Electronic Design

Bob's Mailbox

Dear Bob: I really enjoyed your piece (and your articles in general) on Analog PowerPoint.* It gave me a chuckle and reminded me of my own experience. I was invited to speak at the TAPR conference about CIRCAD (a CAD program). Before I could speak, I was forced to sit through several "endless" PowerPoint presentations. I found myself falling asleep and had to excuse myself to go sack out for an hour to build myself up for my own talk. The funny thing is that I found myself wishing to not do the same thing to others that had been done to me.

So when I stepped up to talk to the room full of people, the hosts asked me where my laptop was. I said I was going to try it without using PowerPoint. One of the fellows blocked my way and put his hand out. "No, really, where is your computer?" he asked. I repeated my statement and he stared at me as I walked up to the podium with a drink coaster. I asked how many of the designers there remembered when schematics were mostly started on napkins and drink coasters. Lots of hands went up (GREAT!!! /rap), and I gave a short talk on what I felt was the history of CAD design and so forth. I explained the steps needed to do a proper design, etc.

But the real kicker is that I was called later and told that my talk was the most popular one at the conference! I think that "reading" what is on a PowerPoint slide is the reason people veg out. I can read a lot faster than anyone can talk, and turning down the lights is the perfect mix for putting me to sleep. If the slides show things that can't be said, I think it's positive. (CHECK! /rap)

By the way, at a raffle after the program, my drink-coaster schematic was offered as a prize. The winner, very excited, ran back to his table and yelled out, "Hey this thing has TUBES in it! 6V6s, I think."

  • Jay Craswell (via e-mail)
  • Pease: Keep up the good work! You should have that drink coaster FRAMED!

Dear Bob: Your chronicle about "Mnemonic Stuff" (electronic design, March 1, p. 14) reminded me about how I learned the color code while attending technical school. In the workshop, all the resistors were in a huge drawer. They were well organized by value in rows and columns, starting at 10 Ω and ending at 22 MΩ. The first time I pulled that drawer open, I did not realize there was no stop, so all the resistors fell out. There were maybe close to a hundred of each value, mixed on the floor like a kid's toy. By the time I had put them all back in the correct order (the color code should read from left to right), I knew the color code! I never had to learn it again!

  • Philippe Trolliet (via e-mail)
  • Pease: Uh, yeah, Philippe. I guess that was a good learning experience! Fortunately, the resistors would have fallen into little clumps, not perfectly randomized!

Comments invited!
[email protected] —or:

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

Cruise Control Revisited: I got the "Cruise Control" beeper circuit working and used it for a couple of weeks on the open road. It sorta worked. It really did. I could tell if I was above the set speed, and I could hold the speed I wanted a little better than I could do without it. Then I parked it. Put it away. It wasn't doing me any good in terms of safe driving. I would cruise along at 68 mph and discover that I would get into a minor 63-mph traffic jam. When I tried to go around it, I realized I had waited too long, so I had to wait at 62 mph for all the faster guys to pass me.

When I just drove at a normal rate, I would see the jam up ahead, and I'd speed up to maneuver around it. MUCH safer. Even the ordinary "Cruise Control" of a store-bought car has the same problem. So holding a constant cruise speed is not a great idea, unless you are just trying to avoid speeding tickets. My good, old Beetle can go over 85, but I can't go fast enough to get a ticket out here. I'll just keep on rolling at 68 ±2 mph—without my beeping "Cruise Control." /rap

*ELECTRONIC DESIGN , March 29, p. 18

See associated figure

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