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Dyed-in-the-wool circuit designers

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Max Hauser, May 21, 2004.

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  1. Max Hauser

    Max Hauser Guest

    At dinner recently with an experienced analog designer (Paul Brokaw, bit of
    a mentor to me since 1977) over adequate restaurant Reuben sandwiches [1],
    discussing experiences old and new, and circuit-design training techniques
    [2], it became obvious that some people are, maybe not circuit designers
    from birth, but sooner or later stuck with the habit, like it or not. A
    clear example is an engineer I know who considered other careers, spending
    time as a monk in France. He found himself involuntarily sketching
    transistor circuits; this and other factors convinced him his vocation lay
    elsewhere. (The Carthusians had very reasonably assigned him duties
    repairing their electrical systems.) I briefly worked in the interesting
    and nearer vocation of communication systems and still found myself
    sketching transistor circuits (one of which by the way got a patent much
    later, by someone else -- a case alluded to in a tirade in the current
    Plagiarism thread on comp.dsp). I've known a number of people with such
    involuntary circuit habits. One or two I knew in college were not studying
    engineering but could not break the habit of building things or trying
    design ideas to solve problems. Incorrigibles.

    Supplemental notes

    [1] Even adequate Reubens are still sad, because a good Reuben sandwich is
    not only a serious pleasure but easy to make. Good ingredients and good
    "Russian Dressing" are the main things. Even though the Reuben is young for
    a classic sandwich (1956 is the likely origin), still it has managed to turn
    bland. One culprit is "Thousand Island Dressing" which traditionally (De
    Gouy, 1948) is a bland version of Russian Dressing with lots of mayonnaise,
    with whipped cream added to suppress any surviving flavor. (By the way, the
    Reuben manages to violate all major religious dietary codes of the world and
    all common or fashionable dietary restrictions, including low
    carbohydrates.) Sinful.

    [2] One example was the "beta schools." Student engineers at some schools
    have been taught about bipolar transistors in basic amplifier stages
    emphasizing "beta" or common-emitter current gain. In this view collector
    current is controlled most fundamentally by base current, and if you come to
    think of beta as a central and solid parameter, you can even set up a
    common-emitter amplfier by forcing a fixed current into the base, and then
    designing for an expected resulting collector current. As far as I know, no
    expert transistor-level designer does this (anyway I have not seen it in 30+
    years of knowing many such people) but it is how the subject is sometimes
    taught. (A practical impracticality is that "beta" is among the least
    predictable and stable params in all of solid-state electronics. Expert
    designers typically organize their designs to be as unaffected by beta as
    possible.) The "-1" factor in the tidy "Ebers-Moll" models is an even more
    misleading abstraction, but that's enough tirade for now.

    Max Hauser
    (Copyright 2004)
  2. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Not from birth. I was interested in chemistry until I was 8.

    My wife thinks it's - yecch - "adorable" that I'm always scribbling
    circuits on any available surface. [1]

    98% of the time I think of transistors as 'beta boxes'. Kev insists
    that transistors are voltage operated, but I don't care.

    Agree about the Reubens, although a really good corned beef on egg
    bread can be just as tasty. And just as hard to find.


    [1] it turns out that there is a type of woman who likes engineers,
    and it's not a bad type at all. God provides.
  3. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    I was going into architecture... then my father became a Raytheon
    wholesaler in 1956, and there were CK722's and CK760's in there ;-)

    I don't care either. I really don't know quite how I think of
    transistors... they just are. Base current is just a nuisance to be
    contended with. In my (now) typical world of BiCMOS I have all kinds
    of goodies at my disposal.
    We have several very Bronx-authentic delis around here.
    Indeed! I am likewise blessed! We just celebrated our 44th
    anniversary on March 31.

    ...Jim Thompson
  4. Of course the really authentic delis don't (won't) make a Reuben

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  5. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    Come to think of it, you're right. I get my Reuben at a regular
    restaurant, corned beef and pastrami at the deli.

    ...Jim Thompson
  6. Max,
    Maybe that is why I don't quite fit in here as well as others. I don't
    think in transistor circuits, but in system blocks and algorithms. I
    would probably be a good manager... :cool:

    As for Ruebens, nothing is more disappointing than to order a bad
    Rueben. Got one that was TURKEY with COLESLAW on WHEAT! What was up
    with that! Has to be corned beef, swiss, saurkraut and grilled rye.
    Russian dressing is just a bonus!
  7. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    Probably ;-)

    (Where is Nikhil? He hasn't replied in nearly two weeks. Did I
    offend by suggesting that Schematics users might bail ?:)
    Turkey? Gag! You have to stop hanging out with the no-red-meat crowd

    ...Jim Thompson
  8. legg

    legg Guest

    On Fri, 21 May 2004 02:09:38 -0700, "Max Hauser"

    ......should probably stick to their areas (or eras) of expertise.

  9. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    If all you know is circuit design, you have no reason to design
    circuits. If you know circuit design, and some physics, and then you
    learn something about, say, x-ray detectors or diesel generators or
    magnetic resonance, *then* you can design great circuits. After a good
    lunch, of course.

  10. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    When I was about pre-pubescent, I used to crawl behind the family's stereo
    and study the amp schematic. I remember 12AX7s from there. :) Then again,
    one time at a bus stop I wrote a Sieve of Eratosthenes in 3 lines on the
    back of an envelope. And just recently, as I was driving past a local
    refinery, I found myself fantasizing drawing it in autocad or equiv.

    So I guess, whatever it is, a person probably picks stuff like that,
    and everybody's got some kind of thing that they go for preferentially,
    which is why there's different jobs and stuff.

    And I've always been pretty casual about the fact that I really don't
    design anything at all - I just rearrange stuff that somebody else has
    already designed. :)

    And I've certainly never written a new word, at least not any that stuck.
    I've coined a couple of phrases that have since turned up either in
    net use or in the mainstream - I was the first to say "she knows her elbow
    from a hole in the ground," and "screaming poop machine(s)". Interestingly,
    the first individual is seldom found in conjunction with the latter

  11. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    On Sat, 22 May 2004 15:04:01 -0700, "Terry Given"

    I'm not so sure if that's the case anymore.

    Cars USED to be repairable at home.

    You can still do your own brake job and change the fluids, but what do
    you do if the engine refuses to run? Do you have an automobile
    diagnostic computer at home ?:)

    ...Jim Thompson
  12. Guy Macon

    Guy Macon Guest

  13. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    I've reached the age where I expect service... bring me a loaner car
    and pick up mine ;-)

    ...Jim Thompson
  14. I gave up working on my own cars many years ago after I rebuilt a VW
    carburetor and had two screws left over.

    Seemed to work ok, though.
  15. Terry Given

    Terry Given Guest

    the inability to repair ones car is, IMO, a good indicator of poor circuit
    design performance. theory is usually the easy part, its practical things
    that screw up most designs.

  16. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    Ah, yes, I remember carburetors well... remove screws and remove
    cover... watch little pistons and springs go dancing across the
    floor... try to figure out which piece goes in what hole ;-)

    Watched a repairman fix my hp1120C printer the other day... he had a
    neat MAGNETIC BOWL that he dropped the screws into. Gotta find one of

    ...Jim Thompson
  17. I got one of these from the mall Snap-on store:

    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
  18. Jim Thompson

    Jim Thompson Guest

    Looks like the very one. I should have stuck my nose over his
    shoulder and read the label, but he had that classic sign...

    Repairs $50/hour
    If you watch $75/hour
    If you help $100/hour ;-)

    ...Jim Thompson
  19. Activ8

    Activ8 Guest

    The rebuild kit has an exploded view.
    Big Lots, Sears...

    Old speaker...
  20. Activ8

    Activ8 Guest


    Answers: $1
    Correct answers: $2
    Correct answers requiring thought: $5

    Dumb looks are still free.
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