Fw: Professors worry that engineering students don't tinker

From: Don Maslin <donm_at_cts.com>
Date: Mon Dec 11 15:50:19 2000

On Mon, 11 Dec 2000, Tony Duell wrote:

> I've never built a complete TV :-(. But about 10 years ago we got digital
> stereo TV sound over here, using a system called NICAM (Near
> Instantaneous Companded Audio Multiplex IIRC). Maplin (a hobbyist
> electronics shop over here) sold a NICAM tuner/decoder kit. This was
> essentially the entire tuner and IF strip of a TV, and a NICAM decoder
> board (using the Toshiba chipset), and the necessary tuner control
> electronics, optional IR remote control, etc.
> Yes, I built one, almost as soon as it was available. It wasn't
> difficult, but there were a lot of parts. 80-odd ceramic capacitors on
> the decoder PCB IIRC. Aligning it wasn't hard either, even using an
> off-air signal
> [To make this marginally on-topic, for the initial tests I tapped 12V off
> the PSU in my Minc and used that to power the tuner/decoder. And viewed
> the video output on a little greenscreen monitor that origianlly came
> with one of my Apple ][s.]
> I also built the Velleman PAL-RGB decoder. Again, it was almost a
> no-brainer to put together. Worked first time IIRC.
> > Stereo taught me all about diode bridges. Each kit had their quirks
> > and required a steady hand, a keen eye and a BRAIN to put them
> > together and make them work.
> Odd... I find that properly designed kits don't need to much thought to
> put them together -- I suspect a lot of people could assemble a Heathkit
> without learning much electronics. Of course kits with 'bugs' in them are
> another matter (and yes, I've had a number of those over the years..).
> However, if you want to learn electronics then you can learn a lot by
> assembling _any_ kit.

I think that you are quite correct Tony. The story at the height of
Heathkit sales was that the assembly instructions were proofed by having
a clerk or secretary construct one. The thinking being that this would
identify any errors or ambiguities in the text. Having done so one
time, s/he was never again invited to repeat.

                                                 - don
> > Those experiences were far better than a four year degree. Not only
> > did I learn how it was *supposed* to work, I was forced to learn how
> > it *did* work. The loss of companies like Heath (build your own pdp),
> > Dyna, and Knight is really an educational opportunity lost for many 'students'.
> Yes...
> As I've said before, the UK's interpretation of the EU EMC directives
> doesn't help. Over here, they apply to kits as well (basically, a kit
> assembled according to the instructions has to meet all the EMC standards
> that a commerical product would have to meet). This has essentially
> killed off the sale of kits over here. The fact that it was cheaper to
> buy than build for a lot of stuff didn't help, but kits were still sold
> for a lot of things until the introduction of the above directives.
> Now we get the Velleman kits and not a lot else :-(
> -tony
Received on Mon Dec 11 2000 - 15:50:19 GMT

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