Dear Mr. David:
I disagree with your assumptions at the beginners level in electronics. While tremendous accomplishments have been made by some very intelligent engineers, as usual the engineering people have overlooked the most important step to that end.
Allow me to explain. The level of electronics is so far advanced that individual components with actual leads and a local store like Radio Shack are now a part of history. The reason? Engineering has taken great steps to increase the quality and reduce the size of electronics that the entire generation of engineers has forgotten that they started with a simple project that they could find in publications such as Radio Electronics and Popular Electronics, just to name two magazines. When was the last time you saw one of these publications? At one point when computers became popular back in the last 70’s and early 80’s Popular Electronics converted over to Popular Computers or something like that. While that was probably very helpful at the time they lost tons of readers. And while computers were important, the basics of plain old projects disappeared and with it the experimenter. As they began to face less and less potential, engineers were drawn to the field. Now engineering is fine and a well-established institution of life but you can’t teach real life in books. I had been doing electronic repair for a number of years before I went to college to get a two-year degree in electronics. While the theory is great, it really does not teach you the real world application of what actually works and what works in theory.
We (as a nation) have left behind our children to explore the world of electronics and many other fields by becoming so sophisticated that we forget were we come from. Recently I was looking for some more room to store more electronic information. I had a pretty good library of Technical specification manuals from TI, Motorola, Fairchild, etc. The high schools didn’t want them, as they no longer had any closely related classes nor the bookstores. It broke my heart to have to literally throw them away. At one time several years ago I still had every issue of Popular Electronics from 1964 to about the mid 1990’s. Sadly most of those and many others have gone in the trashcan. I could not find at least one person that was interested anymore. Engineers have perfected the science to a point that you can no longer find information on a product or even its repair manuals. Gone are local shops where vendors were once glad to help a young boy or girl discover the excitement of making some electronic device their own pride and joy.
It’s been a long time coming, but electronic repair is dead. Sure you have a few skilled people that perform the repairs, but mostly it’s a board replacement, not really repairing to component level. You are the engineer and you have outsmarted yourselves. I personally do not think those days will ever return. With all the outsourcing we allow to kill our manufacturing our engineers will be next, and then what?
After I graduated high school in 1960, I decided to teach myself electronics. With the help of many technicians, books, and even engineers I was able to learn enough to make a good living at it for many years. When I attended college I found out that I had to bring my own equipment to lab. It was so far behind it was difficult to conduct class experiments with. I worked for a school district in Texas and on the side I serviced equipment for about 30 school districts. At some point I left the school district and opened up my own business. With all the electronic magazines back then I built my own alarm system and even some of the test equipment to repair equipment with. My love of electronics served me well through the years and I became an amateur radio operator. I’ve also worked for large industrial petrochemical complexes, law enforcement electronics, and counter-intelligence in electronics.
I have seen this coming for many years now and it greatly saddens me to see the final curtain for Lafayette Electronics, the old Allied Electronics, and finally Radio Shack. I guess all good things must end but it still makes me mad as hell that we as a nation have given it all away for a few dollars. Everything is done for GREED and POWER now. It is a sad state.
Former Electronic Technician