Search

Analog and Digital Craftsman

~Nothing beats the smell of coffee and solder~

~Hello World~

So,

Here I am. Willingly adding another tie to the vast matrix that has become the Virtual world as the years pass on by. My reasons are simple, I am absolutely tired of losing all of my digital pictures due to faulty USB drives, scratched and lost data cd’s and, the ever so felt feeling when a full phone of pictures ends up falling overboard while trying to reel in a catch.

Also,

I decided to post pictures and thoughts to this site as a little “keep sake” that I can access whenever and where ever I may roam as the years continue to pass. But, more importantly,I believe keeping these projects and designed builds in a easy to access website will ultimately help with “expressing” experience and talent if ever needed in hopes of securing future employment.

With that said,

I’m not sure which is going to take longer. Building my designs, or actually posting them to this site. Only time shall tell.

Advertisements
Featured post

~To be Theoretical or,Practical?~

Over my years, I have noticed there are two sides to *engineering*.

1.Practical Engineering

2.Theoretical Engineering

 

Without flooding this post with copy/paste definitions of the terms, I’ll keep this very simple.

1.Practical Engineering ” To have knowledge of designs by years of working with them on a hands on practice.

2.Theoretical Engineering ” To have the knowledge of designs by years of learning and working more so with the formulas and mathematics of how a design is going to work without an actual working unit.

~Example~

Let us say that we have two engineers,

a) Practical

b)Theoretical

 

Both engineers are faced with the same exact problem. ( We will keep this simple )

*Problem* –

“What resistance is needed to not burn out an LED when the  only able voltage source is 9vDC”

Both engineers may know this answer instantly because they have come across this issue a hundred times in their lives. Where as, if they haven’t, they may go about it two different ways.

*Both know the forward voltage of the LED is 2.2vDC and the rated current flow is 20ma. So with that information, they can both solve this question in their own way.*

~Theoretical~

(Resistance)= ( Volt source – Voltage of LED ) / the current draw of the LED

OR

R=(Vs – vLED) / I LED

R=resistance V=Voltage I=Current

S0, with that said, the *Theoretical* engineer already has enough information to plug into the formula.

(9 – 2.2 ) / .0200

6.8 / .0200

R=340 Ohm Resistor is needed for that circuit

 

And in all honesty, there is nothing wrong with *Theoretical* engineering. Look how quickly that answer was generated. Let’s look at the * Practical* engineer and how he/she is going to tackle this same problem.

 

~Practical~

The *practical* knows he/she is going to be using one led and a 9v DC battery. All that’s missing is that resistor value. So, He/she is just going to grab a few things,

1.Multi-meter

2.Led

3)9 volt battery

4)Potentiometer *adjustable resistor* or just some random resistors they have laying around the house/shop.

Logic and practice is going to tell them to start with a high resistance value and work down from there, the multi-meter is going to be used to capture the actual current flowing through the circuit. So with a higher than needed resistance the current is going to be lower that the wanted 20ma. So while slowly reducing the resistance the *Practical* engineer will be able to slowly tune in the value.

With the *practical* setup the current is measured at 18.6ma with a resistance of 340 OHMs (*banded value combination*) after starting from 800 Ohm and working back. Those numbers show how it’s almost right. But, by actually being hands on, the *practical* found there were a few differences from the original information given.

The power supply was only putting out 8.4 v DC which changes the values a bit when in formula.

What is actually in front of the *practical* is;

V=8.4Dc      ILED=18.6     RES=335   VLED=2.3 ( all very realistic tolerances in LED and resistor manufacturing.

Doing the math-

(8.4 – 2.3) / .0186

6.1 / .0186

Equals 327 Ohms.

*Now keep in mind there are a few variables to overcome. When dealing with OHMS law, some days it just makes me wanna beat my head against the wall. But factor in the calibration of the test equipment,resistance in traces,wires,terminations, the actual battery strength or power supply output, then the overall tolerance of the resistor’s *actual* value,and the LED’s tolerance, there will always be some sort of variance from the math to the actual circuit. (unless tolerance is at a minimum )

But for the most part, both *practical and theoretical * engineers achieved the desired outcome, both in their own ways.

 

Is *Practical* beneficial to saving a design company time and money? Most often not. But has great applications when dealing with existing circuits that are changing over time.

Time is money and the quickest way to the finish line is what a company needs to do to stay competitive.

 

BUT……. when would the *Practical* engineer’s ways be beneficial?

Let’s say, Neither of the engineers knew the actual forward voltage and current draw of an LED.. Now, there are some missing numbers. And often this is when the two sides of engineering have their wins and losses.

A *Practical* will be able to use his/her way to actually test out the LED, determine the limits of the LED by visual and past experience. The *Theoretical* will most likely reach out to the *practical* or, order the right LEDS with their expectations written on the package. Some *theoretical* engineers will also maintain the ability to utilize the same practices as the *practical*, but it all comes down to one thing, ~Experience~

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Am I a nerd?~

“Do electronic craftsmen have a sense of humor, or are they just serious all the time with no personality? You know, nerds?”

I was asked this a few times and as I type this I am both laughing and, I will be honest; a few snorts as well. (Not the same snorts as the laughing in Revenge of the Nerds 1, 2 and 3) a kinda cool, snort. Like if the FONZ snorted. It’s possible! Stop laughing! See, I bet a few of you just snorted too, you just won’t admit it. It’s ok, your secret is safe. Now your high school Chess trophy on the other hand…..

I had an *interesting* transition into the world of electronics when I started at 18. Since I was into electronics and had my first *fixed wattage* soldering iron at 6 years old.. ( yeah, what can I say… I still to this day miss the smell of the old Radio Shacks) Come to think of it, they all smelled the same back then. Wool, polyester,  basement mildew, packaging  plastic, import plastic  molded  toys, the scent of analog electronics *burning  in* and ok, lets add  in  cigarette smoke, breath  mints and a dash of desperation. God how I miss those battery rewards cards…

It was at an interesting time. Grown men were still living in their parent’s basements and at 40, eh. 40 is the new 20, right? Pocket protectors were still a very COMMON site as were the *up all night, haven’t showered in days* sweat and oil matted hair. Let’s not forget the signature Weird AL glasses. Sorry, I can’t make this up! Oh and the water cooler talk? Oh my, I never needed to watch Star Trek because that is all I heard my coworkers speak of when they weren’t working. Seriously…. Can’t make this stuff up.

~ok, they weren’t ALL like this. But more than not.~

I was 18, into chasing the *chics* long haired, into rock and roll and classics like, The Doors and Floyd. I had an appearance to maintain for all my *cool friends* outside of work, while also trying to fit in with my fellow co-workers and play the part. Last thing I wanted them to think was I was a free radical hippy stoner-otherwise I may have gotten piss tested…

I was just pouring a cup of coffee when I laughed. NOT snorted…

My mind raced to a time and place I recalled so vividly… I actually at one point in my life worked at a Radio Shack, when they still sold component parts and not just a junk retail store like they are now. THE stories I could, and probably will at one point or another talk about, ha-ha. …Snort.

 

 

“Name and address, Please?”

“Do you need any batteries to go with that, or for anything else you have at home?”

“I see you bought the 6204 analog conversion interface with built in semi-conductor transducing technology, can I recommend the * Semi-oscillating ,  solid state, refracting toaster oven with the built in am and FM transmitter?”

“Oh what cute children you have, did you happen to notice all of our FM frequency remote control cars are on sale this week? Just buy a 50 pack of AA’s and the car is yours for $5. And by the way, the car runs on 1 nine volt and 4 D cells.”

“Thank you for your purchase of an UHF/VHF aerial antenna. Could I interest you in possibly upgrading to our newest satellite service provider?”

“Yes Sir, I understand the colors are different on the outside. But a nine volt battery is a nine volt battery, I promise you it will work.” TRUE STORY THERE!!!

“ Absolutely, we have all the components you would ever need to build your own *free cable box* every purchase comes with a prison sentence when you get caught, too.”

 

~Smacking myself on the forehead~

I think I need more coffee…….

`When I left the bench and hit the road~

“Road warrior”

Is the actual definition still used today when a company defines the requirements for a posted job, a fitting title in today’s world.

Let me take you back almost two decades ago.

I was a younger version of the person I am today. Spent several years in the AEROSPACE and DEFENSE board level repair and assembly; as well as numerous other civilian electronic companies.

-Wire crimping, by hand and also by machine, sub-d connector assembly, GOV pin connectors, single and dual headers.

-Soldering of through-hole, surface mount, wire to wire, re-flow ovens, De-soldering hot air stations, soldering under stereo microscopes, Wire bridging, solder paste silk screening, MIL SPEC soldering expectations.

-Hi-pot testing, environmental ( heat,cold and vibration), circuit board populating machines ( loading of parts and programming of part locations).

-Use of oscilloscopes, multi-meters, pulse generators, calibration and test equipment.

The list goes on and on and on………

At that time, the electronic industry was changing, Evolving; if you will. More and more products were being anticipated, the world of *micro management* was in it’s infancy and the rules were changing with each passing revolution of the minute hand. Repair tech’s were now under the microscope. Repair times were cut ( if a board could not be repaired in a new set amount of time, it was cheaper for the company to recycle the board and just populate a new board ). Less and less repair tech’s were being sought out, now general *documented* pre-test procedures were able to be done by the people on the line. Saving time, saving money.

But also,

The rules of the lines changed to. Finding ways to maximize employee productivity became the next targeted interest. ( And let’s be fair, it only made logical sense. Less people-more product equaled MORE money ! ) Soon work stations were designed to keep the employees *seated* starting with job bins that contained all the supplies they needed to build their units, then came the roller lines that actually moved the product directly to the employee so they didn’t even need to get up for anything. Even saving money with what became ( in my opinion a bad idea ) was no longer giving each employee their own tool kit and instead, having one set of tools mounted on the workstations for all shifts to use. Now there is saved money there !? one set of tools per work station instead of a set per employee, per shift.

This in all honesty , bothered me.

Here was my mental taking on the *shared tools*

Three shifts using the same tools, so at least 3 people per day handling those tools at each bench. All my OCD germ mind could think is, *How much lost production time are we going to have when everyone is getting everyone sick and now people are taking off more days as we pass these germs from shift to shift?* I mean think about it, sure if a sick person exposes their germs at work X amount may get the cold. But now, add those germs to shared tools, making even more people sick and exposing even more people. so on and so forth. It just seemed a stale mate in my mind *But, who am I ?*Not to mention the fact….Some people just cant seem to understand how to preserve a tool without breaking it, dulling it, or trying to (for some reason) use board level cutters to cut through steel (or so it seemed) by the pits and bends in those said cutters.

Eventually,

The passion for the industry took a turn for me. The pace was getting faster, the *expected* output was getting higher and higher. Some of the companies, started to hire at a less pay scale *KNOWING* they were going to keep the staff at a minimum and require overtime; but still be cheaper than paying many at a higher rate and only 40 hours across the board. Then, the real secret kicker….. Claiming *goals* by saying if we meet our production of X amounts of units by Friday, we won’t be forced to work a mandated weekend overtime. Here’s where it got good. They knew they needed the overtime so they knew exactly what the productivity was and just added a factor of 10-20-38% to come up with that *goal*.. Knowing the employees would never achieve that goal and the weekend work would happen without fail. But in the off chance, in the long shot the *team* did manage to meet that *goal* well it was a win win for the company, they saved some overtime and got ahead of the game.

This is in no way *Bashing* companies or industries, it was just how it began to evolve.

We were at a turning point in the electronics and production industry. Companies were moving across the pond, employees were wanting more and more pay and the competition was making the product cost less and less as they formulated even higher levels of lean production. Foreign industries were importing their products to us at a cost we could not even make them for. To stay afloat, the staffing got cut, the work demand got greater on the remaining employees and the 40 hour work week became a thing of the past as 50+ hours became the norm.

A lot of companies went under, some struggled and others survived. But one thing that will never change is that constant competition to compete, be productive and still somehow make a profit from all the madness. It was just another day in the world of economics and industry.

That was about when, as I mentioned before- the *passion* in me for that type of work began to fade. And lets face it, I was also young, dumb and felt like I had to see the world, experience everything and be everywhere all at the same time. Looking back on it now, youth is a very narrow minded creature-

So,

I did want any like minded, frustrated-adventurous *free spirited* person would have done. I picked up the want ads ( you know, what was in newspapers before the internet even existed..) and sought out my options ( or escape plan ) as i saw it then.

Long and behold,

A listing attracted my eyes!

“Now hiring ! Do you know electronics? Do you have a thirst for travel? Do you want to see the world and do what you enjoy doing? Then call 123-1234”

( yup back even before we needed to add area codes to our number)

Something along those lines anyhow. Don’t hold me to actually remembering the *exact* listing. But I do remember it had rained that morning so the newspaper had that dew smell to it.

I hit that interview full speed ahead!

They were offering me things that at that time seemed like a DREAM!

  1. Company truck
  2. Company credit card
  3. Company pager ( cellphones were a year or so off)

All I had to do, Grab my stack of repair folders/inspections/parts and hit the open road and become an electronic road warrior and travel the endless highways with god speed and get the work done!

A free spirited person’s DREAM ! Right?

Besides,

What could possibly go wrong?……

 

 

~As the coffee brews~

I do not know about you, but nothing is finer than a nice cup of straight up coffee. Mind not the milk or fancy creamers; just serve it to me black, some days with some cane sugar and other days, nothing. ( Unless I am at a diner, then of course all the cream and sugar in the world please. make that cup a liquid cheesecake of calories and sweetness )

” I expected so much more seeing what you make? Really, that is all it takes? ”

I get that response a lot when people come over and actually see my  *Mad scientist work station*

They always assume electronic engineers. Wait…… I’m changing that. I never liked the title *Electronic Engineer*, So I am changing that right now.

~Electronic Craftsman~ *Yea, that is the title choice of my endless years behind copper traces and lead*

So,

getting back on topic. When people come over they expect to see something right out of the science fiction movies and those old mad scientist labs. I’m talking about the Jacobs ladders, the old tube oscilloscopes, bench top multi-meters, pulse generators, miles of wires running everywhere like the scene of a great analog synthesizer all wired up for audio madness. Perhaps a few test tubes of bubbling,smoking liquid. ( ok that one may be a bit far fetched but come on now, people have some grand imaginations ) Maybe even the vision of a seriously disturbed *craftsman* with an overflowing ashtray, a thick smog in the air that makes your eyes water and a smell that is for the better part; overwhelming.

Oh yea, and do not forget the wall to wall benches and shelves supporting all this gear and only a 1 foot square work space that is actually clear enough to work on…….

Never,

I am a minimalist. Seriously, minus the endless drawers, boxes and tupperware containers holding all my components; what more does one really need?

1) A good adjustable soldering iron and a arsenal of varying tips

2) A good handheld multi-meter capable of voltage-resistance-current

3) Smoke ventilation scrubber

4) A USB oscilloscope ( an absolute PRO in this ever progressing electronics world )

5) A strong cup of coffee

6) MUSIC !!!

7) A CLEAN ( well to start…. ) work area

That’s about it!

I was able to utilize my mind and live in many states working with electronics, so traveling light became a necessity. Besides, we all know that most of the crap we gathered over the years to add to our *work area* was just out of shear had to have and for some, simply an ego booster.

I have had a lot of great friends come and go in the music industry, some with only a six string on their back and others with a van full of stacks to *enhance* their sound. But at the end of the day, it was always the man with only the guitar that produced the most amazing music. Where the others were so distracted by tweaking and adjusting and troubleshooting and wiring and tuning and so on and so on that I do not even recall hearing them ever play anything- or, anything to justify all that expense. But to each their own! Whatever gets us through this rat race I say.

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑