All for now. / Comments invited!
RAP / Robert A. Pease / Engineer
[email protected] team.nsc.com—or:

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

Note: The USA distributor of Wainwright Instruments Inc., whose prototyping system was mentioned in the Jan. 12 issue is : RDI Wainwright, 69 Madison Ave., Telford, PA 18969-1829; (215) 723-4333; fax: (215) 723-4620; e-mail: [email protected]

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