Graduated with a BSEE from Michigan Technological University and an MBA from the University of Notre Dame. I have worked in test engineering and OEM product development, with much of my career focused on computer hardware - mainframe, desktop, server and notebook. I also have experience with instrumentation used for semiconductor processing, gas analysis and flow controllers. I currently design and support hardware and software for test and production control for a variety of industries including transportation, energy and semiconductor processing.
- Vintage electrical measuring instruments from the 1950s
- I too enjoy restoring antique electronics, both instruments and radios. Test equipment can be found at antique radio swap meets (NEARC here in New England), hamfests and occasionally even at yard sales. One interesting piece of my collection is a Cornell-Dubilier capacitance tester with the "Magic Eye" tube for detecting a null. The interesting aspect of this device was that it probably never worked correctly. It is in very good physical condition, but upon opening it for repair, a few of the "tag" strips with wires neatly routed and wrapped around the terminals were not soldered. After finding a schematic of the instrument, it was apparently wired incorrectly! Correcting the wiring and soldering a few terminals brought the unit back to life. Comparing its reading of select components that were measured on more up to date equipment was not too bad. I suspect this unit of production was probably rejected on the assembly line, maybe scrapped out or otherwise out of the normal flow of production and made its way out to the world from a unique path. My good luck brought it to my collection.
- Can new job titles upgrade engineers' stature?
- I'm not sure a title is that important - so I haven't pushed for better titles. That said, I do think my career stalled many years ago, as my title hasn't changed. Early in my career (1978), I worked on debugging mainframe computers. I was recruited by a company that was implementing a microprocessor in their flagship product. Hired in as a Quality Engineer (which included the test group) and supporting Manufacturing Engineering for technical issues, a position was created for me in advanced manufacturing. This lead to my most impressive sounding title "Sr. Advanced Manufacturing Quality Engineer". I left the company shortly afterwards for reasons not related to the company. Should have kept the title!
- Failed solder joint makes car clock go dark
- Older TV PCBS would have similar problems. The components that were on heat sinks were problematic, although the soldered connection looked good. Reheating the connections at the heat sink components often brought back failing circuits. Either the original soldering was suspect or the expansion/contraction of the heat generating components caused the cracks.
- Green Screens & Ham (Apologies to Dr. Seuss)
- I too became a ham while in school after learning about amateur radio from a local ham. My brother had a portable short wave receiver and we would listen to a 160 meter net. Riding our bikes with the radio, we tracked down one participant and he showed us his shack. Ham radio was certainly the gateway to engineering as I experimented with building transmitters and receivers. One of my transmitter designs promptly caused my father to yell down stairs "What are you doing?" as my transmission wiped out the TV. So much for that design. I haven't been on the air in about 20 years but I am still a member of ARRL, to support amateur radio. I hope amateur radio continues to thrive.
- Design as a craft, not a commodity
- Inspiring video. I agree that designing in front of a monitor, typing away on the keys and clicking that mouse, just loses something we as humans need. The idea of serendipity during design resonates. We all have the "ah-ha!" moment when designing, but getting many involved with a design for their "ah-ha!" moments can produce a serendipitous outcome.
- On the dark side
- This does remind me of a similar "floating line" issue - though not related to UV EPROMs. I was managing a small development group and learned of an odd issue that the younger engineers simply couldn't put their arms around. This dealt with a terminal concentrator that operated without error, until one waved a hand over the top of the PCB. My background included work on TTL mainframe computers with wirewrapped backplanes, so this didn't seem so odd to me. The wirewrap backplane would sometimes have broken wires that caused "floating" TTL inputs. After proclaimin "It looks like a floater" and the subsequent jokes about what is floating, a review of the schematic showed many unterminated inputs to ASIC devices. These were subsequently tied to ground and the mystery failures by hand waving ceased. Although the engineers stated the inputs were unused, grounding them solved the problem.
- Headless ATE system increases production reliability and efficiency
- An SBC will be more rugged, but tends to be single purposed. A PC has the ability to run advanced programs, but can also be used for other non-test related activity. I think the decision to use an SBC vs a PC will depend on the test being implemented. The quantity of unique items to be tested and the frequency of test setups will certainly impact the decision. A stand-alone SBC controlled tester would be useful for dedicated test systems that do not require frequent reconfiguration. Small, dedicated testers that relay information to a PC for data manipulation and reconfiguration is a good fit for many production environments.