October 12, 2009

Pfft, pfft - Is This Thing On?

Every 8 months or so I decide to add a tool to my arsenal. See, I'm a big fan of knowing about shit (James Madison FTW!). I dig into something new on a regular basis. Usually it's a solitary pursuit involving me, some books, some gear, pen, paper, the intertubes, some conversation in my head, perhaps even an end in mind. The problem? Well my mind is filled with so much stuff, I fear over time I just lose things in there. I lose things I don't care to lose, like those great conversations I had with myself, when I figured out some shit on my own. What's left? An odd sensation that I once knew something really cool but have now forgotten. Frustrating. Not crying over spilt milk here, I'm just saying it won't happen this time or with any luck, ever again. I'm going to do it differently. I'm going to let everyone in the conversation this time. I may forget, but the cloud will remember. Maybe this way I can keep it straight? God I hope so.

So this blog is dedicated to documenting stuff I learn, including examples, fuckups, trials, conundrums, screaming frustration, and glorious triumphs. I will start with embedded electronics. I enjoyed reading through sparkfun.com's tutorials enough to document my progress through each one, hence "herding electrons". I hope to gain enough confidence to build some stuff I've been thinking about for a while - we'll get to that later.

Some background: I know a little, enough to be dangerous. I studied electronics while in the U.S. Navy's Basic Electronics & Electricity school. BE&E was 14 weeks of theory, practice, and sheer terror wherefrom I remember Ohm's law, the slutty ways of the infamous Violet*, hole flow, what an inductive-capacitive circuit does, semiconductor theory (AKA "as far as you're concerned it's all PFM kid"), basic troubleshooting, why I'd never care about MOSFETs in the field, and, according to my broadcast engineer father, not a %#$^@ thing about the most important and fabulous electronic things on earth: tubes. I ditched my test probes after graduating though, deciding to instead do something Dad knew nothing about. Years later when I started restoring old arcade machines I picked up a soldering iron again, mostly to shotgun malfunctioning stuff with new electrolytics and the occasional bridge rectifier. Mostly I know how to solder. Amazingly enough it's the thing I'm most proud of right now simply because it's the most practical thing I know out of all that crap. So there's where I start.

The goal is to use the knowledge to actually do shit. So here's the deal. I am going to ramble on about shit I learn, or break, or get stuck on. It will mostly be a conversation with myself about crap everybody else already knows. Feel free to post if you feel I've strayed so far afield the comedy of the situation moves you to point out my error merely as a point of mercy. But do remember I am not much interested in the theory unless I can apply it, get my hands dirty, and use it right now. Hey, maybe my crazy one-sided conversation turns to dialogue!

This thing is on, just don't tell my Dad.

* The old non-PC mnemonic for remembering resistor value color codes 0-9 was: Bad Boys Rape Our Young Girls But Violet Gives Willingly - nice, huh?


Andrew said...

The version I learned was both sexist (mysogenistic?) AND racist. Which is why I can never forget it.

Craig Steffen said...

I will certainly read this blog; sounds interesting. I'll also comment; I'll try not to be too obnoxious. Let me know if I am and I'll stop.

My own personal foray into electrics relatively recently was this:


Although, oddly enough, I've done some soldering and electronics stuff recently for work, which was kind of cool and a neat change.

Craig Steffen said...

Ok, let's try that again.

my recent electrics foray.

That seems to work that time. Ah, the power of preview.