The right end of the slobberin' iron & other fancies


From: Nils R Young (
Date: Sat Nov 28 1998 - 12:36:03 EST


Cindy pointed out an article in the local paper written by technology guy
who works for the local Cox newspaper chain. The article bemoaned the
fact that today no one -- especially the bright kids -- understands the
innards of the toys they play with constantly. And, after reading the
article, I sent the author (Bill Husted) the following note. (By the way,
he's a ham too.):

I'm sitting here with the temptation to order one of those Ten Tec
capacitor kits and, having just read your article about the dearth of
hands-on building opportunites, thinking about how much easier it would
be to just buy the damn thing prebuilt from Tech America.

We don't have any future here, last of the tool users & all. You and I
and my grandparents & theirs before them got the old hands-on 'cause it
was possible. SMD don't give us much room to fiddle. Which, I guess, is
why Eric & Wayne of Elecraft have designed an HF CW/SSB transceiver kit
that costs $700+ with all add ons but which is all non-SMD. Guys like
you and me and others in the bifocal brigade luck out; our kids will
never understand.

Which reminds me of a story: About 20 years ago an engineering student at
the university where I work (see web page below) came into the A/V repair
shop (where I worked at that time) and asked me to help him with his
senior design project. You'll love this: it was a two transistor, one
chip, LM78** regulator for a power supply. He didn't understand why his
project wouldn't work & if he didn't get it working, he wouldn't be able
to graduate. So I asked him to show me the design. It was an almost
verbatim copy of the National Semicon data sheet. I may not be able to
find my keys or remember where I put my wallet, but I can remember a
circuit that I've built a couple hundred times. Then I asked to see the
board. He pulled a piece of perfboard/vero board out of his briefcase and
handed it to me.

All the leads on the parts were still sticking out the bottom. As in they
were all shoved into the holes on the board & that was that. No slobber,
no bent over leads from one part to another. And a couple wires here &
there for input/output/ground connections.

Now I don't know about you, but I started out replicating those little
space rocket/sputnik crystal radio kits by getting the parts & screwing
leads between them on a piece of pine plank, back around 1957. I was 11
then. And here's this senior in electrical engineering trying to get a
15-cent voltage regulator circuit to work for his senior year design
project 'cause he doesn't understand the principle of connections between

And for every one of those kinds of gringos I've met at least two who
were (a) not native gringos and who were (b) aware enough to know that
you have to slobber the parts together to make it work.

We're raising engineers in colleges all over this country who not only
don't know which end of the slobberin' iron to pick up, they don't even
understand the concept of solder/slobber itself!

So you & I and many of my colleagues of the same approximate actuarial
class are the last of the tool users, Bill. We're the dinosaurs of today
and all those hot-shot little self-aggrandising, unethical know nothings
(see the web page below) are in charge. When we're gone, we can sit in
the comfort of our individual idealized hereafters and laugh at the world
that we've left behind.

The marching morons are at the gate, dude. But that doesn't mean we
shouldn't try, occasionally and under the appropriate circumstances, to
make the future of this planet everyone's concern.

Nice article. I wonder how many people besides me & my wife & sons got
the point.

So, having said that, did anyone notice that Tech America has the Alinco
6m/HF transceiver on sale for $750? I did. And I'm still cleaning up the
shack for the arrival of the K2, which I will have spent just about that
much on & still have to build it. Am I feeling bad about this? Hmmm . . .
To build or to buy . . . . hmm . . .

Nils R. Bull Young :: La Estancia de los Guajolotes Sonrientes
WB8IJN &c :: The Tagalong Press :: email to
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