[time-nuts] modern electronics education/jobs (was:

Bob Camp kb8tq at n1k.org
Sat Nov 14 20:31:18 EST 2015


Ok, I believe I first heard this “the kids don’t know nothing” story back in the
early to mid 1960’s. Pretty much the same comments. Kids out of school never 
saw a soldering iron ever. All they know is theory, nothing practical. If only it 
was like the “good old days”. Back then we put the all the junior engineers down on the 
furnace for two years or so to learn how to shovel coal. No that’s not
a joke, actually quite far from it. That approach was pretty common in the 1950’s and
still hung on for quite a while in some companies. 

So here’s the question:

I hear a lot about “I never did learn to program and don’t want to start now” from
various people. I would suggest that roughly 100% of the kids coming out of just
about any tech school today can write code pretty darn well. At least all the ones I’ve run
into can. 

Which do you think they will have more use for, coding or soldering irons? Not 
that either is un-important. Knowing how to stoke a furnace was indeed important.
It’s a matter of what’s likely to be more useful to them as time moves on.

There’s an awful lot of quick soldering jobs these days that go to a gal who does a better
job in her sleep than I could do on my best day. Fine pitch soldering is easy to mess up.
Shipping out a part with a problem is a *much* bigger deal than it used to be. It’s not going 
to be long before that’s the only way it will be done. Skilled professionals do it or it’s not


> On Nov 14, 2015, at 7:17 PM, Tim Shoppa <tshoppa at gmail.com> wrote:
> When I got to a fancy school where they build satellites, I thought for
> sure my soldering iron skills would be useful for doing all the fancy stuff.
> But no! The satellites were built by a team of highly skilled ladies who
> looked completely down on the amateurish skills of us wannabes. And I
> include in the wannabes, the professor who had a Nobel prize!
> My skills putting together circuits from handbooks for real experiments
> were put to good use. Knowing how to use a scope and to not put the ammeter
> in parallel with the power supply, was very useful. But no way was I as
> good as the ladies who actually built the satellites.
> Tim N3QE
> On Saturday, November 14, 2015, Ray Xu <rayxu123 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hi guys,
>> Your mostly-lurking EE (and, recently, also physics) undergraduate student
>> here.
>> You guys make me feel nostalgic for my young age of
>> almost-legal-to-drink-in-the-US!
>> I wish I can reply to all of you one by one but I'd rather not clog the
>> mailing list with more off-topic discussion.  (Feel free to email me
>> off-list)
>> I just have to say I have a deep appreciation for the previous generation
>> of electronics and technology and engineers (you guys).  I personally feel
>> like I've been born into the wrong generation, or at least "conflicted"
>> between the two generations of electronics.  I still enjoy hands-on
>> DIY-building, soldering, dead-bug style prototyping, and etc at home but it
>> definitely is starting to become obsolete and antiquated.  On the other
>> hand, I also enjoy working in research labs with the cutting-edge.  In the
>> former, time slows down and its just a matter of mostly applying
>> knowledge.  In the latter, time passes by quickly and its all about
>> intellectual growth.
>> When I was younger, I frequently interacted with engineers that used to be
>> involved in the defense industry during the Cold War/Viet/Korean War era.
>> They are now mostly retired.  They were my main source of knowledge, and as
>> a consequence, I grew up learning analog electronics by actual
>> breadboarding, hand-soldering, playing with oscilloscopes, and reading The
>> Art Of Electronics during my free time.  It wasn't until relatively
>> recently I started using LTSpice.  I have never touched an Arduino or
>> Raspberry Pi and I probably never want to*; I learned microcontrollers on
>> my own using the PIC platform and in a few of my courses on the ARM and
>> "LC3" platform.  Perhaps the biggest contributor towards my passion and
>> desire to learn about electronics is my family.  My father bought me a
>> brand new Tek oscilloscope during ~7th grade and made it clear to me that
>> he will spend money for my hobby if it meant I will have the opportunity to
>> learn.  (This was significant, because from where I grew up, the Asian
>> parents were stereotypically notorious for being frugal and only cared what
>> their son's/daughter's GPA and test scores were)
>> In the research (the "cutting-edge") world, I actually find my past and DIY
>> experience useful in gaining an intuitive understanding of a problem or
>> design challenge at hand.
>> In the classroom, I heavily agree that most of my peers need more hands-on
>> experience.  Seriously, some people still can't explain why knowing the
>> power dissipation of a resistor is important.  Or how much current is
>> flowing through a pull-low or pull-high bias resistor.  Or what happens
>> when you have a simple RC circuit (without having to write a transfer
>> function).  It's kind of disturbing.  Maybe after I've obtained my PhD, I'd
>> like to propose serious changes to the undergraduate EE curriculum of my
>> university.
>> Keep it up guys.  If any of you are in the Austin, TX or Dallas, TX area, I
>> am willing to meet up in person.
>> On Thu, Nov 12, 2015 at 8:14 PM, Richard (Rick) Karlquist <
>> richard at karlquist.com <javascript:;>> wrote:
>>> On 11/12/2015 1:01 PM, William Schrempp wrote:
>>>> has failed. I hear old machinists complaining about new machinists who
>>>> can't
>>>> drill a hole if the drill-press isn't computer-controlled. And in my
>> work,
>>>> nurse education, I see students who can't be bothered to learn how to
>>>> take a
>>>> manual blood-pressure, because a machine can now do it (sort of). Much
>> to
>>>> ponder here. . . .
>>> Bill Schrempp
>>> This reminds me of a summer job I had as a lab assistant between my
>>> freshman and sophomore years at college.  There were a couple of
>>> journeyman machinists with Bridgeport mills.  They didn't let me
>>> use them, but they did patiently teach me how to use the drill
>>> press, taps, hacksaw, etc to make simple parts that didn't require
>>> their skills.  They told me that, in Germany, a kid training to be
>>> a machinist would start out by being given a file, a pair of calipers,
>>> and a rough block of metal.  His task was to make a perfect cube with
>>> sides of exactly 1 cm by 1 cm.  Only after mastering that, would
>>> he be allowed to move onto more advanced equipment.  Fortunately, the
>>> machinists just told me this story to scare me, but they didn't make me
>>> file a perfect cube.  They did tell me I needed to learn to drill holes
>>> with 0.005 inch accuracy using a machinist's scale and a center
>>> punch to lay them out.
>>> Rick
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>> --
>> --
>> __________
>> Ray Xu
>> http://www.utdallas.edu/~rxx110130
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