My Stories

A Few Things I’ve Learned about Electronics and Me

This was my father’s Graflex Speed Graphic camera from about 1940.

I’m seventy years old, and I’ve enjoyed electronics for most of that time.  There was that 9 volt, 6 or 9 transistor radio that I carried on my paper route when I was 13 years old in 1963.  And it was great building Heathkit electronic kits for my dad and me in the 1960’s: for me, an AM/FM/Short Wave radio receiver and a “portable” stereo record player; for my dad, I remember assembling an oscilloscope, a volt meter and a vacuum tube tester (remember those?  No?). 

This interest eventually led to a two-year computer science/programming course from which I graduated in 1970.  We used one of the the hottest computers of the time:  an IBM-360.  This was a third-generation computer in which the CPU (“Central Processing Unit”) model we had at the college occupied about the same space as one or two four-drawer file cabinets with its 64 kb (“kilobyte”) of memory.  The memory consisted of an array of criss-crossing wires with an iron donut at the intersection of where each of those wires crossed.  The iron donut either had a charge (a “1” value) or it didn’t (a “0” value).  Those were heady times.

However, there are three things I’ve learned about electronics over the years that I’d like to share with you in case it is not too late to help you:

  1. I learned early on that one can easily lose self-control with computers and electronics.  In 1973 I traveled from graduate school to visit my parents.  My dad, an electronic whiz and a HAM (Amateur Radio Operator), had ordered a desktop computer kit and assembled it for his intellectual pleasure (for lack of a better reason).  It didn’t have anything to operate it or tell it what to do other than its own little language.  With this language, one could develop a few programs or make a light on the screen move around according to the commands one wrote.

    I sat at the computer for eight solid hours.  I did not eat, I did not drink, I did not even go to the bathroom.  I still remember that, when I got up from the computer, I said to myself out loud, “Well, this could be a problem.”  Since then, I keep myself fairly well controlled, and I rarely spend more than two to three hours on the computer at a time.  I’m glad I had that experience early on to help me keep control over myself (unless I’m writing a blog).

  2. About fifteen years later, I was between jobs, married and with three kids.  We house sat (took care of a house for someone while they were away) for a week while the owners were on vacation.  They had a television in their bedroom along with a remote control, and they received programming from cable TV.  We had never had a television in our bedroom before. When my wife and I went to bed, she would go right to sleep.  I, on the other hand, would spend a LOT of time channel surfing until midnight or one in the morning.  Oh, an ad <click!>.  Maybe the next channel has something more interesting (it never did) <click!>.  This is drivel.  How about the next channel <click!>.  There may have been at least 100 channels to work with.  I learned. The result is that I would never have a TV in our bedroom.  And if we are in a hotel where the TV is at the foot of one’s bed, the TV goes off by 11 PM – if not sooner – and we settle down.

  3. This next one is a little different.  I’ve never been one who always had to have “the latest gadget” or “the latest electronic device” or “the latest program.”  If I were, I couldn’t do it as would never be able to afford such a thing (see my “About Me” section of the blog).  Social workers and ministers are far from the highest-paid professions.  I’ve learned over the years that buying a product (a program, computer game or an electronic product) that is one or two years older will work just fine.  My reasoning is that the product was the hottest item two years ago, so it should work just fine now.  And two years later the product is a lot cheaper!

    The exceptions to this are my latest purchases of a laptop and a desktop this past year.  My “old” ones were 12-13 years old.  I found good prices on each item in the configurations I was looking for, so I bought them.  At the rate I’m going, these should last until I’m 83 years old or older.  I’m not getting new ones again!

I hope these ideas were of some help to you, although I strongly suspect that these suggestions may well be too late for some or many of you.  And perhaps these thoughts gave you a moment of just getting away from some cares you had in your world.  Please be safe – even around family.  I’m on a three-day trip, so I hope to return to a Bible study in Ephesians 2: 8-10 later this week.  Take care!

My latest camera from several years ago. I started with a Kodak 100 in the 1960’s, then graduated to a Konica Auto S-2 Rangefinder film camera in 1973, after which I ended with a Konica Autoreflex TC film camera in 1979. Digital is wonderful. I used to be able to afford to develop my film rolls only about once every 6-12 months. Now I can take as many pictures as I want for no extra cost.

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